The way Americans pay for college is a mess. Here’s how to fix it.

Eliot Spitzer in Slate:

ScreenHunter_05 Mar. 07 10.20 If we are going to improve American intellectual capital, we need to fix how Americans pay for higher education. For too long we have asked students entering college and graduate school to choose one of two unappetizing options: pay astronomical tuition bills upfront or amass enormous debt that demands fixed, sky-high monthly payments the moment they graduate and enter the work force. These options serve as barriers to educational opportunity, since many cannot afford upfront tuition payments or qualify for the needed loans. That also distorts career choices, since for most the obligation to repay loans immediately has reduced the ability to choose socially desirable jobs such as teaching, forcing the pursuit of the highest-paying job regardless of personal or social utility.

Yet there may be a “third way” that eliminates the educational financing problem. Milton Friedman first proposed the following idea, and James Tobin then refined and tried to effectuate it. If two Nobel laureates of decidedly differing worldviews agree, it must be worth at least a quick look. It is, moreover, successful and commonplace in Europe and Australia.

More here.