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    #242287 - 04/22/18 12:16 PM Escalating American Public University Tuition
    Quantum2003 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/08/11
    Posts: 1432
    This is related to Dude's thread, "The price is too high", but more narrowly focused. I would normally add to that thread but it would probably get buried . . .

    I was going through an old box of high school/college stuff that was recently shipped across the country. Among the correspondences were several scholarship award letters from two state flagship universities. This was in the mid-1980's when minimum wage was $3.35/hour. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25/hour so a little more than double in three decades. The scholarships were full tuition for four years and back when "fees" were negligible or non-existent. They were offered to me and any other student in my state who graduated among the top of their class (2% for one and 4% for the other). Anyhow, the letters listed the then current tuition rate and pointed out that over four years, this tuition waiver was worth about $3,500. Incidentally, that total cost is a bit more than a thousand hours over four years at the then minimum wage (so roughly five hours a week).

    In checking current costs for comparison, I discovered roughly $42,000 for one university and $47,000 for the other over four years. (Out of state tuition/fees were $107,000 and $141,000 respectively.) These numbers do not include, room/board, books, or travel expenses. Averaging the two universities' total in-state tuitions/fees and using today's minimum wage yield over six thousand hours over four years or roughly thirty hours a week.

    In other words, back in my day in my state in the mid-1980's, a student would have been able to paid their own full-time in-state college tuition/fees if they could have set aside five hours a week of minimum wage pay. For simplicity's sake, I am ignoring income and social security taxes. A student today would need to set aside thirty hours per week of minimum wage pay just to pay tuitions/fees. Five hours is doable for many while thirty hours is impossible except for the extreme few.

    My comparison above is actually a grossly understated illustration of the affordability problem at public universities as I don't want to segue into a discussion of the "living wage" problem. Suffice it to say that while the minimum wage has roughly doubled, the costs of living have far out-paced it.

    Perhaps private universities may remain the bastion of the "haves" (plus the "have nots" to whom they wish to extend a hand), but surely public universities should be accessible without crushing debt?


    Edited by Quantum2003 (04/22/18 12:18 PM)

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    #242293 - 04/22/18 01:27 PM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4714
    Originally Posted By: Quantum2003
    public universities should be accessible without crushing debt
    I would tend to agree.

    Initial thoughts: I believe it is important to identify the causes of steep increases in tuition.

    Some ideas presented in other venues and on other related threads have included:
    - Availability of student loans.
    - Emphasis on and investment in sports (as opposed to academics).
    - Construction of campus amenities such as water parks, waterslides, lazy rivers, rock climbing walls.
    - Benefits offered to employees may include college tuition for offspring... thereby transferring the cost of these "free" seats to the remaining student body.
    - Age of professors (baby boomers retiring, some institutions have promised lifelong pensions). I understand that to offset this, some institutions now hire more adjuncts, assistant professors, and associate professors... all of whom who are paid much less than full tenured professors.
    - Investment in technology. This could reasonably be expected to have a payback period of lowered costs of operating... but may instead become an upward spiral of early adoption of new technology... an arms race.
    - Insurance costs. Unfortunately, we may live in a litigious society.
    This is not an exhaustive list.

    It may be important to have cost transparency and accountability.

    Unfortunately, many of us may be aware of rampant end-of-the-fiscal-year spending, whose mantra is: spend it all, or we'll be allocated a smaller budget next year.

    I believe that by identifying costs and delving into them, duplication and waste can be found and so-called "cuts" may be made which have little or no negative impact on the student experience... creating a sustainable budget... capping costs... and then reducing costs.

    I understand that cost cutting may be moderated by a need/desire to keep as many jobs as possible so that the universities may continue to offer significant employment opportunities.

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    #242299 - 04/22/18 02:19 PM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    This is kinda what I'm on about, Quantum. Back in the day, the barriers to a college education were high, but hardly unsurmountable. Even if you didn't have anyone to give you a boost, with a good running start, most people could leap high, catch the top, and pull themselves over if they wanted it enough.

    These days, that six-foot wall is 18 feet high and topped in razor wire.

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    #242305 - 04/23/18 08:35 AM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    Old Dad Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/30/12
    Posts: 423
    Can we define possibly what would define making the cost of college "too high"? Is it a percentage of what one currently makes? Ability to pay off a loan for it in X period of time? Is it defined by accessibility by those from a certain financial upbringing? Or is this one of those things where we'll know it's too high when we see it?

    I ask this because it's difficult to discuss without going in circles the possible solution to a problem that we haven't clearly defined yet.

    I've been discussing with my wife the last couple of months that I believe colleges, especially in the U.S. will be forced to go though a major transformation, I could say the same thing for K-12 public schooling but I think even more so for colleges. Teachers / Professors and libraries are no longer the key holders to knowledge and learning. That fact is showing itself to be more and more substantial. With that in mind, schools of all levels need to change how they teach, their physical properties, and the certifications they offer.

    Along those same lines, I think society is going to become more and more aware of ROI as it relates to colleges. I can see a not so distant future where there are colleges that pare back the fluff that so many colleges both private and public offer and return much more closely to purely academic institutions and not a "college experience"

    One of the conversations I have with my wife as we enter out late 50's is what becomes the "New Normal" for us as we age. It's not reasonable for us to expect our bodies to respond the same way as they did 15 years ago for instance, things change, things evolve. In the same way I think it's important for us to ask ourselves if college is simply evolving and while we can look to ways to make it more affordable, we need to accept to a certain degree the "New Normal" of college as it's evolved.


    Edited by Old Dad (04/23/18 08:36 AM)

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    #242306 - 04/23/18 09:00 AM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    Tigerle Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/29/14
    Posts: 602
    Loc: Europe
    I am NOT a US taxpayer.

    If you feel I am consequently not allowed to contribute to the conversation, please put me on “ignore” right now. (Looking at you, Indigo dear).

    I actually do have some informed views on the subject, because I work in international student finance, and because I have been monitoring the tuition situation at top universities in English speaking countries for awhile, for professional and private reasons. I believe that the top universities worldwide increasingly compete for the highest capability students worldwide and that, vice versa, these students should (and increasingly will) be looking at an international educational market. And most of us on this board are raising some of those kids. The US colleges, on the hunt to attract international talent at full pay, to lose homegrown talent to more affordable and predictable schools abroad.

    I believe (and would assume that most on this board believe) that a society shouldn’t waste their best talents (sort of the reason this board exists, right?) so governments should ensure that those kids who benefit very much from the education at a good 4 year college should be able to obtain that education without huge financial and administrative hurdles that a 17 year old high school student can’t begin to navigate on his own.

    And I hope most of us agree that a student should be able to spend the majority of their time on their studies (so work less than 20 hours a week on the side) in order to do well and graduate in 4 years, and be able to live, not in luxury, but at least in housing conditions that do not endanger their health and safety.

    Someone over on college confidential, where I have been (mostly) lurking diligently for a long time in order to understand the legal and financial situation regarding the cost of tertiary education in the US pointed out that if experienced posters unanimously tell students it is completely inadvisable to take out more than the 27 k Stafford loans, with the exception of a few highly employable degrees like engineering or CS, where you might take out as much as one years starting salary (so, maybe, 70 k?), and there is no college in existence in the US where you can obtain a 4 year degree with that sum it essentially means *it isn’t worth it*! I felt that post didn’t nearly get the attention it deserved.

    So, in comes the government, to bring college costs down.

    I posit that as soon as the government “meddles” and thus distorts a market, you need regulations. One of the regulations I’d propose would be “unbundling” in order to create financial transparency and stop cross subsidising.

    First thing I’d unbundle would be living costs. The government could offer every student who is enrolled at an accredited institution and in good academic standing grants and loans to cover room, board, books and incidentals and require every college that receives federal monies and that offers dorms and cafeteria service to offer a bed and a meal plan at a cost that is capped, indexed to the living costs of the area, and covered by that sum, for four years.

    The student could be required to finance incidentals beyond that (“beer money”) by working 10 hours a week for minimum wage or so - or not, their choice. Students who do not dorm could simply receive the money with no strings attached. The proportion of grants vs loans, should depend on the parents FAFSA EFC. Thus, students from low income families get the full amount in grants, students with high EFCs in loans. And every combination in between. This assured that if your family can’t or won’t pay the EFC, anyone can survive 4 years at college with a student job. It is almost inconceivable to me that college costs are calculated according on the parents income, but the parents are not legally required to support their child at all. Makes no legal sense to me. But there it is and in the current system, a student in that situation has NO recourse and is dependent on finding a full ride merit scholarship which are hard to find even for highly capable kids (particularly at an institution that can meet those kids‘ needs) which puts them into an extremely insecure situation, with all sorts of unpredictable results. In extreme cases, the student can be shut out.

    A student in my (European) country is required to live on (the equivalent of) 800 $ a month, dorms or no dorms, and usually there are no dorms, so students need to find an apartment, with an additional stipend of 90 $ once the student ages out of their parents health coverage (and public health insurance is then required to accept and cover the student at that cost). I see no reason why a US college couldn’t feed and house a US student at at cost, in double rooms, often in the middle of nowhere. With the COL index, of course it might be much more expensive to study in Boston or NYC, and the loan portion will go up accordingly. Duh. That’s fair. You need subsidies, find a good college in a low COL area, there’s plenty. Or try to get a accepted to a college with deep pockets that can afford to subsidise housing from its endowment.

    8 months at 800 $ makes 6400 a year. Times four years makes 25600. Depending on the COL at the college of your choice. That should work. And that would be it for student loans, for anyone.

    So, if you subsidise AND cap, you can’t distort the market upwards,

    But students still need to pay tuition. If you can get accepted at a meets full need college and the colleges FA calculation works for you, you’re sorted. Of it doesn’t, because the college the student can gain acceptance to does not meet full need or the students family can’t or won’t pay the EFC the college came up with, again the student has no recourse, but is dependent on finding merit scholarships to cover the difference. Again, unpredictable situation which can at worst lead to the student being shut out. (Or the parents and students together overloading on plus loans).

    What would help? Not even necessarily more money. Just predictability and transparency, beyond the net price calculators that only work for married employees anyway, not for business owners, not for applicants with non custodial parents, and rarely for applicants hunting merit.

    Private colleges won’t and needn’t be transparent and predictable about cost and merit. But public schools should have to be, with schools offering binding FA prereads and merit offers automatically rising as you go down the desirability food chain until there is a chance to gain full tuition *somewhere* in state, and for, very highly capable students, even at the flagship, maybe on condition of being offered admittance to the honours college. It does come at the detriment of public schools using holistic criteria. But as a lawyer, I’d say that a public entity should be required to only use criteria that are transparent and predictable. This doesn’t mean academic merit only, they could consider level of interest or high SES or first gen or relevant extracurriculars, but in a way that is transparent and understandable to the student before they apply, for instance using a points system. It should be a state’s responsibility to offer an appropriate education to the states college ready kids, within the limits of affordability.

    There IS a school for everyone that is affordable and hopefully the states make sure that is also suitable, eg by offering honours colleges at lower ranked schools for their more highly capable students, but at the moment the admissions landscape in the US is so opaque that students may be unable to find it.

    Fees? For rec centers, lazy rivers, clubs, athletics? If they enhance the educational experience or students health, by all means include them in the tuition. If they don’t? It’s luxury. Have it financed out of the endowment, out of alumni donations, make competitive athletics self supporting. If the afford to subsidise those at the states schools, don’t. No frills education works, too. Just don’t put it on students.

    I think the states‘ taxpayers may also reasonably demand a cap on out of state and international enrolment, within the limits of what actually benefits the school academically as opposed to financially.

    Tl;dr: it is the lack of financial transparency and predictability that pushes tuition up and overburdens students and those families. Unbundle college costs, only subsidise (and cap!) living costs, make admission and merit transparent and predictable for all public (or publicly supported, for instance by tax relief, but that would of course, ooops, include almost all private schools) institutions.

    BTW, I do not like that in some European systems that are very low tuition and offer very generous terms for living allowances, students have almost no skin in the game at all. This leads to other undesirable distortions. But the debt load that would be, at worst, required should not exceed a sum that oils be considered a reasonable investment, and should not be required to be paid up front, and should be somewhat tied to a students earnings. (Colleges should have skin in the game as well!)

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    #242309 - 04/23/18 11:06 AM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Old Dad]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    Originally Posted By: Old Dad
    Can we define possibly what would define making the cost of college "too high"? Is it a percentage of what one currently makes? Ability to pay off a loan for it in X period of time? Is it defined by accessibility by those from a certain financial upbringing? Or is this one of those things where we'll know it's too high when we see it?


    In previous discussions, we've talked about the relationship between college costs per year, and the number of hours it would take to work at a minimum-wage job in order to pay that. So in the 60s, a student could work at a minumum-wage job throughout the summer, and earn enough money to pay for the entire years' worth of college. That seems like a pretty good situation, because it allows for the student to be a full-time student and get the most value from their education. It allows them to be nearly self-sufficient (because we haven't yet added in living costs, transportation, etc), and capable students of nearly any SES can access it.

    So If I have an ideal target, that's it.

    Side benefit is we end up with a closer alignment to a true meritocracy, rather than the thing we have now.

    Anything that moves us away from "students not eating" towards this goal is at least an improvement.

    Originally Posted By: Old Dad

    I've been discussing with my wife the last couple of months that I believe colleges, especially in the U.S. will be forced to go though a major transformation, I could say the same thing for K-12 public schooling but I think even more so for colleges. Teachers / Professors and libraries are no longer the key holders to knowledge and learning. That fact is showing itself to be more and more substantial. With that in mind, schools of all levels need to change how they teach, their physical properties, and the certifications they offer.


    You'd probably be interested in this: The Future of College Looks Like The Future Of Retail.

    Originally Posted By: Old Dad
    Along those same lines, I think society is going to become more and more aware of ROI as it relates to colleges. I can see a not so distant future where there are colleges that pare back the fluff that so many colleges both private and public offer and return much more closely to purely academic institutions and not a "college experience"


    The problem of commoditizing an education is that you can't always tell what's going to be fruitful and what isn't. A good example is scientific research, because while the economic multiplier effect of public investing in this area is outstanding, it's impossible to guess ahead of time which strands will be productive and which will not. Good example, we spent a ton of money to prove that gravity waves are a thing. Great! How can we monetize that? No idea. If that turns out to be an important step towards inter-stellar travel, it's not likely we'll ever see it.

    Originally Posted By: Old Dad
    One of the conversations I have with my wife as we enter out late 50's is what becomes the "New Normal" for us as we age. It's not reasonable for us to expect our bodies to respond the same way as they did 15 years ago for instance, things change, things evolve. In the same way I think it's important for us to ask ourselves if college is simply evolving and while we can look to ways to make it more affordable, we need to accept to a certain degree the "New Normal" of college as it's evolved.


    Of course, bodies will decay over time, but we have methods we can use to "rage against the dying of the light," and extend both the quality and quantity of our lives through direct intervention, or we can just lie helpless and speed the process along.

    Social institutions are subject to the same processes, except that they don't have to die. We got to where we are in secondary education because of choices people made, and we can make other choices to change it again.

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    #242311 - 04/23/18 11:24 AM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2496
    Originally Posted By: Quantum2003
    I was going through an old box of high school/college stuff that was recently shipped across the country. Among the correspondences were several scholarship award letters from two state flagship universities. This was in the mid-1980's when minimum wage was $3.35/hour. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25/hour so a little more than double in three decades. The scholarships were full tuition for four years and back when "fees" were negligible or non-existent. They were offered to me and any other student in my state who graduated among the top of their class (2% for one and 4% for the other). Anyhow, the letters listed the then current tuition rate and pointed out that over four years, this tuition waiver was worth about $3,500. Incidentally, that total cost is a bit more than a thousand hours over four years at the then minimum wage (so roughly five hours a week).


    A couple calculations from your comments:

    I found data on posted tuition rates by public 4-year colleges for in-state students dating back to 1990-91 (source linked below). I then pulled the US all-items consumer price index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 1990 (to fit your mid-80s timeframe) and 2018. Over that period, the CPI has increased by 192% while posted costs on 4-year in-state public tuition have increased 278%.

    1. Taking posted tuition rates-- Adjusted for inflation, average tuition as described should be about $6,900 per year currently, versus the $9,970 posted rate for 2017-18, representing a 31% inflation-adjusted premium on tuition since 1990-91.

    2. Accounting for differences in grants--In 1990-91, average students assumed 58% of tuition costs. This number dipped as low as 26% in 09-10 and 10-11, and has since risen to 42%. So, within the last decade, in-state students enrolled in 4-year public university programs are required to take on a rising share of their tuition, at a rising cost on an inflation-adjusted basis.

    On an inflation-adjusted basis, net tuition (after grants and aid) is on par with 1990-91 levels: $4,140 as posted net tuition vs. $4,016 from 1990-91. However, even despite that, current students attending public universities are worse off to the tune of 16% of net tuition costs since the recession, so the situation is worsening again. The compound annual growth rate in grant aid since 2009 is -0.2%, compared with 2.4% in posted tuition rates. The gap will continue to widen at this pace.

    (Aside: Quantum has asked that we not get into a discussion of living wages--and I will respect that--but it bears noting for future conversations that, on a purchasing power parity basis, minimum wages are operating below their 1990-91 equivalents. This requires working more hours to earn the same inflation-adjusted net tuition over time.)

    Sources
    Calculations based on data from BLS on CPI and- https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-...students-sector

    https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/net-price


    _________________________
    What is to give light must endure burning.

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    #242313 - 04/23/18 12:03 PM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    Old Dad Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/30/12
    Posts: 423
    One of the ways college costs can be cut, especially at state colleges is by by working closely with each other on what credits can be transferred. The trend seems to be the exact opposite with colleges limiting, sometimes to zero, the number of credits allowed to be transferred. Another thread in this forum discusses some of those difficulties here:

    http://giftedissues.davidsongifted.org/BB/ubbthreads.php/topics/242308/1.html

    While I understand the need of colleges to fund themselves and they get more funding the more college credits a student takes, a public college is there to serve the students of the state in particular and it's first focus should be on HELPING students to achieve their degree, not putting more hoops to jump through and financial burden on them to do so.

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    #242314 - 04/23/18 01:06 PM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    +1 to that idea, Old Dad.

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    #242324 - 04/24/18 06:57 AM Re: Escalating American Public University Tuition [Re: Quantum2003]
    Old Dad Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/30/12
    Posts: 423
    I'm going to company my post below from another thread to this thread as I believe it to be applicable here.

    The other thread was discussing the possibility of getting rid of the requirement for medical doctors to have an undergraduate degree before going on to study medicine. This is simply part of a larger problem in at least the U.S., I can't speak intelligently about other countries. That problem being that an undergraduate degree has become not necessarily necessary in order to perform certain jobs but instead a sorting tool for companies.

    It wasn't that long ago where it wasn't unusual, at least where I live, for companies to employ people as engineers who didn't have a college degree in engineering but had demonstrated keen ability in their field of engineering. Most companies these days don't allow that anymore, the degree in the field of employment is a requirement for being hired.

    No doubt the internet has done amazing things and provided us with opportunities that never existed prior to it's wide spread use. In the market, it lets the world become our customers......on the other hand, it also allows the world to become our competitors.

    It used to be that when a new job was available, a company would post it in the local and perhaps most popular read state wide newspaper, that was the extent of who knew about the job opening. Now, the newspaper is generally ignored and anyone in the world can look at the help wanted ad posted online. That creates a huge amount of competition for a new position opening. That's of course a good thing from the perspective of the company, however, they need a way to start sorting out candidates. An undergraduate degree is often that first measuring stick to begin the process or sorting....and why not? One with an undergraduate degree has demonstrated at least SOME ability to stick with it and complete a task, they have demonstrated the ability to learn, and it's a fair bet they had to complete quite a few assignments in groups. It doesn't though, mean they'll be a good employee or that their degree is needed to accomplish the job.

    This has created a situation where companies are using a very expensive means for the job seeker as a basic sorting method making that sometimes unneeded means an expensive requirement with little application to show for it after the initial sorting process.

    So how do we remedy that? Good question. I'm going to have to chew on that one for a while. One thing is for sure though, if we can figure out a way for companies to stop using unnecessary and expensive undergraduate degrees as a measuring stick to interview for a position, that will cut down on the amount of people who are in college debt.

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