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College prices (and other thoughts) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
College prices (and other thoughts)
There's a lot of grumbling from every side about the rising costs of college. It's outpaced inflation in every other sector, and it's no longer even remotely possible to "work one's way through," even at the lower priced public universities, largely because jobs that pay enough to put that much aside require a college degree. It's usually work combined with grants and scholarships, topped off with crushing student loans that hobble people as they start their working lives.

But what's to be done about it? I mean, honestly? These are private institutions, not things under governmental control, and they are absolutely responding to a market demand. Functioning in the working world without at least a bachelor's degree has become increasingly difficult--oftentimes, you can't even get an interview, let alone a chance to prove you can learn a job without college. And of course, once the BA/BS became common, the professions started demanding an MA/MS, because all the applicants had the four-year degree, and they needed something else to sort by. College libraries have regularly started looking for librarians with two Masters, one in library science and the other in a subject area.

And no, not just posting to go waah, my student loans are killing me (though, waah, my student loans are killing me). I'm not even going to go off on whether it should be profitable or not, or make a philosophical point. I'm just saying that, even in straight capitalism, we have something of a problem here, in that the nature of the consumption has changed, but attitudes toward the product have remained the same. In other words, it's now necessary to go to college, but we still treat it as a luxury expense. When high school became mandatory for success in life, high school became public, free, and available in every town. (It also arguably declined in quality, but that's not where I'm going--most of the "needed" college degrees are, more or less, a question of jumping through a requisite hoop.) This didn't stop the fancy private schools from existing, or the less fancy and expensive things like parochial schools who offered a different option, though the latter are suffering from the loss of nuns and monks who teach at lower salaries and live in church-run housing. Of course, regular teachers more or less have to take a vow of poverty, anyway.

Basically, I think we've reached a point where we have to make a decision--do we hold up a huge sign saying, "STOP!!!!" on the college requirements for jobs that could be learned by students coming out of high school, or do we take a deep breath, grit our teeth and introduce grades 13-16 of public schooling, so that people can get the requisite education without breaking the bank? I know, either step seems radical, and would change the nature of college (though no one's talking about closing up Harvard, Yale, and Princeton any more than public high schools closed up Exeter, Andover, and Choate--they'd most likely go on as they always have). But it is not feasible to continue the way we're going, with no options at all about something that has become routine and expected. And either way, we'd have to put the kibosh on increasing credentialing requirements, so we can stop the spiral.

Option one is never going to fly, because the very first consequence would be that the number of people attending college would drop, and I think that, socially, we place such a huge value on the ability to say, "Oh, X% of this school went on to college!" as an absolute indicator of a good thing that anything reducing the numbers of people going to college is simply not going to happen. Which isn't a bad attitude, really--social pride in higher levels of education is a good thing. There are much worse things to take pride in, you know?

So it strikes me as almost inevitable that we will end up with grades 13-16 in local public schools. Yes, it will be less prestigious, but honestly, the prestige thing only lasts so long after graduation anyway, at least as far as the job business goes. The alumni networks at the colleges are more important, but with the vast numbers of people going, they have a diminished impact anyway, because there are no personal connections, which is what they thrive on, annoying as that is. The Dear Old Alma Mater network is already fading, so I'm not sure how much of a loss it would be.

On a totally separate train of thought about higher education, I'm sincerely sick of the Ivy-bashing I see in many conservative circles. "What's the big deal about Harvard? Dumb courses and grade inflation and..."

Oh, shut up. I'm not a Harvard girl (Tufts, in fact; we had a cannon permanently pointed at Harvard), but there are places in the world that are irreplaceable, and Harvard's one of them. Is it full of silly courses and insane bureacracy? Of course it is. But it, along with the other Ivies and old sub-Ivies, is also full of a kind of magic that comes from tradition and a sense of identity. It's an old private school, but it's also an American institution. Kvetching about taking Harvard down a peg or two is sort of like saying, "Yeah, what's the big deal about July 4? August 19 has better weather, and the windsurfing is great." (Going to the sub-Ivies, of course, has always had the prickly attitude of, "You do know that July 2 is the real date we ought to be celebrating, right?"... which is fun in its own way.)

:eyeroll:
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ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: January 4th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure what to think. I watched my college tuition rise with no comprable increase in quality, and inf act with a *drop* in quality.
My school got a several million dollar donation . . . for the athletic department!

And of course, while they're bitching about no money, our school managed three White Collar embezzelment crimes so I kind wonder if part of the money problem isn'a *severe* mis-management of funds.

I also do think jobs should put more emphasis on things outside of os a BA or MA, like actual ability?

Part of the problem is the whole purpose of college has skewed. It used to be *extra* education.

You know philosophy arts, things that might not help in technical area but expand thinking.

Now, many college programs almost function as vocational schools (especially business, and engineering, marketing, even some visual arts)

I think we need to seperate the trade learning and the higher learning for starters.

Plus I'm all for the total destruction of atheltic depertments ^___^
Well maybe not, but they are severly over funded in proporation to the students in 'em.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 4th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I also do think jobs should put more emphasis on things outside of os a BA or MA, like actual ability?

Amen, there. We may even see it. When I was first fighting against the idea of going to library school--I waited seven years before giving in to the pressure to get a Masters--the response to my asking what a Masters was needed for was, "Well, everyone else had to make the sacrifice!" Now, we see more people coming out of the Masters program saying, "Hmm, okay... but couldn't I have learned a lot of this without going into debt?"

Part of the problem is the whole purpose of college has skewed. It used to be *extra* education.

You know philosophy arts, things that might not help in technical area but expand thinking.


Right. And that's what I'd love to see come back--a genuine liberal arts education, meant to challenge the mind and round out a person's intellect. (Which, btw, is scoffed at as an "elitist" position. Grr. I'm with Tolkien on what campuses should be like.) But the very, very good intention of opening college up to more people and making it a thing that people all aspire to has had the unintended side effect of turning it into a very different thing, as people are looking for a reason to justify spending such-and-such amount of money on it, rather than going straight to work.

I think we need to seperate the trade learning and the higher learning for starters.

I think trade schools need some respect! And you know what else? The old-fashioned apprenticeship system for the trades. You don't need a degree in Fine Arts to do graphic design, but a system by which you're introduced to people in the field and given practical training... that's valuable. Meanwhile, the people who have a burning intellectual desire to understand the great sweep of art history and theory really do need to put in the book time and study in an academic manner, and should have an academic arena in which to shine.
dramaturgy From: dramaturgy Date: January 4th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I never really thought of graduating high school as a big deal, anyway. It was the best day of my life, because I honestly hated high school (not the learning or material, it was a miserable social situation for me </clarification not whining honest>). I think I could stand for grades 13-16 to come into play.
From: marciamarcia Date: January 4th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Public schoolie here to say that state college is expensive...but not really that bad. When I started at the University of Kansas in 1999, I was paying about $2000 a semester. It's gone up considerably since then, but I'm pretty sure you can still do KU (one of the cheapest of the BIG public universities) for under $10K a year. Even the University of Minnesota (one of the most expensive) is currently running about $16K a year.

Now, that ain't cheap. But it's also not going to leave you paying exorbitant college loans until the day you die. I've got a little federal loan debt, but not a ton and most of that is cash I accepted to do things like buy a car and a computer and live for a year without a real job while I slaved on the cheap for the student newspaper and unpaid magazine internships (which could be a rant in and of themselves).

Besides which, those are big universities we're talking about. In Kansas and Minnesota the prices of other state universites and colleges only get cheaper. And there are community colleges, where you can do half your bachelor's degree (basically all the blah required courses) for as much as 1/2 the cost of the big universities.

Could it all stand to be cheaper? Sure. But the reason public universites have gotten more expensive is that their students want the technology, the professors, the resources, etc. etc. that private schools have. And, frankly, students desires aside, the public schools have to keep up to date with those things to maintain a level of credibility...which is incredibly important for both the school and its alumni. I think it's awesome that there are some degrees where public schools are far better ranked than private...because those schools are still WAY cheaper and that means that everybody can afford the best.

I don't think the solution to this is to move 13-16 into a highschool-plus like environment and I think that's far from inevitable. The schools and communities that already get those students and their income aren't going to just let that go.

Here's what I think needs to happen.
1) We need to stop gutting the hell out of the Pell Grant and subsidized federal loan system. Those programs have put thousands of people like me through school and if politicians expect the poor to raise themselves up and start giving back to the system, then programs like this need to remain available so we can.

2) We need to start encouraging kids to take a little time off after high school if they don't know what they want to do yet. I can't tell you how many of my friends went to college because it was just expected, got a degree that was interesting but kinda useless, and had no idea what to do with it once they graduated. So they end up taking managerial jobs in retail or whatever and that's how you end up with bachelor's degrees being required for every crap job anywhere that anyone could learn.

3) To a certain extent, we need to accept that your bachelor's isn't a super-special fuzzy deal anymore and treat it as such. By this I mean to say that if you're just getting a random bachelor's or if you're getting a bachelor's and KNOW you'll have to do grad school...why not do the bachelor's for cheap somewhere in the state system? Save the debt accumulation for your masters or PH.D., when the social networking you get from a prestigious school will actually make a difference anyway. Sure, if you know exactly what you want to do and you know that there's a school that does that better than others...go there. But if you don't need the expensive undergrad, why bother?

Unfortunately, those last two things go directly against the message kids are getting from their parents or thier high school counselors. And, realistically, it might be more difficult to convince middle class parents that it's ok (and possibly beneficial) if thier kid doesn't go to the very bestest undergrad program evar!!! than it would be to do what you suggested.
in_a_tizzy From: in_a_tizzy Date: January 4th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
We need to stop gutting the hell out of the Pell Grant and subsidized federal loan system.
Yes! Can someone please explain that to TPTB? *is bitter about losing half her Pell Grant*
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: January 4th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually have quite a lot to say on this subject, as it's near and dear to my politics on the state level. But for right now, I'll keep it brief. College should not be grades 13-16, because students should be getting the equivalent of two years of collegiate education at the high school level. This used to be the case, and isn't anymore - our colleges are bloated with kids who need remedial courses, making it more difficult for them to finish in four years, and causing a rise in costs that reflect back on tuition prices. We have to fix K-12 and make college a true choice again, instead of nearly compulsory like it is now. There are many careers that do not truly require a college degree - when you can go and get your degree in English and then work in business and never use the degree, there's a serious disconnect happening.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 4th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
We have to fix K-12 and make college a true choice again, instead of nearly compulsory like it is now.

Anything that gets K-12 fixed would be welcome and cheered on in this quarter. I have plenty to say on that. ;)

The problem with "making college a true choice again" is that I think we've already passed the tipping point there, socially speaking, and I don't see much likelihood of it going the other way, any more than there's the slightest likelihood of going back to a system where K-8 was required, and high school was a true choice (not that I'd want to see that). There's just too much stigma attached, and too much value placed on college as a nebulous concept. It would take a really concerted and dedicated P.R. effort, and who is going to want to be associated with a huge effort to do what will inevitably interpreted as telling kids that education ins't important? It's a conundrum.
lacontessamala From: lacontessamala Date: January 4th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, as you've said, it's what the market will bear, and we're approaching the point where the market will not bear it. Harvard knows this, which is why they've introduced a program to pay tuition for low-income students. And I've seen news articles on how many people have decided that they'll net more in the long run if they take a lower-paying job with no college degree (or a junior or technical college degree), because they won't be paying back tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, with interest.

When it is no longer feasible for people to justify an expensive college education, they'll vote with their money (by not spending it in tuition). Colleges will have to be sensitive to that, or they're going to lose money. Many (like Vanderbilt) are cutting costs already in areas like sports.

I think a lot of money could be saved by making textbooks electronic. The prices are ridiculous, and students rarely make even half back. Printing and shipping costs could be eliminated if textbooks were available only online. It could work like this: pay a fee (like $25 to cover author research and whatnot), and then use your student ID to access the text online.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 4th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Electronic textbooks would be good, but I suspect that the publishers will still gouge on it. I know that the electronic resources in libraries tend to cost as much as paper subscriptions.

The problem is that Harvard isn't lowering fees, it's making up ways to help people meet them--which it's always done. So have most schools, through scholarships. People aren't opting out of college in any numbers that seem evident, and enrollment keeps increasing as they raise costs, so the message they're getting is that they can gouge people indefinitely. And they can, because there's just no option.
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: January 4th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
The other issue is that because a college degree is pretty much required, I feel like there is a serious stigma on previously Just Fine jobs. I honestly don't think there is anything wrong with being, say, a mechanic. People need mechanics. You can earn a good living and own your own business and be independent and comfortable as a mechanic. Also, there are a lot of people who are really good with their hands, or at solving puzzles and problems of a mechanical nature, who would probably be truly miserable as middle managers at some random company. But it seems like these days the stigma against manual labor or only having a HS education is so strong that the people who are best suited to being mechanics (or electricians, plumbers, contractors, mail carriers, anything!), who could probably do really well and be really happy doing it, instead go to a 10th rate school, rack up tons of debt, get mediocre grades, hate every second of it, and then get a so-so job and are stuck at a desk for 40 years, totally unhappy. Being Blue Collar used to be ok, didn’t it? When did it become a requirement that everyone have a white collar job, even if it pays less and is less fulfilling?

Blargh!

Not that I'm opinionated.

(As for the Ivies… I’m guilty of the sub-Ivy (BU) envy. And I actually did feel like I was at a disadvantage when I started working—of the other reporters and writer-reporters at my level in my old job, only a couple of us didn’t go to Ivies, and I felt like we definitely had to work much harder to get through the door. Publishing is like that, though. For a while the guy in charge of hiring was a Princeton grad, and so 80% of the reporters went to Princeton! Mt brother is at Dartmouth, which is also where my husband is in grad school, and I feel like it just checks off a box for them, you know?)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 4th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
The other issue is that because a college degree is pretty much required, I feel like there is a serious stigma on previously Just Fine jobs.

Mm-hmm. Mechanics, shopkeepers, all those people who keep the place running. Funny thing, that. Though honestly, I'm expecting, at any moment, to see mechanics and construction workers expected to have BAs in engineering and architecture, anyway.
in_a_tizzy From: in_a_tizzy Date: January 4th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's kvetching about Harvard not being tht big a deal in my family but that's largely because my sister went there and.... well it wasn't a good fit.

I go to UMass-Boston (state commuter school for the non-Bostonians) and I got a lot of money for doing well on the idiotic MCAS tests but I have no idea how I'm gonna pay for my Masters and you can't do much without a master's these days and that's frustrating as hell.
akilika From: akilika Date: January 4th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm at Community College now, so my Pell Grant covers tuition and books, but I'm anxious about University. Since I'll be taking as few 4-year credits as I possibly can, I'll probably have a better time about loans than a lot of people, but . . . I'll admit, not even being sure what sort of jobs I'll be able to get at the end of it, it makes me nervous.

(I don't know why more people don't do the community college thing. I suppose it doesn't look as nice, but . . . eh, I could never be arsed about that, really.)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 4th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. My debt is between £8000 and £9000 for my whole degree. That, plus about £2000 I made working in the summers, covered fees, rent, food, and the few textbooks I bought (libraries are wonderful).

Plus it's the Student Loan Company one, with inflation-rate interest, and you pay it off before tax (actually it comes off with your tax via the Inland Revenue or whatever they're calling themselves nowadays).

I got in before top-up fees (up to £15000 in fees instead of my £3000), happily for me. I can see Britain doing its usual stupid thing of copying all the worst feature of the US.
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: January 4th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with a lot of aforementioned comments, so there's no point in reiterating them all. Rising costs of college are definitely a problem. My parents can certainly afford it, but that doesn't mean they don't grumble about the cost of tuition at Furman University (best liberal arts school in SC).

There's definitely two sides to the situation and some opinions. Yes, a lot of schools offer the same education in a field, so you might as well go cheaper. My twin brother goes to the local university (not a community college per se) for very little, plus lives at home. He originally planned on transferring to a large state university, but realized that for his major in history, the education and prestige of the degree would be the same at either school. On the other hand, you have me, a history and French major at a small, prestigious, private school with a superb history program. I would've been bored to tears at a SC state school (not that they're all bad, just that the history programs are only average). Yes, my parents are paying a ton of money, but it'll pay off in the long run. We still have strong alumni connections, thanks to our small size. And we have a great acceptance rate into top law schools, med schools, and grad schools. Plus our foreign study, research, and internship opportunities are unheard of.

What I'm trying to say is that where you go and how much you're willing to pay also depends on what kind and how challenging the education you desire is.

On another note, as a future history professor, it's annoying that I have to get my Ph.D. to teach at a really good school. It would be so much easier financially to be able to teach at college while I work on my doctorate.

Finally, back to the tuition costs, it's really the middle class getting screwed. The poor can get financial aid and the rich can just pay for college. Most families I know don't qualify for any financial aid, but can't afford out-of-pocket the costs of college. According the first FAFSA I did, my parents should be able to come up with $17,000 a year for me and another $17,000 for my brother. My parents have financial security and good jobs, but 34 grand is a huge chunk of their income. I worked insanely hard all of high school and was very proud of getting my assortment of scholarships. My parents still have a PLUS loan for over ten grand a year.

I think we need added emphasis on training schools and two year programs, more merit-based scholarships and grants, continual support of financial need help, more AP classes so students can earn college credit in high school, and higher standards in both high school and college.
parallactic From: parallactic Date: January 4th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
How about community colleges? You can at least knock off the general education requirements, get cheaper remedial courses if you need them, and then transfer to a traditional four year college. Where I live, a year's cost of community college numbers in the $100s (maybe a $1,000), while a year's cost of a 4-year college numbers in the $1,000s. With my local community colleges, the books are more expensive than the registration fees. Also, the courses are taught by people who at least have M.A.s (so classes taught by T.A.s, which sometimes happens in universities), or do have Ph.Ds and are also adjunct professors at the local 4-years.

Community colleges and the A.S. degrees also act as trade schools. It could also be sort of like the grades 13-14 you're thinking of. I think a combination of gen ed courses and specialized courses (e.g. mechanics classes, plumbing, court reporting, accounting) would: help you in the job market, introduce you to the arts and humanities, and not financially cripple you.

That might help with reducing the cost of an undergrad education, but that still doesn't stop how the price for higher education keeps going up, and how the job market seems to demand even higher degrees of education. I'm not sure what one could do about that.
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: January 4th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
You can at least knock off the general education requirements, get cheaper remedial courses if you need them, and then transfer to a traditional four year college.

But the problem arises if the credits won't transfer. I went to university of maryland and I knew a lot of people who went to community colleges freshman year and then transfered, and found themselves screwed over when they had to take half those classes all over again.
lady_moriel From: lady_moriel Date: January 4th, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I totally agree with purple_ladybug1--it's a problem for everybody, but middle-class people are feeling it the most, at the moment. My parents both have good jobs, so technically they could afford to put both my sister and me through college, but...not really. Most scholarships these days are need-based, and that's great, but it makes it hard for someone like me who gets good grades but didn't participate in lots of extracurriculars (because my school didn't really have any except sports) like the agencies want to see.

And I'm attending probably one of the cheapest schools in the nation, at least as far as tuition goes. University of Alaska Anchorage is a big state school, and lower-division undergrad tuition is...well, last semester it was $120 a credit, but they've jacked it up every year for the past several years, and it keeps rising. It was $100 when I started here just a couple years ago. Generally my fees and tuition end up costing about $2000. I still live at home, so that helps a lot, and I get all my textbooks online for cheap (but I still paid $360 for them all this semester). I'm working, too--used to work in retail for $9 an hour, and now I'm the copy editor at the student newspaper for $9.50. I've gotten some scholarship money from the honors program, and my parents pay half my tuition, but if I were living on my own and had to pay rent, food, and all my tuition, I wouldn't be able to get by. And the prices just keep rising.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 4th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know that much of American conservatism has an anti-intellectual streak, right?

Unfortunately, so does a lot of American liberalism, hence the assault on "classics" and the canon of literature. :( We've always had a pretty strong strain against them Yurropeen nobility stuff, since we're all salt of the Earth kinds, which is defined as not havin' that book-learnin' fetish or gettin' all surrounded by that high-toned stuff like paintings and ballet. The major difference is that liberal anti-intellectualism has decided to actually camp out in the colleges. Sigh.

It's less a liberal vs. conservative thing than a liberal vs. right wing thing, just like most of the arguments of campus conservatives aren't conservative vs. liberal so much as conservative vs. left wing. If you think of it as four people walking toward a city who come upon a deep, uncrossable gorge, you have the right wing stomping its feet and demanding to go home because it's a dumb city anyway, the left wing saying, "Whee! Long-jump! EXTREME, DUDE!", the liberals saying, "Hmm, if we're careful, we may be able to climb down one side and up the other here, and the conservatives saying, "That's too risky since we can't see the bottom, I suggest we stay on this side a little longer and see if there's a safer crossing." Of course, there's also the nihilist segment saying, "There is no city, and the chasm is uncrossable, so let's just throw ourselves over the edge," but that's... just weird.
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sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: January 4th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is interesting, because we have a similar situation in New Zealand - rising fees (though the average BA, being three years, only comes to about $15,000) and way more people going through uni than probably need to. The difference is that we have no private universities, so the government can be blamed for everything. :P We also have a universal student loans system, which means the major problem is actually people defaulting on their loans by going overseas and never coming back.

The solutions being implemented here are making loans interest-free as long as the holder stays in NZ, and a strong push to get more people into the trades by creating a government-operated apprenticeship system. Uni also tends to be Darwinian anyway; 51% of people who start degrees never finish them, meaning that a lot of the ones who don't need to be there in the first place realise that and leave after a year or two. But when unis are relying on getting bums on seats to keep running, there's a problem; we need either more government funding or a better relationship with the private sector to get them funding certain areas of the university. What we don't need is the current attempts to run state universities like businesses, resulting in the continued downsizing of the Arts and the destruction of whole degree areas because the morons running the place don't realise that, yes, Commerce can get away with one lecturer per fifty or seventy students and a language course just can't. But that's a whole other rant in itself.
emmyaward From: emmyaward Date: January 5th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Apply that to Australia, and it's pretty much the same situation. One of the big things in Australia, actually, is that enrolments are starting to fall for like the first time ever - this began a couple of years ago, I think, around the time that I finished high school - and since funding is based on enrolments, universities have been slashing humanities like mad, because all the chances for grants etc. are in the sciences, medicine and engineering. The university I was at last year has just cut its theatre and music degrees, and has gone mainly digital in visual arts. Anyone who wants to do music or theatre has to enrol in a creative arts degree which of course doesn't give you anything like the actual specialist degree did, because most of the lecturers left when the degree was canned.

And then there's VSU, but that's another rant for another day.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 5th, 2007 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that's a good point, and I actually suspect that the older students who have been out and around also would bring some maturity to campus discourse. Older students who've already proven themselves capable of making a living are also, I think, more likely to be in college because they want to be in college, rather than because that's what's expected of them. I think there are a lot of good options out there, but the social pressure/shape of things suggests to me that we're not going to go to a different model any time soon. We're not seeing a reduction in the demand for degrees, which is why prices keep going into the stratosphere--the older students still have to pay the obscene fees and/or mix it with financial aid. (That you finished your service with $40K for school and still have to do a FAFSA is most of what the issue is here!) Because so many professions have made it impossible to function without degrees, colleges can more or less raise their prices as much as they want, because they're still treated like luxury expenses rather than an expected part of education... right up until you try to do something without that "luxury."
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