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A Mere $392,800 Gets You A Degree!?

Are you shocked by the cost of a university education today? I am, and I work at a university! Frankly, I don’t understand how parents and students today are able to pay the present room, board, and tuition costs of an education at either a public college ($25,000) or a private college ($55,000). The cost of higher education has increased at a faster rate than inflation for at least the last ten years. And, according to a college financial aid consultant, Kalman Chany, there is no end in sight.

Chany predicts that when today’s children to go college, the estimated cost of a state school will be $37,000 a year, and at a private school, the cost will be $98,200. When you multiply these numbers by a factor of four, you wind up with public tuition topping out at $150,800, and private tuition at $392,800. (And, by the way, these figures do not include books, spending money, and transportation!)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still convinced of the importance of a college education, both in regard to developing competence and a career, as well as addressing the related questions of “personal identity and character”. However, I am also convinced that universities need to redefine their financial models and ways of doing business.

The golden ages of the “baby boomers” charging off to college in unprecedented numbers is over. Birth rates have been down for over 15 years, and so has the pool of normal college age students. Moreover, the demands and specific needs of the market place have changed. Nowadays, just getting a degree, is no longer a guarantee of getting a job.

“Boomer” parents were once able to help, if not, completely pay college bills while simultaneously maintaining a middle class existence and planning for retirement. But, today’s parents can’t do it all anymore. And, clearly, most students cannot pay for their own tuition. Those students who do pay their own bills, often do so by taking on loans that often require 10 to 15 years to pay off.

Given today’s and tomorrow’s projected costs, I simply don’t think universities can maintain their present pedagogical model and method of doing education. I’m convinced that within 15 years, the average university undergraduate curriculum will be a two to a three year experience. Yes, there will be “some” liberal art; but the focus will be on career preparation and technical competencies.

This possible near-future scenario deeply troubles me greatly! But, after four-decades in the classroom, I, sadly, just can’t imagine any other workable alternative.

  • By Michael Bogosian on 3.3.2013 at 1:45 pm

    Is higher education a right or a privilege? Are we looking at a future where young people will be forced to forgo a degree from a university in lieu of a self-taught or apprenticeship model. I wonder how ethical it really is to saddle a young under graduate with six figures in loans as they walk into >20% unemployment for adults 18-25.

    I personally struggle with these questions because I was fortunate to be able to reasonably afford a first class education from Loyola. However, even under the best of circumstances, it would be VERY difficult for me to someday help support my kid(s) so they can get a fair shake.

    In my opinion, cause that’s all this really is, I don’t necessarily blame schools for the rising cost of education. I blame the government. We are going through something similar to the real estate bubble with regard to tuition prices. Universities pretty much have a guarantee they’ll get paid by the government when students take out loans to foot the bill. They continue to expand their facilities, spend money on marketing their brand, and trying to differentiate themselves.

    Do we say no? No more debt? How do we justify the investment? Will new FREE models emerge such as the Khan Academy? Will the digital age spring new hope for our future? It has been for the last 20 years what’s to stop technology and the internet from changing the next 20…



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