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Education The Almighty Buck Politics

The College-Loan Scandal 827

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone about the economics behind college tuition. Interest rates get the headlines and the attention of politicians, but Taibbi says the real culprit is "appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008." He writes, "For this story, I interviewed people who developed crippling mental and physical conditions, who considered suicide, who had to give up hope of having children, who were forced to leave the country, or who even entered a life of crime because of their student debts. ... Because the underlying cause of all that later-life distress and heartache – the reason they carry such crushing, life-alteringly huge college debt – is that our university-tuition system really is exploitative and unfair, designed primarily to benefit two major actors. First in line are the colleges and universities, and the contractors who build their extravagant athletic complexes, hotel-like dormitories and God knows what other campus embellishments. For these little regional economic empires, the federal student-loan system is essentially a massive and ongoing government subsidy, once funded mostly by emotionally vulnerable parents, but now increasingly paid for in the form of federally backed loans to a political constituency – low- and middle-income students – that has virtually no lobby in Washington. Next up is the government itself. While it's not commonly discussed on the Hill, the government actually stands to make an enormous profit on the president's new federal student-loan system, an estimated $184 billion over 10 years, a boondoggle paid for by hyperinflated tuition costs and fueled by a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a "Save the Panda" charity. Why is this happening? The answer lies in a sociopathic marriage of private-sector greed and government force that will make you shake your head in wonder at the way modern America sucks blood out of its young."
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The College-Loan Scandal

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  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:15PM (#44586483)

    Universities have no real incentive to lower prices. Why should they? They can foist costs onto a third party.

    Also, their costs keep going up - healthcare, salaries, maintenance. Their cost structure is basically fixed. The only way they can cover those is by raising tuition.

    This isn't a new problem. This is a structural problem that's been pointed out many times. Why is this news?

    Any union shop has the same issues.

    • by trandles ( 135223 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:23PM (#44586601) Journal

      And don't forget that government support of public universities has been cut dramatically over the years. Many large public research institutions ceased being "state supported" universities and instead became "state located" universities in the past two decades. It's only going to get worse as the tea baggers insist on deeper and deeper cuts to everything but the defense budget.

      • by thaylin ( 555395 )
        The NC university system, one of the best in the country (arguably) has been getting high year over year cuts.
      • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:56PM (#44587085)

        And don't forget that government support of public universities has been cut dramatically over the years.


        It's only going to get worse as the tea baggers insist on deeper and deeper cuts to everything but the defense budget.

        Who can continue to pay for something that has for many decades consistently increased faster than not only those state government budgets, but the economy of the US as a whole? Budget items which increase much faster than the rate of growth of the US are a big target for not just "tea baggers", but for anyone who has their own share of the pie to protect.

        A huge part of the motivation behind the tea party movement is to combat these ballooning costs.

        So let me trace out what I think the cause and effect chain is here. 1) Universities go up in cost faster than the rate of growth of budgets or economies for decades. This leads to 2) reduction in government support for universities. 3) The same sort of lack of spending control over entire US-based government budgets leads to 4) tea party movement which wants to cut everything except allegedly that defense budget.

        So we can complain about reduced government spending on universities or tea baggers, but I think it'd be far more productive to address initial causes, out of control spending.

        • When times are bad the state cuts education funding because, well, times are bad and money is tight. When times are good state cuts education funding because fewer people are going to school so we don't need the schools that badly. State takes it out of education no matter what.

          So tuition goes up in good times and bad, it goes up faster than inflation since the schools are not only hit with inflation, but hit with shrinking state support

          I've watched this go on for decades

          But there always seems to be money

          • by khallow ( 566160 )
            So how do you explain the cost increases at private schools which don't receive state support for offsetting tuition?
      • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:19PM (#44587359)

        It's only going to get worse as the tea baggers...

        So who is +5 insightful a comment that has gay/political slurs in it? It's ok to use slurs when you don't like the group he's making the slur against? I'm not suggesting that he can't post what he wants, but the people modding this up are hypocrites.

    • States want to give less money to state schools. Well, when there's less coming in from taxes they can either cut services, or raise prices. "Do more with less," is a line from uninformed PHBs and politicians, it just doesn't work that way. Many universities have done both, cut some services, and raised rates.

  • by pollarda ( 632730 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:16PM (#44586515)
    The more they try to make college "affordable" via loans, scholarships, etc. the more the colleges and universities will raise their prices until it is just barely affordable by all participants. They want to maximize their income -- as any business does. On the other hand, if we were to cut off student loans and scholarships you can bet that the prices would plummet and they'd stop building fancy buildings named after themselves. (Some universities have exercise areas that are reminiscent of spas and exclusive health resorts than a university.) It is amazing that our parents and grandparents were able to do things like send men to the moon without plush padded seating and nicely carpeted hallways at their universities. Even so, they could still afford to get an education.
    • by steve79 ( 1368223 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:31PM (#44586729)

      It is indeed very simple. If the government gave a subsidy of $100 to buy a car, guess now much the cost of a car would rise. There are always unintended consequences when Gov't starts meddeling. Home price bubble was from making loan interest tax deductible and keeping interest rates very low; similar thing going on in student loan arena -- stop throwing money at the colleges and the price will then stabilize and go down. *wherever* government meddles to stimulate the demand side, the prices rise. This is econ 101.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Home price bubble was from making loan interest tax deductible

        Home price bubbles since 1913. Who knew!

    • I would say it's more an issue of the Government guaranteeing the loans.

      No bank will give an unemployed adult, a $100k loan for a house; but for a College kid they will give them the same loan for some dead end degree with little to no earning power.

      Also need to lower the demand for degrees in the private sector; they have become the new HS Diploma only you'll now be working a low wage job with tens of thousands of debt.

    • by Michael Simpson ( 2902481 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:02PM (#44587171)
      That is exactly why costs are going up. A bank knows when they make the student loan, that it can't be dispensed in bankruptcy. It is a form of modern day slavery. Make those loans subject to bankruptcy and the prices will eventually drop. If not, when you get out of school, many places are happy to give you credit cards. Take them and use those little checks to pay down or pay off the student loans. Those do go away in bankruptcy.
    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:24PM (#44587431)

      My local university has been buying up highrises downtown and building huge complexes for their different departments. The Engineering department has moved 3x in the 15 years I've lived here. Each building an architectural wonder. I can understand their desire to show off their engineering prowess but to the tune of 100 million a pop it's getting a bit ridiculous. My niece is going to school for engineering and her tuition is $30k/year. When I went in the 90s it was less than $5k. $30k a year is just unfathomable. There's no way she's getting that kind of value out of that school.

    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:27PM (#44587465)

      It is amazing that our parents and grandparents were able to do things like send men to the moon without plush padded seating and nicely carpeted hallways at their universities. Even so, they could still afford to get an education.

      Baloney. YOUR parents and grandparents may have been able to go to college, but the loan crisis is primarily among those whose parents and grandparents did not and could not. They were more likely working manufacturing jobs that don't exist any more.

      In your great-grandparents' day, very few people got a college education at all. In your grandparents' day, the post-WWII GI bill (i.e. government money) accounted for most of the increase in enrollment. Then the boomers got affordable state-subsidized education, supplemented with plentiful high-paying low-skilled jobs to work their way through, plus loans that could be discharged in bankruptcy if necessary.

      But even since 1975 college enrollment rates have increased by another 50% (from a bit under half to a bit under 70% of all highschool graduates). And, as I started with, you can bet that most recent 20% is heavily weighted towards those for whom the option to loans is not "figuring it out," but rather dropping into the ranks of mere highschool graduates, which now equates to the working poor.

      • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @05:13PM (#44588103) Journal

        This is the best comment in the thread (currently) in my opinion. Thank you for clearly spelling exactly how my generation is being screwed over by the boomers who got theirs'. Now that they're on top of the shed they're doing their hardest to kick the ladder away so they can squeeze a bit more spending money out of the economy to enjoy during their retirement. They're the most selfish narcissists our country has ever produced, and they have the gall to call US entitled brats who don't want to work.

  • housing prices? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by green is the enemy ( 3021751 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:17PM (#44586525)
    Aren't health care costs a closer comparison? Both cases of vulnerable people being taken advantage of on a large scale.
  • by stanlyb ( 1839382 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:17PM (#44586529)
    Education in Japan, Work in USA, and wife from France. That's the formula for happy and well played life.
  • the real problem.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skade88 ( 1750548 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:19PM (#44586543)
    The states have been cutting funding to higher education for years. Costs for running a university are only getting higher. Either the university cuts programs and services or raise tuition.
  • Illegal collections (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:20PM (#44586549)

    "They called me at work, sometimes two to three times a day, doing all the stuff they aren't supposed to do: threats, et cetera," says 41-year-old Shawn FitzGerald, who owes $300 a month and says he expects to be paying off education loans into his sixties. "They told the receptionist at my job that I was in legal trouble...."

    "I have been told I made the wrong decision going to college, as well as being told I was a failure, an idiot and a mooch," says Larissa, a young woman from a blue-collar town outside Chicago. "I've had ex-boyfriends that I never even lived with contacted by collection agents, my childhood friend's distant relatives contacted by them, as well as distant relatives of my own...."

    See here:

    Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. []

    When a collector breaks the law, seek legal representation. Yes, people have sued collectors and won for this kind of abusive behavior.

  • Stimulus This! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:20PM (#44586557)

    Hey OPAMA, you wanna get the country out of it's slump? Forgive student loan debt. That'll do more to boost the economy than your silly bail-outs.

    I've watched tuition at my local state university go from $150/credit hour to $350/credit hour in 8 years. I have friends graduating with engineering degrees that have 30k in debt from a STATE SCHOOL. This isn't an Ivy League school, but a state university. How does that compute? And the whole time, the school itself is hiring more Administration people and getting rid of, or driving off, many of the professors.

    Tuition continues to skyrocket, yet they close more sections for classes every semester. How are you going to sit there and tell me that "tuition needs another hike this semester", and "oh by the way, we're only teaching Kinematics in the Spring now, so you'll have to wait till next year. Sorry."

    For lack of a better way to put it, it's horseshit.

    • Re:Stimulus This! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:56PM (#44587903) Homepage

      I have friends graduating with engineering degrees that have 30k in debt from a STATE SCHOOL. This isn't an Ivy League school, but a state university. How does that compute?

      It "computes" BECAUSE they went to a state school. If they had gone to an Ivy League school, they would probably have much less debt, if any.

      For most students, a good state school is more expensive than Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and so on. That's because the Ivy League schools (and non-Ivy top private schools like Stanford, Chicago, MIT, Caltech and such) have large endowments per student that generate lots of income that they use to provide generous need-based non-loan aid. At Stanford, for instance, if your family makes under $100k, tuition is waived. Under $60k, and Stanford also waives room and board.

      State schools, on the other hand, do not have large endowments per student. If their state has budget problems, one of the first things to go is need-based non-loan aid.

      This is probably the oddest thing about American higher education. It is actually possible for someone to legitimately say "I could not afford to send my kids to Cal State Fresno, so I sent them Harvard".

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:20PM (#44586559)

    “I’ve been frustrated that those making hiring decisions can’t see a little further. In some formats, especially in IT, the 4 year process doesn’t work for some, especially those who have learning disabilities, “The older college system is not for all, and some people learn better on their own. It’s an antiquated system, especially in IT.”

    “Schools that are based around 2 years of intensive, hands-on IT training are much better equipped than those spending on English or composition classes. That’s how you can be more flexible and keep up with the industry. Even awarding badges would make the system more relevant.”

  • by poet ( 8021 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:21PM (#44586565) Homepage

    I read about this all the time and wonder to myself, "Who is their right mind goes 100k in debt for school?".

    Students need to take some responsibility here. You may:

    * Have to go to community college for the first two years
    * Have to live with mommy and daddy for a few years
    * Have 6 roommates
    * Have a job (yes I am aware that isn't as easy as it sounds)
    * Wait a few years to attend college so you can save money
    * Join the military so you can get the GI Bill

    Yes college is expensive but a lot of the time what I see is students wanting their cake and eat it too.

    • I think your suggestions are good, but I think it's wrong-headed to blame the students for 'not taking responsibility.

      This is a systemic problem. We have a bunch of 18 year-olds with relatively little life experience, and we keep telling them that going to a good college will make them rich someday. We give them the impression that taking out massive amounts of student loan is a wise move. This message comes from parents and teachers and politicians and the media, and you can't blame a bunch of kids for believing it.

      We need to take a good hard look at how we're treating education. Is college a place where kids can receive a good general education, or are they vocational schools? Are we promoting education for the good of our society, or do we think it's a privilege for rich people that should be denied to the poor because they haven't earned it? Is the purpose of college to educate our young adults, or to entertain them with frat parties and amateur minor-league sports teams?

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:03PM (#44587187)

      I read about this all the time and wonder to myself, "Who is their right mind goes 100k in debt for school?".

      From []

      In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2012–2013 academic year averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289.

      OK. A little math here: A "moderate" cost for 4 years at a state school (not counting inflation, which makes this a joke really): $89,000. "Moderate" cost for 4 years at a private college: $173,000. So who goes into 100K kind of debt for school? It looks like pretty much everyone who doesn't have family resources to fall back on.

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:40PM (#44587677)

      Students have to take some of the responsibility

      All the responsibility is being shuffled onto the students. That's the problem.

      "Who is their right mind goes 100k in debt for school?".

      Someone who wants to go to a good law school, and double that for medical. Your unspoken implication is that only the well off have any business going into such high-end professions, thus starting a veritable caste system.

      Is that a bug, or a feature for you? Don't bother with the "I put myself through school working part time in the 90's" that some helpful person posts in any of these discussions, when costs have doubled a few times since then.

  • by 0101000001001010 ( 466440 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:21PM (#44586573)

    This article, like many others, misses an important point. Even if colleges hold their total expenditures to the rate of inflation, state support has been declining dramatically over the past decades. As a consequences students are picking up a greater share of the total expenditures through tuition. Clearly that will result in tuition rising at a rate faster than inflation.

    If you want to attack wasteful college expenditures, which is a worthwhile topic, you must focus on total expenditures per unit of size (student, degree, credit hour, whatever). Looking at only the part of the expenditure financed by tuition is highly misleading. Unless we're talking about for-profit colleges. Those are sucking the lifeblood out of college-bound youth. Just look at the per degree debt levels of college loans that go to for-profits. "Among all bachelor's degree recipients, median debt was about $7,960 at public four-year institutions, $17,040 at private not-for-profit four-year institutions, and $31,190 at for-profit institutions." []

  • No shit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:24PM (#44586613) Journal

    I had a solid 6 years worth of state school tuition/costs in the bank by the time my daughter was 6. Now that I've still got 7 years to go, we're hovering between 4 and 5 years worth. I feel like there should be some way to invest in colleges, 'cause I'm certainly not getting that kind of ROI in the market!

    *Yes - you can pre-pay for college in some states. As crazy as all get out - if you want to pre-buy 4 years of State school in Virginia for a 12 year old it will cost you MORE than if you buy it for a 16 year old. Even they know that the system is fucked.

    • Find a state that offers a prepaid 529 plan. Move there.

      • I bought three years of prepaid tuition for my son and daughter in the early 2000's, about four years before the first one went to college. I liquidated investments in an UGMA fund to do so, reasoning that the prepaid plan would appreciate at the rate of tuition inflation.

        Tuition was frozen in Maryland that year, and didn't increase at all until the first child graduated.

        And to make things worse, the UGMA was mostly stock, and partially stock in ... Apple.

  • Subsidies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cereal Box ( 4286 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:24PM (#44586615)

    Part of this has to do with the subsidies they add to tuition. I remember when I was in school, tuition was about $2000 per semester. One semester, they decided to jack up tuition by $400. Most of that $400 was earmarked for subsidies for lower-income students. I found out during a meeting where the chancellor announced the change that 40% of our overall tuition went to subsidies. 40%! At which point I asked:

    "So you're increasing tuition to help students who can't afford tuition, because we keep raising tuition to help students who can't afford tuition?"

    They just kind of shrugged that question off.

  • Gold Mine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradgoodman ( 964302 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:25PM (#44586623) Homepage
    What other industry relies on teenagers (who don't know any better) having the power to (borrow) and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Cars don't cost that much. Teenagers don't buy houses. The decision-makers here are people who aren't even old (or mature) enough to drink - are completely impulsive - have no life-experience and less of a tangible "long-term" outlook - and they're actually *pressured* (by society, parents, high-school guidance counselors, etc) to go with the BEST school they can [at any cost].

    What can possibly go wrong??

  • 40 years ago (Score:5, Informative)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:28PM (#44586687) Journal

    Here's a reality check:

    40 years ago you could reasonably go to school and pay for your tuition and fees by working a manual summer job. There are no jobs out there which pay a year's tuition in 3 months for untrained labor, or anything close to it today. Heck, the average starting ANNUAL salary is less than tuition/room/board for a year at practically any private university today.

    • Re:40 years ago (Score:5, Insightful)

      by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:15PM (#44587315)

      To be fair, the minimum wage back then was the equivalent of about $9 an hour [] today. Plus you didn't have to have a degree to get a much higher-paying white-collar job, like you do now. In the early 70's my parents bought a house while working part-time office jobs and putting themselves through full-time gradute school and taking care of a small child. Try that trick now.

      Wait...I forget. Which economic injustice were we complaining about here?

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:30PM (#44586717) Homepage
    this has been well known for nearly 3 years but it doesnt really get much coverege because, well, yeah its the same on a number of levels but disasterously worse.
    School loans cant be absolved through bankruptcy, they'll take them from any form of income you earn. this 'perpetuity' makes them attractive to investors because its "foolproof" and acceptable by the plutocracy because it ensures that even if you get a good education, your position results in nothing more than endentured servitude to the state in the hopes of one day living the american dream after those loans get paid off. politicians like the idea because it boosts school enrollment and kids think the whole thing is swell until they realize no ones hiring.

    the most telling sign is the recent snafu about the student loan rate, which was tossed about without much bickering at all despite the fact that both sides of the house mortally detest the other. a deal was reached quickly for a number of reasons, not the least of which include another round of occupy protests but this time perhaps with violence and property damage that isnt fabricated by the news. We are by all indications keeping the ship afloat and trying not to draw too much attention to the flaming lido deck. Im not sure when its going to happen, but expect some serious shit to hit the fan when investors realize how dangerous it is to insist millions of people shuffle around with thousands in permanent debt. the fear isnt that some day the markets will crash, its that some day the kid with the biology masters working at dennys is going to pick up a molotov.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:36PM (#44586797) Journal
    Exactly like the housing bubble. Then they gave out loans to people clearly unqualified, clearly unable to pay back the loan, low-documentation loans, no-documentation loans, interest only loans, negative amortization loans, etc etc. Now they colleges are egging on the students to assume enormous loans for useless degrees that will never get the student a job that could pay back the loan.

    We should put the onus on the universities, to certify that if the student completes the degree he/she is seeking, there is at least some reasonable chance the loan will be paid back. They universities should disclose the mean and median starting salaries of the majors they are offering. Like the home loans used to have some basic rules like, "not more than 27% of gross for mortgage, not more than 34% for all loan payments, 20% down". Similar easy to grasp metrics should be made available.

    But in a free market economy, if some people want to shoot themselves in their foot, there is nothing to stop them. But at least we someone should be telling them, they have a gun in their hand pointing to their feet and if they squeeze the trigger they will get hurt. Instead we are incentivising the bullet peddlers .

  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:40PM (#44586885) Journal
    Interesting since the president of the college I work at just had a letter about this in the Huffington Post []. One quote: "According to the College Board's 2012 study, Trends in College Pricing, the average tuition and fee rate has increased at an average of 2.44 percent at private, nonprofit four-year colleges in recent years; in fact, when one accounts for financial aid and scholarships, the average inflation-adjusted net tuition at private colleges has actually dropped by 3.5 percent over the past five years. "

    Now, that's for private, non-profit schools. Public schools it has jumped substantially, but not for any nefarious reason: it's what happens when the state legislature looks for easy cuts in the budget and axes higher ed first. When I went to William and Mary back in the mid-80s, 34.7% of the budget was covered by the state. It's 12.8% now, but they're still expected to offer everything they did before (and more) as well as give discounts to in-state students. That money can come only from two places: tuition and endowment.

    Endowment is an entire 'nother subject. You might have noticed a serious drop in the stock market a few years back? We (and many other schools) run a three year trailing average on endowment draw, so that's still hurting badly. Oh, and you can't get bonds or other securities with yields higher than a percent or two these days.. Couple the two and your endowment income has cratered as well.

    Can we cut budgets? Sure: I started here six years ago in IT and my budget is 20% less than was when I joined. Software vendors don't care: my SPSS licensing costs have tripled in those 3 years for example, and everyone else wants their 5% a year bump. And I'm at a healthy school: I've been at ones that aren't and it's worse.

    The real abuse IMHO is the loan industry. We've somehow gotten this idea that it's ok to put yourself into debt for the rest of your life for a degree. (And that debt, unlike every other kind can't ever be vacated by bankruptcy) Nobody should take out $100k of debt for any degree, and the feds shouldn't back it, much like they shouldn't back flood insurance for people who want to live on barrier islands. That may mean you don't get your dream school. Maybe it means 2 years of community college before residential. There are plenty of ways to get an education- shop for them just like you would for an phone

  • No pity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shuz ( 706678 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:45PM (#44586949) Homepage Journal

    The college I graduated with over 10 years ago posted annual 2014 tuition of $3333 x 4 years that is only 13,333. This doesn't include room and board. Yes, that is a reasonable amount of money(I lost more than this amount on paper with the 2008 housing value crash). But it isn't the life of being in the poor house that the media makes it out to be. I worked my way through school and didn't have much help from relatives. It isn't quite the party as having a free ride is, but it is still entirely doable in this day in age. I know there are a lot of universities out there that are charging 50k+ for a 4 year education. The school I went to was ranked in the top 50 of engineering schools in the US. I know I know not the top 10 but I'll live. Today's teens need to buck up, make wise decisions and be told that absolutely nothing is the end of the world until you die. If you are of sound mind and have the work ethic you have a solid chance to do whatever you want to do in life.

    • No clue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:30PM (#44587507)

      The college I graduated with over 10 years ago

      Which is in a different universe from where students are today.

      Go back to school at 3x the cost and then spend a year sending out resumes before you presume to lecture today's grads. Why is there's always some dude who starts up with their "back in myyyyy day" crap when costs have exploded since they graduated when Clinton was still president.

  • by Alaska Jack ( 679307 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:09PM (#44587253) Journal

    Ah -- the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again!

    This is exactly what classical, supply-and-demand economics would predict.

    Most of us understand why the government can't just print more money. The price of everything would just go up.

    This is exactly the same scenario. The only difference is that in this case, the government is printing a special kind of money -- money that can only be used for one thing. It is no surprise when then price of that thing just goes up accordingly.

    Subsidies (i.e., cheap loans) increase demand. Increased demand causes the price to rise.


    * The US massively subsidizes education. The price of education rises far beyond the rate of inflation.

    * The US massively subsidizes housing. The price of housing rises far beyond the rate of education.

    * The US massively subsidizes health care. The price of health care rises far beyond the rate of inflation. (Except, of course, the kinds of health care -- like cosmetic surgery -- that do not typically get subsidized. Costs in these areas have plummeted.)

    I don't pretend to have an answer to this dilemma. The only really clear thing is that the laws of supply and demand aren't *statutory* laws, that can just be altered with a pen and a lot of hand-waving. They are fundamental natural laws, and well-intentioned attempts to manipulate markets (from student loans to price-control regimes) almost always trigger equal and opposite consequences.

    The real shame is that important issues like these are so easily demagogued. Even though the system is clearly broken, no politician in his right mind would ever propose changing it. "Look!" people would scream. "He hates education! And poor people!"

  • A disaster. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:42PM (#44587705)

    Anyone who's been exposed to universities at the faculty or administrative level, as an outsider, can see that the system is a nightmare of waste. I was brought on during a supposed hiring freeze to teach a non-essential course at a university in my area; I was taking over for a friend who was no longer free. By the end of that same semester they had begun major construction on campus. At about the same time one of the professors approached me about buying new computers for the class. It blew my mind that this guy was suggesting top of the line Mac Pros and an all new suite of software to replace what we had been using. What we already had was more than adequate and fairly current, and that's not to mention that the school already gave most, if not all students a Macbook of their own. T

    Money is no object at these universities. It reminds me of the healthcare system where the solution to every financial problem is to simply raise rates. They've got to have the latest and greatest of everything regardless of whether it provides any real value. Unfortunately, there's budgetary control is nonexistent; it's literally a free-for-all.

    If the university administration gets it in their heads to focus on athletics then you're really screwed. They'll hire some high profile individual, at massive expense, to bolster their athletic program. That entails further spending all with the goal of having one good year to get the university on the map. The hope there is obviously to attract more students, even if it comes at the expense of academic quality.

    The problem here also is that no one is identifying and addressing the problem. Americans are far too comfortable with getting into debt. So they'll take out these massive loans, and the money the parents "save" by not paying for school goes to spoiling the student with a shiny new car and generous housing. Most people seem to believe that the solution to the problem is to make getting loans even easier.

    The stat I heard several years ago is if the price of milk had risen at the same rate as college tuition we'd be paying $40 for a gallon. The economics are seriously screwed up but I see no evidence that the bubble is going to burst. The same school I taught at has seen a continued construction boom. I have no idea what's going on anymore, but new buildings are going up all over campus.

    But the really screwed up thing here is that they do nothing at all for the community they reside in. It's a giant money sink that skips right over the surrounding communities. Unfortunately, because these schools grease the right pockets they get to operate with impunity. It's those neighboring communities who suffer the consequences.

  • by JRHelgeson ( 576325 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @05:24PM (#44588223) Homepage Journal

    There was a day when a College education was affordable, and an enterprising student could work their way through college on a part time job. Then the government got involved providing federally guaranteed student loans. This enabled colleges to start raising tuition, because now students could finance their way through college. Today, any college that doesn't raise their tuition is simply leaving money on the table - they'd be fools not to raise rates. The horse has left the barn, and the race is on. There is no upper limit now to what colleges can charge for tuition because the loans are guaranteed.

    Now, the political side of this is that conservatives never wanted the government involved in the first place, because government involvement always distorts the market (which is exactly what has happened). Progressives called the conservatives heartless because they wanted to deny education to the poor and underprivileged. Somehow this argument always seems to work - we want life easier today and never think about the consequences. (Progressives and conservatives exist in both parties, don't let anyone fool you into thinking this is a democrat/republican thing.)

    Now we have the consequences: Tuition rates that are skyrocketing and it is now near impossible to go through college without taking on obscene levels of debt. Those who decried government involvement in the first place, would like to see government get out of the student loan business. The reaction is obvious: "You are anti-education! You are not for the poor and underprivileged!"

    And so here we are, the way to stop it is to collapse the 'Government-Educational-Complex' - shouldn't be hard. The actual value of a college education is rapidly approaching nil, yet people are paying more and more for it. Government is always happy to enslave you to the debt, because then you'll always vote for the party who promises keeping rates low and/or forgiving your student loan debt. If that isn't slavery, I don't know what is.

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.