Wednesday, December 09 2015
It’s time to reform $200,000 college diplomas
My daughter Nicole is a high school senior this year and for the past three months we’ve been visiting universities that offer both nursing programs and music, as Nicole plays the viola, but wants to have a career in health care. My son Jonathan is a high school junior, interested in ag, ag policy or meat science so we’ve also taken him to visit schools with leading ag programs in our college search travels.
We’ve sat through a half-dozen financial aid workshops at various schools and the costs of going to private or out-of-state schools is about $40k to $50k per year, MSRP. The total bill is about half that for in-state schools. Most schools offer academic scholarships of $8k to $15k per year for good grades of 3.5 GPA or better. There are no scholarships for nursing programs, and few for ag programs, but music, like sports, can get you $5k to $15k per year at some schools if you are good and the school really wants your particular talent.
Still, even with scholarships, it’s going to cost about $25,000 per year to send each of my four kids to school. The answer to how I’m going to pay for this at most universities is, “…not to worry, you can borrow the money, or your kid can.”
We should not be asking our next generation of workers to start their career with any debt, expecially considering where housing costs have gone over the past twenty years. How are they supposed to live? All we are teaching them really, is to go into debt for the rest of their lives. Nice.
I have a better plan
Most of us learned what we know from on-the-job training, not while at college. My father, for example, after serving in the Marines entered an electrical apprenticeship program at IBEW Local 68 in Denver. He had a fine career with competitive pay and benefits without a college diploma.
It’s far time to start up apprentice programs at US companies and allow students to get their college credits on-line or at local colleges while working. Can your industry be progressive and start this trend? With on-line learning technology and at-work training programs, a college education will be affordable, practical and will allow grads to graduate without any debt. When I went to college, I got a four-year degree from a top private university at less than $10k per year, all in. Those were the good old days. I did have $25k of debt when I got out, but it was reasonable and I paid it back in 10 years. Todays prices for college are ABSURD!
Universities have become too Hollywood style showy
Universities are first and foremost businesses. I get it that they need to make money to attract the best professors and top students. They also say that they need to offer the best food courts, dorms, sports venues and attractive campus environments to remain competitive. Many universities are now putting in lazy rivers for the kids. That's nuts! They are more “steak than sizzle” much of the time. They keep raising their rates to build, build and build some more.
I went on a one-year exchange to Waseda University in Tokyo, while at USC and I was amazed that at Japan’s top private university, the buildings were non-descript concrete with peeling paint. I got a great education there in cold drab, drafty rooms, sitting on wooden chairs watching the teacher write with chalk as he lectured. If you talk to anyone who attended college in another country, you will find that in most countires colleges have not become mini "Univeral Studios" showy campuses, but are very plain and functional.
Universities wouldn’t get away with charging outlandish rates if we stopped supporting the insanity.
We need to find a better way. What’s your plan for reform?