Our crushing debt is better than theirs.

27 08 2010

The first thing you have to do is go watch this. Click the link right now! You won’t be sorry.

Welcome back. Let me use that bit of hilarity as a starting off point for getting at some stray thoughts that have been circling around inside my head:

1. Andrew Hacker, who thinks that higher education is failing its students, still thinks its worth the money because it’s a ticket to the middle class. It certainly can be, and you’re probably not going to make it to the middle class without a college education. If college is like a casino, you’re better off playing than just watching the floor show. [Graduate school, on the other hand is a different game entirely.] I didn’t think college was a good bet, I wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in it.

2. Like any good casino, just about everyone is welcome in the door these days. This is from the Daily Beast:

It may be easier to get into college this year than it has been in a decade.

Yes, you read that right. True, more Americans are expected to attend college this fall than ever before….

If history is any indication, this slump will yield good news for families. Applicants could soon find lower admission standards, a slowing of tuition increases, and fewer college dropouts.

For once, I don’t mean to sound sarcastic here. It’s a good thing that colleges like mine are open to nearly everyone because someone has to serve students in need.

4. The bad thing is that whether you can go depends entirely upon how much money you have. College really is flippin’ expensive (says the guy whose 16-year-old daughter has recently expressed a desire to go to Oberlin), even with financial aid. As Washington Monthly notes:

A family that earned $75,000 a year should save $190 a month for a public university and $410 a month for a private school.

That’s awfully close to my household income and I don’t have $410/month to save.

5. Of course, Oberlin, Colorado State University – Pueblo or any college may turn out to be a bad bet in the end. But if you’re in a casino, you really ought to play the odds:

A study in April by the College Board found that 53% of for-profit-college students finish with more than $30,500 in debt, compared to 12% of students at four-year public schools.

And for-profit students are much more likely than other students to default on student loans. According to federal data released in December, about 21% of for-profit-school students defaulted within three years on loans they began repaying in fiscal year 2007; the figure for all student borrowers was just 12%.

Seriously, when’s the last time you heard a real success story about a University of Phoenix graduate? The school has been around for at least a couple of decades now and I don’t see their graduates storming the Fortune 500. CSU-Pueblo, at least, has Dana Perino. [Don’t laugh. You know she could buy and sell all of us on what she’s making as a Beltway pundit right now.]

6. Of course, if there were still a viable union movement in this country people wouldn’t have to go to college to get a decent-paying job, but that’s probably a subject for another post or perhaps an entirely different blog.


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