Years ago I paid a five-figure sum in today’s dollars for technical training to a for-profit school, financed not by student loans but by my day job as a secretary and my credit card. That’s how I discovered what too many students have learned since then: My impressive-sounding certification (CNE, for tech types who want to cringe in sympathy) was basically worthless without work experience. Happily, I lucked into a job that was mostly secretarial, with a bit of network admin thrown in, and that gave me just enough experience to get a full-time job in tech consulting when that company went out of business. But most of my classmates were not so lucky. They basically paid a lot of money, much of it borrowed, for a credential they never used. It was a terrible scam, and it has permanently tainted my view of for-profit education services. But I still have to ask: Should the government really have made us whole?
People get taken by scams every day, often with the help of government money. Should Fannie Mae forgive the mortgages of people if the buyer misrepresented the condition of the house? Should the Small Business Administration forgive the debt of some guy who pledged his house to back a no-hope franchise operation? For that matter, what about people who go to a big, public party school and major in sports marketing or tourism? The taxpayer cannot be made responsible for every unwise decision every individual makes, even if the government finances it.