Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
A new study comparing college tuition with family income has found that tuition has more than doubled relative to income in the past four decades. More from Newsweek:
That cost includes tuition, fees, and room and board for full-time students at degree-granting institutions—for both public and private colleges and universities. Back then, the average cost came to $9,502 after adjusting for inflation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2012, the average was $19,339. With a typical family earning $51,017—the U.S. median income—college tuition for just one child will absorb almost 40 percent of their income. That surpasses housing as the single biggest household expense.
If college costs were rising along with family income, there wouldn’t be a problem. But college costs have risen way ahead of income. There are several reasons. For starters, administration costs have been growing rapidly on most campuses. In part this has to do with an explosion in applications and enrollments, which require more resources. But salaries of administrators, particularly those in charge, seem out of line with the rest of the institution. It’s not unheard of for compensation of the president of a large university to approach $1 million. Meanwhile, campuses have seen a boom in infrastructure spending to upgrade student facilities like gyms, student centers and dorms. Finally, many public universities have offset cuts in state aid by raising fees.
Of course, the price of college varies greatly depending on where you go, and whether the institution is public or private. Almost three-quarters of Americans attend public universities and colleges, where costs have been rising quickly but still remain far less than private institutions. In 1969, public colleges and universities charged an average of $7,206, compared with $14,292 in 2012, after adjusting for inflation. By contrast, private institutions averaged $15,329 back then, vs. $33,047 in 2012.
Today, the cost of a private college or university would be unattainable for most families if they didn’t get substantial financial aid. At elite colleges and universities, the cost is considerably more than what a typical family earns. Without financial aid, a single year at Princeton can set you back $58,965.
Image: Money, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 7th, 2014
The SAT college entrance exam is undergoing a series of changes, one of which is that the essay portion, which was added in 2005, will become optional, with a separate score from the rest of the test. The Associated Press reports on these and other changes, which will take effect in the 2016 test:
The new SAT will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, with an emphasis on analysis. Scoring will be on a 1,600-point scale, with a separate score for the optional essay.
Students will have the option of taking the test on a computer.
One of the biggest changes is that the extra penalty for wrong answers, which discouraged guessing, will be eliminated. And some vocabulary words will be replaced with words such as ‘‘synthesis’’ and ‘‘empirical’’ that are used more widely in classrooms and in work settings.
‘‘By changing the exam’s focus, we change the learning and work the SAT invites. Today, many students who are terrified they will be tested on lots of SAT words have one recourse: flashcards,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘Every educator knows flashcards are not the best way to build real word knowledge, but when the SAT rolls around they become the royal road. Students stop reading and start flipping.’’
The essay will be changed in other ways, too. It will measure students’ ability to analyze and explain how an author builds an argument, instead of measuring the coherence of the writing but not the quality or accuracy of the reasoning. It will be up to school districts and colleges the students apply to as to whether the essay will be required.
Instead of testing a wide range of math concepts, the new exam will focus on a few areas, like algebra, deemed most needed for college and life afterward. A calculator will be allowed only on certain math questions, instead of on the entire math portion.
Image: Test answer sheet, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
A growing number of young adults are stuck in what analysts are calling a “worst case scenario,” in which they are stifled by debt from college loans, but they never finished their degrees. More from NBC News:
According to a 2011 study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, only 56 percent of students who enter four-year programs graduate within six years. That number plunges to 22 percent for for-profit colleges. Meanwhile, the percentage of incoming students relying on loans is growing—from 2001 to 2009, the number increased from 47 percent to 53 percent, according to a report by Education Sector. The same report also found that borrowers who drop out are four times more likely to default on their loans.
Some of these dropouts grew up middle class with an expectation of getting a degree, like [Christopher and Harmony] Glenn. Others are students from low-income backgrounds, perhaps the first in their families to go to college. Michelle Obama recently launched an effort to encourage these first-timers to pursue higher education, but the odds are stacked against them: Pell grants and funding for state and city universities continue to shrink. Forty percent of students at four-year colleges, and 60 percent at community colleges, are working 20 hours or more to make up for these gaps, according to the Pell Institute.
“A lot of these kids come up against this wall of bureaucracy,” said Jennifer Silva, author of Coming Up Short, a book about working-class young adults. “They lack mentors to help them navigate the system” of admissions, financial aid, and choosing classes. “It ends up leaving them feeling kind of betrayed.”
Image: College debt, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
The cost of center-based child care exceeds the cost of tuition at state colleges in a number of states, due as much to rising child care costs as to slightly declining state college tuitions. More from CNN Money:
Last year, average center-based child care costs rose by nearly 3% nationwide, according to a report from the nonprofit Child Care Aware of America. Full-time care for an infant ranged from a high of $16,430 a year in Massachusetts to $4,863 in Mississippi. Meanwhile, center-based care for a four-year-old hit a high of $12,355 in Massachusetts and a low of $4,312 in Mississippi.
Why such huge price disparities? Blame it on differences in labor costs, state regulations and cost of living expenses, such as housing, food and utilities.
For example, Massachusetts has strict child care regulations that require one teacher for every three infants, compared to one teacher per five infants in Mississippi. Meanwhile, child care centers in New York City, among one of the most expensive places for child care in the country, pay significantly higher rents and also must meet strict state standards.
“In order to meet those (standards), it costs money,” said Jessica Klos Shapiro, public policy and communications coordinator at the nonprofit Early Care & Learning Council, which advocates for families across New York state.
The centers are also grappling with ballooning operational costs, ranging from rising insurance costs to higher food prices, said Lynette Fraga, Child Care Aware’s executive director.
As a result, child care costs grew by as much as eight times the rate of family incomes last year, the report said. And they continue to take a major chunk out of family budgets, often representing a household’s largest monthly expense.
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Image: Kids at day care, via Shutterstock
Monday, September 16th, 2013
A growing number of college students are buckling under the pressure of rising textbook costs–at a time when tuition and living expenses are already pushing many families’ finances to the limit. Textbook prices have been subject to triple-digit inflation, according to a new research report published by the US Public Interest Research Group. More from NBC News:
With the average student shelling out $1,200 a year just on books, students, professors and policy groups are searching for ways to circumvent the high cost of traditional textbooks.
It’s no simple multiple-choice question. Growing rental and e-book markets lower prices but come with a convenience cost. Budding open-source textbook programs hold promise but aren’t mainstream yet. Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says 70 percent of students admit they just skip buying some books, saving money but often inflicting a high price on their academic success.
“It’s getting to the point where students can‘t afford them anymore,” said Nicole Allen, director of the open educational resources program at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. “It limits access they need to complete their education, which can undercut their ability to perform in class.”
The College Board found that the average student at a four-year public college spends $1,200 on “books and supplies,” or nearly $1,250 if they go to a private school. On the public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute, where he is a fellow, University of Michigan-Flint economics professor Mark J. Perry highlighted a chart showing an 812 percent increase in the cost of college textbooks since 1978, a jump even higher than the percentage growth in the cost of health care.
“Students are, in essence, a captive market,” said Ethan Senack, higher education associate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “The publishing industry is dominated by five companies that dominate upwards of 85 percent of the market.”
“I think part of it is the consolidation… There’s less competition now,” Perry said. “The other thing that irritates students and professors quite a bit is they’ve really sped up the publishing schedule,” with new editions coming out every couple of years.
Image: College textbooks, via Shutterstock
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