New report examines reasons people bankrupt to pay for college
Why is university so expensive and why do people keep paying for it? These are two questions addressed in a new report that sound the alarm bells for the future of higher education in America.
The average cost of a college education, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled since 1980, leaving many young people wondering how they are going to afford it.
In 2018, students graduated with an average non-repayable student loan debt of $ 35,000. Many take up to 20 years to pay it off.
Neetu Arnold, researcher for the National Association of Researchers, has some answers on how this happened. She wrote a white paper titled “Priced Out” to explain why the cost of a college education has skyrocketed over the years.
The rise in college prices has several causes, according to the report released in February. The main ones include consumer demands on universities, federal accreditation and regulations, and university ranking systems.
Pay for the university experience
Many universities provide special and expensive equipment for students. They do this because prospective students consider a lot more than academics and finances when choosing a college. Students also enjoy the social activities, location, and the overall “college experience”.
Louisiana State University provided its students with a near $ 85 million “lazy river” water park while “Temple University’s Morgan Hall has a flat-screen TV in every room,” according to the report. Simmons Hall at MIT has a bullet pit.
“Schools can invest in student life / residential services, remedial services or fun activities like ziplines to entertain struggling students or just there for the experience. This, of course, contributes to the rising costs, ”said Arnold. The college fix in an email.
“Administrators seem to think that students consider a simple combination of bed, desk, and washing machine in the basement to be infra-dig. Colleges are prepared to meet these expectations – and charge students accordingly, ”the report says.
College cafeterias have also gotten more lavish in recent years. Many offer foods from around the world with options for those on a vegan or keto diet. At Cornell, the chefs cook right in front of the students.
“These types of accommodations appeal to picky eaters and parents who fear their children won’t get the right food. Better quality food generally attracts students – and makes money for colleges, which pass the bill on to their students. Commission rates at 4-year universities increased by 60% between 1986 and 2018, ”the report says.
Pay regulations and position
Federal regulations, which colleges must follow to receive federal funding, place a heavy burden on universities, according to the report.
Many universities offer compliance offers, which have high salaries. The Associate Vice Chancellor of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has a salary of $ 175,000 per year, for example, while the Director of Compliance Services and Chief Privacy Officer at the University of Vermont has a salary of $ 145,656.
University ranking systems also play a role in increasing college tuition fees. Many parents and students decide where to go to school based on their place in US News and World Reportranking. Many schools base their tuition fees on their position on the list, the report says.
Schools even manipulate their ranking by encouraging “unqualified students to apply in order to reject them,” the report says. This lowers the school’s acceptance rate and allows administrators to boast fierce competition for entry.
Schools are going so far as to send flyers and emails to “students they almost never admit” to increase their rejection rates in order to increase their selectivity, the report said.
Why do students always attend
Despite the high financial costs, many students feel great parental and social pressure to attend expensive colleges. “They tend to see college more as an insurance policy than an investment, a way to avoid perpetual unemployment or ‘flipping the burgers to McDonald’s’ – the proverbial dead end job,” the report said.
Arnold’s interviews with students as part of the research for the report produced a cornucopia of messages that young students are receiving about colleges. Some go to university because they “want to be somebody”, as one interviewee put it. Others leave because they believe that without a college degree they might not be married, as another interviewee said.
Many parents see college as a rite of passage. They fear what will happen to their children without it. Many students say these concerns “indeed become the deciding factor in deciding whether or not to attend college,” the report says.
There has also been a broader cultural shift at the K-12 level.
“In 1980, less than half of teachers and guidance counselors recommended top performing students to apply to college. In 1990, more than half encouraged lower performing students to apply, ”the report says.
No incentive to cut costs
Why did this broader shift to university happen?
“There is this push for everyone to go to college, regardless of interest in higher education and their abilities. It doesn’t help that more and more job opportunities are tied to a 4-year degree (regardless of whether the job actually uses material learned in higher education). I think that’s why so many students and parents think college is the safest way, ”said Arnold The college fix.
Many students don’t realize the weight of their student loans when they decide to go to college.
Arnold learned According to student interviews, many are “more optimistic about their ability to repay their loans and their job prospects until they are responsible.”
She said The college fix that universities “have no incentive to cut costs” because students can take out federally subsidized loans. And these loans make expensive colleges seem more affordable right off the bat.
Working in a faulty system
Arnold urges prospective students to consider the costs of what they are about to undertake.
“Students should have a sense of their ability to pay, their strengths and interests before applying to schools. Large-scale change will require a change in K-12 guidance advice and parenting advice to reflect these needs, ”she said. The college fix.
“I have discussed what students and parents can do to avoid debt, but the suggestions I give are helping families work through a broken system,” she says.
Arnold supports alternatives to college, although she knows it isn’t always possible.
“Some people still need a higher education. But some people just need work experience and others need a combination of the two. And we need to do a better job of meeting the needs of citizens with diverse interests and talents, ”she said.
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