Archive for the ‘Tuition Costs’ Category

At the University of Washington, President Michael Young earns more than $800,000 annually in a total compensation package. Not bad at all for perhaps the highest paid public official in all of Washington state. He lives in a mansion, and his contract is loaded with perks and “incentives.” All of those details can be found in a University of Washington press release on his contract made public in May. The cheerleading for Young, by the UW, focussed on his purported skills as a political operative and fund-raiser, not on his cost to students and taxpayers. Young is apparently edging out his competitor at Washington State University, President Elson Floyd. According to an article by Benjamin Ginsberg in the September/October 2011 edition of Washington Monthly, Floyd “accepted a $125,000 pay raise, bringing his 2009 salary to $725,000 per year, soon after announcing that financial circumstances required the school to freeze hiring.” Together these guys account for more than $1.5 million in salaries. Is any public university head really worth this kind of money? How exactly are indebted students served by such largesse? What “deliverables” do either of these men provide to merit this kind of public payout?

Washington Monthly examines this issue  on why administrations have become bloated, while not improving instruction. The waste is not limited to overheated senior salaries, but in all forms of administrative positions that gobble up student tuition and state support. The article notes: “Today, administrators and staffers safely outnumber full-time faculty members on campus. In 2005, colleges and universities employed more than 675,000 fulltime faculty members or full-time equivalents. In the same year, America’s colleges and universities employed more than 190,000 individuals classified by the federal government as “executive, administrative and managerial employees.” Another 566,405 college and university employees were classified as “other professional.” This category includes IT specialists, counselors, auditors, accountants, admissions officers, development officers, alumni relations officials, human resources staffers, editors and writers for school publications, attorneys, and a slew of others. These “other professionals” are not administrators, but they work for the administration and serve as its arms, legs, eyes, ears, and mouthpieces.”


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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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In light of the University of Washington’s recent financial aid statement to me, it’s no surprise that media have been covering this debt bubble for some time. Here’s some coverage from 2010, when it was reported student loan debt surpassed credit card debt. That is truly a remarkable milestone in American finance.



AUGUST 9, 2010, 1:13 PM ET

Student-Loan Debt Surpasses Credit Cards

By Mary Pilon

Consumers now owe more on their student loans than their credit cards.

Americans owe some $826.5 billion in revolving credit, according to June 2010 figures from theFederal Reserve. (Most of revolving credit is credit-card debt.) Student loans outstanding today — both federal and private — total some $829.785 billion, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.

“The growth in education debt outstanding is like cooking a lobster,” Mr. Kantrowitz says. “The increase in total student debt occurs slowly but steadily, so by the time you notice that the water is boiling, you’re already cooked.”

By his math, there is $605.6 billion in federal student loans outstanding and $167.8 billion in private student loans outstanding. He estimates that $300 billion in federal student loan debts have been incurred in the last four years.

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This is my first post on a blog that I will update periodically concerning the many facets of the higher education bubble that is creating an unsustainable model of educating our future workers and leaders and leaving an entire generation in crushing debt. As all economists note, all bubbles burst, and we are in the midst of a historic pricing bubble within the higher education sector that can charge students now more than $50,000 a year at prestigious schools for a single year of education. As a second year student at the University of Washington School of Public Health, I just came off my first year as an out of state student, and spent more $30,000 on tuition and a meager health insurance plan. That does not count books, rent, food, bills, other insurance, and other expenses. I should qualify for in-state residency next year, which will drop my costs for tuition and the same meager insurance plan to more than $18,000.

I have tried to explain what this reality means to my faculty and even to the Dean of the School of Public Health. In my personal opinion, the faculty and the administration do not fully understand the realities of the business model that is being used by large, elite universities like the University of Washington to price students into a lifetime of indentured servitude–meaning owing debt to lending institutions to be paid back over decades with interest often exceeding the principal before a promissory note is paid in full. Here is what my recently received UW financial aid statement for 2011-12 noted my costs would be, were I to be an out of state student at the UW School of Public Health this year. And this lowballs the cost of room and board for Seattle and does not include nearly $2,800 for health insurance (the critical safety net all of us need and are educated about daily at the School of Public Health):

Cost Description Cost Amount

Estimated Tuition and Fees $29,510

Books and Supplies $1,206

Room and Board $13,812

Personal Expenses $2,265

Transportation $1,524

Total Cost of Attendance   $48,317

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