Thursday, September 10, 2009

The high cost of high living

Now that the academic year is up and running -- in other words, the drop-add deadline is upon us -- the big-foot media have now turned their attention to some of the perennial questions in higher education.

No, no, no . . . not, "Can I get better weed on the North or South side of campus?" or "Where can I buy Adderall for exam period?" or "What was that guy/girl's name that went home with me last night?" Yes, yes. . . . those are important questions. But so are these . . .

Why does college continue to cost so damn much even as the economy remains shrink-wrapped?

Why do public colleges in the United States graduate the lowest percentage of their students of any university system in the West with the exception of Italy?

Why are so many students dropping out of American colleges and universities?

If you want to learn which colleges graduate their students at what rate, click here.

2 comments:

Stephen Meli said...

Ahh, back to the old socio-political commentary. I am sure you were anxiously awaiting my responses to your questions.

1) College costs so damn much because of the subsidized loans that allow every student to go to college. More kids are able to attend a university, which is surely the goal of the programs, but it means that the cost of going to college is not responsive to supply/demand like other services. Sure, you can go to college, you just have to go deep into debt. With more and more loans being granted, the universities can charge whatever they want because the students aren't actually paying it. If you got rid of the loans, less kids could afford to go to college and the cost of tuition would be forced to drop. But of course, this is politically untenable so tuition will continue to rise and baffle the political scientists.

2) Why do colleges graduate the lowest percentage of students in the West + so many students drop out? Because too many kids go to college. It is connected to the first issue I raised. Anyone can afford to go to college as long as they are willing to go deep into debt. Since our culture has dictated that you need a degree, even if it is a liberal arts one, people are forced into going to college when they would be more useful going to a trade school or directly into the workforce.

So we are faced with a choice. We can either continue to allow everyone to go to college via subsidized loans but also accept that tuition will rise. Or we can stop the loans, meaning less people will go to college but also that college will become more affordable and people will have less debt.

Jeremy said...

Stephen: We can either continue to allow everyone to go to college via subsidized loans but also accept that tuition will rise. Or we can stop the loans, meaning less people will go to college but also that college will become more affordable and people will have less debt.

If you go with the second, college admittance and tuition will cycle into high periods and low periods as people who wouldn't have been able to afford college at the high end of the cycle will go at the low end... and then it will go around and around.

We need a change in mindset. Not everyone SHOULD go to college, and not everyone who goes to college should go to a private school.

Private schools should be for the very rich and the cream of the crop. Public schools should be for everyone else. Some people should realize that they are meant for a trade and go to a corresponding trade school.