Higher education at a crossroads? I don't know

Are you saying you hired someone for—let’s say—$40,000 and he carries $200,000 in student loans? If so, that’s probably not a “systems” problem, that’s a “him” problem. There are many ways to get a quality education without racking up that kind of debt.

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Two recent stories. A neighbor’s son graduated from the U about 4 years ago - smart kid, but he applied for every scholarship he could think of, every grant and gift and anything else. He lived on campus and actually ended up making a little bit of money each semester - graduate and under graduate debt free.

Another kid moved into some nearby apartments. Was in school trying to get into med school, mentioned he already had about 175k in debt. I asked him if he was working and he said no. I suggested to maybe get a part time job to offset costs and he said, “I don’t want to do that! This is my time to relax.”

Of course, these are outliers, but I was pretty astounded by the last one. Don’t complain about student debt when you are choosing to go to college the way you are. I worked full-time through undergrad and graduate school - and also went straight through - no summer vacations. It wasn’t easy, but if there is ever a time where your body and mind can handle a lot of hours and workload college is it. I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did as I didn’t have much of a ‘college experience’ but I had bigger and better plans I guess. I did take about 4 years between undergrad and graduate work and saved up some cash too. But I also graduated debt free.

Well if we are going to throw out anecdotal evidence about college education take a look at my son: Had a good scholarship at the U as well as some grant money. He worked part time the entire time through school and had a summer job every year. We also helped him out a bit, he was able to live at home as well as his grandfather was able to provide some money via a small ESP account. He graduated from Engineering at the U in 4 years while being on the Dean’s list all but 3 semesters and still $30K+ in student loans!! Luckily he managed to get a well paying job as an engineer with a large corporation which will allow him to manage his debt without too much trouble but compared to most of his peers he is an outlier. The system is broken and very much stacked against the current generation of students compared to previous generations.

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You missed the point. The point was, why does it cost so much more for him to get started than it did for the boomers?

That’s the point.

For the record, the kid is a medical professional and his student loan debt was roughly $500K. It’s nuts. Again, the system is broken. This kid worked hard his whole life, top of his class, did what every parent dreams of and becomes a Dr.

What’s his reward? Not nearly what someone 50+'s reward was for the same amount of work (and honestly, with the additional requirements at school, much, much, much more work than the previous generation’s).

The system is broken. And taking on another part time job or eating out once or twice less isn’t going to fix the problem.

Why is it this generation is expected to work so much harder for so much less and when they fall short of that, you are told you shouldn’t have done it that way?

Rocker’s example of a kid who hadn’t even gotten into post grad work who already had $175,000 in debt? That’s immoral. Yeah, the kid is probably a dope. BUT, to take advantage of his naivete…that’s a problem. Especially when it comes from an institution that had a HUGE part in indoctrinating this kid into the idea that going to school and getting good grades (which we can assume he has done if he is on his way to medical school) was the path to a good life.

The whole system is broken.

You buy into a system. You pay capital into it your whole life. You are told that if you do that, you will get rewarded for doing that. You are shown all the numbers that show how doing this task will pay off. You are told by the system (and the school financial aid counselor) that the costs will be fine because the reward is so big now, you’ll be glad you did it. When you finish and go to get your reward, you are told, “sorry kid, you should have been smarter.”

It’s messed up.

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The cost is outrageous and yet they seem to keep building and dumping millions into new buildings etc. So don’t take my two stories as examples of what could or shouldn’t be done - just two interesting things.

One note, a while back I was on the U’s Young Alumni Board and we sat on committees to grant scholarships to applicants. We had a number of companies and individuals who would give the Alumni Association money to grant as scholarships to basically whomever we deemed worthy and the students could basically use it as they pleased - books, housing etc. Often it wasn’t much like $500-$2000, but we had many scholarships there were never granted because we had zero applicants. That is why I tell all kids going to college to go and apply for every little scholarship they can find, as $500 here and there can cover a lot of expenses.

The kid above who came out slightly ahead after college chased down every scholarship he could - he said he had an essay template he would tweak for each one.

This sort of thing doesn’t help.

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Hope this doesn’t go anywhere.

I think it’s well-intentioned and dumb. Instead of debt cancellation, we need higher ed reform so that people can go to college without taking on that much debt.

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I regret that I have but one star to give this post.

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You may like this less though:

I think we should treat higher education as a “right”. I think this makes sense from an economic and moral perspective, and I think more higher education would have a great effect on outcomes in this nation.

So I think every state should be required to provide an affordable public education to in-state students, with affordable being defined as “you can graduate without debt if you hold a part time job during the school year and a full time job in the summer”.

How do we pay for this? You allow states to figure it out on their own, with the condition above being the law. I recommend the states do this:

  • a lot of taxes
  • a large reduction in student services/staff/admin
  • a consolidation of departments in the humanities and social sciences (instead of 8 identity departments, you have 1 political science and 1 sociology department)
  • in fields where “research” is mostly meaningless (again, the humanities and social sciences), professors must teach more and have lower expectations in terms of grant money and publications. They should be evaluated primarily on their teaching and not on their publications
    -government research grants can be reduced, especially in non-applied fields. Grants should go primarily to people in public institutions.

One problem we have with high ed is that our political class all went to expensive private colleges. Unlike most of us, they never experienced the ability to work their way through school. Their Harvards and Stanfords were charging $50,000 per year in tuition alone even back in the 90s when these people were in school. They have no idea that a quality alternative was ever really in place. They never saw their local public school as a quality alternative at all.

Does this belong in the politics category? Feel free to move it if it does.

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If community colleges are part of your plan, I like it.

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Sure, but states should make the flagship institution affordable (by my same definition of affordable).

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I love the federalism take on this, and pushing it back to the states. In that regard, I’d eliminate loaning money for education. That in turn would eliminate even more of the overhead and bureaucracy because those would not be affordable. By eliminating the overhead costs would drop. Hell, I suggest this time of thing for local school districts, cut the overhead, cut the bureaucracy. Shift that money to the teachers as salary and money they can use as they see fit in their classrooms to promote learning. Private institutions could do whatever they wanted, as long as they don’t take public moneys. If they take public moneys then get the the same reqs about cutting bureaucracies and overhead.

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My experience (20 years ago) was that the financials of college were what drove a large part of my choice. I hustled and went to the place where I had the best financial package - a full out-of-state tuition scholarship to the U. I hustled for a couple of other scholarships ($1k from my local credit union, $1k undergrad research, little engineering schollie) - I applied for a dozen or more. I got little $100 here and there as well. When I went to grad school, I was in a STEM degree, so my tuition was paid and I got a stipend to do research. All in all, I probably got $200k in benefits. Once, I calculated the time I spent in HS, studying, and participating in activities and it came out to $25/hr job - so my ‘job’ in HS paid off.

My point is this - some pick a college and will do/pay anything for that. Consider other options that fit financial aid, what can be afforded, etc. My youngest sister got all sorts of student debt to fund a lifestyle - now, she had a degree that made her a lot and she paid it off, but why not only limit borrowing to in-state tuition levels and that’s it (PT/summer job for living expenses)?

I realize others experiences are different, that I realize I had some privilege built in, and that the ‘game’ has changed. I’m tracking tuition and other costs as I plan for my kids and the acceleration is stunning, maybe 2nd only to healthcare.

My hope would be similar to @sancho - make education available and affordable to all. Perhaps even make community colleges free (get an associates degree or trade training then you could choose to go on for a bachelors degree).

Universities have become too much about research dollars and endowments - leave that to the private institutions and moderate at the state ones. More and more companies have abandoned their own research and outsourced it to universities, making the money enticing but it has increased the arms game. You may get world experts for professors, but they might teach 2-3 classes a year. Why should student’s be funding research labs (facilities)? Things are misaligned (teaching vs. research) for the bachelor education experience.

The taxes (state) invested in quality education helps the (state) economy and with additional financial aid for those that need it, helps raise people (in the state) to new qualities of life.

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I was once on the Young Alumni Board at the U. We frequently had minor scholarships go unfulfilled. I tell every kid I know going to college to just write a killer essay and modify it slightly to apply for as many scholarships they can. Most of the time you can pick up at least $500-1000 extra a semester to help with books, fees etc. simply because you were the only one who applied for the scholarship.

A little further background on this, but many companies or individuals will give their schools or alumni associations some money to grant to a deserving student each year. Like Wheeler, the heavy equipment sales organization here in the valley, would give money as a corporation to be granted to basically anyone the alumni association deemed worthy. It would get parsed into smaller scholarships.

My near backyard neighbor’s son got a good scholarship and then employed the strategy above (he already knew to do this) and actually came out of the U making a little bit of money.

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My grandaughter did this, although to an out of state school. She is extremely bright and motivated, and had so much scholarship money that she had to report a good portion of it each year as income on her taxes (any money that doesn’t go directly to education expenses).

Here’s how we pay for this.

  1. Any public university has their undergrad tuition capped at $250 a credit

  2. Any college with an endowment over 1 billion automatically is taxed 50% of it’s endowment.

  3. Loans are capped at 3% interest.

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You have my vote!