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Fear and Loathing of Public Policy: Shrinking Access to Post Secondary Education = Permanent Underclass

What are we going to do since the cost of education is skyrocketing? Students these days graduate with enormous debt or they don't get the opportunity to attend post secondary training.

Long ago when I started college it was an inexpensive 1200.00 a year that included books. I didn't really have debt when I graduated from college. That isn't the case for students today, and with the cost of tuition rising as much as 20% in one year at some state colleges, soon enough the middle and lower classes will be unable to afford post-secondary education. And the thing is, we'd become a thriving first world nation in part because we expanded access to education to almost everyone.

Let's look at some numbers:

So my numbers are personal numbers, and at the time, it was not difficult to afford a college education, I could even hold down a part-time job, go to school and not really worry tons about tuition, it just wasn't that expensive.  Let's look at the rising cost of post secondary education with information obtained from the US Census bureau.  The data I am going to share with you is also an example of the tiny policy things Democrats do in Office juxtaposed with how Republicans treat government function. First and foremost, the data I found spans the years 1991 - 2001, the 2001 data wasn't published until 2006. This information is published in table form, as excel worksheets, but without an explanation of that data, that could be distributed to the general public. As usual, Republicans take the function of government for granted, but as you will see during the Clinton era, government produced much demographic information from years of data collection and comprehensive analysis. I digress, but if you follow my links you will see evidence of my statement.

It isn't unknown to anyone that tuition at public universities, colleges and technical schools has been on the rise since the anti-pay for anything crowd solidified their choke hold on government functions. In the 1970's prior to Prop 13, post-secondary education was free in California and in doing that they created one of the best post secondary systems in the country at that time from Riverside CC to UC Berkeley.

I digress, since 1990 college tuition has had steep increases according to the census studies.

1990-91

1993-94

1996-97

2000-2001 the data used is from Table 5b

In 1991, the total average tuition cost for a student was $2653.00 per year. At the same time students receiving financial assistance were receiving on average $2919.00. The cost of education has obviously risen, however, it is still affordable for students and there is still ample financial aid to cover the cost of education. These numbers will be used as a baseline for comparison.

In the 1993 -94 years, on average students were paying $3905.00 per year. In just two years the cost of education had risen 47%. At the same time students were receiving on average $4,486.00 in financial aid, which was up 43% from just the two years prior. A 47% increase is pretty big, and one has to wonder how many students at this time are beginning to be priced out of education. Well times began to boom even more, and people forgot about funding post-secondary education, and all over the country Tax-cutting fever began to hit every county in America. The result of course was less state funding for post-secondary education, and more burdens on students and their families. Well they were voting for that stuff, so I guess they couldn't see plainly what could be the unintended consequences of the republican meme of "we don't need to pay no stinkin' taxes".

Well the results from the 1996-97 study are even more stunning; by 1996-97 the average cost of post-secondary education had risen to a stunning $8,667.00 on average per year. In less than 10 years tuition had risen 292%, and in 3 year tuition had risen 122%, these numbers are stunning. And you begin to see a pattern developing, one that will eventually price lower and middle class kids from ever obtaining a college education, it will simply be too expensive.   Well that aside, the average financial aid package was worth about 6,022.00, and as you can see it failed to cover the entire educational needs of the student, and I believe this began a rise in private lenders who would take advantage of unsuspecting college students, in order to meet the rising cost of their education.

The 2001-2002 years are even more shocking. On average students tuition is $10,560.00 per year on post secondary education. This represents an increase of 298% from 90-91, of 170% from 93-94, and 21.8% from 96-97, which the financial aid package on average rose to $6,291.00 per year.

As you observe the stark differences in how the two administrations presented the data they gathered from Universities around the county, be reminded, this is the difference in how Republicans and Democrats view government. Demographic information is important; we use it to justify funding programs around the country. We make better decisions when analysts present the data in an understandable way, with a narrative attached as opposed to just throwing a bunch of spread sheets. It is an example of how little Republicans care about government in general; they don't see it as useful to the nation.

It is now real news in every state in the nation that tuition costs are rising yet again, in my own state tuition costs have risen 20% this year, that is huge, and in many cases it is becoming unaffordable for many students to obtain post-secondary education. As a society we are supposed to be more conscious of funding education from k-16, because it is education that will help us prepare for our next steps economically. If we do not find a way to help students get educated without being buried in debt when they graduate, our society will be worse off for it, and we will create a permanent underclass, which will grow. As a nation, we have to ask ourselves if this is the direction we really want to take.

(some numbers from the mid 1980's, a CBO study)

CrossPosted at ThatSpotofMine

I was able to pay for my grandson 's college thru a prepaid program. He started this fall. His little brother I started the same thing for him in first grade. Cost really went up. I could only afford part of it. That has me pinching pennies to pay on it each month. I went with my grandson to get him enrolled and we turned down a loan in his package. He had enough with pell and prepaid to make thru this year. He and his girl friend moved in a small appartment near school so they could get to school by bus or on their bikes. We figured out that an appartment across town was cheaper than a car, insurance and gas. It is working well and they seem happy. He is going to try to make it without loans. I don't know how others are managing it.

trk, I've read your posts, and they are very moving.

The kids are amazing. They saved all their money. She is still finishing up high-school on line and will do dual enrollment in spring semester for college credit. He is ADHd and she is an high functional aspi. She will have scholarships. Her single mom was more than happy to sign for the appartment and let all the birds and lizards move out. I take them to the pet store every week for worms and crickets for their zoo. He does the cooking because she only eats a few things. She keeps him organized and on time. You have to start planning and thinking about college when they are little but it is getting impossible for most.

My little aspy says she doesn't want to go to college; she would rather write for her little fanfic audience while we support her. surprise She does however, have a senior year internship at a library, so I'm hoping she may take an interest in Library Science, or something.

Donal~ Your little aspy sounds like my teenaged autistic son. He says he's never moving out because he doesn't want to live alone and nobody understands him like me. Ha!

His interests are video games (and their creation) and animals (possible vet assistant?) but since we live out on a farm in the sticks, I'm thinking the latter is more of an option.

As for the top of this post (extremely timely, BTW) I recently did a radio interview and had the privilege to follow a group of filmmakers who made a movie on the topic.

Here’s a link in case you’re interested. I was able to view the movie and I can tell you it’s powerful:

http://defaultmovie.com/

(It will be airing on PBS at some point)

We got to talking after the interview and the one stunning “take-away” for me was that the student loan debt in the US has now surpassed the credit card debt.

Yeah, let that sink in for a minute...

All those credit cards we have, collectively… add them all up and it still isn’t as much debt as the student loan debt in America. If that fact doesn’t scare you for the future generations, I don’t know what will.

These days, young people have to decide if they actually want to go to college - if it will pay off for them in the end. Do they want to be saddled to debt till their 40’s & 50’s, or do they instead want to go into a field that they can get schooling for in a vocational/technical situation, rather than pay for traditional “higher education.”

Right now we have an entire generation that is STILL paying off their student debt as their kids enter college. Ugh…

First of course I wish my kids would quit moving out! I hate it, I wouldn't mind it if they lived here forever. I am glad they are adults and all and want to be on their own, but damn, give a mom a break!

Okay that aside, thanks for the link to the movie. I think that our children our getting kind of screwed over by this obsession we have with not paying for anything. When I went to college, 86% of the cost was covered by the state and that is what kept tuition down for everyone of course.  Now in my state only 61% of costs are covered by the state, and that number is shrinking every single year. Will it ever go back to being funded at higher levels, I don't think so, unless of course citizens begin to change their opinions about funding college at appropriate levels, paying for it through their taxes so not only their children benefit, but their grandchildren and the children of others benefit, at this point it seems to be a permanent trend.

Your statistic is pretty amazing,, student loan debt is higher than credit card debt, wow.  I am going to watch that link now. Thanks.

Donal, even if she doesn't want to go to college, she can continue to hone her craft, sometimes your local community college will have programs for her. Our middle son, he is doing a digital arts, animation program at the local community college and finally he found something he truly loves. He is the kid I go to all the comicon's with, and I see so many folks when we go to those events who are making a living off their craft. 

That said, even tuition at community college went up for him, it was 1200.00 per quarter, and now it is 1650.00 per quarter.

Donal... What happened was my grandson saw her sitting in his AP English class last year and thought she was cute. She didn't want anything to do with him. He won her over because they had the same interests. I think all the steam punk jewlery he was making for her helped. With in a few months she had a after school job and was planning to follow him. She hated the high school they were in and skipped a lot and was living for the day that she could quit until she met him. All he did before he met her was sit at home with the internet, video games and go to steam punk and comicon events. I just never expected him to find someone so well suited for him. So you just never know.

Costs really did go up, and you were smart for buying into the program when you could Momoe. I am glad to hear you were able to turn down the loan too for his sake the longer he can put that off the better he will be in the long run.  This really is a great personal anecdote describing the situation we are in, so thanks for sharing it Momoe.

Though I agree that a student should be able to get additional education without becoming a hamburger flipper with a PHD that owes upwards to 70K. In Denmark and The Netherlands this is paid for you.

However saying that, I do not believe that a college education is the be all end all to a good life or that some White Collar office job trumps everything else. And I am not alone in this. Linklink.

Not everyone is cut out for these types of jobs nor are do they necessarily want them.  For a large number of folks technical training and/or trade school would work much better . People who simply prefer to do work with their hands rather than shuffle meaningless papers around all day.

Building trades and maintenance. Cabinet makers and commercial electricians and plumbers. Health care workers and electronics technicians. just to name a few.

Indeed a college degree can be a detriment to ones thinking all too often.  Most State and far from a few private schools have become nothing but diploma mills. Turning out zombie robots with pieces of paper signifying nothing but a willingness to endure four years  of mind numbing repetition.  I had a professor friend at the Univ. where I worked for 30 years that took early retirement simply because of this. A very smart cookie but was discouraged and dismayed at the lack of inquisitiveness among his students or the tolerance of it by the administration.

And far too often those with the highest degrees become the most exasperating self absorbed megalomaniacs I have ever seen.  Refusing to admit there is anything they do not know.  Exemplified by those wonderful MBAs that helped to bring the economy crashing down.

And quite frankly I would rather have an experienced electrician wiring my house instead of an electrical engineer.  The engineer may understand the theory better but the electrician would make sure the thing don't burn down.

The problem therefore to me is not the education itself or it's costs but how much undue emphases we put on the degree and how little respect those who choose a different path get. As witnessed by the condescension and  pomposity that is shown them. As well as the low wages paid.

Some people do very well progressing directly from high school to college, while others can't wait to get out of school, period. I suspect that some of these "electricians" would come to appreciate higher learning as they mature, but I also think that working at a paying job is a useful adjunct to a purely academic experience.

As usual you didn't really understand what I wrote.  This isn't about who is better PhD's or plumbers it is about the rising cost of education. Rising costs affect those folks who want to be plumbers just like it does those who want to be PhD's because they often train at Technical Colleges to move into apprentice positions to work towards their journey certification.

The relevant figures were presented, there from 1990-2000 the cost of education has rising 298%, and that is only for undergrads and people attending technical schools so that includes those folks who are going to be plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

The costs are rising because it's being over sold as some great guarantee to a perfect life.  I have no problem with education for education's sake. A way to learn how to learn and to think and analyze and understand the world.

But it's not sold that way. Education has become a commodity going to the highest bidder.  Promising far more that it can deliver.  The equivalent of the snake oil salesman.

Wrong, factually incorrect, and off base. The costs are rising because vocational, technical, colleges and universities are receiving less funding from the state and federal governments. I mentioned above I believe that the states used to fund those programs at an 88% level, and now we are down to 61% and falling.  What a sloppy analysis, one that show you don't have a grasp of the facts. 

It is about a pattern of refusing to fund our institutions to benefit all of society. This began in the 70's of course, and has continued full bore today. One of the results of the feds and many states continually cutting taxes during these years, because of the insistence of citizens who had been convinced by Republicans and conservative and people like Grover Norquist, that we don't need to pay for anything and all our money is ours and ours alone and taxes have no benefit to society, and that meme has held on. Now people are seeing the results of those laissez fair policies. One of the results is that people are being priced out of post-secondary education which includes vocational and technical education. 

You will have to attempt to prove the "costs rising correlates to overselling education because it is a guarantee for a perfect life" but somehow I don't think you will have the ability to prove that statement, ever.

The costs are rising because it's being over sold as some great guarantee to a perfect life.

I've seen lots of analysis on the reasons that costs are rising (some of it posted here), but no one seems to have reached the conclusion you have. What do you base that conclusion on?

This for one.

Despite frequent claims, it is simply untrue that we have seen a three-decades-long radical increase in employers’ demand for four-year college graduates. The widespread (even before the recession) utilization of college students and graduates working as unpaid (many unlawfully so) “interns” is evidence enough—if employers desperately needed these workers, they would pay them.

In fact, the trends of the last 10 years contradict this story. The wages and benefits received by young college graduates fell over the 2000-2007 business cycle and in this recession. Moreover, the wages of all college graduates have been flat over the last 10 years, with those for men having markedly declined. This should not be surprising as the relative demand for college graduates, according to Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz, grew more slowly in the 2000s than in any postwar decade, following relatively slow growth in the 1990s. A major increase in the supply of college graduates would further erode the wages and benefits new college graduates obtain and drive down the wages of all college graduates, especially among men.

And this. {A PDF}

Because governments pay a large portion of the cost of a college education, students and their families do not bear its true cost. For that reason, they tend to make poorer choices – both with their dollars and the amount of effort they put into college. Furthermore, students and their families often have an exaggerated or inaccurate view of the benefits that can be expected from a college education. The belief that obtaining a college degree is the only way for young people to find good employment and enjoy a prosperous life is widespread, but mistaken. Having a college degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for success.

Oh and this to.

The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.

Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands.

Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, “cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules.” Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can’t be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress.

And here’s the thing: Most of the manual labor still being done in our economy seems to be of the kind that’s hard to automate. Notably, with production workers in manufacturing down to about 6 percent of U.S. employment, there aren’t many assembly-line jobs left to lose. Meanwhile, quite a lot of white-collar work currently carried out by well-educated, relatively well-paid workers may soon be computerized. Roombas are cute, but robot janitors are a long way off; computerized legal research and computer-aided medical diagnosis are already here.

For starters.

Only the second of those addresses the cost of a college education (in the part you didn't highlight), and its citations for that claim are dubious (the Cato institute?), as they neglect the fact that costs have gone up for public colleges as well. The other two address the value of a college education. They also neglect to include the following statistics:

For 2010 (when that data was taken from), unemployment is significantly lower for those with a bachelor's degree (5.4%) than for those with only a high school degree (10.3%). Those without a high school degree did significantly worse (14.9%) and those with a doctoral degree did significantly better (1.9%). Similarly, the median pay for those with a bachelor's degree was $1,038/week, whereas for those with only a high school degree it was $626/week. Again, those without a high school degree did significantly worse ($444/week) and those with a doctoral degree did significantly better ($1,550). 

And that's focusing only on the monetary value of a college education. No, I agree with you that a college education isn't for everyone. But, on average, it definitely imparts value.

To play devil's advocate - not that I'm accusing you of being the devil devil - one thing hurting those with only a high school diploma is the surplus of those with a college degree. For example, there's no reason why a college degree is required to be a movie theater manager, but if a district manager is hiring and s/he's got two choices, one with a college degree and one without, s/he'll be more likely to hire the one with a college degree. Thus, it helps (on average) the individual, but not necessarily society.

I happen to think that, up to a point, it also helps society, but the employment/wage numbers I cite are not germane to that argument.

Add to that all the information that is available over the internet. Ferreting out the good stuff from the bad is a challenge, I will grant you. But an easily learned skill. With the information necessary to accomplish most technical and non-technical endeavors. 

From baking brownies to writing DSP routines. Which is why the hackers are generally 10 steps ahead of all those highly paid programmers.

As usual, I am going to go outside the bounds and skip the arguments....well maybe not as unusal.

The secrets of the universe are present on the web already.

We do not need Universities at all!

Oh there are secrets kept from the universal web based upon corporate copyright and all.

But all could be made available with a few key strokes on a pc in elite heaven somewheres.

You do not need a university to present sermons on Twain, or Socrates, or Lincoln...

Or anybody else for that matter.

The latest in physics or medicine or biology or chemistry or a hundred other sciences are locked in corporate oblivion.

But anything written up to the 1920's or so is available on line.

Education and education and education! ha

Oh I got a degree from ITT crapola.

Big frickin deal.

Smaller colleges pay to have some of the new secrets unveiled.

But smaller colleges do not charge the student with 100,000 bucks a year to get a slogan attached to their degrees.

The university system in this country is bullshite.

There is no other way to describe it.

Fraternities and elite customs have nothing to do with knowledge.

That is all I got right now!

You said it, Richard.  Wise blogger, you are...yes.

“It is not enough to succeed.  Others must fail.”  Gore Vidal

 Sometimes it seems that this dark realism from Vidal has become the mantra of modern America.   Think of the tea party; or of the bitter and misdirected efforts toward “welfare reform”; or the very nature of success on Wall Street itself.

 I remember the energy and optimism of post –WW II America.   Everyone could dream of a better life and post-high school education and training was a big part of the opportunity to realize that dream.  No more.  Now opportunity is a zero sum game and while much of this is due to the inherent fallacy of continued economic expansion and resource utilization, it has also become the spirit of our times.  Life and all its potentialities are more and more being caste as a zero sum game.  As George Carlin put it “Today you can believe in the American dream but you have to be asleep.”  It is time to rethink our “realisms” and to forge a new wisdom, one that we can pass on to our young as they enter the world.

 P.S.  Pay no attention to the commentator named Richard Day.  I have it on good authority that he made his fortune driving an ice cream truck in Arkansas.  He only vacations in Minnesota and his law degree was earned while he was serving time in Federal prison for tax evasion.

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