Afternoon read: Tough times, high costs for college students

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.




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13 Comments on “Afternoon read: Tough times, high costs for college students”

  1. Ken Hall says:

    I attended what is now Canton SUNY back in 60-62 when it was Canton ATI as a commuting student; tuition $0, books and student fees < $200 per semester. In 66-68 I attended the University of Colorado, Boulder on a USAF scholarship as a non-resident; tuition and books cost the USAF about $600 and $200 per semester. At that time tuition for Colorado residents at CU Boulder was identical to my tuition at Canton ATI 6 years earlier.

    It would appear to me that what is happening in the US educational system exemplifies what Ellen Rocco was discussing in her recent blog about wealth in the US. The poor and the middle class are being forced to fund outrageously priced education, which in the not too distant past (40-50 years) was recognized as a reasonable cost to society which in turn enriched society with well educated and productive citizens, such that the affluent can further enrich themselves obscenely. In effect the only educational "free lunch" in the US is now reserved for the very wealthy who have become so via multitudinous schemes to transfer the miniscule wealth of the many into the coffers of the few.

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  2. The Original Larry says:

    Can we please stop blaming every problem in American society on the “wealthy?” Nobody is being forced to over-pay for those useless degrees; there are many ways around it. Many of our problems today (health care, education, taxes, etc.) arise from the same source: GREED. Did no one see this “problem” coming when costs rose from $10K to $20K to $30K to $40K, etc., annually? NOW it’s a problem, and of course, we can blame it on the rich. The real problem is the idiots who paid the ever-increasing bills without comment or taking action.

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  3. Rancid Crabtree says:

    It seems to me that if this higher education was so imperative that a truly low cost mechanism would be in place. IMO it’s just another for profit industry that will charge what the market will bear. I offer as proof the low cost of on line degrees and the rabid fight against such degrees by the higher ed industry. To me it’s clear it’s a money making enterprise. Is that what it’s supposed to be about?

    Not to be insensitive, but if the dead kids parents co-signed then they should be responsible for the bill. If I kick off my wife is responsible for any debt I’ve incurred, that’s why we have insurance. Just how far do we take this stuff?

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    Maybe rather than calling it higher education, we should just call it higher cost education.
    And maybe part of the problem is Americans “buying into” the idea that you get what you pay for.
    Is a person who graduates from SUNY whatever really less educated than a person who graduates from a school such as Harvard?
    To what extent are schools such as Harvard the equivalent of belonging to the “right” fraternity?

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  5. scratchy says:

    “Is a person who graduates from SUNY whatever really less educated than a person who graduates from a school such as Harvard?”

    Given that intellectual giants such as George W. Bush graduated from Harvard, clearly the SUNY graduate must be less educated than a Harvard graduate.

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  6. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    As with many things, the cosst/benefits of a post-secondary education lies in the details and depends a great deal upon the individual.

    That said, as Rancid already suggested, there’s an entire industry that preys upon ill informed potential students, their parents, and even school districts who strive to enroll as many of their students in post-secondary institutions as possible. I know, as I’m a small part of it.

    Our entire system of education and the attitudes held by young people, parents and districts has not evolved to include the alternative routes to education and job skills that our current and fairly recent economy would dictate. Like many engrained attitudes, it will take time for the cycle to be broken. I suppose the one silver lining in the tremendous growth of college tuition, on-line degrees, and student debt, is that people are now beginning to think before they jump.

    Think about what degree will actually lead to a job, think about the total costs over the long-term, and think about the alternatives to college like Career and Technical education (What used to be referred to as “Vocational Education”) while in high school or as an adult, and cheaper shorter term community college and various other Associates degrees.

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  7. Ken Hall says:

    The Original Larry says: “Can we please stop blaming every problem in American society on the “wealthy?” Nobody is being forced to over-pay for those useless degrees; there are many ways around it. Many of our problems today (health care, education, taxes, etc.) arise from the same source: GREED. Did no one see this “problem” coming when costs rose from $10K to $20K to $30K to $40K, etc., annually? NOW it’s a problem, and of course, we can blame it on the rich. The real problem is the idiots who paid the ever-increasing bills without comment or taking action.”

    On the offhand chance that you read Ellen Rocco’s blog about the mal-distribution of wealth in the US (much the same world wide) perhaps the graphs were too difficult for you to comprehend. The last time the distribution of wealth in the US approached the current situation was in the 1920’s just prior to the “great” depression. Voluminous books, papers and dissertations have been generated from analyses of the causes of the “great” depression resulting in the near unanimous conclusion that the accumulation of massive wealth in the coffers of the few was the forcing function behind the “great” depression. The distribution of conclusions about the cause of the “great” depression was/is very nearly identical to another modern day issue of contention; is global warming “real” or not and if it is are humans “causing” it or not.

    How can anyone who lives in the North Country contend that degrees are useless and that there are many ways around it. (I assume “it” is over-paying for a useless degree) As I am inclined to believe from your previous dissertations, on the NCPR blog site, that food stamps and welfare are not your preferred work around to obtaining a living wage job in the N.C.. Sans a degree to possibly enable one to gain a foothold in the door of such a job; would you care to elucidate with ” the many ways around it” with which you are familiar so as to enable the multitudes of folks here about who are unable to find living wage employment, do so?

    Ah ha; a contention with which I can agree is that “GREED” is a gigantic problem; however from the implicit tone of your comments today and in the past I sense that you believe the poor and the downtrodden are the greedy SOB’s and the princely, yet obscenely wealthy, “job creators” are not. Again I reference you to the mal-distribution of wealth blog that Ellen Rocco currently has on the NCPR blog site and ask you if you can comprehend the meaning of the the “fact” presented that 1% of Americans have at their disposal 40% of the wealth of the entire US (estimated at $57 Trillion), in other words $22.8 Trillion, the poor and the middle class roughly 80% of the US population have at their disposal 7% of the $57 Trillion or just under $4 Trillion and the top 19% of Americans, leaving the top 1% in their own “special” category, control an astounding 53% or about $30.2 Trillion which means that the top 20% of obscenely wealthy Americans have under their control $53 Trillion out of the total wealth of the nation of $57 Trillion. The bottom 50% of Americans (roughly 160 million) have less than 1% of $57 Trillion or $570 Billion which averages to a bit more than $3500 of wealth per person and these I believe are the folks who you believe are greedy, not the top 20-1% whose average wealth is $497,000 or the top 1% whose average wealth is $6,333,3333 per person not per family!

    Again I ask for your knowledgeable recommendations as to what actions the “idiots who paid the ever-increasing bills without comment or taking action” should have done or should now do to correct these, apparently obvious to you, problems.

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  8. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Ken, the filthy rich top 25% includes people making as little as $66K and they pay 90% of the taxes. It’s not like it’s all George Soros types.

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  9. Ken Hall says:

    Rancid, Wherein did you find that the “filthy” rich encompass the top 25% of Americans? If one includes that additional 5% of the top wealth holders in the “filthy” rich then the graphs on Ellen Rocco’s blog about wealth would indicate that the top 25% of Americans hold about 95% of the wealth in the US. If the filthy rich are paying only 90% of the taxes they are under paying since the rest of us with assets of 5% of the US wealth are paying 10% of the taxes or at twice the rate of the rich.

    Did not the Republicans/conservatives insist that families earning less than $450,000/year and individuals earning less than $400,000 were part of the middle class when “caving in” to POTUS Obama’s insistence that tax cuts on the wealthy be allowed to expire? The tax rates on those families earning less than $450,000/year and individuals earning less than $400,000 were fixed by law at the previous administration’s reduced rate so as to continue the accelerated jobs creation that took place toward the end of POTUS GW Bush’s second term in office by allowing the so called “job creators” to keep more of their money so they would hire more of the unemplyed. If it works as well this time as it worked last time I hope you will reward your Republican/conservative congressional leaders by voting them out of office in 2014.

    Now where do the “filthy” rich who earn a measly $66,000/year fit in under this congressional edict?

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  10. Ken Hall says:

    Oops got carried away with my 3’s $6,333,3333 should be $6,333,333

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  11. Rancid Crabtree says:

    There ya go Jim. And actually, those in the lower 50% of wage earners pay no effective income tax, many getting back far more than they paid in. The top 50-25% pay just about 10% of the income taxes received. That’s $32-66K. The top 10% pay 70% of the taxes. That’s for 2009 but nothing much has changed.

    Something you should consider when you’re out to chop off the heads of the “rich” Jim, is that the truly “rich” don’t pay income taxes as we know them. The really rich, the Warren Buffets and such, live off the interest on investments and trusts. If you want to go after them, fine by me. And good luck. I don’t think the quasi “rich” earning $66-150K a year are really the nasty, filthy rich you think they are. Chances are they are your doctor, your dentist, your car dealer, your school superintendent, your small business men and women, your neighbors.

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  12. Ken Hall says:

    Rancid, I don’t know who the “Jim” is that you are addressing but I will address your thrust. A short stint of Googling brought me to a link which indicated the from 1978 to 1982 Grover Norquist (of the best Government is one shrunken to an extent that it can be drowned in a bath tub fame) was the executive director of the National Taxpayers Union from whence you gleaned your information. If the information on the pages to which you linked did not look suspicious to you I understand not why. Headings such as “Is the Income Tax Truly Voluntary?” did not tip you to jaundiced thought processes?

    The blog by Ellen Rocco to which I have been referring is concerned with total wealth not simply yearly income and as such this point I agree with you upon, those with he most wealth definitely do not pay their fair share as you stated. Again I ask why did congress insist that the income level for “Middle Class” be defined as families earning up to $450,000/year and individuals earning up to $400,000/year if by your purported non-biased NTU report 99% of Americans earn less than that? From the report linked to it would appear that 90% of Americans have less than $110,000/year. Where is the real “middle class” by your reckoning?

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  13. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Huh, wonder where I got Jim from.

    To me middle class is surely $150K and under to about $35K. Big spread, but that’s teachers and cops to big farmers and businessmen. That’s income, not gross. Why does the gov’t call it differently? Got me, you’re the one that is trying to equate total wealth to income tax brackets. And I don’t care if Norquist was involved in the NTU 30 years ago, the figures are accurate. Look them up yourself.

    As for the difference between income and wealth, I agree. If you can find a away to tax wealth rather than income, go for it. If we could tax actual wealth across the board we could probably go to a flat tax with zero deductions and do a lot better, especially is we cut spending.

    The end game is that no matter what you do you aren’t ever going to get the gov’t to take the wealth from the top 1% or 10%. They will talk about it, they may raise rates, but they will protect the wealthy because THEY ARE THE WEALTHY. They won’t cut their own throats or the throats of the people that put them in Washington. GOP or Dem, it doesn’t make a difference. You think Obama is going to stab Imelt in the back? Or Soros? Not going to happen. All you do is further the class warfare game that keeps your eye on the “rich” iand the GOP that is said to protect them nstead of the people that are really screwing you over. Step back and look and see if the Dems aren’t doing their best to protect then too. They are, just from a different angle.

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