American private universities use poor kids' tuition to subsidize rich kids' degrees

In The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann does a very good job of summing up the New America Foundation's important new report, Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind [PDF], by Stephen Burd. The report documents how private universities in America have raised the cost of tuition to incredible heights, and reserve their "merit scholarships" (paid for with government grants) for wealthy students whose parents can pay the rest in cash, while poor students have to take out punishing loans, effectively subsidizing the rich students' education and career opportunities.

Sometimes, colleges (and states) really are just competing to outbid each other on star students. But there are also economic incentives at play, particularly for small, endowment-poor institutions. "After all," Burd writes, "it's more profitable for schools to provide four scholarships of $5,000 each to induce affluent students who will be able to pay the balance than it is to provide a single $20,000 grant to one low-income student." The study notes that, according to the Department of Education's most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad's bank account.

There's nothing inherently wrong with handing out tuition breaks to the middle class, or even the rich. The problem is that it seems to be happening at the expense of the poor. At 89 percent of the 479 private colleges Burd examined, students from families earning less than $30,000 a year were charged an average "net price" of more than $10,000 annually -- "net price" being the full annual cost of attendance minus all institutional and government aid. Less technically, it's what students can actually expect to pay. At 60 percent of private colleges, that net price was more than $15,000.

In other words, low-income families are routinely being asked to fork over more than half of their annual income for the privilege of sending their child off to campus for a year.

How Colleges Are Selling Out the Poor to Court the Rich


    1. Isn’t this how the health care system works ?
      I thought you people enjoyed that sort of thing…

  1. The scandal of this isn’t that it’s new that the poor are screwed in favor of the rich. It’s that these same institutions tend to portray themselves as bastions of social progressiveness, which often includes, in the classroom and in all sorts of other activities, a rhetoric of class equality.  The political giving of such staff and faculty often also highly reflects supposedly progressive values.  Meanwhile, progressive rhetoric is belied by corporate ethos of behavior, funded by taxpayer dollars.  

    1. Please separate the actions of professors from administrators, who are the real brains behind the operation. Professors are just along for the ride when it comes to the increasing MBAficiation of higher ed. 

      1.  If faculty wanted change, they could get it.   And you can’t separate the actions, as the professors are directly benefiting from this situation. 

        1. I’m going to restrain the rude response I want to give and explain the situation. Most faculty are adjuncts these days; another large chunk is composed of full-time non-tenure track people. And then you have people who are tenure-track who aren’t yet tenured. None of these people have much power.

          Then you have tenured faculty. They can speak up. And some do. Many of them are complacent. In part because they’re older, tired, over-worked. Quite a few just don’t give a shit, because the “liberal professoriate” is something of a myth when it comes to labor issues.

          AND the changes in public higher education funding have come prancing hand-in-hand with an increase in administration. These administrators are political creatures, and most of the ones at higher levels are implicated in the creeping “MBA-ification” someone else has mentioned. A better way to say that is that the governing philosophy and reality of universities these days is informed by the (literally) bankrupt capitalism-solves-all notions of the ’80s. Believe me, people espousing that crap do not give shit one about what their underlings/flunkies have to say.

          I’m not going to bother with the next paragraph on the state and federal levels. It’s the same shit all the way up.

          1. Laying the blame of higher tuition costs at the foot of capitalism-solves-all completely misses the root cause of higher tuition. 

            Since the US Federal Government got into loaning any student money for college, tuition has increased 3x faster than the rate of inflation. 

            Remember what happened when the government eased regulations with Glass-Steagal and encouraged the Fed to lower rates and encouraged lending institutions to seek our poor credit candidates through government backed programs (think of fannie mae and freddie mac – both of which started as govt entities and still carried the pseudo-govt org nature…still getting bailed out by the govt to this day). 

            Think of the seen/unseen costs medicare/medicaid/obamacare as well as the influence government has had in maintaining the status quo / power structure in the healthcare industry. 

            Let me circle this back around.  IF the government hadn’t started subsidizing college education 30 odd years ago do you think we’d would have seen education costs increase at 3x the rate of inflation? 
            Could these institutions take federal money and subsidize rich kids educations at the expense of the poor? 

            Much of what ails the United States in many sectors has to do with Government sleeping with select powerful private sector companies.  Think of it as Fascism as opposed to Capitalism.  Because that’s what it is. 

          2. Higher education stopped being about education many decades ago. If we wanted to fix the problem, we’d cut away student debt as a concept and give everyone the first 4 years of university/equivalent for free, at the cost of the tax payer.

            Right now, I’m shocked that high schools are still paid for by the taxpayer. Wonder how much longer we have with that. It seems like large segments of the populace (See: Republicans and, in my state, Rick Perry) wishes to destroy free education and put us back into pre-labor-revolution America.

          3. @Christopher Houser  

            education stopped being about education many decades ago. If we wanted to fix
            the problem, we’d cut away student debt as a concept and give everyone the
            first 4 years of university/equivalent for free, at the cost of the tax payer.” 

            would giving away college education solve our problems right now?  Please note the misuse of the word free.  Technically you are forcibly taking away
            money from one group to give it to another. 
            This is known as Legal Plunder (theft). 
            This simply transfers the cost of education to those with jobs paying
            taxes – they are already burdened quite heavily as it is.  Why do you supposed they should pay for the
            education of others?   


            now, I’m shocked that high schools are still paid for by the taxpayer.
            Wonder how much longer we have with that. It seems like large segments of the
            populace (See: Republicans and, in my state, Rick Perry) wishes to destroy free
            education and put us back into pre-labor-revolution America.”

            on earth are you shocked that public schools still exist?  The massive power and influence held by the
            teachers unions in America will ensure public K-12 schools endure for many
            years.  You live in Texas but don’t take
            that for the population of America as a whole. 
            Please note that changing/dismantling/reorganizing public education does
            not result in “pre-labor-revolution America”. 
            That is a logical fallacy and a strawman argument.  No parent wants to go backwards in time when
            we have the technology today to make education fast, responsive, affordable,
            effective and FUN.   With tablets, cheap laptops, fast broadband
            popping up everywhere the ability to share information and teach is expanding
            faster than would be possible with traditional K-12 public education.  Public schools are slow to adapt because they
            have no competition. If schools were all privatized and we simply passed out
            vouchers then schools would have to compete for voucher money.  Those with good programs would excel and
            receive all the funding they needed. 
            Those schools that doddle around will have to follow the successful
            schools or get left behind.

            Free Markets work quite well at providing all manner of services and goods
            without government involvement, coercion, or manipulation.  If we simply get government out of schooling
            and allow markets (which really means individual people) to make choices we’ll
            see rapid changes and improvements in education.  Paraphrasing Governor Gary Johnson “50 Laboratories
            of Innovation are needed” to resolve our education problem.  No more top down approach with D.C. bureaucrats
            dictating the education curriculum of America. 
            With these 50 laboratories of innovation we’ll quickly find the best
            models for the next generation of education. 
            However many still cling to the status quo and education standards of
            the 20th century and fear if we abandon those methods we’ll somehow
            fall back into the 18th or 19th century ways…BLECH.    

  2. I see it totally in reverse. I saved from the day we knew we were having a child. I scarified and saved and now that she is 18, I have enough saved to pay for four years at her very selective, top 50, research based private college. Tuition/Room/Board is $60,000 a year. When we were going through the college application process, her counselor asked how much we would be able to pay. I told her I had saved over $250k in her college account. She told me we should not even bother filling out the financial aid form as we didn’t need it. When I spoke to the college, they gave me the bad news. We were expected to pay the entire retail price. Had I not scrimped and done without, I would have been able to get something off list. When I think back on how many people I watched over the past 18 years blowing their money on cars, homes, vacations, etc. who now qualify for discounts, I have to tell you, I feel like an absolute chump. There is no way I would allow her to go into debt of a quarter million dollars for a degree in classical music. However, I made a promise that she could go to the best school she could get into and I will keep my word. College used to be a spartan experience. Adequate housing. You made your own fun. No retail malls or world class work out facilities. I’ll bet Harvard could fill its freshman class ten times if they went back to that system and lowered the price. 

    1.  Absolutely.  My brother faced the same issue with his kids: since he saved money he was expected to pay more tuition despite earning FAR less than the people receiving massive student aid.  They look at liquid assets rather than earnings.  Someone with a million dollar house earning $200,000 a year but with no savings will get more aid than someone with a modest house earning $50,000 a year and $200,000 in savings.

    2. Well aren’t you special.  Unfortunately, my sister wasn’t able to save and “scarify” from day one. She has the kind of job that, a generation ago, would have been a good union job with a middle-class paycheck. Today the same job pays barely above the poverty line, in an at-will state. Her husband luckily works for local government, but he never finished high school, and won’t ever rise into management.

      Their daughter, my niece, decided attending a private university was a great idea. She will graduate with almost a quarter-million dollars of debt. I tried suggesting this was a bad idea, but she likes her school.

      Learning that she is paying full retail price, with almost 100% loan money, so that a well-connected kid can get a scholarship makes me very angry. But you have a right to see it totally in reverse, whatever that means.

      1. Pardon my misspelling, asshole. I am legally blind in both eyes and have a problem seeing. I am pretty sure I spelled “asshole” correctly. 

        If you are referring to my daughter as well connected and getting a scholarship, you obviously didn’t read my message. We are not getting a dime. I saved the money by giving up things most people didn’t. I still have the same car we had when she was in kindergarden. I also saw the market crash of ’08 coming and got out. I then had the guts to get back in after ’09. You don’t have to be well connected to be able to see the obvious. Oh, by the way, nothing is stopping you from helping your niece financially except you. 

      2. I see they removed my previous post which said I am legally blind and in spite of using the largest font available on a 27″ screen, I sometimes cannot catch typos. It also referred to you with a word that started with A and ended with E and which was spelled perfectly. 

    3. There are public universities in the top 50 that your daughter could attend–upon her graduation, you’d have most of your money left over. Much more bang for your buck.

      1. None of those schools are in our state and out of state tuition, while not that much still runs in the high 40’s for out of state students. 

    4. I suffered something similar.  My parents had a pretty decent income.  As a result, they were basically told to GTFO when it came time to look at financial aid.  

      The catch was that my parents were not actually willing to pay.  I paid, they co-signed.  I did get some merit based scholarships, but only enough to make a dent.  I walked out of college with a cool $120,000 of debt at 8.5% interest.  

      That.  Freaking.  Hurts.  I needed to basically throw $10,000 at year at my loans just to pay the interest, to say nothing of making a dent in principle.  Thankfully, I am a minimalist by nature and an engineer by trade, so it was within my capacity to eat that kind of financial hit.  I have almost killed off my loans, but holy shit, I have no idea how someone walking out with the sociology degree survives that kind of financial pummeling.

      I got into manic laughter every time my university calls begging for donations.  I calmly explain that I blew well over 150k on that stupid piece of paper already, and they can go play a rousing game of hide and go fuck themselves.  The universe will experience heat death before they get a single uncoerced cent from me.

      Honestly, I don’t have an answer.  The cost is just too damned high.  The State sure as shit can’t afford to pay it.  Parents are not going to be able to pay it.  Students sure as shit won’t be able to pay it.  The fact that that piece of paper is a prerequisite to get any job more complex than flipping a burger, even when clearly no university degree is actually needed for a job, means that students and parents will continue sell their souls to get that piece of paper.

      1. Part of the problem is that there is more demand for colleges and universities. Basically, it means that the schools can charge whatever the market can bear.

        Frankly, rather than being told that college is the best route, it’s time to realize that carpenters, welders, plumbers and electricians are needed along with engineers and architects. I know someone right now that is looking for an automotive mechanic and having a hard time filling the position.

        I graduated high school in 197x and my parents told me that there was no money for college, and advised me to join the military. I did. When I got out I took some courses in computer science. I have a 2 year degree from a community college. Maybe it isn’t as valuable as a master’s degree. but I raised 3 kids and while money’s always been a little tight I’ve been happy.

        The point is that in the US and Canada there is an over-abundance of doctors, lawyers and engineers. Many are finding themselves flipping burgers to try and pay off a huge student loan because there are too many of them for the available jobs, meanwhile the working class is dwindling.

        Any kids in high school now should be advised to learn a trade. Figure out what you’re good at and find a trade school or apprentice program. Thirty years ago I wish that the love I have for carpentry now had been more apparent then.

        1. They outsource plumbing to India when your drain is clogged up. I have three nephews who are carpenters and all three make more than most kids I know who went to college. 

        2. How is it that so many people are baffled rising
          costs of college tuition and increased demand for college education?  The answer is really quite simple; Supply Side
          Subsidy via government backed student loans. 
          Supply side subsidies always cause a rise in demand.  The producers can’t suddenly spawn more
          colleges so supply is held constant (at first).   

          Constant Supply + Increased demand = Higher Price.  

          A great article on the costs of education:

          On a side note: please cite your
          evidence for an “over-abundance of doctors, lawyers and engineers”.
           You can never have too many Lawyers.  >_<     What kind of engineers are in
          Last time I checked doctors were in high demand – in fact we might face a shortage
          of doctors in the near term… again the government subsidy will be the driver
          for increased demand due to lower cost of access to the individual.  Expect higher prices in healthcare for years
          to come.  Maybe we’ll start seeing
          Government Backed Healthcare Loans to pay off excessive medical bills??  (  


        3.  Your facts are myth, every year the gov’t provides over 100k work visas for foreign engineers to come here and work, the problem is we are raising a generation of stupid who do not want to put in the work.  I saw it in my EE classes over 70% were from foreign countries and they went back right after graduation, when I asked why they told me they could live like kings and have a steady job the rest of their lives back home, they stated this country pay SHIAT!  I would agree we have no problem paying sports stars millions but someone who actually advances society gets peanuts!

      2. I hear you. I went to a third rate, state directional school on a poor kids grant. I lived at home (commuter) and my entire four year degree cost <$3000. I have paid that back five times over the years. I don't mind helping people who need help. However, I object to paying for the kids of people who have engaged in profligate lifestyles and then want a handout. 

        1. Ironically the article is objecting to the same thing: handouts to kids of people with profligate lifestyles. It just doesn’t make your assumption that those are the poor.

    5.  Man, there are some really fantastic universities out there that cost far less than sixty grand a year. Maybe let your daughter look at the financials of it and decide? Like, “go to expensive university A, and that’s it” or “go to other awesome university, but also buy a house” or “go to moderately expensive university, have option to study and travel abroad”?

    6.  Financial aid almost always and exclusively consists of loans.  You would not have actually been able to get something “off list.”  You’d be paying the retail amount plus interest on the loans.  It would end up being millions of dollars that follow your daughter around for the rest of her life.  That is exactly what the OP is saying and it is true.

      You also have no call for being pissed off at Boundegar for pointing out that you are actually quite lucky to be in the position of being able to save up hundreds of thousands of dollars before-hand — most USians (literally a majority) cannot do this.  If they want to go to expensive universities they do have to take financial aid loans at pretty nasty interest rates and work for decades if not their entire lives to pay off those loans.

      1. I think you are being charitable to his description. He insulted me, twice. I agree most people cannot save $250k. My point, one he and you missed is that many people who are getting discounts off list price can save it and choose to blow it and then ask for aid. I have no problem helping those who can’t, just like I was helped when we didn’t have any money. I also hope they pay it back like I did. 

      2. You can’t fool a member of the Anti-Profligacy League. They know that people with less money are just welfare queens at heart.

    7. You know, even if your Twitter feed wasn’t one long rant of self-righteous conservative Obama-hate, no one would believe your BS. You saved $250K without talking to a single financial guy about strategy? Yah, right.

      1. Did I say I didn’t have a financial advisor, or did you make that up? I said I gave up things others have like new cars, vacations, etc. I made a good salary while I was working. I saved it instead of blowing it and then pleading the poor mouth like so many others. If you want to bet I saved the money, I will take it. Name your bet. 

  3. Depends EXTREMELY heavily on the particular school, of course. My alma mater does financials-blind admissions — if you can get in, they’ll charge you everything you can afford but they’ll also do whatever’s necessary to make sure you CAN afford it. The rich subsidize the poor, NOT the other way around. (Actually, it’s more a matter of donors subsidizing the students; the endowment fund survived the market turmoil pretty well.)

    The problem isn’t new, but it is far from universal.

  4. When they say ‘despite scoring under 700 on the SAT’ do they actually mean ‘reading’+’math’ combined? Srsly? The mean on that number has hovered just over 1000 for years. ‘Under 700’ is “are you a root vegetable on your mother or your father’s side?” territory. Please tell me that isn’t what it means…

    1. I can’t imagine that’s what is meant. The SAT has 3 sections now, so the mean is really around 1500, not 1000. And I think the scale starts at 200 for each section. So 700 is not so far off from your root vegetable statement.

  5. There has definitely been an absurd increase in the cost of college tuition – it’s nearly double at my alma mater since I got my degree eleven years ago – but not all private colleges and universities are hosing the poor.  The ones that have the money to do so are need-blind, and my alma mater has gone to all-grant financial aid.  The problem is the private universities that don’t have the big name cachet of Harvard or Yale or what have you don’t have the endowment to do that and are stuck in a no-man’s-land between state schools and their big-named brethren.  They’re hosed financially and starting to die out.

    Flyoverland, it’s not just the add-ons that have made college expensive – health-care and insurance costs have gone way up.  Also, my parents were private school teachers; education was always priority one for us, and there’s no way they could have saved 250K even before the divorce.  (Or the 130K it was back then.) Trust me, there were no vacations or fancy cars in our family.  Not everyone who gets loans is cheating the system.

    Fun facts on Harvard – it admitted 6% of its applicants last year and has a big enough endowment that they could offer free tuition to every student with no trouble.  It’s the biggest dog in the yard.  I’d be shocked if any of the Ivies are doing this, and the same for the NESCAC schools.

    1. I am sure my daughter, who had a very high ACT and high GPA from a very prestigious prep school could have received a scholarship if she would have settled for a lower ranked school. However, when you are competing for a spot at the really top schools, she was competing with the absolute creme of the crop and being in the top 5% of ACT scores there didn’t count. You had to be int he top 1 or 2% to get money. So, we get to pay for her to get the degree from the better school. 

      1. Some of the top tier schools don’t offer merit-based scholarships as a rule – my alma mater didn’t, no matter how good my scores and grades were.  (They wouldn’t have been in the top 1 or 2% either, though.)

        I agree that you’re getting killed on tuition and that the increase has been absurd, but you are giving your daughter a loan-free education… and that is an incredible gift to give a child.  Those people who didn’t save their money are effectively tying those vacations and cars around their children’s necks, and given their spending habits, that’s probably not the best combo.

  6. Giving out three $5,000 grants instead of one $15,000 grant isn’t just “more profitable,” it’s “more possible.”  The summary at least doesn’t seem an indictment of the system in terms of favoring the rich, it seems to favor people being able to pay at least some tuition which any school that isn’t 100% endowed would need, simply to be able to pay bills.

    Now, the tuition arms race due to freely available student loans … that’s another issue entirely.  To me a top tier private university is a luxury and shouldn’t be funded by federally guaranteed student loans to the tune of $240,000.  That’s ridiculous.

  7. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with handing out tuition breaks to the middle class, or even the rich.” 

    But there is something inherently wrong with it, and almost every commenter has pointed out several good reasons why. But the best reason is that taxpayers, rich and poor, end up footing the bill for someone else to get something for nothing. The value of college has been diminished, even cheapened, while the cost has been inflated, precisely because of education subsidies and guaranteed student loans (actually terms of indentured servitude). Getting more students has become paramount, such that standards have been lowered until incoming freshmen are being offered remedial courses because they don’t even have the proper skills for college when they get there. So basically, after 12 years of public, tax funded school, more good money is thrown after bad to make sure the money keeps rolling into the subsidized education bubble. At what point will we all step back and reevaluate this paradigm? It’s coming sooner than you think, because the more employers hire college credentialed applicants who cannot produce as advertised,  the more those who forgo college for their own path will become interesting to those employers. 

    1. I think you hit the reason why as parents we want our kids to get into schools where that isn’t the case, just by the sheer weight of high scoring applicants. My girl’s school claimed to get 30,000 applications and they were only taking 1,500 kids. No one will get in with an ACT score of under 29. I read a story that said their school’s sports were so bad because they couldn’t find athletes with high enough scores to stay in school. Getting into a top school should ensure that employers will be able to at least expect they will not have to worry about a graduate who cannot conjugate a verb. I don’t like having to pay when others are gaming the system. But, I also don’t like wasting money. Some of the average schools, like the one I attended 40 years ago are so dumbed down that you are better off just putting the money in the bank. Even at these interest rates. 

    2. Good money after bad? You consider giving our kids a basic high school education a waste of money? Maybe America would be a better nation if illiteracy was higher?

      1. You misunderstand. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. If a kid goes through high school and still needs remedial courses to go to college, something went wrong. I don’t mean to imply that educating the kids is a waste, but rather, if they have gone through school and are still uneducated, how did we do them any service by that? It wasn’t wasted on the kid, but on the institution. The kid’s time was very much wasted in that instance.

        1. No you were quite clear.  Boundegar’s argument was based on logical fallacy.  Perhaps Boundegar’s strawman argument provides further evidence of the failure of public K-12 schooling.  Or it’s simply because humans often use logical fallacies to support their case.  It’s easy to do. 

      2. You consider giving our kids a basic high school education a waste of money? 

        I can’t speak for Mr Arington, but I would consider it a waste of money if schools are turning out a bunch of subliterates without even basic life skills, who then require remedial English just to get through their freshman year of college.

  8. TBH I think it is more complex than that. For instance, I was not paid for by my parents and had, let’s just say, strained relations with them. On paper they made money. I lived below the poverty level, and really became a bit mean in order to get through. However, I was determined to get a degree. I could not get financial aid, so my only chance was to get merit scholarships to take some of the sting off. I actually managed to graduate from undergrad debt free (though I ended up taking on debt for grad school). It did, honestly, make me angry and resentful that I was on my own up against kids whose parents were capable of paying their way AND willing to fill out the forms and basically hand-hold them. But bitterness doesn’t get results. I graduated with a 3.96 and no debt. I’m not saying everyone can do this. I’m not denying that rich kids with nice parents have a huge advantage and poorer kids or kids with parents who do things like save money for their children’s college funds don’t start out way closer to that finish line than others… but to me it is less of a racket specifically as just another piece of the privilege cake. I’m pretty sure if you are rich the cake is not a lie.

  9. $15,000? I wish I could send my son to a good school for $15,000. He got into his dream school, a school he applied to on a lark because he never thought he would be accepted. He wants to be an engineer, and it’s a GREAT school for engineering. It’s over 50K a year. I don’t know how much more because the numbers changed with every communication. Ultimately, they offered him $16,000 in scholarship, said we needed to pay $10,000 a year and he would have to take out $43,000 a year in loans. And it’s a 5 year program. He’s not going. He’s not happy about it, but he understands how foolhardy it would be to graduate with a quarter million dollars in debt.  Our kids are going to be returning home because they won’t be able to afford rent much less a mortgage. They will never be able to get out from under the debt they’re accruing. And it’s such a scam. I taught college; I currently teach community college. 80% of the teachers in college now are adjunct ,which is a step above share cropping on a plantation.  We are paid an average of $2200 a course (I’m below the average), limited to teaching 4 classes a semester—do the math. And the pay is the same for someone with a PhD or a bachelor’s. I don’t know where all that tuition money is going, but I promise you, very little is going to actually educate your kids.

  10. I read the article. The glossed-over point is this: Schools give financial aid to students that they think will be in a better position to provide endowments to the school later. These endowments will help give students more financial aid in the future. The author even acknowledges that the non-profit schools that do this the most are ones with small endowments! 

    So, the author is mad that non-profit universities are making long-term plans to maximize financial aid, rather than maximizing short-term financial aid.

    Needless to say, I was unmoved.

    It didn’t help that the author was comparing the *total cost* of low-income family students against the *financial aid* received by merit-based students. And that he or she explicitly just stated that merit-based financial aid was bad without a shred of justification. Dishonest debating is bad, because it tends to lead unwary observers to false conclusions. (See, I just provided a justification for my statement. Was that so hard?)

    I’m more than a little disappointed that with all the problems in higher education, BoingBoing chose to highlight this article.

    1.  You are also making  dishonest argument by eliding the point that is actually being argued: that those with the least need for financial aid tend to get more of it than those with the greatest need.  This is, in fact, the justification for the “merit-based” complaint.

      1. That argument is not supported by the article. The only argument that is supported is that both the people who need it the most and people who don’t need it as much get financial aid. If I have misread, please point out where.

  11. My kid is a rich kid, and we are not getting any discounts  ($35K plus for 3 classes a quarter, not including room and board or books).  Most people should shut up and mind there own business.

  12. If I understand the system correctly, salaried people (nothing wrong with that, by the way) get into debt to acquire the skills needed to make their employer’s richer.

    Sounds like a plan to me. 

    A strong reminder to vote accordingly next fall,  when the bright “let’s privatize everything“ crowd, who wants to dismantle our school system,  tries so score yet again.

  13. I’m surprised applying market forces to the development of critical human knowledge hasn’t led to the enlightened utopia I’d imagined. It worked well enough for sexual relations, and health care.

    1. Market forces are always applied.  You can’t stop them.  What we witnessed was the following:   Government Guaranteed Student Loans.  Demand increased (demand curve shifted right).  Supply was held constant.  Prices increased.  As prices increased so did revenue and profit.  This garnered new entry into the education supply market (Univ. of Phoenix et al), increasing the size of existing college institutions to increase admittance rates, higher salaries for admins etc. 

      Isn’t that the Utopia you had imagined?  More people with more access to more institutions of higher learning? 

      1. I was being ironic, starting from the Nordic premise that education should be universal and free at the point of delivery like health care, police, fire service, etc. I imagine you were too:-) In the last year or so in the UK, the burden of higher education was shifted to individuals, so only very wealthy kids will now go to university. We’ve got an economy built on banking and McDonalds. The banks spent all our money on scams, so there’s little left to waste on edumacated burger flipping peasants. 

  14. Tough luck, kids. I guess your parents just don´t have enough money to catch a break, probably because they don´t love you. You´re free to try the rags to riches way, I heard that works great.

  15. My thoughts…

    1) Let’s kill — once and for all — the ludicrous and destructive college “ratings” concept that causes institutions to focus on “competing for students” rather than giving them challenging, intellect-expanding educations.  Mind over money is obviously more sensible than the opposite.

    2) A lot of the uh…so-called…”elite” schools are anything but. We’ve got several of them here in the Boston Area…the most ridiculous of which is the snobby, self-praising, academically vapid enclave up on Chestnut Hill. Just watch their alums get their knickers in a wad over this comment. It’s all about the alumni network up there. Laughable….but it keeps enrollment up and tuition soaring. That school is the poster child for much of what has gone wrong with Americas attitudes toward college.

    3) A few states have got it right: their public university systems get the support and funding they need to be truly excellent institutions.  California, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina…hat’s off to you.  Others…such as University of Massachusetts Amherst — manage to keep the academic standards quite high and offer a great overall college experience despite chronic underfunding from a state legislature dominated by private college partisans. (And NO…I’m not referring to Harvard or MIT…both of which have been great partners and supporters of the state’s public flagship.)

    …Ok…off the soapbox for me. Thank you for your time…


    1. A friend of mine back in the 70s said, “Harvard undergrad? It’s about sherry hour, not academics.”

  16. It’s not rich vs. poor. It’s responsible vs. irresponsible. Way back in the Sixties when there really was financial aid, I managed to save money from summer earnings and serious frugality to the point where I lost a “need-based” scholarship my senior year. Meanwhile kids who blew their money on booze were “needy.”

    But people who behave responsibly tend to get richer than those who don’t. So an awful lot of the rhetoric about the 99% vs. the 1% ends up supporting the irresponsible. You may deny that’s what you intend, but that’s what happens.

    And it’s perfectly fair to count all costs in tallying up the cost of college. Because kids who don’t go to college will save tons of money by not eating or sleeping indoors.

    1. Are you claiming literally 99% of the country is “irresponsible”?

      You’re committing something called the “just world fallacy”, assuming that people get whatever they deserve.  It’s not actually true.  Sure, there are a lot of irresponsible people in the 99% but I doubt they’re even a majority.  On the other hand it’s pretty fucking obvious from some events a few years ago that plenty of people in the 1% are also irresponsible and just happen to be able to pay accountants to make sure their irresponsibility doesn’t affect them financially (though apparently it affects the rest of us).

      You use your anecdotal evidence from the 60’s to support your contention.  It doesn’t actually support your contention but even if it did it should be relatively simple for such a smart, educated, responsible person as yourself to compare the increases in university education costs to the corresponding increase in the CPI.  Go ahead and take a look.  “Paying for college” means something entirely different in the 21st century than it did back when you were working it off with a summer job.  “Serious frugality” isn’t enough.

      So an awful lot of the rhetoric about the 99% vs. the 1% ends up supporting the irresponsible. You may deny that’s what you intend, but that’s what happens.

      Saying so is not an argument. Reality is more complicated than the little fantasy world you’ve constructed in your head. Some of us try to deal with that complexity instead of hiding from it. Not your bag, I understand, but if that’s the case then please duck out of the conversation gracefully and let the grownups talk.

  17. We are in a massive education bubble fueled in part by our cultural and historical attachment to education as advancement.  As a result we end up with massively indebted people who must become utterly beholden to the first job they can find – exactly the way to stifle all forms of economic innovation.

    And yet, economies are changing so rapidly it is hard to predict with any accuracy what a job will look like ten years from now, nevermind 30.  I have an MA, which was hard-earned, and ten years later I consider about 75% of my post-secondary education to have been a waste of time, pointless hoop jumping credentialism.  And I actually got top grades in a good school – just because I was good at it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a silly game.

    When my kids reach college age I am really hoping there are (or I can create) alternatives that might actually help them creates something for themselves other than a mass-produced degree and a massive debt load.

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