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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saddest moments as a career counselor

One of the most insightful articles we have seen about college is written by Marty Nemko, a career counselor. It is too bad that other “career counselors” are so narrowly focused on getting poor students in college.

Nemko says: “Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: 'I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go.'"

Article "It's time to study the value of college"

Excellent piece by David Frum. Here are two paragraphs from his commentary:

"Over the past decade the cost of college tuition has approximately doubled, faster at private colleges. This rapidly inflating investment is yielding a declining return. The earnings of bachelor-degree holders have been dropping this decade. After inflation, B.A. holders earned more than $54,000 in 2000. That dropped 5 percent over the next four years.

What happened? Some point to international trade. It used to be only blue-collar workers who faced international job competition. Today, so do bookkeepers, software engineers and certain health care technologists."

WSJ article “Weighing Price and Value When Picking a College”
Excellent July 16, 2009 WSJ article “Weighing Price and Value When Picking a College”

“In a May 2008 survey of 720 parents of college students by Gallup and Sallie Mae, a student-loan company, 46% said they had never, at any point, ruled out any colleges for their kids based on costs.” Is there any wonder that the cost of college has inflated so much faster than other costs? What would have happened to the cost of autos in the US if car buyers had had the same attitude? When few care about the price it is sure to increase to a point where someone finally does care.

This notion that you always get what you pay for is simply a fallacy. But one benefit of the recession is that families are looking at the cost of college much more pragmatically.

“The engines that have enabled college costs to soar—easy credit, home-equity loans and growth in savings—have stalled.” Not to mention the wealthier the society the higher average “sense of entitlement”. The shakier the economy the more obvious it is how challenging it is to n get a good paying job.

But what is even more important than how expensive your college is what do you study. Does anyone debate that an electrical engineering degree from San Jose State will offer more job prospects than a History degree from Stanford?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Financial Problems at San Francisco City College

This article in the San Francisco Chronicle today speaks to the financial problems some of California’s junior colleges are experiencing. These schools have been a very cheap way to get the first two years of one’s college because they have been heavily subsidized.

But when things get subsidized to this degree you have distortions. For one they have been offering high school math classes like elementary algebra and offering college credit. Maybe folks should get their high school math in high school.

And because it was so inexpensive, the demand for the classes has been higher than it would otherwise be. It points out that Mary Allen, 76, has taken classes at the City College for the last quarter century. Nice for Mary but how about the taxpayers that are footing the bill for her classes in Psychology, Sociology and Art Appreciation (I really don’t know what classes she took).

Monday, August 24, 2009

College board drivel about cost of college

This is the kind of drivel that keeps getting printed about college. Granted certain colleges and majors provide good value – but this is far from universal. Try and show me the data that demonstrates the payback for a “Sociology degree” that costs a student and her family $200,000.

And keep in mind that most of the $143 billion in student aid discussed is simply debt that sticks with the individual for life or until they find a way to pay it off.

If one gets a practical degree (like engineering or accounting) from the State college at a reasonable cost, lives at home and gets the degree completed in 4 years or less, college can pay substantial dividends. But borrowing $100,000 to get a degree in “Sexual and Gender Issues” is unlikely to pay off.

Let’s get real! Here is what they have to say.....

“2008-09 College Prices
Keep Increases in Perspective
There's no escaping the fact that college prices are rising. According to recently released reports from the College Board, most students and their families can expect to pay, on average, from $108 to $1,398 more than last year for this year's tuition and fees, depending on the type of college.

But there is good news. There is more than $143 billion in financial aid available. And, despite all of these college price increases, a college education remains an affordable choice for most families.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

Alumna sues college because she hasn’t found a job

Read this CNN article.

Today if you want a job in IT getting a Business Administration Degree in Information Technology is probably not the way to go. But parents, the media and conventional wisdom keep sending kids to college when there are frequently better ways to go.

She probably would have been far better off getting a Cisco, Microsoft or Oracle certification at a far lower cost and a much shorter investment in time. Then she could get out in the work world and start learning on the job.

I wonder how much student debt this woman racked up in the process? And by the way student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.