File under: Surely you jest.
The latest, widely-reported “initiative” from former Governor and current President of Purdue Mitch Daniels is an “innovative” method of financing college educations: have private individuals “invest” in a student in return for a portion of that student’s eventual earnings.
The impetus for this brilliant idea, according to Daniels, was concern over student loan debt. How this would improve the situation is unclear; owing your “patron” is unlikely to be any less burdensome–or less costly– than owing the bank. (If we were really interested in addressing student debt, we’d pass Elizabeth Warren’s bill and lower interest rates, or follow Germany’s example and provide free public education through college.)
And echoes of feudalism aside, this does raise a few questions. Who, for example, is going to “invest” in a philosophy degree? (Oh, I forgot: Mitch and his pal in Wisconsin, Scott Walker, don’t value a “search for truth” or a liberal arts education. They’re all about “job training” and generating more worker bees…)
Young people used to pay for their passage to the New World by promising to work for a certain number of years for an employer who would finance the voyage. This was called “indentured servitude.” Indentures couldn’t marry without the permission of the employer, and their obligation to labor for their “owner” was enforced by the courts. Owners could buy and sell indentured servants’ contracts and the right to their labor.
This raises some fascinating possibilities: while it’s unlikely the proposed contracts to finance an education would include a right to approve marriages, could the “investor” require the student to choose a job that paid more rather than a lower-paid one that the student preferred?
Could the investor “sell” the contract at a profit if the student did well and the negotiated percentage of her income represented a better-than-anticipated return on investment?
Could the investor require his “investment” to abstain from smoking, drinking and other risky behaviors that might threaten the duration of the student’s work life?
Actually, this bizarre proposal suggests that America is overdue for a discussion of what constitutes an investment–and especially about the difference between public and private investments.
Believe it or not, Mitch, that philosophy major is a good public investment, even if it doesn’t make much sense to the rich guy looking for a kid who’ll be his annuity.