COLLEGE COSTS: Who Cares, and Why Thinking Parents Care About Who Doesn’t

30 09 2008

It’s worth thinking about whether education is even more crucial to bail out than business, considering this new story from the Chronicle of Higher Education, plenty of data and daunting perspective to keep us up nights.

Don’t assume it’s just the elite and impossibly pricey privates. Conservative financial adviser Dave Ramsey sensibly preaches public in-state college as a practical value for the middle class — I hear him do it all the time — yet with all his economic expertise, doesn’t seem to notice or care about what’s happening to THOSE costs and why. Public colleges and universities are losing bigtime, and it’s starting to look like a key strategy of the grand elitist “free market” white male ideology McCain’s economic masterminds have been working so hard on for a couple of decades now, to dismantle government and all general public opportunity for those of us they dismiss as just a “nation of whiners.”

Our higher education sticker shock problem totals half the size of the monster bailout bill for the whole economy — $375 billion.  One of the two presidential candidates cares enough to think about fixing it for all Americans, and is able to work on it in an integrated way, without suspending his campaign.  Now that he and his wife have fulfilled their own scholarship obligations and paid off their own student loans, they need to figure out how to finance college opportunities for their own two young daughters.

“We need to put a college education within reach of every American. That’s the best investment we can make in our future. I’ll create a new and fully refundable tax credit worth $4,000 for tuition and fees every year, which will cover two-thirds of the tuition at the average public college or university. I’ll also simplify the financial aid application process so that we don’t have a million students who aren’t applying for aid because it’s too difficult. I will start by eliminating the current student aid form altogether – we’ll use tax data instead.”
[Barack Obama, Reclaiming the American Dream Speech, Bettendorf, IA, 11/7/07]

The other candidate has no reason to sweat his teenage daughter’s college costs. ACTUALLY, he and his wife have a hundred million reasons not to know or care what it will cost their family. 

But as for all our kids, well, job skills from a bargain community college will do, not even veterans need a real university education paid for by a grateful nation, and his one big education reform idea is eliminate education earmarks and research funding.

Books are suspect costs, especially when they teach real science or social tolerance and diversity, much less the interdependence of systems thinking. Besides, too much education just makes people into nuanced intellectual sissies who can’t go with their guts, so why would McCain and his academically nonplussed, parochial running mate so proudly raising her own educationally deficient family, want to invest public treasure in making sissies of America’s children, when it’s more fun and much smarter preparation for the future, to teach children to drill, fight, shoot, skin, fly, play hockey and jet-ski, oh, and care for a big family as god intended. . .

Parents considering how to pay for college for their children are likely to worry about being able to do so, and to fall into one of three groups with regard to their attitudes — understanding, suspicion or resignation — according to summaries of a series of focus groups released by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

The NAICU analysis reflects some of the thinking behind the association’s plans for enhancements to the University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN), a Web site where hundreds of private colleges have posted information about their costs, financial aid, academic programs and other features. The analysis of the focus groups suggests that private colleges are best off when parents have more information about the actual costs of enrolling and the availability of aid.

That information may be particularly important for those parents in the “suspicion” category; the association’s focus group consultants also expressed worries about parents in the “resignation” category, and said that more transparency as well as demonstrations of quality of education provided might turn some of those parents into “positive acceptance” of the way higher education is financed.

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5 responses

30 09 2008
COD

I believe a lot of this can be tracked backed to the baby boomer belief that all their kids should go to college, no matte what. The percentage of kids attending college has about doubled over a generation. Now more education is generally a good thing, but it does push the demand curve up…

When we toured VMI two weeks ago I was thinking to myself $17K annually for VMI was a great deal.

1 10 2008
Crimson Wife

How can fair financial aid decisions be based on solely on the family’s 1040? Two families with the exact same income may have very different financial aid needs depending on what assets & expenses they have. When we filled out our financial aid forms for my DH’s grad school, we had to provide all kinds of information not listed on our tax forms. Detailed financial records are needed to reduce the chances of savvy families gaming the system.

If needy kids are missing out on aid for which they are eligible, the solution is to fund outreach programs to assist them in completing the forms, NOT to eliminate the requirement for details of the family’s financial circumstances.

As for in-state public universities being a better deal than elite privates, that’s simply not true for many families these days. Back in August, Newsweek had an article that included a chart comparing the out-of-pocket costs for various colleges at different income levels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the chart online but it was pretty dramatic. UC Berkeley was significantly more expensive than the Ivies & Stanford for all the income levels except the very highest. The low-income families get basically a free ride at the elite schools but still have to pay quite a bit at Cal.

5 10 2008
SabrinaT

I have to laugh at this. I pay $555 per 3 credit course. NO financial aid. Not one red cent.
Did you by chance see or read the new GI Bill, (bill) It was supposed to give service members the right to sign their GI Bill over to their spouse or children. Yeah, not so fast they are quickly changing the rules.
It seems these days they are signing the bill into law with one hand, and finding loopholes with the other.

5 10 2008
JJ

I wonder if this is the Democrats’ big equivalent strategy to the Republican’s voter suppression. Do Ds benefit disproportionately from better-educated voters, and if so, shouldn’t that tell us something pretty scary about the Rs?

21 09 2009
JJ

And how much education does any citizen need, to understand what’s wrong with a higher education system in which the poorer students wind up at the more costly, “free market” for-profit colleges?

September 21, 2009
Students at For-Profit Colleges Are Most Likely to Default on Loans, Report Says

By Libby Nelson

Washington

Students at for-profit colleges and universities are more likely than students at private and public institutions to default on federal student loans, according to a report issued today by the Government Accountability Office.

The report calls for more oversight of the basic skills test that students without a high-school diploma or GED must pass in order to receive federal aid. It also urged the Department of Education to write clear policies to ensure that students can’t use “diploma mills” to get a high-school diploma and thereby gain access to federal grants and loans.

The report says that some proprietary colleges help students obtain high-school diplomas from diploma mills to become eligible for federal aid. In a separate audit of the test of basic mathematics and English skills, which gives students without a high-school diploma or the equivalent access to federal student aid, GAO analysts found that test administrators at a local for-profit college gave out answers and changed students’ answer sheets so that they would be eligible for federal funds.

Students at for-profit colleges receive 19 percent of federal student aid, which includes Stafford and Perkins Loans as well as Pell Grants for low-income students. During the 2007-8 academic year, students at more than 2,000 proprietary colleges received more than $16-billion in loans, grants, and campus-based federal aid.

Four years into repayment, 23.3 percent of students at those colleges were defaulting on their federal loans—a higher rate than students at either public colleges, where 9.5 percent were defaulting, or private ones, where 6.5 percent were in default.

The default rates might be linked to the demographic characteristics of students at for-profit institutions, the report says. Such students tend to be older and to have lower family incomes, both factors that correlate with increased default rates.

Students who drop out also are more likely to default, the report says.

The report’s authors recommend more Department of Education oversight of the basic skills test, including following up with test publishers, which must submit score analyses but often are not compelled to do so, and analyzing test scores more frequently than every three years. The report also recommends that the department provide reviewers with a comprehensive list of recognized high schools in order to identify irregularities.

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