New school year, same story. Every year college tuition and fees at four-year public universities increases. And it's never a small increase, it's always one that outpaces everything else. How? And more importantly, how do we stop it? This year, the increase was only 6.3%. What a relief! (I'm kidding). CBS News reported that college tuition and fees from 2000-2005 increased 57%. So this brings us to the unfortunate topic of private student loans.
The Fed decided to hold the rate today at 5.25% - amazing news for the millions of students who have private student loans (a figure that topped $17 billion this year). Generation Y (my generation), is the most leveraged generation in American history. Read this excerpt from an article today in the New York Sun:
"Today's young adults who borrowed money for college will be between 52 and 55 on average when they finish paying off their education," said the president of the New Hampshire chapter of the nonprofit Jump Start Coalition, Dan Hebert. "They'll be asking themselves if it was all worth it. The whole concept of college education is at risk."
DO WHAT? College debt is controlling the lives of recent college graduates and it's here to stay. It can delay relationships, force relationships, force bankruptcy, create undue stress, and so much more. In the article mentioned above, Michael Conrath a Senior Product Manager for College Savings at AllianceBernstein says, "Over 25% of the young adults polled said they have delayed getting medical and dental procedures. Many have put off getting married and having children. Because of college debt, many rites of passage are being delayed."
We need to quit pointing fingers and start finding answers. When I train salespeople, I always use the expression, "A sale is made when the value exceeds the price by 1 dollar." Meaning when the customer sees the value in the product/service you're selling and the value exceeds the price by $1, then they buy. Well very quickly it would seem that the value of college is diminishing because the price is becoming so exorbitant.
Another article interviews a recent graduate who considers himself "in financial ruin." Why? Not because he went gambling or risked everything on a startup (I can tell you how to not do that also), and not because of divorce or any other bad decision. In fact, it was simply because he borrowed money for college. He graduated in 2005 and found a job as a cook and his $35,000 student loan has already turned into $50,000 because of the 18% interest rate he received from private lenders. There are two many of these examples. These lenders and society is exploiting our young people.
So what's the answer? Well there are lots of them. One thing to realize, however, is that colleges must fill the seats. They must pay their bills and they must fill the classrooms. They're in competition with other schools in their state and across the country. They spend money advertising. They spend money building extravagant things to attract new customers (errr....students). Take Ohio State - they spent $140 million building a new recreation center which is 600,000+ square feet and includes plenty of important things (such as indoor climbing walls). Private gyms build stuff like this and charge memberships. Unless they offer access to this as a fee outside of the price of admission, then this might be permissible. This isn't the case - instead they raise tuition for every student. Likewise, they market it to prospective students as "no extra charge." Whenever I see "no extra charge" - I know I'm already paying for it, and usually I'm paying too much. $140 million could offered a lot of financial aid. A lot of additional professors... a lot of anything.
Washington State University took it a step further and built the largest indoor jacuzzi for their students. A 50-person hot tub. Sounds fun.
How can public universities fight for every penny in state funding, raise tuition to students, and then justify extravagant expenses such as these? We're in a society where a college education is virtually required to obtain a decent job and to get ahead in the real world. It just makes it extremely difficult to get ahead when you're starting off behind after graduating in massive student debt. The lack of financial education to high school students across the country and the uncontrolled spending of our public universities is literally drowning my generation in debt. I think it's time someone says something. It's really disappointing.