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Archive for August, 2011

Is higher ed a waste of money? Well, many Americans say it is, despite contradictions. The Pew Research Center found that a majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger majority—75%—says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. Still, a majority of college graduates—86%—say that college has been a good investment for them personally. Go to: http://pewsocialtrends.org/2011/05/15/is-college-worth-it/#about.

What’s more, a report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and Public Agenda showed the public is increasingly skeptical of the business model that now permeates the higher ed system that is leaving millions of Americans saddled in excessive debt. The study found that six out of 10 Americans now say that colleges today operate more like a business, focused more on the bottom line than on the educational experience of students. Further, the number of people who feel this way has increased by five percentage points in the last year alone and is up by eight percentage points since 2007.  Go to: http://www.highereducation.org/reports/squeeze_play_10/squeeze_play_10.pdf.

Meanwhile tuitions go up and up, along with salaries of senior university administrators. My tuition this fall goes up 10%, and as far as I can tell, there will not be a 10% improvement in programming or services. This far outstrips inflation amid the greatest economic downturn since the depression.

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It is truly an odd occurrence when the News Corp. owned Wall Street Journal basically agrees with http://www.alternet.org about the impact of rising student debt. Alternet describes the forces that have turned students into docile lap dogs. What’s No. 1 on the list? In their words: “1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. ” Alternet notes: “Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt.” So no student activism. No force for change. No protesting on campuses when unaccountable and powerfully connected Boards of Regents raise tuition 10% for some graduate students like me at the University of Washington School of Public Health or 20% on undergraduates. When I asked my fellow students at the UW School of Public Health to at least voice concern over rising tuition, no one, as far as I could see, bothered to write or say a thing in a public manner that demonstrated group action or even shared messaging. It was terribly depressing to see not even a peep. I was even invited to a “coffee meeting” to discuss my “emails” by a faculty member — a hint that too much protest was not welcomed. Had there been a unified voice, administrators might actually realize that their decisions are shackling students with debt that grows like a cancer on the loan principal. But no, the students were as quiet as sheep. I would agree with Alternet. Fear has completely pacified the few graduate students I know. It works.

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