Two articles in the Watertown Daily Times today underline the changing, and often grim, situation in which college students find themselves today.
The first article looks at how SUNY schools are adapting to meet student needs at a time when six-year graduation rates aren’t particularly high in the state’s public education system (or indeed nationwide), students are taking on more debt, working more, and in some cases just pursuing higher education in a different way.
Students are now looking for more flexibility, in many cases because they transfer schools one or more times during their college careers as they narrow down what they want (also public schools are cheaper than private ones, so getting credits taken care of at a SUNY makes financial sense for many students.)
Many more students are now working while attending school, and this means they take longer to graduate (which would account in part for the low six-year graduation rate figures). This is also resulting in more students wanting to get 2-year associate degrees rather than four-year bachelor’s degrees — they’ll have something to show after fewer hours of investment.
SUNY seems to be looking to be more flexible with students, to make financial aid more transparent and easy to understand, and also (although I’m not sure to what extent this falls under the category of meeting student needs) to make how it measures things like graduation and transfer rates more accurate.
It’s worth mentioning that tuition for SUNY schools in our area isn’t exactly the money you find in the couch: For Potsdam, full time undergraduate in-state tuition and fees, if you live on campus, total $16,375; Canton will run you something like $11,863; and Jefferson Community College is in the range of either $3,744 or $5,394, depending on whether you live in Jefferson County or not. There’s no on-campus housing at JCC (I did this math myself, so there might be some minor inconsistencies based on how the universities describe the costs of their services.)
But in the “putting things in perspective” section of today’s post, private school costs are much, much higher: Estimated tuition and fees for a 2012-13 student at St. Lawrence University in Canton is $55,835; at Clarkson in Potsdam, they’re $51,144. This obviously doesn’t take into account financial aid packages many students receive.
But hey, what if that financial aid package isn’t enough? A second story in the Times today looks at a piece of legislation U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is introducing to require private loan companies to forgive student loan debt immediately after a student dies. “Andrew’s Law” is named after Syracuse native Andrew Prior, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2010. He’d just graduated from college, and Andrew’s student loan company sought for two years to have his parents, who were cosigners, pay off the loan.
Now, federal student loans are already governed by legislation that requires loan forgiveness when a student dies. This legislation would extend that protection to those taking on private loans. Private student loans are also more expensive than federal loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently found that more than $8 billion in private loans are in default.