For far too many institutions, a solid college education is not an affordable value offering in America today. That's the lesson of easily attainable government backed loans and grants in combination with a non-market driven cost structure and an all too willing but unwise and unsophisticated 'buyer,' aka 'sucker' of a student.
On one hand, an affordable and high quality American system of higher education (preschool and K-12 too) is absolutely essential to the future success of both individuals and society as a whole.
But on the other hand, an indebted group of young graduates who are burdened by heavy student loans will be very detrimental to the future success of both individuals and society as a whole.
Accordingly, making the effort to reconcile the need for a quality educational opportunity for our American youth with the need to avoid unnecessary debt for these same graduates is a problem which is very much in need of a solution. And it's been a big problem for a long time.
But now there's gathering evidence that we're gaining on the problem. Exactly how much of the solution will result from embracing MOOC, online learning via the flip method, school choice, vouchers, or getting serious about employing the principle of subsidiarity (local control), we have no way of knowing currently. But we do know this --- as a nation we have to measurably improve the affordability and value of our nation's system of education, including preschool, K-12, college and graduate programs.
In simple terms, the value of anything is simply the price of that thing in relation to its quality. When markets work, buyers always want to get the most quality and quantity at the lowest possible cost. In other words, when making a purchase we aim to get the biggest bang for our buck.
But here's the question du jour. If that's really the case, and it certainly is with almost all things that we decide to purchase, why don't we unfailingly adopt that same 'value analysis' approach when investing in a college education?
Why, for example, are we willing to pay a great deal to attend a small to medium private institution in order to earn a degree which isn't going to be worth any more, and perhaps less, than one granted by a less expensive public institution?
And to better manage the costs associated with earning a college degree, why don't we choose to take more courses online instead of getting all the hours necessary for graduation while in residence at the public university? And why do we often select distant out-of-town schools to attend where the cost of commuting and room and board add greatly to the cost of getting that degree?
For the value conscious buyer, making these more costly choices instead of going for the greatest value offering make no sense. And they make no sense to me either.
But maybe we're finally beginning to understand that the value equation (cost in relation to quality) applies to college in the same way that it applies to other purchases we make, and if so, that's a good thing.
Colleges' Latest Offer: Deals is subtitled 'Liberal-Arts Schools Dangle Bargains in Response to Concern over Cost, Value:'
"A growing number of liberal-arts colleges are supplementing their traditional
glossy brochures touting ivy-covered libraries and great-books seminars with
more pecuniary pitches: Buy seven semesters, get one free. Apply today, get
$2,500 cash back. Free classes after four years.
The schools are adjusting their marketing to attract students at a time when
families are struggling to foot the bill for college—and increasingly concerned
about the potential payoff. Some of the most aggressive offers come from the
most financially vulnerable schools: midtier, private institutions that are
heavily dependent on tuition and sit in regions with shrinking pools of
college-bound high-school seniors.
Nationwide, the number of graduating high-school seniors this year is expected
to decline to 3.32 million from a projected all-time high of 3.41 million during
the 2010-11 school year, according to the Western Interstate Commission for
Higher Education. And fewer college-bound seniors are choosing private four-year
schools: Between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of students at those schools
dropped to 20% from 22%, according to the College Board Advocacy and Policy
For students headed to college, tuition is a bigger issue than ever. The
average cost of public and private schools jumped 92% between 2001 and 2011,
compared with a 27% rise in the consumer-price index. Last year the average
amount that students at public colleges paid in tuition, after state and
institutional grants and scholarships, climbed 8.3%, the biggest jump on record,
according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.