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Higher Ed, Income Inequality & the American Economy (Part 1)

September 8th, 2014 by dfarish

Almost every week for the past two years, I have been posting opinion pieces to this blog that relate to the current issues and challenges facing higher education nationally, and that provide details about the solutions we have been developing and implementing at Roger Williams University. I have tried to call things as I see them. Where I felt it fair and appropriate, I have not been shy about being critical of higher education in general, and the practices at some campuses in particular.

At the same time, I have endeavored to place the issues facing higher education in the broader context of 21st century America: not every problem that involves higher education can be fairly attributed to the actions of our colleges and universities, and not every problem that involves higher education can be solved by higher education, either as individual campuses or in the collective.

The Ultimate Question: “Is College Worth It?” Part 6

August 25th, 2014 by dfarish

We’ve spent five weeks looking at the question that continues to be the focus of reports and articles in the media – “Is college worth it?” – from the standpoint of four distinct concerns: its perceived lack of affordability; the burden of debt that faces so many graduates; the relative scarcity of well-paying jobs for recent college graduates; and the risk that a student will borrow money, not complete his or her course of study, and be economically worse off than if he or she had never started. (As an aside, I should note that the question of the worth of a college education has been so frequently asked that it is now being satirized. The Onion recently posted the following headline on its website: “Study Finds College Still More Worthwhile Than Spending 4 Years Chained to Radiator.”)

The Ultimate Question: “Is College Worth It?” Part 5

August 18th, 2014 by dfarish

In previous blog posts on this topic, we have explored concerns relating to how expensive a college education has become; how many students are graduating with considerable debt; and how difficult it is for some graduates to find good jobs – all preparatory to a final discussion on the underlying question: Is college worth it? Before we take that question on, however, we must review a fourth concern:

Not enough college students are graduating, leaving them in debt and without a degree.

This is the most serious and significant of the four topics we have been discussing.

To begin, there are many studies regarding the economic impact on individuals with college degrees in comparison to those with just a high school education.

The Ultimate Question: "Is College Worth It?" Part 4

August 11th, 2014 by dfarish

In Part 1 of this series of blog posts, I said that the question of the worthiness of investing in a college education was best addressed by looking at four discrete concerns: high cost, high debt, scarce jobs, and low graduation rates. In Part 2, we looked at the first concern, that too many families were finding that a college education had become too expensive. In Part 3, we analyzed the student debt “bubble.” This week, we’ll examine the concern that too many college graduates can’t find well-paying jobs.

There are too many unemployed or underemployed college graduates who are not earning enough to pay back their debts.

The Ultimate Question: "Is College Worth It?" Part 3

August 4th, 2014 by dfarish

In Part 1, I argued that the proper way of determining whether college was worth the investment was first to examine four distinct concerns—high cost, high debt, scarce jobs, and low graduation rates.  Last week, in part 2, we looked at the first of these concerns: has college simply become too expensive for many families? This week, we’ll examine the second concern:

There is a student debt “bubble” that is preventing young college graduates from buying homes, starting families, and thereby acting as a drain on the entire economy.

The Ultimate Question: "Is College Worth It?" Part 2

July 28th, 2014 by dfarish

In Part 1 of this blog post, I asserted that the question of whether college was worth the investment needed to be answered through the analysis of four distinct areas of concern. In this week’s post, we will examine the first of these concerns:

The Ultimate Question: "Is College Worth It?" Part 1

July 21st, 2014 by dfarish

There was a time, not so many years ago, when college presidents bemoaned their inability to attract much public attention to what they were doing. Ah, for the good old days! We now receive attention from every quarter, and more advice—and criticism, some of it rather hostile—than we know what to do with. We are suffering from a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Consider the range of opinions expressed in the following four comments. An editorial in USA Today (June 4, 2014) includes the following quotes: 

“Colleges are able to increase costs without consequence largely because easy access to federal aid assures them a steady supply of students, so debt keeps piling up, which is not just a problem for the students. Taxpayers are vulnerable as students default, for instance, and home building is stifled as debt-laden young people resist taking on mortgages.” 

The Slow-Motion Train Wreck Speeds Up

May 27th, 2014 by dfarish

For the past 18 months, I have made numerous posts wherein I have described my reactions to seeing the gradual disintegration of both the public and private models of higher education, in a manner akin to watching a slow-motion train wreck.

Well, the rate of disintegration is increasing. The slow-motion train wreck is speeding up. Consider five categories of evidence from the news media in recent weeks:

(1) The gap between the wealthy privates and everyone else is becoming a chasm.

My claim in my blog post of Oct. 15, 2013, that, in some respects, the wealthy colleges and universities seem more like investment companies that do a little teaching on the side now seems more prophetic than ever. Two recent articles make the case.

The Primary Problem with Higher Education, in Four Words: It Costs Too Much

April 28th, 2014 by dfarish

On Monday, April 14, 2014, the Lumina Foundation convened a group of opinion leaders in Washington, D.C., to discuss college affordability, federal student loan policies and the role of states in supporting public colleges and universities (The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Paying for College: Experts Gather in Search of New Models,” April 15, 2014).

Unfortunately, the experts came up empty.

One commentator noted that “affordable” does not necessarily mean “cheap.” Another touted the merits of a net-price calculator designed to show the number of years after graduation at which “the benefits of college outweigh the cumulative costs.” A third suggested that greater numbers of women and minorities should choose more lucrative majors.

I hope the Lumina Foundation did not overly deplete its endowment to pay for these platitudes and in-the-box thinking.

Do Colleges Enhance or Impede Social Mobility?

April 22nd, 2014 by dfarish

There is no shortage of commentary regarding the problems of higher education. Too often, however, the wrong people are in the conversation. It’s a waste of time to attempt to convince people of the righteousness of your position if the people to whom you are speaking already agree with you – and if your arguments aren’t precise, you can actually do your cause damage by providing the other side with free ammunition.