Given the vast dispersal of knowledge that became possible in the 20th century, it's paradoxical that many rights to the use of knowledge are associated with personal stamina. Today's formal education resembles a marathon race, which most individuals are expected to "run" while still young! In part, my own lack of physical stamina (not to mention fear of debt), stood in the way of completing a college degree in my twenties or thirties, since it was necessary to work full time.
Nevertheless, many baby boomers were able to complete their studies while carrying full time workloads. Who would have thought those earlier options for avoiding student debt, would become a sore spot for college students today? Not only does college now involve higher risk for human capital investment, a decade or more of student debt or extra years of study may be necessary. As one commenter noted at the linked Marketwatch article, once debt becomes a requirement for consumption, you're no longer working with a sustainable model.
But why is this the case? There's no simple answer, for there are many interconnected factors which have raised the bar not just for those who seek entry, but also for the institutions involved. For example, much as healthcare institutions in the U.S. have done, our educational institutions reach for revenue beyond national borders in ways that citizens increasingly question.
We are in need of broader economic platforms for knowledge use, which could provide more room for both practical and experiential endeavour. The current impasse is about more than excessive government control, since many knowledge use roadblocks come with the blessing of private interests, who have incentives to control the supply of knowledge based product.
Similar problems regarding knowledge limits occur with school curricula, which too often offer the same basic formats instead of a full array of learning options for individual challenges. How many valuable books have unnecessarily fallen by the wayside, as a result? In a recent blog post, Tyler Cowen noted that some of his "hidden" book influences weren't available through his formal school system. That was certainly true for me as well. When schools dismiss the value of books, authors find it more difficult to reach their intended audiences, and everyone finds it more difficult for learning to be shared and experienced with others over the course of a lifetime.
The intersection between formal education and the workplace has become so dysfunctional, that many have even become skeptical of those with a love for learning. Were we expected to sacrifice our passion for learning to the modern day czars of knowledge? Sure, it's one thing to be thankful at Thanksgiving that we don't have turkey czars. But most of us don't eat turkey very often, and yet our knowledge czars know that we imbibe knowledge in some capacity, every single day.