Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Voodoo Mathematics: American College Tuition

Voodoo Mathematics: American College Tuition

Most of us cannot be varsity level athletes or geniuses where we can obtain scholarships or grants that will pay for our tuition and sometimes other expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and maybe even a stipend for day to day expenses such as laundry and grooming aids. The budgets of many families are already stressed where it would be impossible to meaningfully contribute to the expense. Bluntly, most are those that will have to pay for their educations beyond high school and those fees have risen several times greater than inflation and many of us will be faced with borrowing thousands of dollars.

A lot of people who would have done well in college, have decided it was not worth the expense, especially the debt of paying thousands of dollars worth of student loans. If you sharpen your pencil and do the mathematics, some fear they will never be able to repay their student loans and they are probably correct. Many others will not attend graduate school because of the expense.

Retraining is difficult for many of us because it is so expensive and there is a lack of support by business and government.

America will not have the qualified graduates required for the next several generations if the problems of of an expensive education is not solved.

American tuition is too high
Schools have many of the same expenses as consumers. They require energy to heat or cool thousands of buildings. They need to illuminate the classrooms, offices, an grounds. They need to power elevators and office equipment. They need to power vehicles. They need to contribute to the healthcare of millions of employees. There has been no leadership from government to reduce energy or healthcare expense. Today, the handwriting on the wall says that energy and healthcare costs are high and going higher.Thousands of buildings require maintenance and repair or replacement and there is also the incremental increase for new buildings.

America's population has increased 50% since 1968 and going higher. Do you think we have 50% more college seats than we did back then. The federal and state governments paid for the bulk of the building boom for colleges and universities during the late 1960's and early 1970's and have been much less generous since then. A lot more of the construction expense (including repayment of principal and interest) is passed on to the students today than in the past.There is a lack of oversight on the spending of many colleges and universities.

The number of administrators has skyrocketed especially at the leadership level. Productivity has diminished at all levels. There are thousands of grossly overpaid people. I suspect there are more than 1000 people in each state pulling more than $250,000 in fully loaded costs each year individually from our school systems. And the scandals also cost billions such as that of New Jersey's Medical and Dental School.

Even though America's population has increased by 50% since 1968 and is growing rapidly and inflation has never stopped since then, the numbers of scholarships and the amount of the scholarships has not kept up. In fact, it is a disgrace. Government scholarships are diminishing because America does not recognize the importance of it as governments of most of the industrialized nations of the world. American business is not motivated because if they need engineers, scientists, programmers, or other skills they just reach out to India or does not matter to them because they can ship the job overseas or bring the alien into America as an H1B. American business does not compete in America for people with skills anymore because they can go to foreign countries.

If you are lucky to have a good paying job in America, employers have reduced or eliminated their tuition reimbursement programs. When organizations offer reimbursement programs, they require application and approval. It is getting more difficult to obtain approval. And programs are becoming limited by organizations by approving fewer courses per individual per semester or limited by dollar amount. Employers boycott some institutions when much cheaper institutions are available in the area, but offerings may not be the same. Many institutions have made tuition so expensive in many cases, employers have second thoughts about reimbursing employees. Many employers can also just pluck already trained employees from the international market and not have any educational expense. Many American employees have lost their jobs because their skill set fell behind, the employer offered little or no tuition reimbursement, and they were replaced by an alien.

If you stopped attending college, it is difficult and sometimes a severe hardship just to take a recent course, let alone earn a new certificate or a new degree if you have a family and especially if you have outstanding college loans already. Some employers make it impossible to attend school because they require excessive hours on the job and they also tether employees to 24 X 7 demands with cell phones.

Most re-employment programs are inadequate. Some outsourced Americans receive token retraining stipends of $1,000 or so when they may need $20,000 or more just for tuition and even more to pay household and family bills.

Student financial aid is rediculous
Some schools offer a lot of financial aid and some have little to offer. Today's student files a financial aid request and then if the student is accepted, the college returns an offer of how much aid will be available for the student with the balance of the expenses to be paid by the parents, workships, or loans.

It is a drawn out affair. Excellant grades and scores, leadership, need, and other things all contribute but the bottom line. Top tier students probably have a ticket most of the time for a free or almost free further education. But most of us will have to borrow.

I think it fairer for institutions to just specify their best prices for tuition and room and board and leave the rest of the bull alone.

It is difficult for most of us to be under pressure to just get accepted by an institution of our choice, but to also worry about how much they will also grant each of us so we can decide if we can also afford it is excessive.

All federal and state grants should be given to the student to attend the institution of their choice that accepted them.

Financial aid is geared to the recent high school graduate and almost nothing is available for the older or returning student especially those looking to be retrained.

It is an unfair playing field in America
I worked with quite a few H1B immigrants for about 30 years and never met one that had student loans from their home country. Their educations including tuition, room, board, texts, and fees were free or affordable even from the poorest countries. They all stated that competition for admission wa extremely high and their programs were rigorous and demanding.

A young Indian H1B friend of mine was planning on sending his wife back to India to go to school for a semester to become current in computers in order to return to America and work. She was not permitted to work here in America but they filed the papers to enable her to work here in America. She was already trained in computers, but had little recent experience due to getting married and starting a family. She was going back to their home country alone to stay with the family and get retrained. The out of pocket tuition was about $1,000 from what I understand compared to more than $20,000 for a similar program in the United States. It would be a extreme challenge for most Americans to travel there to obtain retraining, but even with the additional costs of airfare, housing, meals, and living expences it would still probably cost less than a third of what it would be for the same training in America. They suffered only a temporary seperation, but they periodically returned to India anyway, and his airfare alone more than paid for his wife's training and many gifts for the family. And when she returned she would be eligible to work and bring in a second income.

They did not chose to send the wife to the American school to be retrained because they would have had to borrow most of the money. Attending school in India was the wisest choice for them. Most Americans do not have the choice to attend Indian schools.

Elected officials and school administrators are not as motivated to reduce tuition as they should be. That is obvious. The public needs to sound off to them.

Too few alumni give back to their schools. It is alarming that so few belong to the alumni association let alone make even a token donation each year. Many of us have attended classes at several institutions that we should recognize financially.

A few months ago millions were spent on college football bowl games and this week starts NCAA basketball. If the public donated to the academic programs and scholarship programs as much as they spend on college sports, the institutions would be grateful.

Alumni should demonstrate as much interest in their institutions finances as they do in the sports programs.

America needs affordable college tuition which should be addressed right away.

American citizens will not have the skills necessary for the near future and beyond for good paying jobs and we will be even more dependant on aliens than we are today. If Americans citizens want good paying jobs for themselves, their children, and grandchildren they must demand it now.