Econ 479, Summer 2015, Session II/

Econ 479, Summer 2015, Session II/
Assignment 3
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:// and http://
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
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.
1. As with assignment 1, your speech should have a title. The byline
should carry your name.
2. Please be sure to use this convention for naming your file:
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
Street Journal
Financial Times
, and
Washington Post
to gain some
sense of their form. The Econ 479 blog has examples.

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