Infographic: Reevaluating The Costs And Benefits Of (Debt Bubble-Funded) Higher Education

Tyler Durden's picture

While the college debt bubble has been extensively discussed on Zero Hedge (here, here and here) and elsewhere, the reality is that without college student loans, as cheap as they may be, the vast majority of students would not be able to afford going to college, untenable (and non-dischargeable) post-graduation leverage be damned. Please ignore for a second the reflexivity of this symbiotic relationship - that college is so expensive only because college debt is so easily obtainable (and as noted here, between car loans and student debt, is the primary source of consumer debt in the past year). There is a reason why NINJA loans led to the biggest housing bubble of all time; also we wonder - in 5 years when this bubble also pops, how many congressional hearings will there be on the topic of just who allowed all these student to drown in debt that most of them would never be able to repay?

That said there are two sides to every story: on one hand students are conditioned to believe that they need college to survive in the current world (with statistics such as these floating out there: drop outs since 2002 have "cost" the nation $3.8 billion in lost income and over $700 million in lost taxes), while on the other hand, the burden of a massive debt load, even if with manageable interest expenses, leave the student burdened with principal amortization which alone has a crippling effect on the individual psychology. Is it time to reevaluate higher education? Look at this infographic from OnlineCollege, which summarizes the side effects of soaring college costs, and decide for yourselves.

Surprising Side Effects of Rising College Costs
Courtesy of: Online College News

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Colombian Gringo's picture

College + Debt = Slavery

redpill's picture


I can only imagine the feeling of fury given the current environment when a lot of these kids finally realize they've been totally lied to, and that they will have to shoulder six figures of debt in perpetuity because they'll be working some shitty part time job when they graduate, if working at all.  And here they have thought they were being prepared for the world, in one of the overhyped F.I.R.E. businesses most likely, thinking that their overpaid, smugly grinning tenured professors with full health care coverage were just happy to be teaching even though they had barely-paid TA's doing most of the instruction for them.  In reality higher education has turned into a giant fucking scam, and the professors are on the front line, reaping fat salaries and great benefits knowing FULL WELL they are doing so on the backs of penniless students who won't be getting a job any time soon.  But they will happily sit in their ivory towers, not really giving a shit because they have their perfect tenured academic job, feeling amazingly superior that they got their guaranteed spot on the gravy train forever, and fuck all these kids they supposedly care about.  Ironically, they happily fill the role as self-appraised gatekeepers of the corporate world even as they condemn its entrants to debt slavery.

"Here's your diploma my beloved students," they'll think, "welcome to the world of interest-paying servitude where you will spend the next decade or more paying off debt used to fund my salary.  I think I'll go have another latte while my paid-chickenscratch-TA teaches the class and instead read the school copy of the always-reaffirming New York Times in the professor's lounge and ensure my feelings of intellectual and moral superiority are fully elevated."


Rainman's picture

Shit, this means I'll never get rid of my daughters


economics9698's picture

Damn Red Pill, calling me out like that.

The thing that outrages me most about college is the flat out lies taught in text books and classes.  If these students were learning how the world operates, in my case economics, that it might be worth it, but the vast majority of the time students are being feed shit.

One of the most horrible experiences of my life was finding out I was regurgitating propaganda from my professors to new students.  Finding out through my own research and study that what I was taught was bull shit.  I had to spend my own money and time reading about economics because my college education was useless.  That fucking pissed me off.

I paid my way through college.  If I had paid $100,000 and gone into debt to learn fucking bull shit someone would pay.

JLee2027's picture

--Shit, this means I'll never get rid of my daughters--

Just let them find a man to support them - like the old days.

nodhannum's picture

Sorry, guys aren't as stupid as they used to be.

The Alarmist's picture

Two words: Government Service.

Some of it will be low paying and taken for debt relief, but much of it will compensate at well above the national private-sector average. Gotta do something with all those lawyers and PhDs.

YBNguy's picture

Except in most public sector jobs youre paid much more than your private sector counterparts. Add to this the fact that its almost impossible to get terminated (they just send you to 'help' classes or in the worst case move you to another dept. in which you 'fit').


On the topic of education and gov bene's, get this. My girlfriend is an engineer for the government. Not only is she out of college getting more then her college friends, engineers too, that work private sector, but she is currently taking masters classes at a pretty well known (in her field) university. Oh yeah, I might mention that she is not paying for it, her job is covering the costs - or should I say us taxpayers.


Beats my ex though. She is saddled with debt from student loans after studying acting for 4 years thinking she would eventually make it big. I had told her she would've done better practicing fellatio for a year then going out to cali to put the skills to use.

ChrisFromMorningside's picture

"I had told her she would've done better practicing fellatio for a year then going out to cali to put the skills to use."

While your ex might not have done it, trust me, many many Generation Y women are. It beats working at Starbucks or Target. Also, lots of young women using these aforementioned "skills" to climb the corporate ladder. For whatever reason, I've noticed that young women are having the most psychological difficulty in dealing with the economic crisis that we're in. If appearances and social status matter a lot to you, it's hard to ditch the handbag or downgrade and move into a crappier part of town. THAT is how a lot of Gen Y women will end up paying their debt, realistically. What is interesting to me is what effect this will have on gender dynamics 10 or 20 years down the road.

Thomas's picture

As a member of the Borg--a professor at an Ivy League school--and officer on the Death Star--a Zero Hedger for years and Austrian economist at heart for a dozen years--I am in a position to (1) see both sides of the story, or (2) have my head blow up like a bit player in the movie Scanners. (Some of you guys know the name behind "Thomas".) With that said, here are some thoughts for what they are worth:

(1) Guaranteed payers guarantee inflation. The article has it right. The student loan problem is huge and destructive. I have not been bashful about stating this (as well as my hatred for the Fed, Wall Street crooks, feckless regulators, and politicians worthy of a noose.)

(2) Salaries, construction, services, and everything else imaginable has soared over the years in what is akin to an "arms race". When Princeton is willing to buy a chemist for $15 million (research support and startup), you know something is out of whack

(3) The top paid academics are as smart and talented (entrepreneurial) as the top paid industrial guys. Curiously, if you stay in science, you have a higher end salary potential in academia than in industry (unless you forge out and start a company.)

(4) Given the talent that I get to work with, I can assure you that most of these kids will more than pay their tuition bills with increased earnings. With that said, there are kids who will major in dumb stuff with little earnings potential. Ohers will squander their time here. Kids must be smarter about what they are studying and why. No SAT score will compensate for bad decision making.

(5) A vast number of kids should not go to college, and we could live with half the number of colleges. A vast number of colleges would make themselves more viable if they focused their attention on strengths and on specific careers. (If you want a great example, check out Paul Smith's College--only four majors but they do a great job. They did wonders with my older son. You won't want to hear this, but he works at the CFR.) 

(6) Kids go to college out of momentum. So many would benefit from some time off. My younger son, a profound over achiever in high school, drifted in his first two years. A year in the work force at my urging and he came back with a vision. He just got a summer internship in the heart of Manhattan. Neurotic parents should fight their urge to push kids through college by stepping on the brakes for them if necessary. Parents are often the problem.

I should probably wrap this post. Yes I am well paid but I would have been well paid in industry as well. If you've read this far you are welcome to email me ( If you are really sharp and gifted with Google, you might even figure out who I am. :-)


gilliganis's picture

Careful what you wish for; I'm not even that sharp and yet had your cell number in about 30 seconds.

Thomas's picture

You are good. I wouldn't have a clue how to get my cell number. Send me an email and tell me.

economics9698's picture

I just want to know who the chick is.

Thomas's picture

The chick is "Mercury Girl", a Harvard grad whose television commercials showed her to be so fetching that they had to dial them back to keep the car in focus.

The Navigator's picture

Thanks for sharing (your personal info, your insights, and avatar background [the Mecury girl is HOT]).

I have a 9th grader who is honors/top of class for all her years in school but I'm worrying about a $120k college bill, especially since these last 3 years have seen my (variable/commission) income drop by 50%.

Really, the only thing that was worth while in a 4-year BA Business program was the accounting, econ, & demographics classes - but 30 years ago, I didn't pay much at the state university. Everything else I've learned since then has been by reading and listening; a much more extensive education.

BTW, the link for the top-most graphic is broken - the link for those needing a bigger view is

Sorry, that link is to the original article, here is the enlarged graphic -

semper paratus, The Navigator

Jena's picture

I didn't look hard but I was glad to be reminded about the National Do Not Call Registry.  With some new numbers on since the last time I registered us, thanks.

nodhannum's picture

"No SAT score will compensate for bad decision making". That is even more important when choosing a spouse. Many of my friends who made a lot more than myself during their working years ended up nearly destitute because of one and, in some cases, two bad marriage choices.

nodhannum's picture

"No SAT score will compensate for bad decision making". That is even more important when choosing a spouse. Many of my friends who made a lot more than myself during their working years ended up nearly destitute because of one and, in some cases, two bad marriage choices.

Errol's picture

Bingo!  That data acquisiton boondogle in Utah is really just WPA for unemployed math and computer science grads.  Gotta make the education con look like a worthwhile "investment"...

I would rather another CCC, but that non-virtual work is so, well, uncool...

fleur de lis's picture

The whole thing is an illusion and a racket. Does anyone know where the tuition money actually goes? How much money is in various foundations, grants, donations, endowments, etc.?  How does government interference make things that much worse? It's looking very much like just another massive slush fund if not outright laundering. No one seems to know where all these staggering amounts of money get allocated.

There must be some way to correlate jobs with degrees, and a reduction or refund if the degree is in a field known by the school to be overcrowded and thus difficult to find, such as the arts, social "sciences," teaching, and the like. 

The schools know very well what job projections look like and if they promote risky job prospects anyway and lure starry-eyed teenagers into debt-slavery they should assist in placing the students or reduce or forgive the debt.

I've heard far too many stories of crushing loans being paid back via jobs that were never studied as a subject. Which means decent paying jobs can often be found in other areas, and many industries will train on the job, so expensive schooling is not always needed, although the schools have somehow made themselves indispensable.

If they do not produce viability in their courses and graduates they need to shut down the non-functional classes or offer them at reduced tuition. They are part of the problem and they have to start paying.


ChrisFromMorningside's picture

You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned FIRE. For at least the past 20 years or so, FIRE was the goal of many students because that is where the big bucks were at. The thing is, a real education isn't vital for success in these fields. Who needs education when you can make $100,000 by flipping a house you bought 2 months prior with no money down? Who needs to know anything about accounting when everything is mark-to-fantasy? Who needs to study history when all markets will always go up, forever? Who needs to study the fine print on CDS contracts when no country will default, ever? Get the picture? Having a real education was/is a liability, not an asset, because it might actually make you second-guess something or challenge concensus opinion when all of the money lies in going along with the scam.

That's one major reason why education has been so devalued in our country. I'm in my mid-20s, not too far removed from college, and I feel comfortable saying that many of my collegiate peers simply did not give a fuck about what we were studying nor did they have any real passion for learning anything. The students don't give a shit so the professors/administrators don't give a shit either.

nodhannum's picture

Which state? Marx had it all wrong. Sports is the opiate of the masses. And , bye the way...Go Heels!

Dukepinewood69's picture

you mean...GO PACK!!!!!! see yall in two games!


fleur de lis's picture


















fleur de lis's picture

Sorry everyone -- trying to get used to a new computer

Antipodeus's picture

"Wrist -- meet SLAP!" ;]


potlatch's picture

I can always tell people who have zero clue about higher education, scam or no scam: if they think anything except the very highest paid, "name brand" professors have any real institutional power to effect change, outside of how they teach their assigned classes, you have zero clue.


Here is a little inside tip: the "professoriate" has been steadily "proletarianized" for the past 40 years.  In large state university systems -- the entire systems -- you are looking at >60% are adjunct faculty: "surplus Ph.ds"


The professoriate got caught too, you dimwit.  We all got had.

OldPhart's picture

I've written about my experience previously on another post.  However, I went back to college at in 1993 around age 35, after doing one semester at a 'free' California Community College aka "Tumbleweed Tech" in 1977.

I was focused and driven to complete a BS in the shortest amount of time and at minimal cost.

I decided on getting an Accounting degree.  After my first renewed semester at the formerly free college I found that additional units could be added after a certain threshold for no additional charge (except for outrageously priced textbooks).

Being an older student with a bit of actual life experience I found that I had a couple conflicts with instructors.  One was a mushmouth who barely spoke english and seemed to have no lesson plan in place to match to the textbook.  I got him fired after demanding that the dean attend a class with me to witness the performance.

I took some sort of required entry level computer class where the instructor declared that every sort of programming was done using some form of Cobal code.  I called her on it and shared my Lotus application programming with her and the class that I had written to manage Trust Funds.  Not all programming required what she declared. 

I took an English class were I usually had the instructor rolling on the floor laughing over stories he thought were totally made up.  And got into a thunderous argument with him over the stupidity of assuming a writers hidden message in some idiot image on a piano.  Nothing was stated about such message, merely that there was a beer on the piano.  Still don't see the relevancy to what the instructor insisted on, except the guy might get thirsty and wanted his fucking beer nearby.

Got kicked out of a law class after the instuctor went on about how juries were supposed to be impartial and not know the defendent and I explained that it was incorrect historically and legally.  I said that the original law meant that the jury was the baker, the candlestick maker, people that knew your character, and they sat there and decided weather your character and reputation matched the charge.  The instructor came to me the next day and apologized after doing his own readings and put me back into class if I didn't tell anyone.

The most disgusting incident during my college period was going to the shitter in the college that taught 'teachers' near the library.  I sat there in a stall as two future teachers complained about how tough it was taking remedial english, remedial math and remedial writing.  They were somewhat happy to have earned 50% scores on the tests they had taken.  50% apparently was better than a passing score.

dark pools of soros's picture

candlestick...  shitter... disgusting incident...   HFT trading going bullish now on San Fran hotels

dwdollar's picture

Bravo redpill!

I'd give you +100 if I could.

Leraconteur's picture

I must be one in 100,000, because as soon as I turned 18 or so, what I read in the newspapers and read in College began to set off my bullshit meter nearly fulltime. Living in DC it was clearly obvious that most of what was accepted as reality was patent nonsense.

Feminism, PC and Affirmative Action were clearly revenge-based ideologies built on lies, and neither party had any interest in anything other than passing the baton to the next in 4 year intervals.

Did everyone REALLY believe what their profs and books said and absorbed it as 'Truth', blindly, with no critical faculty engaged at all?

greensnacks's picture

Did everyone REALLY believe what their profs and books said and absorbed it as 'Truth', blindly, with no critical faculty engaged at all?

The good ones presented many sides of any argument or problem. I was lucky to have had a few of those.


natty light's picture

Here's a site that has interesting info on the Education Bubble Complex.



EduBubble A site about the book: Beating the College Bubble

Clashfan's picture

Do you want someone to be qualified to teach college? How about English?


Students want to improve, want to earn degrees, have goals. Teachers help them reach those goals.


I teach college. I know very few if any college teachers who make six figures. The standard pay at our community college is around 35k. Anyone making significantly above that is in admin. And the monthly take-home pay is barely over 2k. Those benefits cost, and those earning closer to 45 are working huge, stressful overloads.


Your post is a bunch of crap. I've been telling students that 911 was an inside job and running down the NYT for fifteen years. Last semester I graded over a thousand papers/discussions, teaching online. I have watched students go on from our community college to big universities.


I had a huge student loan debt, too, to get to where I am.


I'm sure that there are some professors like you depict above, but they are few and far between. Many of us at the college level work very hard for low pay, and the bulk of the work is done by adjuncts, folks who earn a poverty level living.


Know wtf you're talking about before posting shit.

Atomizer's picture

Enroll today, study the Paul Krugman apocalyptic economic framework in the workings.

TruthInSunshine's picture

It's all good. Graduates of these institutions and many, many other ones like it, will help the U.S. catch up to and leapfrog their asian competition in highly technical and advanced applications:


Schmuck Raker's picture

Plenty of free classes available online from MIT, Princeton(?), and others.

The Alarmist's picture

You are deluded ... I've hired internationally, and the average US college grad nowadays barely stacks up in mechanical skills like science and math, much less critical thinking and synthesis, against European and Asian grads. May as well get used to being the next home of call center work.

Inspector Bird's picture

I disagree, and I've done hiring, too.

I don't disagree that students today are lacking.  They are.

But saying Asian and Europeans are better prepared?  That's a laugh.  The ones you've seen are the best of the best of the best.  They come here because they know they can make out like bandits.  Try hiring abroad for offices overseas.

These kids are just as bad as US students.  I give them the edge in science and math, but I give the edge to the US students in critical thinking and synthesis.  Problem is, without a decent background in math, most critical thinking and synthesis leads to poor decision making.  Don't confuse that with an inability to actually apply information. 

It's one thing to know stuff from rote, the way Asians and Europeans do (I stereotype here for a reason, certainly not all are like this), but Americans are much more creative.  I've seen kids talk their way into jobs they should never have.  This is a compliment on their skills, but a knock on the people moving people up too quickly without proper preparedness or knowledge.  These kids recognize openings, know how to spin a story, tell theirs well, and move in for the kill.  They can talk their way out of paper bags. 

It takes skill to see through their bullshit.  It's not hard, but most managers today have been taught to seek out buzzwords, go for style over substance, and find someone who 'fits' or they can 'tolerate'.  In essence, as poorly prepared as these kids are (and they are poorly prepared) the managers are just as bad. 


I've been lamenting the state of college grads for years.  My wife thinks it's a joke.  But she's never hired anyone in her life. 

I keep whatever I'm reading on my desk to see if kids notice it or ask about it.  Most never pay it any heed.  They don't even know what a book looks like anymore, and a Kindle could have anything loaded on it - how would they know?  I had one kid pick up my book, ask me "is this any good?" and I told him yes, is he interested?  He said "no, I don't like to read."  Seriously?  In an interview?  Guess what, genius, this job is all reading.

Meanwhile, I had some European kid tell me about his wonderful education.  I asked him how he could apply what he learned to the position he was seeking.  The silence was awkward and deafening.  I get the feeling he went to college because it was free (taxpayers pay for everything), everyone else was going, and it was supposed to offer him opportunity.  I gave him the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere.  Free education leaves these students unable to comprehend what education is about.

At least in the US, these kids come out with responsibliities, even if they are overburdened with it.  They get launched into the real world like a baby expelled from a vaginal canal.

Marigold's picture

IP. You are really an old moaner. You interview one European grad and you form your opinion on this basis.. Check your premise.

dark pools of soros's picture

do you really want him to list 100 examples ??  i gotta feeling he'll do it...

AndTheRest's picture

"They get launched into the real world like a baby expelled from a vaginal canal."


You, sir, win the Zero Hedge quote of the day award.


But it's more like being launched from the womb into a pile of shit.  American children are so sheltered and unprepared for the real world that it is absurd.  I know, I was one of those American kids not so long ago, growing up with a head full of TV and public school education, neither of which has much basis in reality.


My stint in the military mostly reconditioned me for the real world.  Mostly.

dark pools of soros's picture

depends..  u tryin to be a cop or something?