Are universities immoral?

Yes, this is another article bemoaning the cost of a college degree, and the amount of student debt that many graduates take with them alongside their diplomas — assuming they graduate, which doesn't always happen. (Paying off students loans without a college degree must be the epitome of rock-and-hard-place-ishness.)

Matching the books

You've read all the numbers about how the cost of college has risen far faster than the median household income, and how there's now more student loan debt than credit card debt. But besides the fact that debt stinks, graduating with a $30,000 I.O.U. (or more) has plenty of other harmful effects:

Student loans bring future consumption to the present. Debtors (often being paid entry-level salaries) have to devote a portion of their income to what they would otherwise be spending on cars, homes, kids, and iThingamajigs (well, they'll still buy those last things, but put it on the credit card, which is just more future consumption being spent now, with interest). This drains money from the overall economy, benefitting no one but the universities and the student-loan providers.

Families feel like they don't have a choice. If you're told you absolutely need something, and you can borrow the money to get it, then you'll borrow whatever it takes.

Student loans drive up the price of college. Universities increase their price tags far beyond the overall rate of inflation because they can; easy money has removed many of the natural constraints on the price of a good or service.

Imagine this scenario: Student loans were completely eliminated. What do you think would happen to the price of a diploma? It would plummet, because only people who have saved thousands of dollars could attend (and we know that few people have thousands of dollars laying around, especially outside retirement accounts). Prices would have to adjust so people could somehow afford it without debt.

I'm not necessarily advocating this (well, maybe kinda) because many people could never afford a degree without debt, but I think it illustrates how loans have contributed to skyrocketing prices. Easy money was also a contributor to the recent housing bubble, and we know how that turned out.

Teenagers/young-20-somethings are borrowing money to take classes that will do nothing to further their career. In my first year of college when I was studying to be a priest, I had to take a class related to exercise (because the world needs more buff priests). I chose weight-lifting, which was a grand way to spend a few hours, but it wasn't worth the money my family paid for it, and certainly not worth paying for with borrowed money.

If you have a college degree, I'm sure you can recall a few classes that did nothing to enhance your career, your human capital, your personal productivity, your financial literacy, or knowledge of nutrition. (Those last three come from Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner, who during a recent conversation offered those as three topics everyone should be taught.)

My suggestion: 7th and 8th graders should go on a series of three-month apprenticeships with carpenters, electricians, salespeople, farmers, bankers, computer technicians and programmers, cooks, etc., and they couldn't graduate until they passed an exam after each rotation. I used to teach middle schoolers, and I know how little learning can go on during those years. The apprenticeships would be far more enduringly educational, enhance the country's economic efficiency, and might tire the kids out so much that they couldn't be so mean to each other.

Many careers aren't worth the extra debt. A teacher with an Ivy League degree is not likely to earn much more than a teacher with a degree from State U. With most careers, the amount you make — especially in the early years — falls into a fairly narrow range. Yes, a fancy-name degree can open some doors and lead to a network of contacts that also have found easier-opened doors. But if someone knows that they're going into a job with a low- to middle salary, and limited potential for a growing income, then they should do everything they can to get a degree without student loans.

It's now becoming multi-generational. A recent NPR story told of the woes of a single mother with two kids. The family will be borrowing $124,000 to put the kids through college. But here's the kicker (in case that wasn't enough): Back in 2004, the mom borrowed $60,000 to enhance her own skillset. It led to a higher income, though she had to move across the country to get it. According to the story:

She [the mom] has no savings, no money put away for retirement, and is thinking of taking on a second job to pay off her kids' loans. And she even has a little bit to pay off in student loans from her first degree — from 1996.

Now, this family didn't make the best decisions (you know, lying in the bed you borrowed and all that), but, unfortunately, this family's dilemma is becoming more common.

It doesn't make sense to borrow money to climb a wall. As this Marketplace segment points out:

The Wall has become code for the amenities arms race on campuses across the country. Colleges say students and parents are demanding this stuff.

I'm comfortable putting this one on the parents and kids; colleges feel like they have to be competitive with other colleges. The more families of potential students say, “I'm not going to your school, but rather going to another school, because I want to pay for an education, not recreation,” the more universities will stop building jungle gyms.

Bookstore cat at Ophelias Books

So what's the Ivory Tower's responsibility?

Let me start off by saying I'm a big believer in personal responsibility as well as accountability for one's decisions, even the bad ones. But are colleges taking advantage of 18-year-olds, who have little appreciation for the decades-long consequences of debt? Of course, their parents are part of the decision, and perhaps should know better (especially since they're usually not on the hook for the debt). But as I suggested earlier, colleges have a lot of leverage; kids and parents feel that a degree is essential, and they're mostly right.

As I've written before, despite all my grumblings about the cost of college, my wife and I still contribute to our kids' 529 college savings accounts. At this point, it's a required ticket that needs to be punched before you can enter many types of professions. (Darn you, college cabal!)

My opinion? The Ivory Tower Industrial Complex is succumbing to a conflict of interest, and not doing what's in the students' best interest. I think it's unethical. I worked at a university for a year, and found the wasted money and inefficiencies appalling (except my job, of course; it was crucial to the university's mission and future prosperity… maybe). They should stand up and say, “Enough is enough. We can't, in good conscience, send these kids out into the world with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.”

As for how to actually pay for college, here are a few past GRS posts on that topic:

Finally, I'll add one tip that financial planner and GRS contributor of yore Dylan Ross told me at the recent Garrett Planning Network annual conference: College prices can be negotiable! Ross says, “It may be worth trying to negotiate tuition and or financial aid — particularly if the student has skills the school may find desirable or is applying to one of the school's less sought after programs.” You can negotiate college tuition? Now that's a useful personal finance tip.

Cat assistance by Dr. Hemmert and Brew Books.

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Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
8 years ago

I think there will be a huge deal about college loans in the next few years and if that happens then colleges might actually have to cut back like the government is having to do. Hopefully that will reduce college costs. Until that happens choose colleges that spend your tuition dollars responsibly and actually add value to your education!

Susan
Susan
8 years ago

As a former college professor, I heartly agree with the article. I’ve taught at exclusive private colleges and state supported universities and the best students I had were are at a “commuter” state supported institution. The students at the expensive private college were upfront about the fact that their (parent’s) $20,000+ in annual tuition should assure them no grade lower than a b- regardless of the quality of their work. The college’s administration agreed and called anyone on the carpet who actually held students to standards. I’ve watched the cost of tuition rise, mostly to pay for more administrators and… Read more »

LD
LD
8 years ago
Reply to  Susan

I completely disagree with this article. I went to fancy private schools, and have my masters. It was hands down the best decision ever. Although I have $30,000 in student loan debt, my income is so much more than it would have been if I had not gotten a great education ($110,000 plus). You can’t blame universities for the state of the economy, or for naive people thinking that a diploma was a ticket to being successful. Also, in order to get a return on your investment (education), you need to be willing to travel full time, move for a… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  LD

I don’t think he is advocating that everyone give up the idea of college in favor of blue-collar work, but we could certainly use a happy medium. There are plenty of blue collar jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. Want to build a house? You hire a contractor. Have a plumbing issue? Your car breaks down? Need an electrician? None of these things are fixed overseas. My husband and I own a business in high-tech manufacturing, and it’s very difficult to find skilled labor these days. Our employees are very highly paid and get good benefits. We need both a… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago
Reply to  LD

I don’t think this article is saying that we should push the next generation into blue collar work. Asking kids to have practical real-world life experience with a variety of trades would expose them to a variety of skills and skill sets, which they can use as a basis for deciding what it is that they want to do. He is, after all, recommending that this be done in middle school, not high school or post high school. Students might leave the experience knowing more about their own strengths and aptitudes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they approach school with… Read more »

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
8 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Yes, I, too, think that colleges and universities are immoral, and the public ones are probably worse than the private ones. I have worked as both an administrator and an adjunct instructor. As an adjunct, I was actually teaching students — what most people would assume is the main priority of colleges. I earned peanuts, had no job security, and got no benefits. As an administrator, I earned $50k in 2002, did next to nothing, had full benefits and a fancy office. It’s absolutely immoral for colleges to charge students an arm and a leg in order to pay people… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Did you see the Boston Globe editorial by an adjunct professor expressing your same complaint? It was the first time I knew just how little an adjunct was paid versus what the provided. It’s outrageous.

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

I did a brief stint as a ‘guest lecturer’ (basically, a non-faculty temp hire) to teach an undergrad class once. I was paid a flat rate with no benefits to teach it, and I figured out afterward that my hourly wage was less than 15$/hour. Good times!

PawPrint
PawPrint
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

My son’s GF is an adjunct professor. She has no benefits and has to scramble to pick up classes to teach at two different schools (one a comm. college, another a university–about 20 miles apart). She has to work at a daycare to supplement her income and pay for her health insurance. There are only two professors in her department, and a bunch of adjuncts who teach most of the classes.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

I recently took a math course at a local university. The teacher was the best math teacher I’ve ever had, and I’ve taken more math than the average person. He’s listed as an instructor or adjunct, and I know he teaches at other colleges in the area. It’s a shame that he has to scramble and work multiple when he’s such a gifted and talented teacher. (And, he has a PhD so he’s got the degree for becoming a full-time professor.)

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

$15 an hour! Not bad. I was getting $1/hour. I did it more for recreation than the money.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Sadly, this has been what my boyfriend, a grad student TA, has observed. When he and I were undergraduates in the 90’s, we were expected to work hard for a B or an A, and if we did subpar work we were graded accordingly. And we knew we deserved that C grade or worse, and our parents, or at least my mom, put the blame on ME. But now my boyfriend said there’s pressure on the teachers – profs, TAs, lecturers – to coddle the students. Extensive review sessions, practice exams(!), and in some cases making the course overall easier.… Read more »

Babs
Babs
8 years ago

That’s so interesting. When I was in College in the mid-seventies there was a lot of hand-wringing about “grade inflation”. I wonder if that has been steadily going on for 40 years or if that is a cyclical thing.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago

Babs, a few years ago the Boston Globe had an article about grade inflation at Harvard. It was ridiculous – I think the article said the majority of each Harvard class graduates with honors (e.g., cum laude). I thought academic honors were meant to show distinction – wouldn’t distinction mean those who are above the average, not the average.

Lincoln
Lincoln
8 years ago

Eliminating student loans isn’t really a viable option. Even if it substantially decreased the cost of getting a degree, it would disproportionately disadvantage poor and middle class families. If you have to pay cash for a degree, many people just can’t do it. The bigger problem is the lack of sophistication in assuming the debt in a changing global marketplace. Jobs and opportunities that were there 5, 10, and 15 years ago just aren’t there, or are in less supply. Many of the new jobs and future opportunities are not necessarily taught in trade schools, though we certainly will always… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago

I agree with this article. We’ve told our kids we will not pay a penny more than state school would cost us. We were using a 529 but then we realized that all that money would be counted against us in a financial aid award. (I ran different financial scenarios through that Princeton financial aid calculator and it looks like a college will take 50% of a 529 each year). In the unlikely event our kids will qualify for financial aid, we began putting money we really intend for college savings into a Roth IRA. Money that looks like it’s… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

The 529 is supposed to count against you for financial aid. It is money for college!!

The majority financial aid is loans anyway. Horrible, horrible student loans. Unless you could pay them all off at graduation prior to accumulating any interest, essentially a 0% loan for 1-4 years, and not a bad strategy if you can get it, you probably are better off not taking as much “financial aid” as possible.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

But Tom, that just goes back to one of the fundamental problems with the way financial aid is calculated. It penalizes savings and rewards spending. I would have gotten more financial aid if my father had bought a few nice cars in cash a year before I went to college. This isn’t right. We were solidly middle class and made a lot less than some people at my private university who got significant grants. They either hired an accountant to find ways to hide assets or had nothing saved. I’m doing exactly what mom of five is doing and trying… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I would’ve got more financial aid too, if I didn’t work full time in high school. Student’s assets count greater against FAFSA than parent’s assets do. Adults just tend to have more, usually. It does not reward spending, it offers ACCESS to CHILDREN from families without assets. Furthermore, my original point, is that people seem to equate “financial aid” to a free ride through college. For the most part, it qualifies you for student loans, the same thing Robert mildly suggests are evil. If you’re really, really broke, then you can get some grants. Most other scholarship is merit-based or… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

As Tom points out, “financial aid” means loans. It doesn’t mean paid for, except in cases where they really want your student. The point of 529s IS college — and I’ll say that for our oldest, it was genius. He went off to school in fall 2009. You may recall what stocks looked like around then. But, because it was in a planned account, Vanguard had been moving it into bonds over several years. The value of the account never dipped. This year, for several reasons, including a second child going to college and the accounting due to buying into… Read more »

EA
EA
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

So true. I forgot the name of the book, but I read somewhere that this is the reason why there are so many BMWs on Harvard’s campus. Prospective students purposefully drain their savings in order to qualify for financial aid. So, I guess, you are doing the right thing by shifting funds into IRAs

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I would disagree with you that a 529 is for college. A 529 is savings that *I hope* to use for my kids’ education. But things happen – junior may decide to apprentice in a trade or be the next Bill Gates and drop out. But, most importantly if the worst happens with our finances and our income suddenly becomes zero or close to it, then colleges will still expect my husband and me to fork over the money we’ve saved in the 529. That is not the case with the Roths and yet we can still access the principle… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Sorry to be harsh, I know you’re doing a good thing for your children. Someone with no intentions of sending someone else (child, grandchild, neice/nephew/cousin/whoever) to college would never open a 529. The intent of a 529 plan is for educational savings, most likely college, though other alternatives are available. The 529 is structured to have tax advantages for realizing investment gains when that money is used to fund an education. That’s why they count heavily against the FAFSA, and rightfully so – you’re saving on capital gains tax you would’ve paid in a taxable investment account, plus state benefits,… Read more »

Andy Long
Andy Long
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

When public schools use the FAFSA to figure expected family contribution to determine financial aid eligibility parents’ non retirement investments do lower the chances of receiving certain types of aid, but maybe not as much as you think. For parent’s assets in checking and non-retirement investment accounts a couple in their mid 40s would get a little over $40,000 exempted from being counted and then assets over $40,000 would by multiplied by 12% to figure out how much it would increase an expected family contribution. Kudos to you if you have that much saved in non retirement accounts, because odds… Read more »

Old Guy
Old Guy
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

At my work we have discussed at length how the best thing we could do financially is divorce our spouse (or never marry at all) so our kids could actually qualify for student aid. As it is, we “make too much money”. I know some of you will scoff and say suck it up, but I say there is something wrong with a system that encourages immoral acts because it pays financially. Its on par with my friends who won’t marry but instead live together because it will sever their survivor benefits in Social Security as a widow. And a… Read more »

20s reader
20s reader
8 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

In my experience (graduated college 5 years ago, and the same was the case in my mom’s generation), being divorced doesn’t help – colleges expect both parents to kick in if both have incomes. If one parent says, “nope, not my responsibility,” it screws the student and the other parent because then they have to make up that parent’s expected contribution. I know a student who had to take a year off to work and earn that missing tuition because of her parents’ divorce. (She says, “it’s my education, I’m not entitled to my parents’ money,” so this isn’t a… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  20s reader

At least when I started college in 2003, it was financially helpful to have divorced parents. I didn’t have to count my dad’s income because of how long they had been divorced, so my need-based grants were much higher than they would have been. This could be specific to California, though.

FinanceGeek
FinanceGeek
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Just be aware of the limitations if you are using a Roth IRA for college expense. You can withdraw your contributions at any time (tax free), but you will have to pay taxes on the earnings even if you are using them for educational expenses. The additional 10% penalty doesn’t apply to qualified educational expenses minus any tax-free assistance, but the normal taxation does apply. See IRS publication 970 for more details.

Andy Long
Andy Long
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I have a better idea than worried about how you can qualify for the most in financial aid. Send your kids to community college for the first two years and have them live at home. It is a shame what they pay their adjuncts, but students can finish their first two years of college for less than $10,000 (although it doesn’t sound nearly as good at social events when people are bragging to their colleagues about where their kids are going to college).

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
8 years ago

Universities are more than immoral. I spent some time inside academia and had some unique opportunities to see the system up close. Here’s the fundamental travesty: inside the institution, they care not one whit about education. Their main focus is research. As someone put it to me: there is dissemination of knowledge (teaching) and creation of knowledge (research) and of those two, creation of knowledge is the higher calling. To call a professor a good teacher has become an insult, not a compliment. It carries the implication he’s no good at research, and therefore “not worth anything.” What the customer… Read more »

David
David
8 years ago

Wow, that’s quite the sweeping generalization. Many schools I’ve been involved with care deeply about providing a good education to their students. I have no doubt that there are schools that care only about research, but that doesn’t mean that all schools are that way.

I think the moral is that prospective students and their parents need to look carefully at the academic/research culture at the schools they are interested in.

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
8 years ago
Reply to  David

You’re right – that probably was more of a generalization than it needed to be. The comment was aimed at the more expensive institutions, the “big name” schools. That ties back the premise of the original post – parents feel they don’t have a choice. They do. California, for example, has two systems, the Cal State system and the UC system. The former are called “teaching schools” and generally emphasize teaching. However, they are viewed as less desirable by many, including student applicants. The UC schools (Berkeley, UCLA, etc.) are regarded as more prestigious, and yet the priority of teaching… Read more »

graduateliving
graduateliving
8 years ago
Reply to  David

I concur. One of the draws I had to the current graduate school I’m attending is its focus on teaching and teaching well. Furthermore (and I say this without having taught in higher education yet) graduate students are often on the forefront of what is new in the field and bring that knowledge (and excitement) to their classroom. I find my cohort to be quite passionate about teaching and the classroom. Furthermore, there is no one place where blame lies. Sure, college expense are going up, but, as professors can tell you, that money is NOT going to faculty. More… Read more »

Adult student
Adult student
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

I agree entirely with this whole comment (especially as a graduate student who really, really loves teaching, although I’m realistic enough about the job market to realize I probably won’t wind up doing it in universities).

Just popping in to add a link to this article – http://chronicle.com/article/College-Costs-Too-Much-Because/133357/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en Not sure if it’s correct but it’s an interesting perspective.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

Although I did a research-based dissertation to avoid being pidgeonholed on the job market, the main focus of my PhD was on teaching. While the university I work for employs a TON of adjuncts (though they don’t call it that, you are a “faculty associate), we don’t typically employ them in the department I work for. And while we have TA’s, it is pretty unusual for them to be instructor of record. Most of them assist tenured faculty with their teaching. Now, when I was getting my graduate degrees, I had a teaching load of 2-2 for almost the entire… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

I’m amused that Honey is $100K in debt for student loans and can’t spell “pigeonholed.”

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

@Jennifer – I agree.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

Oh, please, Jennifer. Have you ever typed something quickly and misspelled it? I have a Ph.D. and used an incorrect preposition in one of my comments on this article. I caught it after the allowed time to edit. Is that hilarious too? Or was it just amusing because it was Honey (who I might add is regrettably becoming a GRS punching bag of sorts)?

Nitpicking someone’s spelling or grammar is never productive and rarely appealing.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

Heh… Yesterday I noticed that in an e-mail I sent at work that I didn’t just typo a word… I typed out the entirely WRONG word. It was spelled correctly, though. At least it wasn’t to some corporate mucky muck.

I think writiong on a computer does something to our brains so we see things that aren’t really there and end up typing what we think is the correct spelling or the correct word.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Most of what you say is true, especially the part about “good teacher” being some sort of epithet. But I don’t think you are correct that classes are only taught by graduate students and that students hardly see professors in their first few years. I don’t think this is the norm anywhere but perhaps at the very large research institutions. I went to a private research university routinely in the top 10 undergraduate institutions, and almost all the classes were taught by professors. In fact, this was a point of pride for the university. Plus the students had regular contact… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

My own experience, being around academia for years and years, and specifically relating to two state universities (U of AZ-Tucson) and Texas Tech U, is that Yes: research is valued more highly than teaching, and some of that comes from the professors themselves. However, MOST of the professors value education of their students highly. The majority of the “spend your time on research rather than teaching, and we’ll reward you with tenure” thing comes from ADMIN. With state funding drying up, the accelarating trend is for Admin to approach higher ed like a profit making business, not a public institution.… Read more »

Tatyana
Tatyana
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I don’t think that being taught by TAs is what harms students. It’s being taught by horrible teachers. My worst teacher was a professor who was highly valued because of his research. My best 2 teachers were a TA and an assistant professor who did no research but rather taught as a hobby and a recruitment vehicle for his company.
I was taught by some of the smartest people in the field, but what does it matter if those people don’t have the necessary skills to actually pass their knowledge on to me.

Another Kate
Another Kate
8 years ago

I attended a small liberal arts college, where I was taught by actual professors, and now I work for a university that is not focused on research. There are no TAs here; professors teach their own classes. I agree with David — you made a sweeping generalization.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

Yes, it is very different at a SLAC (small liberal arts college) than an LPU (large public university). However, most SLACs are not super well known outside their region (there are exceptions) and most have higher tuition than an LPU because they are private. In that way, you kind of get what you pay for.

Another Kate
Another Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Good point, Honey. My college did have a good national rep (though not Ivy League), and it wasn’t cheap. I feel grateful for the opportunity.

Babs
Babs
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Even thought SLAC are more expensive it seems like they have more aid in the form of grants and scholarships.

David
David
8 years ago

You are right that top universities place emphasis on research over teaching. However, you are dead wrong that that’s where the university resources are going.

A new, tenure-track faculty is given a “start-up package” to get their lab going. This is some discretionary money for travel/equipment and a certain number of student-years worth of graduate student funding. It’s not that much relatively speaking, even at big schools. After that, they are pretty much entirely on their own for funding.

Like someone else pointed out, tuition money is going towards admin, new buildings, athletics (?), and everything BUT research.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago

This is one of the reasons a high school teacher tried to dissuade me from going to a prestigious university (*cough* Harvard *cough). She had gone as an undergrad and felt she got cheated – she never saw a professor, the teaching was bad, etc. Silly me, it was still on the top of my list because of its name, but I got wait listed and instead went to William & Mary, a PUBLIC university that emphasizes teaching. The few times I ever saw a TA were in a physics lab, a language drill session, and the discussion session for… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago

William & Mary is public but if you are an out-of-state student it is still hideously expensive. According to their website, $24,609 per SEMESTER. That does include room and board, but still. It’s the same price as those private SLACs.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Kingston

When I attended even for out-of-state residents it was still cheaper than a private college. I think a big part of the reason out-of-state tuition has shot up is that VA has cut the amount of support it gives to public universities, so the out-of-state residents end up subsidizing the in-state residents. To address this, W&M has tried to beef up alumni support, and the VA universities have banded together to try to come up with solutions to the cut in state funding. However, if I were a high school senior now I would seriously consider UMass- Amherst. It now… Read more »

Tim
Tim
8 years ago

Playing devil’s advocate here, why do you think the biggest constituents or the majority of customers are students? At some major research universities, more money comes from extramural research funding (that is, money that comes from outside the university) than from student tuition. If there is only one mission, that suggests the mission is research, doesn’t it? Furthermore, for students who get involved in research, those experiences are frequently more valuable than ones in the classroom. Of course almost every college and university tries to effect both good teaching and good research. The trick is balancing the two, which of… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

Trades such as being a plumber and an electrician are a dying breed. We need to revisit trade schools as a viable alternative to a 4-year university (and hope that someone doesn’t find a way to jack up the prices for trade schools as well). However, back to student loans. While this post was very informative, like most student loan posts, it’s geared towards parents of future students or students themselves. I’d like to see more posts on navigating financial decisions while having student loan debt. Sure, it’s been said again and again to pay off your student loan debt… Read more »

Harry
Harry
8 years ago

At 18 my perception of community college/associates degrees was it was for the people who weren’t smart enough for 4-year degree programs, but now I realize community college is for the people smart enough to know how to save thousands of dollars. I could have saved $25k by doing my first 2 years at a community college.

Kandace
Kandace
8 years ago
Reply to  Harry

I agree. I now work for a community college and see what a backbone it is for education in the community. We focus on getting people two year degrees with which they can get a job, transfer to another instititon to continue their education or upgrade skills for their current job. And it’s half the cost of other state schoosl. I’ve also worked at a four-year college, and much of the focus was research, or the sports teams. There is movement afoot to get rid of tenure, and I think that is certainly worth looking into to keep professors’ skills… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Harry

I totally agree and I don’t know why this isn’t pushed in schools more. I mean, many of us non-traditional students have NO choice but to go the community college route and move up (assuming you’re not already advanced and your previous credits haven’t expired). I heard a segment on NPR/OPB last year regarding huge jump in enrollment over the past few years at PCC (Portland Community College). I hope this trend doesn’t mean jumps in tuition though. Community college is cheaper for sure, but its still a huge chunk out of your budget if you’re supporting yourself on limited… Read more »

EMH
EMH
8 years ago
Reply to  Harry

I had the same feeling about community colleges but they definitely reduced the cost of my education.

I don’t know if this is offered everywhere, but at my high school in Michigan there was a program that allowed you to take college courses at the community college during your senior year. Between those classes at the college and AP classes, I was able to start my first year at the University as a sophomore. I highly recommend taking these classes and AP courses to offset some of the costs of college.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Harry

100% agree. I went to three schools: a mega-university in the SUNY system, a smaller, more specialized, city-run college in the CUNY system, and a community college. The community college was, hands-down, the most rewarding experience financially, academically, and socially. It didn’t have the prestige of the other schools that I attended, but I learned more there about academics, study habits, and time management than anywhere else. I learned that community college is NOT for dummies, but filled with interesting people who work hard and have a valuable perspective on life. Community college is for people who understand their finances… Read more »

Rail
Rail
8 years ago
Reply to  Harry

Community collages or “Ju-Coes” rock! You get 2 solid years of education and experiance, and meet people from all age groups and backgrounds. Jr. collages are very popular in Iowa and are a way to save Mucho bucks while getting great training and education. Many people(like me) dont need, want, or can afford a 4 year degree and so the AA degree becomes a great option. I’m making 70/80k a year on a 2 year degree that I borrowed roughly 2,000 bucks on in 1988.

Jeff
Jeff
8 years ago
Reply to  Rail

If you don’t mind me asking, what is your degree in and what’s your current profession? I’ve completed a year of university and I’m starting to think an AS in a tech field like IT would be more appealing.

Nancy
Nancy
8 years ago

The below is BRILLIANT.

“My suggestion: 7th and 8th graders should go on a series of three-month apprenticeships with carpenters, electricians, salespeople, farmers, bankers, computer technicians and programmers, cooks, etc., and they couldn’t graduate until they passed an exam after each rotation. I used to teach middle schoolers, and I know how little learning can go on during those years. The apprenticeships would be far more enduringly educational, enhance the country’s economic efficiency, and might tire the kids out so much that they couldn’t be so mean to each other.”

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy

Totally agree! I’m not sure what it’s like in the U.S., but in Ontario the government basically did away with shop and home ec. classes a couple of decades ago. Imagine the horrors of learning skills you might actually use or might lead you to a non-white collar job! *gasp*

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

The Ontario curriculum still includes shop and home ec. It limits the number of classes you can take in those subjects but schools can and do still offer them, at least as of about 10 years ago when I graduated, and I was in the last major overhaul of the curriculum.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl

Oops, I should have specified — I meant in grade 7 and 8. In my school district, they had some excellent programs in high school that went beyond your usual shop and home ec. (Like a semester- or year-long program on masonry. There was a chef program than ran a cafeteria too.)

It’s great to offer these classes in high school, but I think kids need more hands-on exposure at a younger age.

Another Kate
Another Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy

I have to say, there was so much I disagreed with in this article from my personal experience, and the statement about how little learning goes on in middle school was one of them. It depends on the school. I learned a ton in junior high growing up, and I’ve enrolled my child in a classical charter school that challenges her even more than I was. Her chemistry class this year was probably high-school level; in 7th grade English, she was reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Frankenstein. She’s also studying logic. Honestly, I think a broad liberal arts education… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy

Do they not do this anymore? When I was in middle school it was 6th, 7th and 8th. In 6th grade you did the whole “career wheel” which was home ec, shop, business/typing, agriculture, and art. Then in 7th grade you got to choose what you focused on and take longer classes in those areas.

Though in retrospect I am not sure art belongs on something called the career wheel, I do remember loving my business class and my agriculture class. I still have a bedside table my sister made in shop.

EMH
EMH
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I think art definitely needs to be on the career wheel along with music. As a former art director I can tell you that it can pay well and be a career. My husband is a musician and his introduction was in middle school band class.

SB @ One Cent at a Time
SB @ One Cent at a Time
8 years ago

Borrowing from the family’s example, there are situation where degree is a must to climb the wall. And, when it becomes a must, we can switch to a job where employer bear some burden of employee education.

There are plenty of employer available today who offer tuition reimbursement.

As for teenager going to college, the system is collapsing pretty fast. Apart from grants and scholarships you really can’t do much other than not getting the degree.

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

I admit, I was shocked at the monthly payment when I received my first student loan bill. I believe that when you agree to take the money, they should project 1) how much this disbursement will cost you at the current interest rate over the standard 10 year repayment and 2) What your current total balance is, and the sum of those projected payments at their given interest rate. I signed up to take as much as they would give me every year, and maybe I would’ve decided otherwise if I had known better. I believe that congress passed a… Read more »

Nick
Nick
8 years ago

This drains money from the overall economy, benefitting no one but the universities and the student-loan providers. ============ Ah yes. So the universities and load providers aren’t part of the overall economy. Big fail. ============ It would plummet, because only people who have saved thousands of dollars could attend ============= Or their parents pay. However, over the long term, if people value the education, they save and still go. You just get a period of adjustment whilst people save. Again a fail. ============= What you need to look at is why the cost of a degree is so high. Medical,… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Nick

“However, over the long term, if people value the education, they save and still go. You just get a period of adjustment whilst people save.” Right, and the universities will just sit on their hands and ride out that period… This type of hypothetical scenario would never play out as simple as either you or Robert suggest, but he makes a classical economic analysis: supply remains constant and demand drops away, prices must decrease. This is still an oversimplification, in part because the product is intangible and contains a lot of variables, but you can’t get a full analysis in… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago

Until institutions of higher education stop spending money irresponsibly, or until there’s an uprising (not likely), I think the cost of college will continue to rise unchecked. Hearing about administrators and university presidents who earn 6-7 figure salaries makes me sick. The justification is often “we need this academic rockstar and we have to pay to keep them here or they’ll go to another school.” As someone who was on track to become a professor for a long time, let me assure you that for every tenured professor, chair, vice chancellor, or provost, there are hundreds of extremely bright, hard… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

I totally agree. As an Ohio State University alum, it seems that nobody gives a care about anything else except… Buckeye Football. You don’t want to go anywhere near campus on a game day due to the traffic disaster. It fouls up the entire interstate system around Columbus.

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Yep. I went to the University of Texas, and was there the year they won the national championship. You can just image what that was like.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

So… the head of a large institution, responsible for a staff of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, who sets the tone and direction of a place, who determines the structure, who deals with budgets in the millions, who likely has years of experience and education in their field, shouldn’t get paid a six-figure salary? I suppose then that we should also knock the salaries of CEOs down to size. Oh no, that’s right… they create something of “value,” money or widgets of some kind. They don’t run an institution that educates the populace… no value in that at all. Let’s… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Jay

I didn’t say that we should pay them minimum wage and I don’t agree with that sentiment at all. I know what they do is valuable, and I respect it. But I don’t think that a tenured professor should be paid $80,000 and his or her administrator $800,000.

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

Yes, and as I commented above, everyone tends to lump “faculty/professors” together, and assume they are sitting on their asses not teaching, and making huge salaries. But let me assure everyone that, in the trenches, plenty of the professors are working their butts off, with frozen salaries, while all the extra money goes to admin or those handful of ‘big name superstar research professors’. Of course there are dead-weight overpaid profs who should be bumped out in favor of hungry up and comers. There are good arguments against tenure, just as there are good arguments for it. I’m just worried… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

Oh believe me, I understand how hard professors work. Both of my parents are tenured professors whose main duties are teaching. I’ve seen how little they make and how hard they work, which is part of the reason I decided not to go into academia (4 classes a semester and chair duties, committee work, publishing books and articles, etc). And I’m sorry but I must disagree that academic administrator=CEO, and I also think that CEOs are paid way too much. Perhaps if a few administrators were paid less there would be more room to spread around the wealth and hire… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

Not sure if you meant to disagree with me re: CEO/admin? or the previous poster.

I agree with everything you say here. Any comparison I made between CEOs and admins was meant to be unflattering to both LOL. There’s no debate that admin at many universities are hired with explicit requirement that they behave like CEOs and run the universities like a for-profit business. And they are paid accordingly. Personally, I think that entire approach is philosophically wrong, and I certainly think the pay scale for admin versus faculty/staff is often incredibly skewed.

Per
Per
8 years ago

I belive that the government has to at least partly pay for the education. At least if someone defaults, the government should pay the interests on the loan part of university education. This would be a very good investment for the government, as better educated people have the tendency to pay more taxes as well. So even if they were unwilling to pay for the education, they should take the risk part of it. If someone is good at his subject, he or she must be able to attend a good university. How much money his or her family has… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago

Colleges and universities are a business like anything else, even if they claim to be “not for profit”. It is nearly impossible to get an entry level job these days without having a college degree, even if there is absolutely no task that cannot be learned on the job. Ridiculous, it is. I went to Northwestern University and graduated in 2001. The annual tuition, room/board and fees was more than what my parents (combined) earned in a year. I had work study, grants and loans. I earned a BA in Biological Sciences with a minor in Sociology. I worked for… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

You had me until your last paragraph. Perhaps universities shouldn’t require so many electives, but I cannot agree that practical subjects are the end all be all of education. I’m glad universities have at least retained this aspect of a classical education, namely the goal of diversified knowledge and a well-rounded understanding of the world.

I’ve ranted about this before on here, so I’ll stop :).

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

My point was that they shouldn’t be required for a degree. Take them to round out your education, personal curiosity or growth, or whatever. But don’t charge $1-5k per class for someone who doesn’t need those for their major of study.

That said, my Russian Folklore class was one of my favorites. There’s nothing like being invited to Ravinia and having the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform for your class, and having the professor bring his guitar and sing to you in Russian. But it sure didn’t help me get a job or pay back loans.

olga
olga
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Russian folklore is fun, but as you say, I’d propose if a subject is an elective, it shouldn’t be required for a degree. Go ahead and round up your education and thirst for knowledge, as you’re pleased, if you want and able to pay for/borrow!

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Um, English and calculus are pretty important if you have a job in a science field. Maybe Philosophy or Sociology or History you could argue aren’t as useful…

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I didn’t have classes in technical writing or grammar or grant writing. It was classical English Literature. Like Jane Eyre and Chaucer. Not very useful to someone working in a functional genomics laboratory. And I never once needed the calculus (or physics- did not need to know how to calculate the speed of trains in space or whatever). Not ever. Didn’t need or use it in graduate school, either. Nor in my 8 years of work as an epidemiologist. Technical and grant writing would have been EXTREMELY useful. So would a government affairs class. Sociology was actually quite useful for… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

I think part of the reason undergrads are required to take course for their majors that they end up never using is because they are, well, undergrads, and the university is using a shotgun approach to preparing the undergrad for the broadest possible career path. Humor me and follow along… 😉 If you’re in biology and you’re required to take calculus you may never need to use calculus ever. But, if you go on to graduate school, or end up at a tech firm working in a field of biology that DOES use calculus – maybe for predicting/modelling a species’s… Read more »

Emmy
Emmy
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

I was actually discussing this with some of my fellow Calculus students the other day. The consensus was that even if we might not be doing the nitty gritty work of derivatives and integrals in our actual jobs, calculus teaches you to communicate your thought process in a logical and methodical way. It’s the first time in the math sequence where you have to draw upon all the skills you’ve learned in algebra, trig and geometry and apply them to different situations. Then on top of that you have to lay out your work in a way that makes sense… Read more »

Daniel
Daniel
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

I think it’s absolutely right about making a broader path, and I think this idea on making a broader career path. I did not use many of my literature when I graduated. However, I am glad my university had me take them, because they did help me net a better paying job as I begin my second career.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

We have come so far from the idea of a traditional liberal arts education. President John Adams said “I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Sadly, things aren’t valuable unless they’re valued. There are so many things with intrinsic worth that don’t make money.

AMW
AMW
8 years ago

I have a daughter who is a sophomore in college who goes to a state university and I am also an adjunct professor at a community college and teach baking. The whole school financial thing makes me angry as a whole. I believe in the value of an education. However, all education is not created equal! One does not need a four year degree for everything. Ironically, I do NOT have a college degree. I did apprenticeships. I started my own business as a pastry chef, was successful, and now the college has deemed me appropriate to teach part time.… Read more »

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

Companies require a 4 year degree for a secretary because they can. When only a small percentage fo the population could ‘afford’ to go to college everyone else had to learn on the job. Now with the job market flooded with people with liberal arts degrees but no practical on the job skills (so the ‘everyone else’ is still learning on the job), a company can require a college degree because there are still so many applicants. And now we have the exact same situation we had before – on the job training and low wages – except that person… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Agreed, except I’d debate you on whether on-the-job training is still offered. I’m an admin assistant, and not only is a BA/BS now required, so is work experience, preferably 3-5 years. (Less = not enough experience, more = higher salary.) This isn’t limited to my place of employment; this is what I’ve seen in listings across the board.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

They won’t make you full-time because you don’t have a college degree?? That’s ridiculous!! You’re teaching something that doesn’t require a college degree! If you were teaching aeronautical engineering, I could see requiring a BS, but really… What do they expect? A PhD in Baking? You learn to bake by DOING, and not everyone has a grandmother who’s an awesome baker 😉 As for your daughter, definitely tell her to consider only those grad programs that will give her a fellowship/stipend. She shouldn’t have to pay to get her PhD. She may have to pay to get a masters, though,… Read more »

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago

Is a college or university education too expensive? Yes. Are the costs continuing to rise at an unsustainable amount? Yes. However, I think that the personal finance line on college – that it’s only useful to obtain a job and has no intrinsic value – is terribly flawed. Some people really benefit from having a college experience, particularly living in residence as a transition to independence. More than that, there is a lot to be said for learning for the sake of learning. Knowledge and broadening our minds can be an end in and of themselves. Granted my views are… Read more »

Jenifer
Jenifer
8 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl

I completely agree. Without some of those required courses, I would have missed out on learning some incredibly important ideas, lessons, etc. That exposure opened up so many more opportunites…and not just in terms of jobs but LIFE. (Not to mention all of the other skills acquired –critical thinking, problem solving, time management, writing, public speaking, etc that aren’t a class all unto themselves.)

If a person wants JUST the classes directly related to a job then maybe the University (ya’ know, the place for HIGHER learning) isn’t for you.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Jenifer

This could be a new revenue stream for universities…. Provide an academic program just for certain professions, and you take ONLY the relevant courses and no electives or general ed distribution requirements. The cost would be less to the student (but I’m sure the collges could build in a healthy profit margin) and the college would probably get more students, which leads to more alumni who might donate money. The interesting thing, however, would be how employers react to this. Would a professional only undergrad degree/certificate be seen as prestigious or attractive to a prospective employer? It may depend on… Read more »

grace
grace
8 years ago

As a current college student, I get frustrated when I see the POV that “college” costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and either you (r parents) save & pay for everything or you go into huge and serious debt. This is problematic because it says to us students that the number on the tuition bill is even close to resembling an out of pocket expense. There are so many problems with the system, but I think we have to work with what we’ve got. A lot of this should involve a pre-college education about financial aid and copious help on… Read more »

Babs
Babs
8 years ago
Reply to  grace

Good for you! I predict you will do well in the future!

twiggers
twiggers
8 years ago

As a college professor I am saddened by those who want a college education in 2-3 years to “save money.” What ever happen to wanting to learn? So what if it isn’t connected to your future career? How about just learning critical thinking and writing skills? I am at a private, very expensive university. Our application rates are skyrocketing and our recent campaign raises 4x what they hoped. I have 65K in student loans and am happy to have them. They are my only debt and they get paid every month at interest rates ranging from 2-6%. I make more… Read more »

Greg@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  twiggers

Twiggers, I can understand where you are coming from. I too believe in “learning for the sake of learning.” Also, I think that a 4-year degree gives people a rounded view of the world that technical and 2-year schools don’t provide. However, as somebody who chose a major with little hope of ever paying for itself (theatre arts), I also see the other side of the argument. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that learning for the sake of learning didn’t have to cost me thousands of dollars a year. In fact, I could have acquired much of that same… Read more »

AMW
AMW
8 years ago

Greg- I can not agree more! Learning for learning’s sake is a fabulous thing that I whole heartedly agree on. While some classes that I have taken and paid for have been well worth the cash, most of my education has come from the library….or what a University might call “independent study” and charge you accordingly. You do not need a diploma to be intelligent or educated.

twiggers
twiggers
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

I understand that you can “learn” from the library for free, but college provides something beyond just a book. The best classes I took were the ones light on the required books and more on evaluating and thinking about/discussing what we did read. I loved those heated arguments with professors!! In my classes we balance reading empirical literature and also articles published in the mainstream press. Part of my job is to teach them to be a critical consumer of what the mass media is shoving at us all the time. My students always complain about the “core” classes they… Read more »

Greg@ClubThrifty
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

I actually loved those classes too, and I cherish the education I received. I’m not so sure that my university should have required that I spend $1,100 to learn how to bowl though.

Valerie
Valerie
8 years ago
Reply to  twiggers

Twiggers – I went to a State school, and learned for the sake of learning. I had some really awesome classes, and learned all kinds of fascinating things. However, none of those things helped me when I came out of school with 60k in debt and the only place I could find a job was Walmart at minimum wage. Many of my coworkers were in the same boat. That 60k in education didn’t give me any practical marketable knowledge. I could have done college smarter if I’d known, but my entire college career I was told that there were “tons… Read more »

Pauline
Pauline
8 years ago

“Many careers aren’t worth the extra debt”. Amen to that! And some aren’t even worth studying! You could start at entry level and work your way up, while earning a salary. Also, if you NEED to study business, should you really go into business? College in the US is so expensive, I studied in France and tuition was about $500 per year at the Sorbonne University! I did an apprenticeship which then paid for my Master degree and gave me a stipend for living expenses. That money was deductible for the company from their taxes, so it was win win.… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago
Reply to  Pauline

I studied business in undergrad and was SOO glad that I did. Um, in one word, YE$! If you want to excel in business (or if you want your family business to expand well beyond what you can personally direct), it is an excellent place to get a degree–and it is very marketable. After 4 years of school, I obtained a position that others who had worked in the field had worked for 15 years to try to get. I do not know of any of my classmates at that time who were unable to find a good job. (A… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

” After 4 years of school, I obtained a position that others who had worked in the field had worked for 15 years to try to get.” Do you not see at all how this is distasteful and slightly unfair? I don’t think a piece a paper should have more weight than 15 years of on the job experience. I’m not sure who is to blame for the hyper-professionalization of nearly everything and the need for more and more degrees. Is the blame to be placed solely on higher education or are corporations using it as a way to weed… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

The problem is you DON’T learn all a retail business needs you learn by working the floor. Business school does not teach you how to stock shelves. It teaches you how to market your organization to a global market and how social networks are the next way to get your market share higher. It teaches you different concepts about how cash cows can result in a business not thriving over time and how to reduce turnover and its importance. It teaches you different methods of inventory (FIFO, etc) and accounting. We studied various different businesses–those that succeeded on a national… Read more »

Pauline
Pauline
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Phoenix, I studied business too and I don’t work in my field, sure most of my classmates have good jobs, but an internship at a big firm with a great mentor is almost as valuable. And you can check so many great resources online for free too! I did a two years internship at IBM with a mentor who had worked there for 30 years, it was amazing. A great majority of my classmates had wonderful mentors too, and many started ditching school (2 days a week we had school and 3 days we worked) to go to work instead… Read more »

Malomonster
Malomonster
8 years ago

The first post by Brokamp where I didn’t need the kitty pictures!

I need a “how to” of saving for kids’ college fund, since my parents didn’t have to have one for me — yay Louisiana TOPS!

I was fortunate enough to earn (and keep!) my state-provided tuition opportunity program. There are problems enough with the program, but I’m one of the many who benefitted from it.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago

I don’t think it is all universities that are immoral–I think what drives the demand are the media articles that people with college degrees earn significantly more. There is a demand from parents’ POV, which in turn drives the demand for college degrees. A business is not necessarily immoral for providing services to which there is an amazing demand (i.e., parents willing to pay for a college degree). My husband taught high school kids for about 15 years–in non AP courses no less. There is a HUGE drive for high schools to funnel all kids into AP–as many as they… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Milly

I’m not sure I would look to the German system as a model. There one can be pigeonholed from a rather early age. There is the vocational track and the Gymnasium track, i.e. the track that lands you in a professional career. Once you are on one track, it is hard to get off. And I can’t imagine that class status doesn’t factor into this decision. I worked one summer in a small German village. In exchange for room and board, I cleaned bathrooms alongside a bunch of young Germans, most of whom didn’t go to Gymnasium. I mentioned to… Read more »

Rebecca
Rebecca
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

People who attend a Gymnasium absolutely can attend the three-year job training. About 50% of graduates do, and several tracks (like working in a bank) even require it.

Now, yes, the other direction is way harder and the German school system is very biased against students from weaker socio-economic backgrounds – it’s the worst offender in Europe in that regard -, but an Abitur does not mean people attend university.

IMO (I am German, by the way), our school system is broken, but the job training and university system is actually quite a good model.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Yes and yes! Even worse would be telling a parent “your kid really needs to work for a year to grow up and figure out what they want to do with their life.”

Not everyone who goes to university graduates. Some schools let in just about anyone knowing a good percentage will flunk out or leave first year. In Canada where our tuition is heavily subsidized by the government, that’s a scary proposition because we’re all paying.

Jaynee
Jaynee
8 years ago

My kids are not even teens yet, but I’ve warned them that they’ll most likely be going to a junior college AND working a job while getting their degrees. We have saved minimally for their college years – enough to pay for a couple years of classes and used books, but not room and board. They know that scholarships will help, but that loans should only be obtained in worst-case scenarios. I’ve also told my son he’d have a job for life if he studied HVAC or plumbing instead of going for a 4-year degree.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Jaynee

I’m all for the trades and know that you can do pretty well financially. But they are not easy on your body and can be unpleasant. Plumbers and electricians often suffer from joint problems and might have to retire earlier because of it. Recently we had the foundation guys here digging our new basement on the addition. My 4 year old was fascinated by the bobcat. He said very loudly, “I want to be a construction worker when I grow up!” The guy on the bobcat overheard him and said, “No, you need to go to school and get a… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

True, but recent research shows that sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t doing your body any favours either 😉

I think people forget that going into the trades doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing physical labour all your life. My parents know quite a few people who built businesses in the trades. They aren’t laying brick or fixing roofs in middle age — they have employees to do that now.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

You are partially right. But clearly not every carpenter or plumber can do the trade for a few decades and then start their own business and have others do the actual manual labor. There are only so many businesses that the market can handle. And you have to be pretty successful to be able to hire enough workers that you are never on the job site. Our general contractor has been in the business for over 20 years, and it wasn’t until the past few years that he had enough work to stop being on the job himself. Over the… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

On the plus side you can’t outsource a plumbing job to India… At least not yet… “Beam up the plumbers, Scotty!”

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

@Jane – I find that the people who glorify labor intensive occupations either have never done it or never knew anyone close to them who worked on those fields. I rather sit on my butt all-day (I can always exercise before, during and after work and I do) than break my back. My mother is a Pediatric RN and has enured two operations on her feet, two dislocated disks and a pinched nerve in her back before the age of 40, rotator cuff surgery last year at 60, developed anaphylactic latex allergy (from years of exposure) which landed her in… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

@Jane and Carla – I didn’t mean it to comes across as “glorifying the trades.” Of course not everyone is going to start their own business or go into teaching. I was just trying to show that there are options. I do know people who work these jobs — and yes, it’s hard work. And yes, they do get injured and they’re mindful of how long their career will be (but many of them have pensions, so that’s not such an issue.) I also know people close to me who have suffered health problems from being an office worker. (Migraines,… Read more »

megan
megan
8 years ago
Reply to  Jaynee

I have debated this with my husband for years and years. I am fine with my kids learning the trades, but only if they have a college degree first. You need some sort of backup plan.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  megan

Is it either or in the States? In Canada, you can go to college to become a carpenter, electrician, etc. Our college/apprenticeship programs are less costly than university programs and there are grants available for apprenticeships because demand in low.

I don’t think anyone can go wrong having a back-up plan, but I guess it depends on what you want to pay for one.

Mr. Thrifty
Mr. Thrifty
8 years ago

I’m not so comfortable putting this off on parents and kids. I went to one of the cheaper universities in our state many years ago. It was inexpensive and it was close enough to home that I could commute to save on living expenses during my senior year. Now I don’t even recognize my old university. Everything looks ..elegant. Fancy dining halls and a sports center. The tuition has more than doubled. Has the price of eggs, cars, etc increased more than 100%? They kind of have you over a barrel here. Then what happens if your kids get accepted… Read more »

Former Law Student
Former Law Student
8 years ago

“College prices can be negotiable!” More people need to realize how true this is. Of course colleges are going to continue to charge higher tuition if students and their families continue to unquestioningly pay whatever’s on the price tag! (Whether this is moral or not is a discussion for another comment…) Students really need to talk to the financial aid departments at the schools they want to attend. As an example, when I was in my second year of law school, I was discussing the ridiculous cost with a friend of mine. I mentioned how lucky I felt that I… Read more »

Heather
Heather
8 years ago

I think you hit the nail on the head – ask questions! When people start to question the costs and packages it will lead to more conscious consumption of college costs and how to finance it.

I think a lack of conscious spending has lead to some the financial crisis – home ownership bubble or the extreme rise in college costs.

Great post and great discussion from the other responders!

Valerie
Valerie
8 years ago

This really freaks me out. I’ve been out of college for four years now, and I realized just this year that prices aren’t static. My best friend is in grad school in Texas, and two years into her program she found out that her school is charging her twice as much in tuition because she’s paying with money from her inheritance, instead of with loans. She’s trying to go through college debt free, and the school is penalizing her for it.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

Yes! Law schools for sure are willing to match scholarship offers from other law schools ranked similarly or better, simply by providing a copy of the other offer letter and requesting a match. For example, one school I was originally wait-listed at ended up offering me $20k per year scholarship to match the higher ranking schools at which I had been admitted. The school I ultimately picked told me it was absolutely their policy to match, but only if the higher offer was from a higher ranking school. (FWIW, these were all T14s.)

ParentofSenior
ParentofSenior
8 years ago

As a parent of an incoming freshman for 2012-2013, this topic hits WAY too close to home. We filled out the FAFSA with the full understanding that we would get exactly ZERO because we have saved for years for this. We filled it out because it is, for all intents and purposes, required by the schools. Our freshman is going into a STEM field which, apparently, is where the most need is if you listen to the current candidates for president. If it is where the demand is, why is it we received ZERO for planning ahead/living within our means… Read more »

Valerie
Valerie
8 years ago
Reply to  ParentofSenior

This is really frustrating to me too. I went to school knowing that my parents weren’t going to fund any of it, but I still had to list their incomes on my FAFSA. I wasn’t offered any aid because *they* made too much money. How does that work?

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Valerie

Valerie – as I understand it, parents’ income is counted on FAFSA for applicants under a certain age – I think around mid-20’s – because it’s assumed (obviously incorrectly at times) that those applicants are legal dependents, meaning their parents still get a tax deduction for them. Only married students under the cutoff age are considered independent. Take this with salt as I’m not an expert in FAFSA; it’s just what I understand to be the case.

grace
grace
8 years ago
Reply to  Valerie

valerie, your situation must be incredibly overwhelming & hard to deal with – but have you talked to the deans at your school to ask for relief? I go to a huge state school with a reputation for a horrible bureaucracy (anyone heard of the RU Screw?) – but many of my friends have found kindness and help (in the form of scholarships and grants) by reaching out to a dean with their problems.

Christy
Christy
8 years ago
Reply to  grace

Valerie,
The financial aid (FAFSA) rules that are affecting you are set in Washington DC. Administrators or counselors at your college might be able to point you in the direction of scholarships and grants.

I recommend that you take a short term action step and a long term action step. In the short term, I suggest that you try to “emancipate” yourself from your parents in terms of FAFSA. This is a time-consuming process.

For the longer term, I suggest you contact your federal representatives and let them know how this requirement creates a barrier for you to attend college.

olga
olga
8 years ago

Having graduated from a University in a different country, I am bewildered with American system of education. First, the high school doesn’t teach half of what we were taught, and then colleges pick it up in the first year or two. Then the subjects like Music History – good if you’re planning to be in this field, but to force young people take extra subjects beyond what they will need for major just because? So parents/loans will have to pay? How about once you know your major, stick to what will enhance it, and only take “fun stuff” if you… Read more »

Alan | Life's Too Good
Alan | Life's Too Good
8 years ago

Perhaps an interesting consideration is that these days with the advances in technology, the power of the internet, ever faster connection speeds and some impressive websites and applications, it’s possible to get all of the education you would get in the university in the first place for free or virtually free anyway. There are people doing this – and because of the access, it’s also possible to do so much faster than taking the traditional degree. Obviously it;s a different ball-game altogether, particularly when it comes to things like motivation – but when you look into it there are often… Read more »

twiggers
twiggers
8 years ago

There is a reason that the “for profit” institutions aren’t accredited. Are you telling me that you can teach yourself as well as someone who has decades of training/experience?

Yes, anyone can read a book, but the classroom is where professors/teachers push students to think critically and evaluate that material.

who do you argue with when you read a book? Yourself? The classroom provides a fabulous dialogue.

College teaches more than just “knowledge.” We’re providing students with the ability to think and write critically.

Babs
Babs
8 years ago

Kid #2 just got a degree in Geology and you can’t do a lot of that online. You have to get out there in the hills with experienced teachers.
I would have loved to have taken virtual chem labs but alas that doesn’t quite work either.
Some classes work online many don’t

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I took ice-skating and golf, each was for half a semester. I got As in both.

Honestly though, college is more than just preparing for a career in my mind. But I also didn’t take out loans for my undergraduate experience and I went to a inexpensive state university.

I was happy to see, recently, that colleges are starting to hold the line on tuition increases.

Another Kate
Another Kate
8 years ago

As I stated above, I work for a university; I’m a staff member. I strongly disagree with a lot of this posting. Honestly, there is a mistaken notion that we raise tuition because we can. For many institutions without large endowments (those of us that are not, say, Harvard), we are tuition-driven. How much money we bring in each year, largely from tuition (donations help, but aren’t enough) can make or break us. We have a board of directors with a lot of business people on it. They don’t WANT us to raise tuition a substantial amount from year to… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

Thanks for this perspective, and for the reminder that I also need to avoid the tendency to paint admin with too broad a brush.

Jami
Jami
8 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

I also work in academia and you make some good points. The other reason tuition is raising at many schools is that government funding at public institutions is dropping – many public institutions in my state that used to receive 25% or more of their funding from the state now receive less than 10% – since the cost of goods and people have risen, the difference has to be made up in some way and cutting back on expenses while trying to keep up with the Harvards often doesn’t make up for the loss . While I do agree there… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Jami

This happened to my college. When I was there in the 90’s the state funded about 40% of the school’s budget. It’s now down to maybe 19% – possibly less. Out-of-state tuition has skyrocketed. I’m guessing that the out-of-state students are subsidizing the in-state students. They probably did that when I was there, but now it’s more so. Of course, the in-state tuition has increased, too. And it’s a real shame – that state has some very good public universities, and the students who live there have some nice options, but not for much longer if the costs keep going… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Jami

yes on the public investment. State schools should be funded by the states. Then they would be accessible without these debt loads. Let the private colleges be expensive (or make it up with their endowments), let the for-profits be expensive – if there are strong public community, 4-year, and professional schools nobody will go the expensive route. And while we’re at it, can we go back to expecting employers to shoulder some burden for training? I keep hearing about this horrible skills gap where nobody can hire in certain areas…maybe they need to hire unskilled people and train them in,… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

I saw a headline last week that said employers are cutting training programs to save costs. They want new hires to hit the ground running. The downside is that this effectively removes job candidates who have the potential to be good employees from getting hired, making it harder for the unemployed to find a job 🙁

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

+1 to Another Kate’s post. I’m also an admin – very low-level – at a university and agree with her opinion stated here. Esp. with not wasting cash any more than at any other place of business.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago

“My suggestion: 7th and 8th graders should go on a series of three-month apprenticeships with carpenters, electricians, salespeople, farmers, bankers, computer technicians and programmers, cooks, etc., and they couldn’t graduate until they passed an exam after each rotation. I used to teach middle schoolers, and I know how little learning can go on during those years. The apprenticeships would be far more enduringly educational, enhance the country’s economic efficiency, and might tire the kids out so much that they couldn’t be so mean to each other.”

I LOVE this idea!

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

(Not the same Laura as made this reply above – different Laura.) I’ve always had a somewhat similar idea. If I were Grand Dictator of the Universe (or at least the United States), I’d overhaul our education system top to bottom thus: – Children would begin *mandatory* pre-K at 4 years old. This would be preschool, which means not academics but largely teaching them how to go to school, e.g., learn to wait in line to go out to the playground, learn to wait your turn, learn to sit quietly during story time, learn not to hit the kid who… Read more »

Watson
Watson
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Students already have the option to do AmeriCorps or AmeriCorps*VISTA, which have an education award–currently more than $5,000/year. It has exactly what you describe–living allowance, service, helps pay for college. It’s not universal, and never will be, but it’s an excellent option. Military service, including attending one of the service academies, is also an option. These are all competitive. They’re also excellent ways to develop as a person, and pay for education without debt.

Brett
Brett
8 years ago

I don’t think colleges are immoral – but the whole collegiate system and student loans are not set up to judge the risk/reward for a chosen school profession. Greater hurdles (and discussion/counseling with the lender in the middle would be good. Art degree from high-priced institution – high risk. Biomedicine from a state institution – low risk. It’s one thing for a parent to try to get their kids to think about how they will use their higher education, but it would make all the difference coming from a 3rd party – thing is that we make it too easy… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler
8 years ago

I remember when I came out of high school about ten years ago that the pressure to go to college was huge. I just couldn’t make myself take that route because I didn’t like school and the thought of another 4+ years was unbearable. I took a few years off and worked and travelled. I ended up just going to a trade school for a year and it worked out great. I got a certificate as a diesel mechanic and it has been wonderful. I can find work almost anywhere I want to go and it is generally very well… Read more »

CandiR
CandiR
8 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

Ha! Tyler, I have a PhD from a STEM school and am tenure-track faculty. You made more your first year than I did this year and your current pay is more than I’ll ever make! (I have to laugh or else I’d cry).

Seriously, if I could do it differently, I probably would.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  CandiR

What does STEM mean? Seriously Truly Expensive Major?

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago

Tee hee! (Science Technology Engineering Math)

Adam
Adam
8 years ago

Really great and interesting article! This is a great conversation to be having! I would like to say that the purpose of an education is not to turn kids into money making machines, but rather to turn them into better people. People who know the value of hard-work, and hard-thinking, who know how to think and write analytically and who have learned to have fun doing all these hard things. Though students may learn this skills in English, Film, or Latin class. These skills will make them more productive and ultimately more successful. The problem are not the “useless” classes… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam

the thing is, you don’t take out massive loans on projects to be a better person. We don’t have a loan system for contemplative religious retreats, or studying martial arts, or volunteering with at-risk kids.

The cost, and the debt involved, move the goalposts from “better well-rounded person” to “person who will make more money.”

Kay
Kay
8 years ago

Would I call universities immoral? No. I spent 6 years in the university system for my undergrad (financed almost primarily through family and federal Stafford loans – before the days of a 529 too) and for my graduate degree, which I actually got paid to get through paid research projects I participated in and teaching assistanships that paid me a stipend and waived my tuition, for my STEM degrees. Did I take classes that weren’t directly applicable to my career path? Of course. But that’s what should differentiates a 4 year university education from a trade school or local college.… Read more »

Christy
Christy
8 years ago

In my state politicians fund higher education less than they did in the past. This is done as a way to balance budgets without raising taxes. They know that community colleges and universities can and will raise tuition.

For example, in 1970 residents in my state subsidized the cost of a college education at around 70%. Students and their families paid about 30% of the cost of the education.

Today those percentages are almost reversed. The state subsidizes about 30% of the cost of a college education and the students and their families pay about 70%.

Babs
Babs
8 years ago
Reply to  Christy

I think this is a very big part of the picture. Politicians don’t want to raise taxes because Large Corporations don’t want to pay them. Politicians are funded by Large Corporations and they want to keep their jobs. Meanwhile Large Corporations want secretaries with degrees because that means they will probably have huge loans to pay off and they will accept crummy jobs with low pay because they are desperate.
Or maybe I am just paranoid.
http://500motivators.com/motivate/me/reaganomics-we-told-them-the-wealth-would-trickle-down/

Kathryn
Kathryn
8 years ago

I just finished reading and highly recommend “The New College Reality: Make College Work for You” by Bonnie Kerrigan. As a mother of four, with my oldest is at a state school, she is right on with advice on how to make college work in today’s job market and how not everyone needs to get a pricey, private school 4-year degree. I also recommend high school students get as much college credit as possible, taking advantage of AP exams, dual credit, and CLEP tests. My son managed to start college with 24 hours credit in the bank thanks to dual… Read more »

Emma | iHELP students loans
Emma | iHELP students loans
8 years ago

“At this point, it’s a required ticket that needs to be punched before you can enter many types of professions. ” True. And this might change in the future as the market adjusts to unreasonable college costs – at some point things become unsustainable and the market reacts. But for now, this is the reality we need to work with. I would add that for many students, the actual cost of attending college, after aid, scholarship and grants, is much lower than the sticker price. So take your search for those grants very seriously – consider it your full-time job… Read more »

Debbie
Debbie
8 years ago

Our first son went to the University of AZ on their “six-year-plan.” Relax, they told us at orientation, there’s no rush for your son to decide what he wants to do in life. Four years later, our second son was readying to go; the U of AZ had changed their song and dance for parents at orientation, “We’re having you student sign a four year contract.” Why? because our older son, and many of his classmate were up to their ears in debt, and most still had no direction in life. The universities job counselors were a waste of our… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Debbie

“No one and I mean, no one, even had the courtesy to drop our sons a line saying that unfortunately they didn’t win.” Interestingly, I just spoke with a friend who worked on a contest for a scholarship that was quite small (I think the kids got $100 or so). She said they got literally hundreds of responses. The time and expense it would take to notify everyone who didn’t win…yeah, not going to happen. Besides, these organizations are giving everyone the courtesy of offering a scholarship. They don’t owe anything to anyone (except the scholarship to the winner, of… Read more »

PB
PB
8 years ago

Having worked at a college for most of my adult life, several comments: First, weight-lifting and other physical education courses get back to the ancient principle of mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body. Second, the purpose of the general eduation requirements is to teach the student that there are different ways of approaching a question — analytical, social, etc. — and that answers are not available in a one size fits all solution. Also, the student is exposed to ideas that had never even crossed his/her horizon in high school and given the chance… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  PB

Who buys a $30,000 car when they are 18 years old?

Nobody who needs a loan, for sure. Nobody would loan them the money.

Brandon
Brandon
8 years ago

I think the big issue is we’re all being told we NEED to go to college or else we’ll be on the street. In HS, we were engrained (sp) by teachers, guidance counselors, other kids, parents, that we HAD to go to college or we’d be homeless bums. Statistically speaking, the more degree you have, the more you make. However, it fails to take into account a few major principles- 1) 99% of student at 17/18 have NO idea what they want to do with their lives. Why force them to go into college, a 4-yr college, when they don’t… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Brandon

I agree that the prevalent mentality in the US seems to be “college or bust!” And with that comes the mentality of “you go to college, no matter what it takes.”

So your parents take out a second mortgage to help you out? You do whatever it takes.

So you sign away for $50K+ in student loans? You do whatever it takes.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Brandon

I’m so glad you brought this up, Brandon, because I was “one of those” who went trade after high school back in 1996. Granted, I was 17 and grew up in an area where college was something only special, rich, suburban white kids did – not poor minorities no matter how smart you were. Though I don’t make 6-figures, I made way more than a lot of people I know who have 4-year degrees (depending on the field, of course) and at 33, I STILL don’t know what I want to do. I have some regrets in terms of not… Read more »

Edward
Edward
8 years ago

At first I thought this was going to be an anti-education article, but it’s not. Well done! So many kids go to university because “that’s what you do” and their parents would lose their minds if they did otherwise. “My child is a failure!” But choosing what you want to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE at 18?! Really, society?! That’s harsh. Nobody should have to do that and be stacked with debt because although they loved an hour of history a day in high school, they realized once they got to university that studying it 24/7 sucked the… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago
Reply to  Edward

I agree with you, Edward. It makes me sad that unless they’re from a family with resources or they are really motivated students, today’s kids don’t get to have college as a nice coming-of-age experience the way my generation did – that is, with the luxury of possibly picking a geographically distant school, exploring different subjects that might be “useless,” maybe taking some extra time to graduate, and certainly not having to worry about crushing debt. But I just don’t think college is the best, safest way to “find yourself” or transition into adulthood anymore. It’s simply not cost effective.… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler
8 years ago

I remember how much pressure to go to college there was when I graduated high school about ten years ago. I got really good grades and got accepted to some really good schools, I just didn’t like going to school much and didn’t like the idea of a lot of debt. I worked and travelled for a few years while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up going to trade school for a year to get a Diesel Mechanic certificate. There are ups and downs for sure but in general it… Read more »

prof
prof
8 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

Candi – If you start pulling in grants to cover salary & summer pay then you can pull in 200s in a science field. I’m TT and started higher than 60K. I’m hoping by the time I hit tenure that I’ll be at 100K with teaching one or two summer classes (or hopefully snag a few grants to cover summer pay).

If you’re in the sciences and not pulling in 60K then you need to start looking elsewhere!

Fred
Fred
8 years ago

I am a high school teacher in a small town in a rural area. We have a state college here which most of the local high school kids do not want to attend because it’s “home,” and they want to go somewhere else, which is fine, but. . . One of my friends, for example, has two kids, both currently in college. The kids could have attended the hometown 4-year college and paid less than half what they’re paying at private, out-of-state schools. Even with some financial aid, this family is paying about $40,000 per year, not including transportation costs,… Read more »

eileen
eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Fred

But working doesn’t always mean you’ll graduate debt-free. It’s not a bad idea, but the cost of college tends to be so much that working will only defray costs for many students – but not eliminate them.

Debt Free Teen
Debt Free Teen
8 years ago

Internships are great for figuring out what you want to major in. I completed an 8 month photography internship in High School and it was so much more valuable than any photography class my school offered.

I learned how to run a business, communicate with potential clients, set prices. Not to mention going on photoshoots to gain first hand experience.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

Not up to Brokamp’s usual standards, just repeats a lot of commonly held beliefs without actually examining them. (And, of course, blaming universities and not even separating out non-profits from for-profits.) Here’s a better article: http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/11/pf/college/student-loan-value/index.htm

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

To add… even Brokamp is jumping on the “no substance for lots of comments GRS as reality show” bandwagon? Even if substance doesn’t generate empty controversy and high emotions (thus comments), it gives credibility to the site and provides posts that can actually make a difference in terms of choices and behavior.

In the immortal words of Pink Floyd, “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

Mike Schultz
Mike Schultz
8 years ago

Almost thirty years ago my wife (now deceased)enrolled at the University of Arizona’s accounting program. Years earlier she completed two years of business studies at Michigan State with high marks. The UofA initially refused to accept her credits from Michigan State but offered an option; if she paid the tuition cost of the courses she wouldn’t have to actually take the classes and they would award her credit transfers for the Michigan States classes. To save her two years of classes we paid the fees and in two years she graduated Summa Cum Laud. There’s your immorality in higher education.

prof
prof
8 years ago

I understand that “learning for the sake of learning” isn’t going to get a job. Thank god my history professors told us there were no jobs, so it became my minor. I do think that your major should train you for a job and, sadly, the jobs aren’t in the humanities. I believe that a minor is where you get to explore outside interests not related to a future job. Sadly, many of my students are taking minors like Spanish thinking that it will get them more money on the job market. It won’t. Once again, this is all pressure… Read more »

FinanceGeek
FinanceGeek
8 years ago
Reply to  prof

Well said.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  prof

I agree (to an extent) about the helicopter parenting issues. As a parent of a HS kids, I have to admit that I was completely caught off guard by how “on top” of kids schoolwork/homework they were as compared to my upbringing. When they were in Elem school, I was a volunteer that helped the kids with optional “Math Stars” homework. I recall getting a phone call from a parent who asked if I could be certain to get all little Johnny’s assignments he’d just turned in at one time and grade them that night because they wanted them to… Read more »

DC Portland
DC Portland
8 years ago

With all due respect, your article completely misses the point of education. I agree with much of what you write if the point of higher is to “buy a degree”. But, higher education is about education, not the degree. It is about the experience! I look at it this way: How much is a four-year college experience worth? Is it worth $100,000? To me, it’s worth a lot more than that. If someone spent $75,000 for a new BMW, and paid for it over four years, would the experience of owning that vehicle be worth more than the four-year college… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  DC Portland

I see your point, but I have two thoughts. #1 If someone wants to go to a private liberal arts college like you did, it costs way more than $100,000 now. I shudder to think what it will cost when my four year old graduates from high school. #2 The BMW comment is strange to me, since as a middle class person, it would never be on my radar to own such a car. Most people are just struggling to pay their mortgages and own more modest cars. Comparing an education to a luxury car seems like a straw man… Read more »

DC Portland
DC Portland
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, your points are well taken. My main point is that going to college is much more than gaining entry into the job market. My college experience formed much of who I am as a person; mostly for the better. I cannot imagine my life without having had the college experience that I had. 1) Indeed, my liberal arts education would cost about $140,000 today. That’s a lot, but I would value my experience at much more than that if I had to put a price on it. I too am middle class, and have two young children. I know… Read more »

Tatyana
Tatyana
8 years ago
Reply to  DC Portland

If getting an education is something that doesn’t improve your earning potential in any way, then it is a luxury. Yes, it’s nice to be well rounded. It’s also nice to take horseback riding lessons or travel across the world and both make you a better person. However, for some people that is not an option. They must focus on necessities before they focus on luxuries. Sadly the way college is marketed makes a lot of 18 year olds and their parents think that it is an investment into earning potential of a child. Then they are saddled with loans… Read more »

MelodyO
MelodyO
8 years ago
Reply to  DC Portland

I humbly submit that the stress and anguish of being burdened with a huge student loan for years and YEARS after college would soon eclipse whatever great life experiences college may give you.

If you can afford education for its own sake, more power to you. If you can’t, then to see its career/salary potential as beside the point is rather foolhardy, in my opinion.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago

One thing that I haven’t seen much talk of in student loan discussions is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Act of 2007. It forgives loans of those working in public service jobs (government, teachers, non-profits) who have worked in those jobs and made 10 years worth of payments(and they encourage you to pay the lowest payment possible for max benefit). I feel like a lot of people must just not know about it (and I know it doesn’t apply to everyone) but I think it should be brought up more in student loan discussions.

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago

Student loans…the bane of so many student’s lives. I graduated in 2005 with $25,000 in student loans and it caused me massive anxiety when I realized what that actually meant to my life after graduation. I went to a good state university and at the time, wasn’t thoughtful enough, mature enough or savvy enough about personal finance to understand what I was getting myself into when I signed for the loans. I worked really hard and ended up paying off all of my loans in about 2 years time…but that was after some major realizations and a real dedication to… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago

I want to add that the situation is about to become much worse. When they raised the debt ceiling last year (almost exactly a year ago, I think) they abolished subsidized Stafford loans for graduate students to fund the Pell program. So now all the available loans for graduate school accrue interest from the moment they are disbursed. You have to either pay interest while you are still in school or have it all capitalized at the end of your grace period.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

O.M.G! I am even happier now that my boyfriend is going to grad school on a teaching fellowship.

EAP
EAP
8 years ago

Okay, this is my perspective as a current student and employee of a public university. Colleges are generally not immoral, but we do clearly have a systemic problem. In my job I have seen so much waste and most permanent staff (not faculty) spend more time justifying their employment than actually working on projects. That is a major problem and not completely their fault. Another major problem is the amount of money colleges spend trying to attract new students. Multi-million dollar gyms that are “free”, except for the $300+ you are required to pay in membership fees. Student health services… Read more »

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