The High Cost of Higher Education

October 16, 2008 at 5:14 pm 6 comments

When did it become a “right” for everyone to go to college. Don’t get me wrong I think the costs are getting higher, but the costs for everything are. I don’t think it is a right. I think it is a privilege that you should have to work to have. It should not just be a cakewalk that you just walk into.

Everyone does not even want to go to college. There are requirements at every institution you might choose to apply to get accepted. These include your GPA, SAT or ACT scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, etc. It is not enough to just apply and get in.

I personally do place a value on education. It was something that was important to my family and as such I appreciate it. But is it totally necessary? I would like to suggest that there are certain jobs (doctors, dentists, etc) that require a specialized degree. There are many other jobs that you can be extremely successful at (being considered wealthy under some current tax plans) and not have even an Associates degree.

So while I do want my children to go to college. If they choose a career path that does not involve college, as long as it is legal, than I will be ready and willing to support them.

I do wonder what college will cost as my children get there. A small private school cost $15,000 a year ten years ago, what will the cost be when my children are old enough to attend? The thought is somewhat staggering.

I do not even really mind people having student loans. The Stafford Loan program has low interest rates and I do not know of anyone who did not qualify to get one. This is stated on the Stafford Loan website – Nearly all students are eligible to receive Stafford loans regardless of credit. They even have two versions.

  • Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need. You will not be charged interest before you begin repayment or during periods of deferment. The federal government “subsidizes” (or pays) the interest during these times.
  • Unsubsidized loans are not awarded based on financial needs. Any eligible student can take out Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. You will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed, to the time the loan is repaid in full.

If you chose to attend a four year public institution your college debt would be manageable with Stafford Loans. Assuming that you actually chose to enter the workforce upon graduation. But that is a totally separate topic. And if you choose to start out at a Community College and get an AA it can be very affordable. There are some very lucrative professions that only require an Associates Degree. Look at Repiratory Therapy. I am not even sure what that is but some career projections suggest starting salary near $100,000 with a two year degree. Anything in the Medical field is usually a safe bet.

But the choices don’t stop there, next there are Perkins Loans which have lower interest rates and can be forgiven sometimes through working in specific situations.

And then here is a listing of all the ways to fund college and have your loans forgiven or have school paid for! This does not even touch scholarships, which are competitive but attainable. Or the Federal Work Study program. I got that too! It really helped. Or even the Pell Grant, I got that too! All from filling out the FAFSA – the Free Application for Student Aid.

What I really see as part of the problem in higher education is the competitiveness to even get in. Schools have to report to the state their demographics. I have heard of some places where it is next to impossible to get admitted even with an excellent GPA, great test scores, plenty of relevant activities, etc. for specific types of students as it appears that often the schools are trying to reflect a certain amount of diversity in their profile. It ofetn feels like it is not enough to be average anymore, or for that matter even above average.

Now here are the two presidential candidates “plans” to improve this:


McCain

Improve Information for Parents
Institutions report on hundreds of factors to the U.S. government every year, but the government does nothing with the information. Making this information available to families in a clear and concise manner will help more students make more informed choices about higher education.

– i am not really sure what information us not given or how it would really “help” me

Simplify Higher Education Tax Benefits
The existing tax benefits are too complicated, and many eligible families don’t claim them. By simplifying the existing benefits, I can ensure that a greater number of families have a lower tax burden when they are helping to send their children to college.

– the tax benefits are available based on how much interest you paid on your student loans. if you are like me and use one of those spiffy little computer programs to do your taxes, you will get to a box that says something about, higher education – which is code for college. then the form that you got from the place you pay your student loan bill to will tell you what amount to enter in the box, and then the handy program calculates how much if any you qualify to have appiled to your taxes. it phases out based on income.

Simplify Federal Financial Aid
Too many programs and a complicated application process deter many eligible students from seeking student aid. The number of programs also makes it more difficult for financial aid officers to help students navigate the process. Consolidating programs will help simplify the administration of these programs, and help more students have a better understanding of their eligibility for aid.

-and how much easier could the FAFSA get in the first place? it is not really a burden on people to complete the form and it provides far more information that is useful in properly determining financial aid. there are many more factors used to calculate the aid you qualify for than your parents tax return. heck, i will help you fill out your form, anytime – for free! but i do agree that consolidating the loans and programs to one place would help in making sure that each student received the full benefits that they qualify for and streamline the process.

Improve Research by Eliminating Earmarks
Earmarking is destroying the integrity of federally funded research. Billions of dollars are spent on pork barrel projects every year; significant amounts come from research budgets. Eliminating earmarks would immediately and significantly improve the federal government’s support for university research.

– i am all for cutting out earmarks. go for it.

Fix the Student Lending Programs
We have seen significant turmoil in student lending. John McCain has proposed an expansion of the lender-of-last resort capability of the federal student loan system and will demand the highest standard of integrity for participating private lenders. Effective reforms and leveraging the private sector will ensure the necessary funding of higher education aspirations, and create a simpler and more effective program in the process.

– not really sure what the turmoil has been. i know there was some significant concerns over the student loan interest rate in the past few years, but it is still among the lowest interest rates you can get for a loan.

Obama

Higher Education

Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama and Biden will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Recipients of the credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of community service.

– a few comments here. is that 100 hours of community service per year. and it is required. if you don’t do it you will have to repay the money. and let’s think about the cost of providing this amount per person. that could get to be quite expensive, and when we are talking about “fixing the budget and deficit” it is quite curious. And there are already many federal programs in place to allow for loan forgiveness or to provide for you to have your education funded.

Simplify the Application Process for Financial Aid: Obama and Biden will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application.

– again, i just don’t buy that it is that hard. if you are going to go to college you have a guidance counselor either at the college or at your high school who would be happy to help you through the process. or email me and i will help

I do realize that I have offered what some will consider generalizations. I know there are always exceptions, but that is always true.

I will give some views on Education and Schools soon! That is a totally different topic!

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Jesus, Republicans & The Religious Right Roast Anyone?

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shawn -- Distance Learning Guru  |  October 16, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    This is an interesting post and follows closely w/ a recent book by Charles Murray called Real Education.

    I think what we see in higher ed now is an insane credentialism: students work for years to earn a piece of paper that doesn’t even guarantee them the ability to pay back their loans in a timely manner.

    My colleagues and I at our organization CollegePlus! are helping students across the country obtain a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree for around $15k.

    Since universities are ramping up their grad programs instead of funding their undergrad like they used to, there’s no reason to pay more than a fraction of the going rate to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

  • 2. Interest Rates » The High Cost of Higher Education  |  October 16, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  • 3. Mary  |  October 16, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    My thought on higher education is that because they know they can get the money (government loans, etc) they will charge the money. When I went to college 20 years ago, it was $3000 a year. There is a reason for the skyrocketing costs and if I weren’t so lazy, I’d start looking into the details!

  • 4. rightwingchicky  |  October 16, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    My inside source from a college admissions office is going to send me some information on her take,

    Public state schools, if you state in-state, can still be under $3000 a year, she says. So it is not really the public university system that has seen as dramatic increases.

    Now the out-of-state tuition is another story all together. I jumps up astronomically! (much like private institutions – who don’t have to do you any favors i suppose)

  • 5. Zoe - Admissions & Financial Aid SME  |  October 17, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/studentloans.jsp for Stafford loan info directly from the Feds. As rightwingchicky said, there are many aid programs available from the federal government, states, and individual institutions.
    While fin aid applications ARE generally rather easy to fill out- many families do not have guidance counselors, advisors, or financial aid officers available to assist them through the process. Particularly in families with first-generation college-goers, parents and students are uninformed. Many people find the FAFSA intimidating, confusing, or in some sad cases find false links to the online app that are scams which charge them for the FREE APPLICATION for FEDERAL STUDENT AID.
    Which brings me to another point- Let’s look together at the meaning of the word “aid”: from the Merriam-Webster dictionary “to give assistance” which means to give support…”AID” does not mean “FREE” it means that the feds, state, and/or institution (as well as many many other sources) offer to help students fund their education. With that said, another issue (which is practically unknown to those who’ve never been affected) is the relationship between the FAFSA and Financial Aid verification. 30% of all students who file the FAFSA each year are selected to be verified- which is basically like the IRS audit many taxpayers are subject to each year. IF a file is selected NO Federal aid can pay until the student submits copies of student and possibly parent(if still dependent by federal definition) or spouse tax returns, W2s, 1099s, SSA benefits, etc, etc. The school then has to manually review and compare the information filed for taxes and FAFSA. If there are any discrepancies, corrections must be made and sent to the feds- this process can delay financial aid for several weeks, frustrate students, and produce many misunderstandings all the way around. So, let’s assume a state university has 20,000 students with a minimum of 80% receiving some sort of aid. This would mean that approx 5,333 students are probably selected each year to be verified. Did I mention that IF the Fin Aid office at the school sees that parent/student/spouse has filed his/her taxes incorrectly they cannot proceed? That’s right, if someone filed with a 1040EZ, but wasn’t really eligible- the school cannot move forward until an amended return has been filed!
    As for the Admissions and tuition rate issue, as with lower levels of education, state higher education does not see big budget increases despite cost of living increases—sure there may be money from grants & whatnot pouring into research and graduate programs…what good is that though if our students can’t GET to the grad programs. To reach higher you have to have a solid base.
    Back to my point, as costs increase and budgets decrease, schools have little choice but to revise their admissions policies and requirements- with less money, there are resources for fewer students. The freshman class of 2008 across the US was faced with new admission standards. Even the Ivy leagues were admitting fewer students than they had in the past, and pushing students off start school in semesters, rather than the traditional Fall start. With fewer seats to fill most schools chose to admit the cream of their crop…who wouldn’t…these students are statistically most likely to succeed and raise the profile of the school.
    Trust me, deciding how to and who to enroll each term is an agonizing, deliberate process for many schools (from my state U perspective). We WANT to admit those who WANT to come- but without the proper funding and support, we have to face reality.

  • 6. rightwingchicky  |  October 17, 2008 at 3:24 am

    So it does fit around what I thought. There are not enough spots in the first place for everyone to get into college. The schools are at capacity and can’t admit everyone already. I don’t think that either plan will help with the real problem. Space.

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