Private education is expensive. It always has been and probably always will be. What is less static is our nation’s relationship and reliance on credit. A couple of generations ago, earning a private college acceptance letter was not necessarily a golden ticket. Resources were gathered and if loans were taken they were most likely to cover gaps not to foot the bill. Those who could not gather the funds chose public universities instead.
Our national orientation towards credit and consumption has changed dramatically over the decades. “Affordability” has more to do with credit limits then bank accounts. It is easy to see how this philosophy migrates into the higher education arena. There is no other large purchase we make that maintains its value. Cars depreciate the moment you drive off the lot. Houses, well we’ve seen what can happen with housing. Perhaps impressionist (or Andy Warhol) pieces increase in value, but the insurance will kill you. Even diamonds and gold can fluctuate in value. But education is permanent. Add to that how sentimental people get around college (Hail to thee my alma mater) and about their children; and you’ve got yourself a low-sugar shopping experience.
There are people walking around with far more student debt than they can manage. No one will dispute that. Looking to private colleges to lower their costs, makes for great headlines but misses the point. The issue is actually not the cost of the private education; it’s the affordability. If the college chooses to charge a gazillion dollars a credit and there are people who can pay that amount, there’s no problem. The problem is with debt not cost. It’s time to take a good long hard look at the creditors and set limits. Grown people (with jobs!) have limits on how much they can borrow, children should as well.
We need to force the issue of educated consumerism. Community colleges and public colleges and universities are still quite reasonably priced (in the grand scheme of things.) Forgiving debt is not sustainable and ignores the real issue. Higher education is no different than any other purchase. The key is to find the most suitable choice within one’s budget.
October 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm
It’s a sad fact that college tuition rises lock-step with government aid. So the more aid students have available, the more colleges charge for tuition. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303296604577454862437127618.html
I’m not sure how Finland’s colleges keep the costs down, but there are no direct costs to students. From Kindergarten to Master’s degree tuition is free. This (among other things) has changed Finland’s educational system from average to exemplary over the last 40 years.
We should take notes from Finland.
October 18, 2012 at 8:46 am
Thank you. So much. A college degree is not a pedigree. If a student works hard and learns something, their education was priceless, no matter if it came from ivy league or community college. My kids know that we’ll pay for a state school. If they dream bigger than that, they’d better be getting some scholarships. We don’t do debt around here. It’s unnecessary, especially for education.
October 18, 2012 at 8:52 am
How wonderful! Teaching children to be wise consumers is such a gift.
October 18, 2012 at 9:06 am
We listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio. The most sound financial advice ever. And the kids and I get to talk about situations that callers are in, such as a woman who had $140K in student loan debt so that she could become an elementary school teacher making $30K a year.
October 18, 2012 at 9:17 am
Unfortunately this is not the first time I’ve heard of that kind of debt incurred to become a teacher. I’ve also heard of six-figure college debt for a BFA in acting.