Okay, so my husband and I bought those fancy, overpriced pillows from Brookstone.
We've looked at them for months. We've coveted them. We bought them. That part is over. It's done. I'm not going to rehash the angst of that decision. And yet I think, were William Carlos Williams still with us, he might write a poem about what it is like, to sleep on those beautiful cool-gel pillows.
BUT, while we were checking out, the two Brookstone sales guys were very talkative. One of them had set up these great new $2,000 massaging chairs for us. They had two of these chairs going, and my hubby and I sat in them for a good ten minutes. I felt decadent, and a little embarrassed, but damn, those chairs! So anyway, when we were checking out, I made the comment that the chairs.....WOW they were great, the way they massage your feet and back, but $69 dollars a month? For three years? No. Not so much. The two pillows (buy one get one for half off-----what a bargain!) were enough decadence for this year for us!
So, what I want to write about is the two Brookstone clerks. Because what I said, was, "When I was your age, I would have bought the chairs. That was before we had real bills to pay!" (My hubby and I were both driving clunkers for much of our 20s, and what student loans we had, which were small, were around $100 per month. We lived in an apartment and had few expenses for a while, pre-kid and house.) This elicited a response from the very helpful Brookstone sales guys.
They had bills. Oh boy, did they already have bills. Tom, the kid checking us out, who looked about 22 years old, said: "I go to a public U right here in-state. I have not finished yet....it's taking me a 5th year. So far I have $87,000 dollars in student loans." Andy, the other clerk, nodded in understanding, and told hubby and me that he and his fiancé would likely never be able to afford a house, as both of them already had student loan debt amounting to more than most houses they would not mind living in.
What the hell is going on? I mean, really. What the FUCK? I teach at a community college. I will not allow my kids to incur that kind of debt, so they are going to a community college for two years, and then they are using what small amount we have saved for them. I won't let them graduate with a bachelor's with more than $25,000 debt. For some reason, that is my cutoff.
But what I am wondering is.....is it even worth it? What the hell are the admin folks doing raising costs like this? Is college really so much MORE VALUABLE now than when I was in school? Because it was a hell of a lot less costly back in my day, and inflation definitely does NOT explain the increase in costs? From what I see, from where I sit as a prof, and from what I read here, it seems like things are going downhill fast. And yet, costs are going uphill. What is going to happen to nice kids like the clerks at Brookstone, with their six figure public U basic bachelor degrees?
This is why:ReplyDelete
I'm not sure why, though I suspect that non-tuition expenses make up a significant part of the total (moral: live at home, if at all possible, for all four years, and avoid state schools with high student activity fees -- otherwise known as state schools with significant sports programs). But I'm with you: borrowing the equivalent of a mid-size car to go to college seems reasonable (you can pay back the debt by driving clunkers until you're 40, or doing without entirely for a while if you live in an urban area); borrowing the equivalent of a house*, strikes me as crazy, or at least A Very Bad Idea.ReplyDelete
*the equivalent of a house varies a lot by geographical area; in my neck of the woods, you're lucky to get a condo for <$200,000. Of course, that means that students with dreams of moving to the/a big city (or within 50 miles of many big cities) need to be especially careful to avoid the double whammy of student loans and high housing costs, which can really eat up even a generous paycheck.
And more aggravating is that, if they come from a non-fancy school such as that in which I teach, their degree is going to enable them just to keep working at Brookstones. The degree inflation means that a Bachellors pretty much keeps you in the low-middle-class, and dooms you to a life of crappy jobs.ReplyDelete
It breaks my heart when I see former students, graduated two, three, five years ago, selling coffee at Starbucks or popcorn in the movie theater, or working in the call center they had been working before and during their college studies.
What's wrong with us?
What the hell are the admin folks doing raising costs like this? BECAUSE THEY CAN. A college degree has long been seen as a ticket to the middle class, and the middle class is running so scared. It's hard to imagine this going on for much longer though, isn't it? Maybe college costs can undergo another doubling or even tripling, but it's hard to see a college degree being seen as a ticket to the middle class much longer, particularly since half our graduates write no better than 9th graders, and do math? HA!ReplyDelete
The main purpose of college is socialization, which means partying until they puke. This, of course, is nothing new, since that's how college typically went, before WWII. It was for the young wealthy people, however: and that's the direction it's going now.
The $87 bill sounds about right. For $7k/year tuition and $10k/year living expenses, 17k/year sub-total for 5 years comes to $85k. Add $2k for books, and it comes to $87k.Delete
And they STILL text through class!
I blame the tendency to a bloated administration. At my place of employment, I see new administrators hired all the time, who are overseeing projects that, at times, seem fuzzy to me.ReplyDelete
State support for public universities has declined in most states to the point that they are PIINOs (Public Institutions In Name Only), to usurp a phrase. When state funding declines from >60% of a university's budget to <20%, that part of the budget that the public is not willing to as a group must be made up for by students individually.ReplyDelete
Ah, but they are still public universities in an important way. They have such low standards that just about anyone can get in. It's really a very American concept: they let just about everybody in, they take their money and that's important, and they give them a chance. At the prices they're charging, though, this chance seems more tenuous all the time.Delete
The PIINO phenomenon is certainly evident at my state university (and in my state in general, which has historically had quite a good public university system), and accounts for much of the growth in tuition. Since it also seems likely that growth in administrators, IT infrastructure, and pretty luxurious student-life infrastructure (gyms, dining halls, dorms, etc.) has increased costs, I'd guess that the cost of something has actually gone down. And I'm guessing that something is faculty salaries. At the very least, I'm pretty sure that faculty salaries are not a significant contributing factor to rising tuitions.Delete
Public (state) funding has dropped significantly over the last few decades. The difference has been passed along to the end user.
Regarding "live at home and save money" I offer the following anecdote:
When I was in grad school in the southwest I had a classmate from New Jersey. He was asked how he wound up "down here." His answer was simply, "Price." It was cheaper across the board for him to come there, pay room and board, and out-of-state-tuition than it would have been for him to live at home and commute to the local state university there. The southwest state was woefully undercharging students (both in-state and out-of-state) relative to other states and making up for it with state funds. Not any more. He was an actual "critical thinker" that did the math.
So many students now don't. Dave Ramsey, love him or hate him, asks callers every week if their teaching degree from a private or R1 got them any more money from the school district than their colleague that graduated from Directional State U across town.
And sometime before that, there was a time (post-WWII, stretching into at least the 60s, and perhaps a bit more -- maybe a victim of '70s stagflation?) when it was possible for a college student to work during the summer, and perhaps just a bit during the year, and pay for everything: tuition, room & board, books, and an occasional bit of modest fun. I suspect that was always a bit easier for young men who could find union-scale manual labor jobs than for young women, who were probably stuck in lower-paying pink collar work, but still, it was a very different picture (and also meant that older siblings, if they were willing to put off marrying and/or starting families for a few years, could help put younger siblings through college once they'd made it themselves). By the time I went to college in the late '80s, I could earn spending money (including books, though that wasn't a huge expense for an English major in a town full of used-book stores), but there was no way I, or my classmates, could have earned enough to cover even public-university tuition and room and board.Delete
On the other hand, I remember my father remarking that one metric was similar: my first year's tuition, room, and board bill (at an Ivy League school) was more or less the same amount my father made in his first full-time job, and he remembered his father remarking on the same relationship (in reference to a different Ivy's bill) 35 years before. I suspect that more of my bill than of his was subsidized by a ginormous endowment, but I'm not sure.
Given that I watched some of my students at a CC get massive loans and then squander them on new cars, snazzy rims for their new cars, and video games to play while driving in the new cars, I'm not surprised. This was at a school where tuition was $13 a credit.ReplyDelete
That said, when I was done with my PhD coursework about 10 years ago, that's about what I had in student loan debt: mostly from living expenses and because I did not secure an assistantship until my second year there. As an international student, I was not eligible for certain scholarships or in-state tuition. Why people who are eligible for that are allowed to go into debt like that is beyond me. I did luck out by getting a post-doc fellowship after PhD School that helped to pay off half of the debt, but I'm confused about why so many of my students end up with this kind of debt without someone saying: "You won't ever pay that off with your BA in Art History."
Someone probably does say this, but they won't listen. Neither did I. When I was an undergraduate, I was told about nine billion times, "A degree in ASTRONOMY? What are you going to do with THAT?" I am the only one of the five undergraduate astronomy majors in my class who eventually got tenure as an astronomer. I am also the one with the lowest salary, by at least 50%. I am also almost certainly the only one still to be paying off student loans, although I may finally pay them off shortly after I turn 56.Delete