Now, it is all over. Back to reality. Which means that there is now so much to catch up on.
Like the financial aspects in the university system where I work.
The agenda materials for the June board meeting had an item on student debt management. So, of course, I had to read through that. Bad call!
The Board agenda notes:
The various impacts of the recession, including more students taking on debt as their parents’ ability to help pay for college declined, the difficult job market producing unemployment and underemployment at higher than normal rates, and lower earnings, have all made it more difficult for some students to repay their student loans.Indeed! So far, so good. Let's first get some data on the situation:
A system-weighted average of almost $24,000 in student loan debt. Holy macaroni! Given the spread between the median and the average, it means there are some high debt students, whose numbers might just about numb our senses.
The policy response includes all those things that anybody would like to hear. Including about strategies to slow down increases in tuition and fees.
But, that is the talk. How is the walk? Like so:
Yes, tuition and fees will go up. The system-average of 4.5 percent increase will be pretty much double the rate of inflation. Correction: 4.5 is nearly four times the current inflation rate!
Which means, we can confidently project that the student loan debt of future graduating classes will be higher than the current average of $24,000.
We are locked into this mode for various reasons. Yes, rock climbing walls and fancy dorms are wasteful expenditures. The phenomenal increase in student-life bureaucracy is another.
And one more: the cost of personnel and the guaranteed wage increases from year to year. Ramesh makes a similar point when noting about garbage collectors in New York City. Whether it is teaching or non-teaching personnel, contracts guarantee wage increase over the years. (With the non-teaching unionized employees, there has been a salary freeze, with furloughs as well, for a couple of years now.)
We faculty offer courses and majors depending on the whims and fancies of the faculty. Not only at WOU but all over the country. It is one thing to offer specialized courses at graduate levels--that is exactly what one would expect. But, at the undergraduate level? Seriously? As I noted in a recent op-ed,
My favorite, of the ones I have come across in the news, is a course on Lady Gaga. It will require quite some effort on a student's part to use that course as a vehicle to understand what it means to be human.A similar point is made in this WSJ op-ed. While I disagree with its ideological framework, I concur with this statement there:
Meanwhile, courses proliferate on highly specialized topics—Muslims in movies, gay and lesbian gardeners, the mathematical formalization of political decision making, for example—that closely correspond to professors' niche research interestsIn contrast, the courses I teach have dull and boring titles. Nothing fancy. No sex in the titles. Nothing about popular culture or sports. No Lady Gaga. And then I wonder why students do not want to enroll in my classes! Maybe I should rename the course on "The Indian Subcontinent," for instance, to "Lovemaking according to the Kamasutra."
The entire exercise of higher education increasingly seems to be no different from digging holes and filling them back again--plenty of work going on, but nothing to show for it.
Well, other than the student loan debt, that is.
The national data, as in this chart from Pew Research, will depress you:
A reminder on how that debt matters when one is about to begin an economically productive life:
debt held by millions of Millennials may be forcing this generation to:Maybe I should have simply stayed back in Costa Rica. Except a couple of them, my colleagues also would have been happier that way!
- Put off home ownership
- Divert money from retirement accounts
- Impede the ability to take small-business loans
Though hard data linking student-loan debt to a delay in these financial commitments are elusive, personal finance experts say that when one is saddled with any kind of debt, economic lives can grind to a halt. The consequences of massive student-loan debt — a trillion dollars and counting — could threaten the standard of living for this generation and harm the country's economic competitiveness.
- Forgo securing car loans