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Thinking hard about college.

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Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 5/9/14

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(Note: the author currently acts as an advertising spokesman for the University of Texas at Tyler. The author acts in that role out of belief that pursuit of a college education at UT Tyler, or at a similar institution, addresses many of the concerns set forth in this article.)

If you are a parent with a son or daughter graduating high school this month, please let me recommend a piece by Daniel Oliver published yesterday at thefederalist.com entitled “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Student Debt Has Got to Go!” In the piece, Oliver paints a sobering picture for families with a college-bound child.

In 1966, it cost the current equivalent of $8,752 to attend the University of Southern California. Today, it’s $42,162 – up nearly 500 percent. That picture is fairly typical.

In light of this information, there are two questions parents and students should be asking. “What does one get for that money?” and, “Why is the cost of it nearly five times higher than it was a generation ago?”

For too many graduates, the answer to question number one is, ‘a degree of next to no value in the current jobs market.’ While the cost of college has been going up, the real-world usefulness of a college degree has been going down. Somewhere between our college years and those of our kids, a whole bunch of mushy, and often socially-conscious, grievance-driven curriculum got invented.

It might surprise the parents of students at the University of Pennsylvania to learn that their sons and daughters may advance toward their degrees through a course called, “The Feminist Critique of Christianity.” It might similarly surprise parents of students going to Swarthmore to learn of a course called, “Interrorgating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross Dressing.”

Graduates with CVs filled with such courses learn soon after graduation that they are not in high demand in a market where there are far more job applicants than there are jobs.

All of which is bad enough but intolerably worse when the factor that is driving college costs up at five times the rate of inflation is considered.

That factor is student debt.

When parents were having to tap into savings to pay for college, there was price sensitivity. Not everyone could afford college and thus a stern costs vs. benefits calculation was made as to college vs. vocational school vs. some other path into the workplace.

But with a growing ‘everyone should go to college’ national ethos and a concomitant national policy of universally-available student debt, price sensitivity was replaced by a buy now-pay later mentality. Colleges began raising prices because demand spiked and because no one really objected on price.

But much worse than simply raising prices, colleges began luring students – at a time in their lives when they were most vulnerable – into taking on debt to pay for education that was unlikely to advance their careers or their earning power.

So here’s the test for parents of the high school class of 2014. If five years after graduating college your son or daughter is likely to be earning less than what a year of that college cost, you should be very concerned.

If that same son or daughter will be in debt at some multiple of that annual salary, you should step in and keep it from ever happening.

If enough parents do this for their children, we’ll get college costs back under control.


  1. I graduated from high school in 1965 and four years later graduated from East Texas State University. I worked my way through college and at little better than minimum wage managed to graduate with NO debt. While in college, I even had money for a car, an apartment, and a bit left over for dating. Back then college loans were rare if they existed at all. Only later did the federal government arrive to foul the nest by starting a pricing spiral that continues even to this day.

  2. Lorenzo Ferrari says:

    I’ve been telling my friends with children this for several years now. Tuition has gotten ridiculous due to the govt-backed student loan ponzi scheme. It’s a simple calculation, I tell them….if they’re not pursuing a degree that will put them in a profession or career that allows them to easily pay off the debt, then it ain’t worth it. I tell them if they are going to pay the equivalent of what you can purchase a nice home or condo for and the kid is pursuing a degree in “transgender studies” or “art history”, buy them the condo or house instead…..much better investment and the kid will have their biggest life expense paid for at the outset. When tuition costs north of 60-70 grand, it’s basically a business decision. A college degree for it’s own sake is a waste of time and money in many cases.

  3. I worked my own way thro’ a large degree.
    I work in this degree today.
    This degree has degenerated into 3 days working : 2 days you may not work but have to do the paper work required.
    They also now have decided that you must “marry” the job & carry a phone for 24/7 answering & live within 1/2 hr. response time.

    Gosh, this isn’t what I did all this work for.

    I tell incipient students not to go into this field. How much more can they demand??
    This seems to be the way of the future.

    Go drive a truck, be a welder, join the Services, look around. For less tuition too!

    By the time you actually GET degree the field may have changed to something way different than what you thought it was.

    Yeow ;also place your ‘free’ credits in another field for insurance.

    Many schools & Universities are uncaring for you: they just want your money.

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