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

Monday, 12 August 2013

The College Loan Bubble - Toil and Trouble

Let me add a little personal, anecdotal history about college tuition in New Jersey.
In the early 60s when I graduated from high school I had no money for college. Consequently, I got a job as a carpenter's assistant for $1.25 per hour. When I finally accumulated enough money I applied to Montclair State College and was accepted.
The tuition rate was $75 per semester and I don't remember any additional fees being involved.
The reason I applied to MSC was because of the lower tuition, RU was somewhat higher but still not exorbitant by comparison. At the end of my four years, the tuition rate had not changed.
Many of my peers at MSC had applied for and received the State Scholarship which covered all their tuition costs. Since I did not enter college immediately after high school I did not qualify and never received its advantage.
But that is not my point.
How is it that now tuition rates throughout the state (and everywhere) are sky high ?
Why are students now required to saddle themselves with tens of thousands of dollars of debt ?
Who could work their way through college today ?
Why is the national Student Loan debt over a trillion dollars ?
I guess you might say inflation, things are much more expensive today but of course wages are much higher too so it all kind of evens out.
Well, I'm not so sure !
The average minimal wage in the early 60s was about what I was paid, maybe a bit higher, $1.50 - $1.75 per hour, Let's say today that wage is $10 per hour. This means it has increased roughly sevenfold. Certainly, seven times $150 (the yearly tuition at State schools in the 1960s) does not come close to today's rates and fees at these schools.
Am I saying that tuition today should be $1050 ? No, but it surely shouldn't be $10,000 either !
Now, how about the student loan situation ?
The recent furor over loan rates being raised resulted in their being capped (to some extent anyway) and people cheered. Not me !
I think the conversation should have been directed at why tuitions are so high and how they should be lowered. Instead, loan rates where lowered (I mean not raised as much) which simply encourages more borrowing.
To add insult to injury not only have the costs increased to dramatic heights, at the same time the school year has been sharply reduced.
In the 60s and before, the first semester started at the beginning of September and extended to mid January with a one week Christmas break. After the first semester was completed there was a one week intermission and the second semester began. The last day of the school year occurred the second week in June.
I've done some calculations and I find that today's college four year education is actually a full year short of that of the 1960s.
The bottom line -  lots less for lots more !
Another math exercise I did was to figure out the cost per hour of class time. At RU it is over $30 per hour (in state students). A ticket to a Broadway show which lasts for two and a half hours is about $75 (a reasonably good seat). You do the math !
And to make things even worse, many classes consist of hundreds of students, all herded into an auditorium with the professor appearing the size of a dime below. Questions from the students, I don't think so. Questions are reserved for the TAs, low cost graduate students trying to pay their own tuition bills.
My own college experience consisted of class sizes of twenty and less with student questions handled by the professor during class time. (And the professor was always available after class for more questions).
Is college today a scam on the middle class or is it just my cynicism showing through as usual ?

1 comment:

  1. Today I noticed that a gallon of milk and a gallon of gasoline are about the same price. My best recollection from the 60s is that milk was about four times the price of gasoline.

    When I started NCE in 1968 the tuition was around $400/year. I just looked at the NJIT web site and the current in-state tuition is $13,370, an increase of over 3000%. Milk and gasoline has been a better bargain over the past 5 decades. So, what's going on here? Are the colleges a lot better now? I don't know.



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