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.