By LZ Granderson, CNN contributor
Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.
(CNN) -- It seems everyone knows a college degree is important but few have a plan to keep it affordable.Just this past academic year, tuition went up twice as fast as inflation and the cost of textbooks rose faster than tuition. Meanwhile, The New York Times recently reported that "wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America's gross domestic product."As a result, the average 2011 graduate left school with $26,600 in student loan debt, helping to push the country's total student loan debt past $1 trillion.
Combine that with an unemployment rate for recent college graduates of 8.9%, and you see the impetus behind the First World question du jour -- "Is college really worth it?" That's a question that is easily answered by the 23% unemployment rate for folks without a bachelor's.
Still, the threat of leaving school with crippling loan payments does bring up a more valid question: Should students continue to take out huge loans to pursue majors that don't have a clear path to paying that loan back? In other words, a job?
In an ironic showing of big government, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both conservatives, decided to introduce plans in which state institutions charge less for STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and math) than liberal arts degrees.
"We're spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it's not great," Scott told a crowd in Tallahassee in 2011. "Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can't get jobs in anthropology? I don't."
That's a pretty good zinger but it doesn't pass the smell test.
First of all -- to borrow language from the GOP script -- I don't think the government should be picking winners and losers. And state officials massaging tuition costs to lure students away from fields they don't approve of does just that.
There is a difference between an education and training. Just because the vocational outcome between the two might be different doesn't mean it's government's role to assign its value to society.
Not to mention the initial outcomes are not always black and white.