With half of the youth not even sure if they are registered to vote, it’s no wonder things don’t tend to go our way on the national stage. When President Obama or Governor Romney feel the need to pander for the youth vote they address the rapidly rising college tuition costs. Considering that student-loan defaults are at a 14 year high, it is no wonder. The solutions the candidates offer are standard fare: Mitt Romney wants less regulation while Obama speaks of easing burdens. But perhaps the political effects of the cost of college go beyond stump speeches, and actually affect how the youth view and interact with the market in the first place.
When the average person starts college they are about 18 years old. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we think we are going to change the world, or at least change the system that runs the world. The practical of us major in things like computer science and business while the dreamers among us go for art and dance. Either way, it costs a lot of money. An average of around $32,000 a year for a four-year college. For all the talk of changing the system we very quickly become very indebted to it.
And therein lays the real issue. The youth never have a chance to actually confront the system's political and economic orders as an equal so as to reasonably assess and possibly change it. In order for us to be successful we need to get a college education. In order to get a college education we have to go into debt. Once we are in debt we are literally indebted to the system we had planned on changing. The importance of the dollar is forced upon us not merely in our lacking it, but more so in the fact that we owe so much of it to someone else.
By the time we have paid back our debts and are on even footing ready to confront the system as a whole, without feeling like we are trying to skip out on obligations, we are already well invested in the very system we had hoped to change. Those years paying off college debt lead us to working out way up the corporate chain or starting our own business. If we start mucking around with the way things work we will end up threatening a system we have grown into and become a part of.
The cost of college makes radical political or economic change impossibility. It effectively dulls the youth’s penchant for bringing drastic new ideas to the table. It also gives keepers of the status quo the opportunity to claim the moral high ground by proclaiming that people that do try to change the way we go about economics are merely trying to get out of having to pay their student loans. In the great hall of ideas, student loans silence some of the best voices before they even get a chance to speak.