Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Why Not Whys Instead of Hows?

All the recent clamor about student loan rates got me to thinking about my own college days.
I graduated from a rural, north western, New Jersey high school in 1960.
My family lived on the edge. My father was in his seventies and disabled. We lived solely on his monthly Social Security check (I know – “socialism, entitlements, feeding at the public trough, etc.”) but without it we wouldn’t have survived.
Upon graduation I sought a college with the lowest possible tuition. The one I found was East Carolina College in Greenville, North Carolina however even that was more than I could afford when I considered the costs of transportation.
As a result, I joined the work force delivering coal for the local lumberyard.
After a year of hard labor I accumulated two years of tuition money and was admitted to Montclair State College.
Enough about me.
What does this have to do will the current banter regarding student loan rates?
Well, I clearly recall the tuition rate that I paid in 1961was -  are you ready?
      One hundred and fifty dollars per year!
If it weren’t for that minimal tuition rate, I and many like me, could have never moved from the poverty class to the middle class. I’d still be shoveling coal for a living!
As you can see below, the rate for the same college today is approaching ten thousand dollars per year!

Now I know what many of  you will say.
“Yes, but everything was cheaper then and a dollar was worth much more than today.”
All this is true but let’s use some simple arithmetic to give these numbers current day prospective so they can be fully appreciated.
First, consider that tuition rates have increased 6400% over the past forty-five years ($150 to $9674).
My first teaching job in 1965 paid a starting salary of $5200. Today a starting salary hovers around $50,000 a less than 690% increase.
In 1966 I bought my first new car, a fully loaded Pontiac Lemans (one of the most popular and stylish cars of the day). The cost - $2750!
A similar car today (a Honda Accord) goes for approximately $23,000, an 840% increase.
Gasoline prices (another topic of popular controversy) were at $.33 per gallon. Today - $4.00 per gallon – a 1200% increase.
Even housing has risen at a significantly lesser rate than college tuition. In 1965 a new single family, split level sold for about $25,000. Today that same house bears a price tag of about $450,000 – an increase of  a mere 1800%.
The education “reform” movement in New Jersey and elsewhere throughout the nation proclaims that vouchers and privatization will lower costs.
All colleges, both public and private participate in the “free market” in that they are obliged to compete for students (customers).
Based on the aforementioned  statistics it certainly appears that the “free market” when applied to education does not reduce costs. When compared to the price rises of other “commodities” it may be actually increasing costs to the consumer?
It appears that college tuition rates have “gone wild”.
How does this relate to public education?

Here’s how!
Why have no questions been asked as  to why college costs have skyrocketed  beyond all other costs? Only questions about interest rates on the loans that are required in order to pay them have been raised!
The same vein of discussion occurs pertaining to health care costs. Again, little asked as to why costs are so high but instead how and who is going to pay them!
The whys of  the costs of both of these vital services are never called into question?
Interestingly enough however, when it comes to costs of public education and public services which have risen not near so dramatically, the conversation immediately changes from “How do we pay for it?” to “Let’s limit costs by reducing salaries and benefits and putting caps on budgets”.
Why is this approach to solving cost problems applied only to public services and public servants and never to purveyors the services that engage in the most egregious price rises of all?

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