Economics 479

Economics 479
Assignment 2
Several years ago, a Phoenix lawmaker introduced a bill that would have required
students in Arizona’s colleges and universities to pay $2,000 in tuition costs out of
pocket. The legislator argued that this measure, in the words of a reporter for Capitol
Media Services, “would ensure students have some ‘skin in the game,’ making it more
likely they would take their education seriously.”
Taken seriously or not, the costs of higher education are rising dramatically, so much so
that it is estimated that student-loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United
States. The burden of debt is so serious that in 2012 a lawmaker in the U.S. Congress
introduced a student loan forgiveness act (for background, see http://thomas.loc.gov/
cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.4170: and http://www.thenation.com/blog/178169/forgivestudent-
loan-debt-five-years).
The editor of your local newspaper has asked you, as an economist, to write an “op-ed”
piece—that is, an essay of opinion that is positioned across from the newspaper’s official
editorial page (thus opposite-editorial, and thus op-ed)—discussing some aspect of this
crisis.
You may, for instance, want to write of the merits of canceling student debt; or of the role
an educated populace plays in an economy based on technology and innovation, and
thus the social self-interest in encouraging education; or of the benefits to society by way
of higher incomes and therefore higher taxes paid to and by college-educated workers; or
of the economic effects that loan forgiveness might have, intended or otherwise.
In other words, you have considerable leeway in the approach the essay takes. Whatever
the case, though, you must include an economic concept to inform your discussion. This
is an essential part of the assignment, so please do not overlook it. If you do not
understand what I mean by “economic concept,” then, once again, review the syllabus
and the course blog.
Fitting your work to the space available is of critical importance. Your editor has 500
words to spare, not including your headline (the title of your essay) and your byline (that
is, your name). Please be sure to include both. Anything more than 525 words or less
than 475 words is unacceptable.
It is worth noting, by the way, that our Phoenix legislator withdrew his proposed law. Do
not let this fact materially affect your argument. It’s always possible, after all, that the
legislation will be reintroduced.
Your op-ed piece is due before 5:00 PM on June 1.
NOTES
1. As with assignment 1, your speech should have a title. The byline should carry your
employer’s name: by John Doe.
2. Please be sure to use this convention for naming your file:
Lastname_Firstname_Econ479_3.doc
3. You would do very well to read a few op-ed pieces (“opposite the editorial page”) in
newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and
Washington Post to gain some sense of their form. The Econ 479 blog has examples.