I think this is one of the things that will finally be the end of the line for the American middle class:
The rising cost of college — even before the recession — threatens to put higher education out of reach for most Americans, according to the annual report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.
“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.
As it is, too many people get themselves way too in debt for a college degree, and with credit constricting to the tune of 2 trillion, student loans may one day become threatened. At any rate, being able to settle down, buy a house, get a good stable job, and save for your kid’s college education have been the foundation of the modern middle class American dream. Now, all of that is threatened, and even he drive to work is no longer a given, with the price of gas fluctuating wildly.
It’s all us greedy faculty with our inflated salaries, 20-hour work weeks, and paid junkets to expensive cities where we wine and dine on the taxpayer money under the guise of "academic conferences".
At least that’s what some of the Republicans in my state are arguing.
But on the bright side at least the government is keeping taxes low, since it doesn’t do things like substituting college education sufficiently to prepare the next generation, so that the richest 1% of the country has even more so that they can send there kids to Brown, Princeton and Yale.
good. the whole friggin false edifice is crashing down and i hope this time it can finally be clubbed to death like it deserves. for the most part it’s only been a boon to the GOP which used it to brainwash Joe the Plumber (we’ll all be rich!), and structurally it was based on multiple fallacies from cheap gas to free roads and cheap land (Hello GM!). in the end stage it metastasized into some strange world where people spent 300k USD to get degrees in "marketing" yet couldn’t write a coherent sentence.
@Bootlegger: Yeah . . . I don’t think the cost of entertaining academics is quite so high.
“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan
Dude. Too late.
Not sho about yo state, but in KS (and prolly MO), college funding is like the FIRST thing that gets cut in a budget squeeze. They figgy that degree-hungry peeps can juss borrow mo’ money from da Feds. Then the schools freak out about the cuts, and WAY over-jack up the tuition costs (i.e. — state cuts 5% from KU, so KU raises tuition 15%…WTF). I simply cannot imagine what college will cost when my not-yet-even-concieved child goes to college. I’ve been told to expect at least $50-$60K a year by then.
So if no one can afford college, how are they expected to stay open?
Not just a rhetorical question, I’m genuinely curious.
And would someone point me to an analysis of why the skyrocketing college prices?
Well, the world needs ditch diggers too.
@dslak: It’s not, and our salaries relative to what we could make in the private sector pale in comparison. I chose academia because of the autonomy (I choose what I want to work on) and flexible work hours (everyone I know puts in some pretty long hours, but with technology we can do it from anywhere). College tuition costs are going up because there is less public investment in universities. Most universities (and these are ballpark averages) were publicly funded up to 80% a couple decades ago, today its less than 30% (again, lots of variance here). Throw in $200 textbooks and yeah, it’s damned expensive.
As for grads who can’t write, you’re preaching to the choir man. But we were told that we are a "business" and that our students are our "customers" and that the customer is always right. Of course our customers don’t want to be bothered with things like learning how to write coherent thoughts, they demand a piece of paper and to be entertained in class. Basically, they want a diploma and a trained monkey.
Most of us, of course, resist this and try our best to instill some kind of academic rigor but the deck is stacked against us. We don’t get recognized (i.e. merit raises) for turning out students that can read and write, we get recognized for brining grants into the university and publishing in journals that less than a thousand people will ever see. Higher education needs to get back to its liberal arts mission, period. It costs less and turns out students who can read, right and think analytically and critically. But the customers don’t like it, so meh.
Snarki, child of Loki
@7: the colleges really don’t want you to look at their books.
But I can certainly tell you that faculty salaries have NOT gone up by 4x the inflation rate for the past two decades. More like "just barely at the inflation rate, if you’re *lucky* that year". Same for staff.
It’s going into administration. Useless, deadweight, brain-dead, impediment-to-progress administration.
And state colleges are getting killed by states cutting their funding, too. The amounts are starting to get down to the point where state colleges really should just say "go f’ yerself!" and do without the small change their state grudgingly provides.
That’s the problem with government subsidies for higher education. When you subsidize something to try to make it cheaper for the consumer, the producer will react by raising prices. It really kills the people that don’t qualify for the subsidy.
Solution: get the government out of the business of student loans, tax credits for higher education, etc. The government is broke anyway so we can’t afford it.
I’ll just echo what Bootlegger and Snarki said from the academic’s side of things, but let me also say that, as a person with some pretty hefty student loan debt (who is also currently in economic hardship deferral at present) that if a politician wants my unquestioned support for all time, all he or she has to do is get a system passed that will allow me to work off those loans–some sort of, oh, national service program or something. Because in my field, I’m more likely to pay them off by winning the lotto than by earning enough to do it. But I’ll pull a stint in an at-risk high school if it will get me out of those loans, and I know a lot of other people who would also.
@Snarki, child of Loki: Amen on that brother Snarki. Damned adminstrators make 2-3 times what the faculty make and 5-10x what the staff makes. And for what? To turn us into businesses that entertain our students for a few years then hand them a piece of paper. Our current Dean is fixated on building a new "anex" with his name on it and he’s proposing to dip into our rainey day fund to do it. Despite the sudden downpour his drinking buddies higher up approved this use of our only hedge against the massive budget cuts coming up soon.
Another factor often overlooked is the amount colleges spend on utilities and how grossly inefficient the buildings are. Right now it’s 29 degrees ourside and my office window won’t shut all the way so I get a nice breeze. No problem, they turn up the heat so high that some people are using fans, while other people with windows worse than mine are using space heaters. No lie.
I propose investing $25 billion + $1 in padding a bunch of colleges’ endowments.
Seriously, though, can someone in the know explain why it is that if(?) endowments constantly rise for a college, its tuition costs tend to not level or drop? Admittedly, I don’t know much about how they work, but I would think that if a college has been building one for 50 years, it would be large enough to have a significant amount of interest income.
@mogden: That’s a problem with subsidies anywhere, and that’s why subsidies that work (or at least that are good enough to make things better) always come with strings attached.
A particularly egregious case is Medicare plan D. The government gives you money to pay for X% of your medication. Cue pharma executive: "Let’s raise our product by X%!"
When I was teaching math at NMSU, I constantly wondered as to why many of my students were there. They had little interest in the subjects I was teaching after all. If all they want is a piece of paper because they need that to get a job, maybe we need as a society to question the underlying assumption that a college degree is needed to do jobs that are completely unrelated to the paper. That would reduce the demand on college education which would both lower tuition and make our school better as the students left would at least have a vague interest in the classes.
It would never happen in a million years mind you but it cheered me up through many an unproductive tutoring session.
@Bootlegger: Our union is currently going a couple of rounds with the state because the president of the university got a 10% raise while faculty haven’t gotten a real raise in 2 years. We were offered 1% and a one-time bonus this year. But we’re supposed to be the ones who aren’t earning our pay.
Caidence (fmr. Chris)
Don’t buy the link between college and middle-class. Reasons:
1.) I know far too many people who have gotten degrees and are still SOL when they go looking for a job. And we’re not talking "Asian Women’s Studies", we’re talking solid things like Sociology.
2.) I know many people that didn’t go to college and did just fine because they worked hard for their money.
All I’ve seen since getting my degree, in comparison to other people, is a decreased skepticism about my level of skill in a particular subject. So, if you ask me, this is the end of the "pay for your child’s future welfare" dream.
I mean, twenty-somethings today (including me) have it GODDAMN EASY. We’re gonna have to get back to reality sometime soon.
I don’t agree that we are looking at the end of the middle class.
I do think that you are looking at the permanent end of the so-called "conservative movement."
The bottom line for that "movement" is that you, citizens, are on your own. The "movement" was for the corporations, the rich, and the self-righteous. That was the coalition that made it go. And, you see what you have for it.
That coalition is dying in front of your eyes, and the pendulum will swing back to a worldview that accepts the idea that government is necessary and proper and can help citizens. Access to healthcare, to jobs, to an education, will be there for those that need them. We have now proven that the "fend for yourselves" model of civics doesn’t work.
Time to start building a new version of America.
The complaints I get when I dare to emphasize writing skills in the physical science classes I teach make me insane. Students are mystified that communication skills might help them in a future career even if that career is in engineering or chemistry.
@zzyzx: I’ll admit there’s something to this. The democratization of higher education is a great idea for reducing stratification, but then you end up with people from all social classes who don’t really want to continue their education but feel compelled to do it for the piece of paper.
Interestingly, the Ivey League schools were fielding the same complaints back at the turn of the century, the 19th century. The children of the elites and the middle class, the benefactors of the Gilded Age, were bored, pampered and otherwise lacking in any kind of work ethic (or so the people at the time wrote). Are the children of our latest boom similarly afflicted?
@Incertus: I’ll bet the provosts and deans saw similar salary increases as well.
The ignorance of language and writing goes both ways. I was recently amazed when one of my instructors (the now Dr. Ignorant) demonstrated that he was ignorant of the difference between the following terms: jargon, rhetoric, and semantics.
To say nothing of the Poli-Sci professor who was discussing (a couple of years ago) India’s new Muslim PM. When I pointed out that he was a Sikh, and that a Muslim was perhaps a bit more progressive than India was ready for, she said that she would have to check on that. Brilliant!
Sorry, but your government has a higher purpose for your younguns; the No Child Left Behind Act disposes of the concern:
Bush-caliber young adults will be able to afford college. The rest will be trained to fight in the war with Eurasia.
Caidence (fmr. Chris)
I’m turning gay and you’re marrying me. Right now, you gorgeous bastard.
I swear, I’m the only computer programmer on the east coast that gives a crap about spelling correctly, much less about the ultra-importance of the semantic value of words. I WANTED to learn effective skills of communication.
So my college taught us how to write technical manuals. Damn it all.
Mind you, I’m out here in the middle of a field of Indian and Chinese ex-pats, so finding anyone nearby who cares about the proper use of English language is a fruitless exercise.
There was a great series in the wall street journal online forever ago that was vaguely related to this, here are the first two articles.
The honest truth is, bachelor’s degrees from any old school are highly overrated. Good schools, competitive and unfortunately often very expensive schools really do teach students important skills and push them to overachieve. (I know that my school was not customer service oriented, I know at least 5 people who flunked out.) But just getting a degree to get a degree is just some kind of stepping stone in to just getting a job to get a job.
My boyfriend has his associates degree, and he could not get a job wiping someone’s ass with that degree. You have to have a bachelors to even get your resume looked at in most companies.
My hope, fewer people can afford college, so crappy colleges close and more value is placed on people having a useful skill set than a broad based liberal arts education that doesn’t really teach them anything they don’t feel lik elearning.
I’m a financial aid officer at a branch campus of a major state university and I can tell you that it’s worse than anything you are seeing in the press.
Just a fer instance? The maximum federal Stafford Loan for a freshman is $5500 (a mix of subsidized and unsubsidized that Congress just increased by $2000 this past summer). Sophomores can get $6500 and juniors and seniors get $8500. Our tuition and fees this year for lower division commuters? $12,000. If they live on campus, add another $8300. Books average $1200.
Parents can take out a federal PLUS Loan, but many simply cannot take on any further debt if they can even qualify under the credit check. The only route these students have is the private alternative educational loans, which are a complete ripoff with high fees and even higher interest rates and for which students must have a co-signer, meaning a creditworthy one. Of course, that means they can actually find an alternative lender. Of the more than 25 or so we used to have on a list to which we referred students, there remain only 8 who are still lending.
The grant programs are a joke…the Pell grant generally goes to students whose family income is $30,000 or less for a family of four. The PA State Grant goes a little further, but must be used here in PA. And even the maximum Pell is only $4310. Low income families simply cannot manage the burden and usually cannot pass the credit checks to borrow.
The percentage of our institutional aid that goes to low income students is much higher than what the article states as usual, but that is probably because we are a state-related university. Private colleges and universities tend to reward higher income students with grants/scholarships because they can lure them in with such cash and they are most likely to pay the high price tag. It’s a good investment for them. But we don’t have that luxury as our mission is different.
I just hope Obama keeps his campaign promises about funding for higher ed. I quake sometimes for these students and their families who are taking on such massive debt. Perhaps the engineers and doctors among them will be able to manage to pay off their loans, but teachers and social workers and anyone who has to live within a normal middle class income will never be out from under it.
@Steve: I’ve been programming more than 30 years. In that time, I’ve probably written as much English text meant for people to read as code for computers. I don’t need to know how to structure a novel, but clear, grammatical sentences that form logical paragraphs are essential.
Caidence (fmr. Chris)
Problem: Nobody is even TELLING people that this is hugely important. Programming is heavily steeped in proper language studies, yet most schools let their braindead CompSci students languish in the dark hallways of
OMGROFL wut r u talkin abowtand then don’t even try a serious exercise to teach effective language.
Here’s a mindfuck for you: In college, I had one semester of English Lit that wasn’t really English Lit, one semester teaching the layout of a tech manual, and then as a senior with honors status, I had the elective to take a no-holds-barred course in Plato, with full semantic explanation of the Forms, and the differing meanings of the word "is."
They’re not even trying to teach English.
@Caidence (fmr. Chris): Sounds like my college experience as a biochemistry major. My first and only English class (Victorian Literature) was during my junior year, and there was almost no writing involved.
When my best friend and coworker was getting her MSW she would leave her textbooks at our workplace and I remember there was an interesting one called The Way We Really Are or something like that. One of the most interesting things it discussed was that until about 25-30 years ago it was possible to end education at high school and still find a blue-collar job that enabled one to earn a middle class lifestyle and that that really isn’t possible any more- that a bachelor’s degree is becoming a requirement. The book also discussed how a lot of people just don’t learn well in an academic environment- college is essentially a waste of time, but something they now have to do if they want a chance at a decent job. So there’s also a need for blue-collar jobs to pay a living wage, but fat chance of that. And my friend is now many thousands of dollars in debt for her Master’s and her job, which requires a MASTER’s, pays barely $40,000 a year. In NYC. Anyone not born wealthy is so fucked and I don’t see any way out of it as long as the media is able to persuade most of America that this is all the unions’ fault and Americans are unwilling to accept that our government essentially subsidizes industries so we don’t pay anywhere near the actual cost of our food, clothing, etc., so we don’t take to the streets over the fact that we’re being underpaid for just about everything.
Wow. I think I’ll go put my head down on my desk for a few minutes if I can do it without getting fired from my non-union job.
Some of us are. Clarity of thought and meaning is my primary goal in my classroom, especially in those cases when I’m stuck with Comp 1 or 2 classes. Part of the problem is that students come to us with little to no writing experience, because they’re crammed 25 to 30 in a class in high school, and their teachers don’t have time to breathe, much less give actual criticism on writing. Another part of the problem is that kids don’t really understand just how important writing is to their careers, so they blow it off. Factor in that most people teaching Comp 1 or 2 at a university are either adjuncts who are barely scraping by or TA’s who are taking their own classes and you have an educational disaster on your hands.
Caidence (fmr. Chris)
Good man. Which school?
I have to admit, I’m being super-elitist when I get like this on language, because I wanted to be taught in a culture of high-minded perfectionism and to be surrounded by students that had no option but to soak it in through osmosis.
I think I should see a doctor about that anally-inserted stick that’s poking my duodenum.
Which brings us back to things like the auto industry bailout. Shitty as the Big 3 may be, what’s at stake for working class people are union jobs that make it possible for people without bachelor’s degrees to make the middle class.
With one child already in college and another set to start next fall, we’re definitely feeling the financial pain.
My daughter is a junior at an out of state public university, majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in English. Although, via her high school AP English class, she received credit for one semester of English prior to entering college, she has never had to take an English class covering the basics. She has taken numerous literature and creative writing classes, but not one class covering grammer, sentence structure, punctuation rules, etc. Nor will she have to. Compare that to my college experience in the seventies, while majoring in Finance. I had to take two semesters of English covering grammer, etc., and then two semesters of Literature.
Is is surprising that kids come out of college today without the ability to communicate in written form? Not really. They can communicate with each other all day long via text message, but many are unable to properly construct a cogent paragraph in written form because they were never taught how. My daughter makes extra money editing her friends papers. That’s just sad.
The flaw in your line of reasoning is that by the time the switch is complete, government will be in no shape to help them.
The GOP has successfully gutted much of the safety nets where they haven’t outright cut the supports away.
The middle will not hold.
Trust me, no one wants kids in those kinds of classes more than I do, but if my daughter is any indication–and she’s a freshperson in college this year as well–those kids won’t have had a grammar class since junior high school. We seem to stop teaching the basics by 7th or 8th grade, and so when they get to college, most of them (outside the elite) are really wandering in the woods on this kind of thing. It’s disheartening, too, for their teachers, because here I am, full-time but non-tenure-line faculty, trying to make up for the deficiencies these kids came in with, catching hell (figuratively) from tenure-line faculty who want to know why the kids in their upper-division classes can’t write, and all I can say is "you should have seen them when I got them."
That One - Cain
@Caidence (fmr. Chris):
Hey, I care about spelling and writing structure and what not. Hell, I write complete sentences even in IM and phone messaging. I can’t stand when people use shortened words or sentences. It bugs the living crap out of me.
I recently heard that they were trying to get rid of teaching cursive. I thought that was kind of odd.
Snarki, child of Loki
I tried posting this earlier, but had net problems…
To those who say that government subsidies are the thing that is driving tuition costs higher: as [email protected] points out with hard numbers, the subsidies have been going *down*. In my experience (anecdote), this has been the case for most of the past 20 years.
If subsidies were going up at +5% per year, inflation was +3% per year, and tuition increased at +8% per year, then yes it would make sense to put much of the blame on subsidies. But you can’t really make the case when the subsidy "increase" per year is *negative*.
I think much of the problem is simply that demand for higher education is inelastic, and is currently limited only by "sticker shock" factors. If left to itself, the cost of tuition will just increase until higher education is unattainable except to upper-middle class, or special cases (athletes, the very very smart, etc), independent of any subsidies or lack thereof.
I think the only solution is to change the rules governing nonprofit educational institutions, limiting the income fraction going to "administrative expenses", and setting stricter limits on accumulating endowments.
Caidence (fmr. Chris)
Then why the hell don’t you work where I work?? Ohh… I get it… you turned to blogs and booze, too, huh?
Usually more important to teach qwerty typing, instead. But even more important to take a tape recorder to the Calc II lecture with the Russian Jew with the vodka-stained accent.
And this is how you recreate that permanent Republican majority. Because, among other things, going to college correlates with less religiosity and greater tolerance of gays. Keeping people from college is therefore a great way to retain the pool of potential wingnuts.
@Caidence (fmr. Chris):
Slightly off-topic, but from my 10+ years in IT, I’ve found that the Indian, Chinese, and Russian programmers have a better grasp of English grammar than many of the locally-born programmers who have recently graduated from high school or college. To be fair, the ex-pats may be a self-selecting group and aren’t necessarily representative of other ex-pats’ educational drive. Still, just thought I’d throw in my two pennies. *plink plink*
It’s interesting how tuition sky-rocketed at about the same time the "cut taxes to solve all problems" crowd came into office.
Stannate, I agree. I’ve been an IT manager for 12 years, and many if not most of the immigrant tech workers have excellent grammer skills. But they tend to have heavy accents which we Americans can’t understand well, and so often it’s assumed that their writing skills in English are just as bad.
This, at least, I don’t think we have to worry about, because it’s always been true, not just today and in the Gilded Age. There’s a quote attributed to Socrates about how irresponsible young people are. That’s probably apocryphal, but you can find stuff like it going back to the 8th century B.C.
In ’71 I paid out of state tuition at Michigan Technological University, it stung. In ’98 my step son started OR OSU and I was shocked at the in state tuition.
Now I realize there is a serious difference between my Mechanical Engineering courses and his Business Sci courses, but I didn’t see a level of demand that I expected to.
At MTU there was no "curve" you either did the work or didn’t get the grade and what the entire class got up to was immaterial, the work was defined. Being in applied science meant that the non-science requirements were not a large part of the course, but you had a pretty fair amount of writing. Spelling and grammar counted in any writing course and if you couldn’t cut it you’d wind up in remedial English to fix that. It was assumed you were gramatically competent and had to perform.
1/3 of entering Freshmen did not return and 1/4 of Sophmores did not return, the attrition was higher than the average in applied science. Your application was not considered if you were not in the top 10% of your HS class in college prep and top 10% ACT/SAT simply because you wouldn’t make it. That was a hard core institution. By today’s prices a complete bargain almost give-away, especially considering out of state tuition.
That is probably one of the solutions, if you aren’t ready for the gaff get there at a 2yr community college and hit degree courses ready to go not fail or count on grade inflation.
Poetic, but not very original:
I think you are probably Joan Didion.
Which is …. impressive, if true.
Joni does Yeats.
On my iPod. Walk to it several times/week.
This NYT story was also posted on Barry Ritholtz’ Big Picture site. It’s funny the Pavlovian response of many to blame "government subsidies," which I guess is the result of 30 years of having such bullshit seared into their brains since Ronny Raygun graced us with his sunny countenance in 1980. It’s like trying to lay all the blame for the problems of the auto industry on the UAW and completely overlooking 40 years of profoundly greedy, shortsighted and incompetent corporate management in Detroit and shenanigans on Wall Street that have completely distorted the American economy such that we value parasitic rentiers over people who actually do something. As a poster above noted, government subsidies for higher ed have been steadily declining. When I went to Georgia Tech in the early ’80’s, the tuition was dirt cheap and there were tons of grants and low-interest loans available. There’s nothing like that now and tuition has skyrocketed. Higher ed has been fucked by the corporate rentier mentality just like everything else.
Is it really a big deal that college costs are going up?
I just graduated with a math degree from a Canadian university (which means I did end up paying a significantly smaller amount of money then I would at an American university) and now looking for work it’s pretty obvious that I will be using next to nothing covered in my coursework – which isn’t a surprise – but what these means is that the vast majority of jobs don’t really require university level education to perform.
The problem seems to be that so many people have bachelors, and even masters, degrees now that employers have arbitrarily made university education a requirement to work as any sort of a desk monkey. So perhaps if fewer people get university educations we’ll just return to an era of more reasonable job requirements.
That’s like not doing car maintenance because you "can’t afford it" — the pennies you save today will be dollars you spend tomorrow. On the bottom end, most today jobs above the WalMart level *require* a college degree, not because an office manager or a marketing assistant position really requires four years of technical training, but because the Magic BA Paper gives the HR people an easy way to filter the number of applications they have to read. On the top end, because too many qualified high-schoolers can’t or won’t commit themselves to crippling loan requirements, the science / technical PhD slots at American universities are increasingly being filled by non-American students, most of whom will go back to India or China or Estonia to do their cutting-edge Nobel-Prize work. Da Gubmint needs middle-class citizens who can afford to pay taxes, and it also needs highly-educated researchers & inventors.
This again? OK, then, again, it is…
Community Colleges are affordable – even to burger flippers. ’nuff said you retards, all of you.
Boy, I feel so old after reading all your comments. But I can remember when California back in the 1960s was trying to make college affordable to all residents – to the point of almost slashing tuition. One of the reasons for UC or Cal State in almost every community. Our St. Ronald Reagan stopped that right then and there. To all of you belittling value of a college education – that’s where we are going to be more competitive. We just can’t compete globally with blue collar type jobs. We have to maintain a technological lead and that means an educated workforce.
Having a bunch of people with bachelor degrees is not necessary to maintain a technological lead. Let’s be realistic here – most of these "knowledge economy" jobs could be done by the typical high school graduate provided they knew how to use MS Word and Excel well enough.
Very alarming story. Wanted to make sure the FDL folks were on it, but had to stay with sick mother-in-law.
I am sure that John has seen that the Jonas Brothers were nominated for best new artist. In their case it is truly an honor because they will never see the trophy.
You’re kidding! It was however easy to think before last week that religious conflict was the least of India’s problems.
There is no reason that people should not be able to graduate HIGH SCHOOL without knowing how to write English. Even if the high schools are teaching more higher-level skills, this should require the students to write and get feedback on said writing.