Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Education in Higher Education

I am a firm believer in high education being a necessity for all students graduating high school after 1995. I should clarify that in my perspective a higher education does not mean a bachelors degree. Community colleges have contributed and continue to contribute to global prosperity by providing technical education and diversity development among students young and old.

Therefore, what I really mean by higher education is to spend time in an environment that is about problem solving and out of the box thinking compared to studying for a test that only has 1 right answer. The test standards are great for measuring understanding but do not test the ability to apply knowledge; that is what I believe post-secondary education does and it is a vital tool for any modern day employee.

So then how do we make higher education more affordable? Because even with my very modest $20,000 in student debt ($6,000 below the average for my 2011 class), I was barely scraping by for the first 2 years after graduating college. Higher paying jobs is part of the solution and hopefully as we start to move forward after the Great Recession we'll see a rise in pay for all employees, especially younger adults. However wages rise and fall with the ebbs and flows of the market, student loans remain increase at a rate of 6-8% anually. So it is probably more important to address the cost of education than the rate of compensation.
"But at least at public colleges and universities — which enroll three out of every four American college students — the main cause of tuition growth has been huge state funding cuts. Every recession, states face a budget squeeze as their tax revenue falls and demand for their services rises. They have to cut something, and higher education is often a prime target."
The rise in tuition is not due to elaborate recreation facilities or due to over compensation for professors and staff. It is primarily due to state funding continually being cut during economic down turns and not being restored when the economic climate and revenues recover. As a result, the federal government has been working to increase Pell Grants and loans to undergraduate students to create tools for students to find financing for tuition. So the federal government is spending more and more money on higher education funding, while the states have continued to decrease their contribution to funding.

So now that we've identified the major cause of increasing tuition, how do we begin creating solutions? One solution which President Obama and Senator Rubio - two people who I'd not usually group together - is to ask higher education institutions to disclose more information. This has been the tactic with other problem children from healthcare to wall street.

Would it be beneficial to ask states to provide students better bang for their buck? Absolutely. Would it be beneficial to base federal funding upon the percentage of students who attend class on a regular basis or upon the amount of students who double major? You bet. Would it be beneficial for the federal government to base their funding to a school upon the commitment of the respective state's funding? Very likely.  Should the federal government reward schools that increase efficiency by offering fast tracked classes or online/hy-bred options? Yes

There are so many ways to make high education more efficient, effective, and in the end more beneficial to the student - financially and educationally. I hope that congress and the states can start the dialogue with a sense of urgency to stop using student loans to fund public higher education; because "States will soon have to pay out trillions in public pensions for the retiring baby boomer generation — squeezing the funds for training the next generation of workers even more."

President Obama on Higher Education, 24 July 2013
NY Times: Tuition Skyrocket
Sen. Rubio and President Obama agree on something?

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