For the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Hitler Youth. I point this out because based on the comments to my last few columns (which focused on the idea that a National Service Corps could help solve our student debt crisis) it would seem that some of you — not too many, thankfully — seem to think I'm affiliated with the organization. This, as you can imagine, is a bit troubling for a nice Jewish boy from New Jersey.
Here's an example from commenter JakeFlagg:
"National Service. Didn't that idea come from the National Socialists of the Third Reich? Hitler Youth? Of course it did, and this 'admin' has been on a fascist tear that Americans can hardly believe, but ought to, since we've essentially had fascist ideals in place since the 1920's."
Then… there's this: "Soon nearly 90% of the country will be branded as terrorists," LSummers29 wrote. "Stock up on food and ammo or face imprisonment Hitler style, it's your choice."
Not everyone was so incendiary. Many recognized that we indeed have a big problem, and offered ideas for a solution. After all, Americans now owe over $1 trillion in student loan debt, more than they owe on their credit cards. As real wages for most American workers stagnate and full-time employment for recent grads becomes the exception rather than the norm, college debt is becoming the anvil that hangs from the neck of many graduates. Something needs to be done.
Many commenters suggested an attitude adjustment (in the most positive context) on the part of students to take on less debt, and make sure they can repay the loans they do receive, which isn't at all unreasonable.
"Just like credit card debt, folks need to take resposibility (sic) for spending what they do not have," wrote RAH12345.
Others suggest that students now do what many of their parents did — think "work, not "debt" and take part-time jobs to help pay for school.
"It took me 12 years to graduate debt free," said a commenter using the screen name litnakaro. "Worked full time, went to school fulltime or part-time depending on what I could pay for with cash each semester." But while changes by individual students obviously can make a huge difference, I think we need systemic changes to fix a systemic problem. That requires changes in government policy, especially when it comes to higher education, where federal funding plays such an overwhelmingly decisive role.
To that end, here are three ideas for policy changes from our readers that I found most intriguing. Some of them could work in conjunction with the National Service Corps, while others would stand-alone. I've also included my own thoughts regarding their impact and feasibility.
1. Skin In The Game
"All higher education loans are guaranteed by the university endowment. Graduate of a university like University of California Berkeley defaults. The University of California Berkeley endowment repays the taxpayers. Watch UC Berkeley graduate default drop like a rock!"