The College Scam Hurts Us ALL

Category: Weekly Columns

Human nature is such that when something doesn’t directly affect you, it’s easy to not pay attention. Such has been the case for this dad regarding the escalating costs of college, the incredible competition to get in, and all the bizarre and increasingly complex options to try and pay for it all. Maybe it’s a scam on us parents? Maybe it’s another bubble about to burst as some say about the over 1 trillion in student debt? All I know is we are paying a ridiculous fortune to send our first-born to a private college in Boston.

Part of my outrage has become a sort of ongoing rant that I’ve done on my radio show, to anyone who will listen, and now in writing. It seems that I completely messed up as a dad. Instead of abandoning the family when my marriage ended, I stuck around…even when mom disappeared altogether. Instead of going delinquent on my rent or mortgage and credit card bills, I paid them – on time. Instead of spending all my savings on new cars, vacations, and toys, I towed the line in anticipation of future needs. Instead of developing a bad addiction that landed me in re-hap or jail, I kept a relatively healthy lifestyle. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

All of that behavior disallowed my boys from eligibility for ANY aid. If I’d been more irresponsible, the government and/or colleges would’ve helped out. We don’t even qualify for a loan of any sort, except exorbitant private loans. When Jodi Okun (CollegeFinancialAidAdvisors) graciously offered to take me through the finances and loan possibilities, after my son was accepted at The Berklee College of Music in Boston, we began with a quick Q&A.

After I answered a couple basic questions about my finances, Jodi started to laugh. Now, to be clear, we are friends so it was a laugh of friendship. What was she laughing at: the fact that my savings and good credit made my boys and me totally ineligible for anything. And, the amount one has that disqualifies a family are shockingly small!

This is where the whole “scam” notion comes to bear. Our family therapist has paid for and sent his two daughters through college, completely on his dime. He, too, was totally irresponsible by paying off debt, investing wisely, and saving money. He told my wife and me the story of a patient who was a struggling legal immigrant – a single mom. Her son excelled at school and was accepted to a fine state college with a full ride, aka for free. The college – U.C. Santa Cruz – is one of those where the local community lives off the students and their parents. This mom could NOT afford to attend her son’s graduation because of the cost of getting and staying there.

The scam is that colleges have upped their tuition by nearly 400% in the past decade. It is the number one inflation category. What is number two? Health care at “just” 250%! Plus, our government has basically encouraged those outrageous tuition hikes in the same manner they “encouraged” banks to make home mortgage loans to people that truly didn’t qualify. The bubble burst then. When will it burst with college and the huge abundance of loans that most graduates cannot afford to re-pay?

The whys of this are complicated. But, like the mortgage crises it involves too much government intervention, greedy institutions (the colleges and universities), and parents and students that have bought into the whole thing. C’mon, what is wrong with spending the first two years at a local community college? Is every kid really suited for college? What happened to trade schools? Do you know any poor plumbers or electricians?

Then we have my generation of parents, the boomers and those that helicopter their kids. We raised our kids to think they could do anything they wanted. We expected every one of our kids to go to college. We spoiled our kids in untold ways. Most of us aren’t even that aware of how much college has changed since most of us attended them! That is another article altogether, but it is significantly different today since the sixties generation are now the leaders, professors, and administrators at our colleges and universities.

The traffic jam at many schools has caused students to fight and struggle to complete their necessary coursework in four years, given that many requisites are “sold out.” Much more proselytizing goes on IN the classroom and around the campuses than even the Vietnam era protesting that my generation forced upon America.

At many schools – as crass as this sounds – we are spending tens of thousands of dollars to let our kids go binge drinking, experiment with sex, and be brainwashed in class. Heck, they can do that all at a local community college and we don’t have to pay $60,000 a year for them to come back and hate everything that we stand for!

Okay, I’m not too heated on this subject.

  • SeattleDad

    If you filled out the FAFSA, they should have at least qualified for some Federal Unsubsidized Loans. Yes, it remains incumbent on the students/parents to be smart shoppers in the process.  Know what you can afford, and what your kids will take away.  People with a college degree still have significantly higher earning potential than those without.  That doesn’t mean it is right for every kid, but those who know what they are purchasing and are committed to making it work are still getting a deal.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I spoke with an aid specialist and all we qualify for is 10%+ private loans – loan-sharking – and I’d rather self-finance! I wonder if that old saw about people with a college degree making more factors into the equation the loan and LOST time of going to college. I suggest it may no longer be true!

      • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

        I agree with you Bruce. Do you know how many hours I wasted studying courses I had absolutely no interest in and which would not apply to my life – ever? I am weak in math – always have been and I’m not sad to say I always will be. I’m doubly strong in English and writing as a result. 

        Do you know how many college courses I had to take to make up for that supposed math deficit? Three at 3 hours a piece. Almost $1,000 in remedial math courses. And you know what? After ten years, they’re no longer acceptable. It’s like I never took them and I have to take them again! Yet I can balance a checkbook, create a budget, do basic math, work a spreadsheet – skills the average low-income household does NOT have. That is as much knowledge as I need in my day-to-day life and career. So instead of forcing math down my throat how about some equivalent basic life skills like managing your money, planning for retirement and buying a house? If you’re pursuing a degree that requires extensive math skills, fine, but I was pursuing an English degree. Math need not apply.There are so many ridiculous standards that don’t have any practical application, it’s ridiculous. Mind you, I do agree some courses teach something greater than their basic content (I haven’t applied any of my history knowledge but it did give me critical thinking skills – something math has never done). What modern education considers core skills for a degree are ridiculous. A typical degree requires 120 hours, half of which are “general education” – something that should have been learned in Elementary through High school. But it’s not so students are forced to waste two more years learning (or relearning) the basics. What the heck were the first 12 years for then? Babysitting? A way to keep kids out of trouble and off the streets? Yeah, that’s working real well with drop out rates increasing all the time.

        I actually wrote a somewhat related article recently talking about the US Education system – if you have time I’d love your thoughts on it. Here’s a link: http://www.charitykountz.com/education-system-broken/

        I could probably continue to rant about this but I think I’ve done enough of that. *blush* I didn’t even realize I felt so passionately about it until I started reading this post and comments! Nice job Bruce!

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          I love your passion Charity…now would you please read and comment on ALL the rest of my columns?! LOL…

          • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

            Rofl – I might just have to do that – next time I have a few free hours. lol

    • http://twitter.com/JodiOkun College $$ Advisor

      I agree with you 100% and… yes if you fill out the FAFSA you get an UnSub Loan. This is the time when students do not have a lot of jobs options after college and college degrees are getting them in the door…no college degree and the door may not even open

      • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

        I disagree that a door won’t open. There are ways around it – however, there are definitely limits. A high paying corporate job is likely out of the question but there are certainly other avenues like self-employment.

  • http://stay-at-homedadblunders.tumblr.com/ dadblunders

    Universities today are outrageously expensive! I understand the need for them to update and pass onthe cost in tuition hikes but I don’t/never will comprehend the amount of money we put into student loans with a possibility of being successful. A large amount of college graduates leave school with a loan balance of most 3rd world nations (okay a slight exaggeration)

    I do know with the amount owed currently, it very well could become the next major bubble going to pop on society. I believe in higher educational system but I also believe the financial structure needs to be reworked. Whats going to happen to colleges like Harvard, Yale and such if that bubble bursts? It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that massive bankruptcy could ensue in our educational system.  Just my thoughts of course…..

    Aaron 

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We agree Aaron. But, there’s also a parental mindset that needs adjustment. Not EVERY kid should even go to college, let alone begin college at an expensive 4-year university. A year off might give a kid more of a reality check than having sex and binge-drinking the first year away from home!

      • http://twitter.com/JodiOkun College $$ Advisor

        Bruce we have talked about this before..but  we need to think of the future of our kids and living a life on their own financially independent. 

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          So much harder for them, than us!

          • http://stay-at-homedadblunders.tumblr.com/ dadblunders

             No on ever said it would be easy or that life is fair. In fact, I am always telling my 3-year-old that life isn’t fair and its not always about him. I believe the changes that need to be implemented will take work from all parties involved. It means literally from the government to the child wanting to go to college.

            Yes, I do agree that not all children are cut out for college. I also think that trade schools and vo-techs are way under utilized by many people. Even with those being underutilized you still have to be accepted and i know that getting into some trade schools is a lot harder than people realize.

            Our country is currently facing a major shortage of people with computer skills, engineering and such. I believe part of the reason is because of the current educational system and the pressures that have been placed on them to have/meet standards. The standards are often unrealistic and forces schools to “push/pass” kids through without a basic reading skill to their name.

            People might disagree with me but I can tell you that I have seen many children that couldn’t read beyond a 3rd grade level that were approaching graduation.  I blame this on parents as much as I do  the system. Parents should be responsible for knowing how there children are doing in school instead of often acting like its the schools responsibility and taking no active participation. I could go on and probably make a very long “editorial style blog” for a long time but I will stop here.

            Aaron

          • http://twitter.com/JodiOkun College $$ Advisor

            Well said

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            Aaron, we so agree. The problem is actually simple. TAKE the government OUT of education. Let it be free market, let their be choice. We now spend twice as much as we used to for no appreciable gain in results while other countries keep on surpassing us in Math and Science. It’s pathetic!

        • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

          There’s also a maturity factor. It’s unfair to expect an 18 year old to suddenly take on all these new experiences and expectations successfully all at once. I think that contributes to why so many fail and turn to sex, drugs, and drinking. Most come out of it okay but it’s an unnecessary experience (and I’m thankful I didn’t go through it! I’d already been responsible for myself from the age of 10, and lived on my own at 17). I certainly hope to have the wisdom to guide my daughters into adulthood rather than drop them from the nest and expect them to immediately fly.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            Wisdom is soooooo under-valued in our world these days…so sad!

    • http://twitter.com/JodiOkun College $$ Advisor

      Nice Aaron

  • TheRealMattDaddy

    I think you will see a sort-of “rejection” of college in the next generation. They will be able to use the internet to gain knowledge and forge a career by designing sites, apps, and new tech.  The ones that do go to college will be the scientists, engineers, and physicists.  My parents were poor enough to qualify me for some aid.  I footed the rest of the bill on my own to attend a private college. Yes, I could have gone to a local school.  I could have started at Community College.  But I was the first grandchild in my family to get a degree.  I felt like it was my duty to use the brains that I had been blessed with for some greater good.  Now I’m an at-home dad and my wife’s work is paying off my student loans.  I feel like it’s extremely unfair to her, but she knew what she was getting into when we got married.  When I sell my house, I will be paying off my student loans (3 years early, too!)  Unfortunately, until the tech generation takes over, college is still “required” to get a decent paying job.  

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You have brains? Wow, that’s a surprise, Matt! LOL…I think you are SO right that their will be rejection of college by many as they see its value decline in relation to its exorbitant cost!

      • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

        I think it’s always started. My generation (born 1970 – 1980) has already begun shunning higher education and that was long before the housing bubble burst.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Do you really believe your generation is shunning “higher” education vs. high school, which is sort of a joke these days, especially the senior year which is almost a total waste of time!

          • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

            I think we’re shunning both. High school was without a doubt, a complete joke. I dropped out my senior year after my dad kicked me out at 18. I then took my GED a few months later – never cracked a book to study for it, heck, I didn’t even know I should, and passed it in 1/3rd of the time it took everyone else. They did an admin review because I passed it so fast and with such high scores (except math) that they thought I cheated. College, on the other hand, did teach me some things. However, if I’d gotten the proper foundation in my earlier education, I would have been much more successful in college. Our education system has it backwards – we should give students the right foundation in K-12, then add career building skills in college so people can be productive members of society. In my opinion anyway.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            Given our economic woes and the LACK of substance of Senior Year in high school, some places are getting rid of it altogether. I think a year of community service instead would be a boon to our kids AND our society!

    • http://twitter.com/JodiOkun College $$ Advisor

      To get a decent job and competing against so many applicants students have no choice

  • David Weber

    The thrust of what you have written here is on the money — no pun intended!  I am a college professor and from my own related, and sympathetic, perspective, do indeed see this kind of thing going on.  Let’s not get started, for example, on the costs of textbooks! 

    I hesitate to call any of it a “scam,” in that a scam implies to me some sort of intentional, planned set of tactics to get over on someone or some group.  Instead, I would call this a good example of best intentions gone horribly awry thanks to a variety of bad decisions and choices within a complex system.  And I am not specifically referring to the system that we think of as university education or post-secondary education; I am thinking of the “system” that sits at the intersection of the much larger and more complex political and sociocultural systems that form our nation.  

    To call that a scam is to understate and underestimate the nature of the beast.  It is easy to put sole blame on a university or universities in general.  But among the many stations of the cross in this terrible situation, malfeasance at the level of a specific university or scholarship program (or more or either) is only one.  To put too much emphasis on universities as being culprits is to overlook the other elements of the problem, which as I said, is much more complex than just some kind of mendacity, or venal collusion, by those involved with administering our system of higher education.

    To suggest that this problem is like the healthcare problem is on target.  Both are just about equally complex and to our discredit as a nation. To make matters worse, I am unsure of how to fix any of this complex problem without doing MAJOR repairs in the larget supersystem to which I referred.

    I could go on about this, but that would make for too long a comment–and I’ve surely gone on too long as is. 

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Wow, I thought you’d blast me MUCH MORE than you have, Professor. And, thanks for bringing up the absurd cost of textbooks. I ONLY used the word “Scam” for attention. I also do not AT ALL believe the problem rests solely with the universities. I actually blame the government more in the same way I blame the government for the mortgage crisis that began our ongoing recession. Giving a mortgage to EVERYONE is just as bad an idea as pushing EVERYONE to go to college – in both cases, regardless of qualifications and real need!

      BTW, Professor – I had to look up at least FIVE words in your comment…Love “mendacity!” Great word. Almost as good as my favorite word, “ubiquitous.”

    • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

      I’m not going to say I disagree with your perspective but a couple of examples from history come to mind, which I would pose to you now as questions for consideration. 

      In essence, part of the reason America fought for freedom was to get away from persecution – part of which was related to education. Europe controlled education and used it as a means to control the masses. Catholicism prevented the “hysterical masses” from studying the original bible. 

      Later, prior to and after the American Civil War, slaves were prevented from learning to read, which subsequently prevented them from changing their situation in life. 

      Women, prior to 1950, were largely refused a higher education simply because they were women.

      How is the current system, which makes it exorbitantly expensive (and therefore nearly impossible for the lower income class) to get a proper education any different? Isn’t it just a nicer mask for the same thing? So maybe it’s not a scam – maybe it’s something far worse which we are all, in one way or another, contributing to by not asking the critical question, “Is there a better way?” and then acting on it.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        The irony Charity is that the “current” system actually helps many so-called disadvantaged people get “in” and precludes others that are more qualified. So many of those that “get in” because of a racial preference end up struggling and dropping out anyway – leaving them with a great sense of failure. It is just completely broken right now, IMO!

        • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

          Yeah, thats just window dressing. I’ve been one of the so-called disadvantaged my whole life – their help did nothing for me. What the disadvantaged need is positive support systems – not handouts. Yes there are some who are lazy but those who are willing to work hard are just looking for opportunities to do well, not be given everything. 

          Yes, I agree completely broken as is so many other systems within America. Unfortunately, it seems to be the best we’ve got at the moment until someone comes up with a better solution.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            While I tend to avoid politics, the “better solution” would be BETTER politicians!

          • charitykountz

            Wow, does such a thing exist? Lol

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            YES, but our mainstream media and foolish laws re: campaign financing make it so hard for the “good” people to run and/or win!

  • Doug Walters

    I think that TheRealMattDaddy has touched on an important point here – that there is a “rejection” of college happening with the younger generations (of which I am part). I started a family at a younger-than-average age and my first two attempts at college were below par. After amassing a teeny-tiny $14k in debt, I was ready to give up. I’m VERY glad to see that people are starting to see the benefits of the marriage between 21st century technology and education. I am now a student at University of the People – a tuition-free online school that is working toward accreditation (yes, I understand what that means) – and I am anxiously awaiting the release of tools like Degreed which will allow students to compile not only university coursework and degrees but also certifications, recognitions from new learning sites like Khan Academy, etc. into one large portfolio instead of relying simply upon a very, very expensive piece of paper. I’m not against college at all, but I am very much in favor of breaking away from the higher-ed status quo and using technology to simplify/streamline/energize the educational process so that it becomes something that is available to EVERYONE – even people in other countries – without having to go bankrupt.

    The big schools have seen the growing trend in offering free learning online…edX, Coursera, etc. are blossoming. So in this way, even those who don’t “go to college” can still be continual learners.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I so agree with both you and Matt. THIS is a wonderful positive change. We ALL should be continual learners anyway. But, starting out adulthood with absurd debt just does NOT make sense, especially when it is so overblown!

    • David Weber

      These could be excellent options, ones I am not too familiar with but seem to have potential utility and value. 

      In the U.S.A., certainly,  methods of getting a higher education, what a higher education is and means, what its use and value may be and how important it may or may not be to have are matters that over several decades have gone through a series of alterations. 

      Two big question marks are:

      (a) will the technology-driven changes that Doug Walters describes become mainstream and widely accepted as the basis of credentialing and accomplishment BEFORE the current system’s problems overturn the entire apple cart of higher education? Starting from scratch may take more time and resources than simply transitioning intentionally and prudently. 

      (b) is there ultimately something to be said for group face-to-face encounters as the BASIS for how one goes about getting a higher education?  Chats, IMs, tweeting, bulletin boards and lists of course have been incorporated into the technological mix for those who currerntly wish to acquire a higher education by using digitally-mediated platforms.  Such an approach is fundamentally a solo endeavor, in that it’s done on one’s own time, with limited real-time dialogue, brainstorming, testing of ideas and so on. 

      In short, what Doug Walters is alerting us to is an entire new hard-wiring of humans as learners.  Once again, whether that will happen BEFORE the collapse to which he refers is really not clear.  I personally think the hard-wiring will shift only over a period of many decades, soonest … the WHOLESALE AND WIDESPREAD shift of the human brain to accommodate learning by something other than F2F modes will not occur quickly.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        I suspect you are right, Professor but maybe what we need is a big EARTHQUAKE of change…it can wait, however, until after you retire!

    • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

      Wow, what you’re talking about with online education sounds right up my alley. I didn’t even think we’d gotten that far yet. I’ve been able to take some online courses in the last few years but that was more the exception than the rule (and really not a lot of learning involved). Great reply.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687678600 Matt Rundle

    No one wants to be a plumber.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I don’t agree…

  • http://janiceperson.com/ Janice Person

    This is a really complicated topic and of course I have opinions. 🙂  

    I benefited from going to college at a time when there were various college loan programs — I had both direct student loans and guaranteed student loans. I also was lucky enough to have sufficient grades to get scholarships since my parents were lower middle class and had four of us — two were ahead of me. 

    Those loans were critical to my being able to get both my bachelors & masters degrees. And I borrowed far more than my parents could imagine — I think I ended up borrowing more than they paid for the house I was raised in and was pursuing journalism, not exactly a field where anyone anticipates making money! But for whatever reason, I chose “to go for it” and did just that and then painstakingly paid the loans back. We should give more students the chance to decide how they want to invest in their own future, especially when parents can’t cover the notes. 

    The other thing you mention is on the cost of education….. I really have thoughts on that! My alma mater was a small liberal arts university. I say was because it like quite a few other schools in that niche closed in the economic crises a lot of schools faced. I’m not sure whether it was mismanagement of investments that came from the endowment, the sudden drop in students after the baby boomers passed through, its lack of raising tuition or what, but I know that I wish the school had looked at how to get more financial support and other things sent its way. 

    Complicated for sure, also critical for each of us to figure out as I think it offers the best way for each of us to get the future we want. And with that in mind, I think we agree, you have to go for it! 

    Thanks for being the kind of dad more should be….. can’t help but wonder if we had more responsible parents how different the world would be. I have to think that the impacts would be amazing! 

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Key word in your comment, Janice – COMPLICATED. It sure it. And, so much harder for today’s kids. Funny how we usually reflect on our pasts and say how much harder WE had it!?

  • Paul

    Bruce, I’m down with it.  I get it.  I agree.  The rising price of higher education is one of three or four motivators behind a recent journey I’ve started with my kids.  (I’m not seeking a plug here but would love your feedback on our approach which can be viewed at shaferpower.com.)  Action is always the best cure…in my humble opinion.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I’ll take a look Paul…hope you’ll join us at #DadChat some Thursday: http://www.brucesallan.com/2012/07/10/tattoo-contest-dadchat/

      • Paul T. Shafer

        Bruce, sounds great.  Would love to do so.  I’m out for the next two Thursdays but will check in on the 26th.  This is the first post I’ve responded to and after reading some of the other comments, I really like the straight talk.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          #DadChat is there EVERY Thursday! We’ll look forward to “seeing” you there some day. As for “straight talk,” that’s my middle name!

          • Paul T. Shafer

             LOL.  Closing thought….I’m curious what (if any) sort of impact MOOC’s will have on higher education.  I’ve been following them for a while, in fact, I signed up for my first free course just this month.  http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2012/07/11/the-world-of-massive-open-online-courses/

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            They’re cheaper so they WILL have an impact…how much? We’ll see!

  • http://twitter.com/westfallonline Chris Westfall

    Wow, Bruce!  Just got my daughter her driver’s license this week.  Now I’ve got to worry about the cost of college?  Color me “overwhelmed”, and thanks for blowing my mind.  🙂

    This article is very enlightening, and a topic of much conversation in our house.  Specifically, the cost of college is easily defined…but what exactly is the return on investment?  Education, like life, the weather, and popsicle sticks, is what you make of it.  

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Chris, the ROI ain’t what it used to be – THAT is for sure. Start talking community college to your daughter. Bribe her with a big high school graduation vacation if she’ll do that!

      • Jodiokun

        Bruce did you just say bribe..I am listening…

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          I’m VERY serious. My younger son wants to go to NYU. He will likely get in. IF I had to pay full freight, it would cost around $250,000. IF, on the other hand, he can get a full ride, it would cost me much less, obviously. Why not incentivize him? I’m happy to offer him $50,000 – $100,000 upon graduation depending on the size of the scholarship he secures. What a deal for both of us! He can use the money to start a business, buy a house, whatever the heck he wants – he’s then truly EARNED it!

          • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

            I really like that idea and what a great life lesson for your son to learn. Even if he doesn’t get a full ride but gets a partial ride and then makes up the shortfall on his own – just as good. That’s a strong message he’ll be grateful for later in life. Great call dad!

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            I just hope I have to pay off, CK!

  • Daddysincharge

    My wife and I have been able to put a ton of money away. We’ve been fortunate. It amazes me that since I went to Syracuse University tuition has gone from $21,000 to over $50,000 in 15 years. I understand the need for upgrading facilities to keep up with te Harvards and Princetons of the world, but last I checked they were trying to raise like a billion dollars in donations. Where the hell is THAT money going? Certainly not back to the people that can afford to donate in the first place. I can’t help but think costs have to stabilize once online schooling becomes more of a viable option. Why can’t schools like Dartmouth and Brown offer their programs on the Internet if the University of Phoenix can? Why do we so much stock in brick and mortar schools? I don’t have the answer.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Neither do I, John…but that “ton of money” won’t weigh more than an ounce or two if college inflation continues at its current OUTRAGEOUS rate. I also thought I’d saved a ton…little did I know when it came time to begin paying for tuition!…

  • Mmender

    I read your prose today, and it hits home!!!! I thank you for having the stones to write it, it is absolutely my truth too.  Out daughter was turned down by many in state schools that she was, in fact, over qualified for because we are in the wrong category. I feel stupid for doing things right.  Poor kid, with her responsible parents pays a high price for being our daughter.  She is going to a private small college but I would be just as happy at our local city college. And we would be better off financially for it.

    I really appreciate your honesty and point of view. Thank again for putting it out there, and congratulations on your son.  

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yeah, what were YOU thinking being so responsible!

  • Terry Dressler

    message:

    Dear
    Mr. Sallan, Having seen one daughter through college (and graduate school)
    and having one daughter entering her 4th year at UC Berkeley in August this
    year, I read with great interest, and some sympathy, your article regarding
    the challenges of college tuition. My older daughter was rebellious and left
    the nest and did college on her own, on loans, which we just paid off for her
    as birthday present. She is currently a school teacher in LA, married, and
    has blessed us with a wonderful grand daughter a year and a half ago. So all
    things worked out well there. The younger daughter was always an excellent
    student and got into Cal. Tuition, books, room and board costs us about
    $25,000 a year. The semester in New Zealand cost a lot but not as bad as you
    might think. She works as a California State Park Lifeguard in the summer to
    cover her personal expenses like concerts and snowboarding. Both of my
    daughters went to State schools (Cal State Northridge and UC Berkeley) so the
    cost was no where near what you are going to pay for a private school. I
    counted my lucky stars when my younger daughter was rejected by Brown and
    Stanford (for reasons that seemed arbitrary since she got into Cal). Like
    you, by the time it was my younger daughter’s turn for college, we made too
    much income and had too much savings to qualify for any aid or decent loans.
    So the $100,000+ is on us. Is it worth it for a degree from Cal? We’ll see.
    The cost of the loans for a Cal State Channel Islands BA and a Cal state
    Northridge MA, teaching credential and administrative credential was
    definately worth it. While I sympathize with your plight, I disagree with
    your opinion about the supposed brainwashing that goes on in college. This
    claim is a baseless canard and, in my view, insulting to the intelligence of our
    children. Both of my daughters have had professors with extreme views and
    were able to sort out the politics from the knowledge. Both my daughters can
    think for themselves, as I am sure your sons can. I’m afraid that the
    drinking and sex are things that you just have to put out of your mind. I
    gave each of my daughters a little talk about respecting the power of alcohol
    and respecting their own bodies and emotions and then cast the bow line off
    the dock and into the boat and let them sail. The other day I offered my 21
    year old a drink before dinner and she said, “Dad, it’s Monday!”
    Which tells me that she has learned to set limits, even if they are as
    arbitrary as days of the week. Have faith in your son’s judgment. Encourage
    him to work hard and have fun. Tell him to be careful about alcohol and kind
    and considerate in his romantic liaisons. And, by the way, good luck.
    Sincerely, Terry Dressler

     

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      My very good friend Professor David E. Weber also disagrees about the “brainwashing.” I would LOVE to hear from others, especially students at especially “RIPE” schools like Cal Berkley or NYU or Stanford…? 

      I’m happy that things worked out well for your daughters, Terry. It’s a total curse on California the excessive rise in tuition for our State schools and the absurd difficulty to get in, with some latitude given to out-of-state and foreign applicants since they pay more. What were they created for? OUR residents. Some outside diversity is just fine, but it’s gotten out of hand.

      I spoke with a local parent of a 4.65 GPA and 2350 SAT student who was not accepted at ONE U.C. campus! THAT is ridiculous!

      • Terry Dressler

        I agree that the tuition hikes are out of hand. Increasing tuition not only makes it harder for parents but much harder for students who are getting loans. It used to be that if you were a resident of California and had grades and SATs that put you in the top 12% of high school graduates in the State, you automatically got a spot in a UC and it was free, or nearly so. I went to UCSB in the early and mid 70s on scholarships and loans and most of the money went to living expenses. Sadly, those days are gone. I am shocked about the student with over 4.0 GPA and 2350 SATs that was rejected by all the UCs.  Just as recently as 2009, my younger daughter was accepted at all the UCs to which she applied. Can things have changed so rapidly in so short a time?

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Terry, I went to U.C.San Diego, U.C. Santa Cruz, and UCLA Grad School – all on grades and test scores that would get me TOTALLY ignored today!

          • Terry Dressler

            Yeah, I got into UCSB with a 3.0 high school GPA and SATs in 1300 range (we only took 2 tests back then).  Today, I would have been off to community college.  My older daughter never played the UC game and went to SBCC and then on to Cal State Channel Islands and thence to Cal State Northridge.  She did fine and the cost was very reasonable.  By the time my younger daughter was ready for college, a student had to have a “resume” and a killer essay, as well has over a 4.0 GPA and high SATs to get considered. I don’t know what is going on except that perhaps as the population increased in size, the competition became more fierce. I also know that competition within the UC system is equally fierce. The professors are demanding (try a midterm where the highest grade in the class is 60%) and the bureaucracy is opaque, cold, and Byzantine. Instead of an enlightening experience, college has become a mental boot camp. Is that necessary? No wonder the students drink.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            Other than that, it’s just swell huh, Terry! LOL…

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    I always look forward to the pictures in these posts, Bruce. Suffice it to say, I’m in the same boat as you…and we’ve talked about this at length. My near valedictorian with ivy league test scores did not get a dime of financial aid. My “5th in her class” daughter with near identical test scores can look forward to the same result, I’m afraid. And she wants to go to an out of state school!

    I told her we would pay for the equivalent of an in-state tuition, and she needed to make up the difference with scholarships or work/study.

    Ironic how being fiscally responsible can make us responsible for 100% tuition regardless of “merit”…but at least we can also look forward to paying for bailouts, universal health care and entitlement programs. I do not want to get into a strong debate regarding the healthcare topic other than to say…I make every financial decision based upon the question “who is going to pay for it”. When that “who” continues to be a small percentage of the population…that answer can’t keep being the only answer. I can be just as sad at the photos of people desperately in need of medical attention, my heart doesn’t cry out any less, but it still comes down to…”who is going to pay for it, and where do you draw the unfortunate line”.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      My new strategy, BV, and I’m serious is to simply offer my son – who wants to go to NYU – a bribe of between $50,000 – $100,000 upon his graduation IF he gets a full ride and/or goes local!

      • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

        Yeah, let me know how that strategy works for you. Of course, the curve my oldest daughter did was become pregnant, and she plans on marrying in May. I still intend to pay for tuition/books, but perhaps she will get more scholarship consideration since she and the new husband are both students with a little smaller financial umbrella!

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          How ironic that that may give her a leg up financially! Well, that little package will pay off then in more ways than one, GRANDPA!

          • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

            I’m too freakin’ young to be a Granddaddy! Well, at least I’ll still be young enough to coach the kid and teach how to “rub some dirt in it”. I raised my girls with “are you bleeding…no, OK are you still breathing…yes, then you are OK”

          • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

            Yes, she will definitely have an advantage as a mother versus simply a student but there will be more barriers as well. I’m not sure the financial advantage will outweigh the physical, mental, and emotional barriers of raising a child and going to school create. Might just be a wash in the end.

          • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

            Just want that degree in her hand. She may be like my wife who got a BS in Nursing from one of the best nursing schools in the country (UT-Austin)…who then decided her best job was a stay at home mom. We have been blessed by her decision even though I didn’t understand it when she first asked to stay at home.

            However, I’ve also seen single moms due to tragedy or poor choices from both parents. The lack of a more formal education kept them from getting in the door for professional jobs. I think that piece of paper is crucial for giving you “options” in a career.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            I agree that the financial “advantages” she may get will not make it any easier except in the short run, financially. 

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  • http://twitter.com/Dr_Weberman Jennifer Weberman

     Hi Bruce,

    Very interesting article. And interesting timing as well, because I found myself recently wondering if by the time my (presently fictitious) children reach college age, if the entire process will have shifted in importance. There are so many paths to professional success now that don’t require a degree and I imagine that will continue to grow. Of course, if you are pursuing a career in medicine, law, academia, etc etc a degree is necessary. But entrepreneurs may find that real life experience is more beneficial.

    And let’s face it, my four years of college were GREAT FUN but did I learn anything that I use currently? Nope. My parents spent $12,000/yr for me to extend my adolescence. I wouldn’t want to spend $40,000/yr on that same thing if the degree wasn’t necessary for a specific career path. (although I disagree about the whole “brainwashing” thing – I agree that it wasn’t ‘brain enhancing’ either!)

    Separately, I read recently that the housing market is highly impacted by the rise in college tuition. In the past, new homeowners have been in the late 20’s early 30’s age range, but now that age bracket is renting in higher numbers. Reason why? The increased amount of students who graduate with college loan debt has (arguably) decreased the number of new professionals who can afford a mortgage. And that is exactly why my husband and I rent – my student loans are over $130,000. We just can’t afford a mortgage on top of that!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Wonderful perspective and new insights to this discussion, Dr. W! I so agree that the evolution of the “need” for a college degree is changing. I think it has PEAKED and will now return to a better equilibrium by the time “your” kids have to decide their path!

  • http://twitter.com/embedle Embedle

    That graph is unbelievable.  Do you think the availability of student loans has contributed to the continuously rising prices?

    – Mike

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Of course it has…it is EXACTLY like the mortgage bubble! Trying to make everyone happy/equal does NOT work!

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  • Charitykountz

    I completely agree. I spent almost ten years working and going to school, with no help from my estranged family. What help I got from the government barely covered the cost of tuition and books never mind basic expenses like rent and food. I racked up $40k in debt and still don’t have a degree. A scam is right!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      What are you doing now, Charity? Do you regret having gone to college altogether?

      • http://twitter.com/CharityKountz Charity Kountz

        Great questions Bruce! Hope you don’t mind a rather long answer.

        I have to say I don’t regret the first few years or college in general. I’m a person who has an endless thirst to learn. I believe we should never stop learning, no matter what we are doing. What I don’t agree with is the capitalist/elitist way education is treated in this country. How much better off would we be if everyone had equal access to information and learning? If it were, heaven forbid, affordable? Where those who are self motivated could turn that knowledge into success? On the one hand we say “education for all” but then create a system that puts people in debt for the majority of their lives. 

        For that reason, there are a lot of really dumb “educated” people in this country and a lot of really smart, brilliant even, “uneducated” people. While I won’t label myself as either one, I will say I’ve spent the last fifteen years showing up my peers to the point I was ostracized in the work place. Corporate America has turned into a greedy place that requires everyone to maintain the status quo. Step outside of that and you’re shunned and persecuted. 

        In 2007, after the birth of my daughter I realized something needed to change. I realized I couldn’t possibly be a role model to my daughter while working 40 hours a week for a wage and benefits that barely provided for living needs let alone long term needs like retirement and education for my child. I became self-employed, and while there have definitely been challenges and set backs, I am happy to stay that way. 

        The few times I’ve ventured back into “employment” have been disastrous. As a result I created a marketing firm called Kountz Marketing Group and am also self-publishing my first children’s book, Jason Lizzy and the Snowmen Village this fall. While my very basic education taught me some valuable skills (critical thinking, reasoning, writing skills, a basic understanding of psychology, human nature and helped me figure out how I fit into the world all and gave me a love for the arts), I spent far too much time trying to reach a “standard” someone else set for me without any concept of how it would benefit me or suit my own personal needs. 

        In the meantime, I’ve gone through the rigorous “hard knocks” training in life – I self studied and earned my life insurance license as well as my Series 6 and 63 securities license. I’ve run three of my own companies successfully. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) all I can about online and traditional marketing (sans degree) and that real world understanding and practical application is helping me to build a successful business while at the same time helping others build more successful businesses. It’s also helping my publishing career along the way.

        So I don’t regret it – it’s all part of the learning process. For a number of years I regretted not being able to say I had a degree until I realized that was meeting someone else’s standard and not my own. And frankly, my own standards are far higher. My only true regret is that I’m $40,000 in debt which is dragging my family down and drastically slowing down some of our dreams – like buying a house, saving for retirement, and providing for our children. But I’m confident within the next ten years, that too will be resolved because there’s one thing I’m not afraid of: hard work.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Thank you for sharing your story/evolution in such detail. What is VERY cool now about the Internet is that learning REALLY is available to everyone that has access to a computer and internet connection. The elitism of colleges is BS, as far as I’m concerned and some of the most inventive people either didn’t go to college or went to a less so-called prestigious one!

  • http://blog.classof1.com/ Homework Help

    The brutal truth of the increasing college expenses (the tuition fee + other expenses). The expenses are only moving one way, up. However it’s not matched up by the higher earning capacity of an individual, thus leading to the downward spiral. Great post Bruce. 

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      It IS a big BUBBLE that will burst…