Opinion

Cost-cutting essential for avoiding postgraduate bankruptcy

Students need more than loans to pay for their overpriced degrees. The time is now to reduce tuition and stop bankrupting students before graduation.

The cost of a college degree has increased more than 1,000 percent in the past 30 years. In 1999, $90 billion in student loans were outstanding. As of 2011, that balance was $550 billion – a 511 percent increase in a decade.

That would be like paying $120,000 for a Honda Accord in 10 years.

The numbers are equally frightening in graduate school. The average tuition and expenses for a veterinary degree at a private university has doubled in the last 10 years to more than $200,000. And 85 percent of law school graduates are facing an average debt load of $98,500.

The problem is obvious: The cost of a college education is growing faster than we can pay for it.

It is now the new debt sentence of virtual jail where the cell doors may only be opened with payments that cut through our pockets like a knife does through bread.

Students are powerless in this situation. It is up to our government and administrators to tackle tuition and education debt. Even President Obama spoke of his loans at a rally at the University of Colorado Boulder. He said, “My wife and I paid more for our student loans than we paid for our mortgage each month when we first bought our small condo in Chicago.”

The president has advocated that federal funding for schools that raise tuition should be reduced. But with even less federal funding to schools, such universities would be incentivized to raise tuition and stick students with the tab to make up for the loss.

However, there are holistic micro-solutions that could immediately be put in place to collectively lower the magnanimous cost of tuition.

Salary cuts and caps for certain college faculty is the step toward lowering the bill. In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott posted the salaries of employees at a few state universities. The report showed that more than 20 professors cashed in an annual salary exceeding $500,000. If the salaries were capped at $200,000, then the state would save $7 million. This is hardly enough to see a change in the tuition bill, but it is a step in the right direction.

Outsourcing courses would be equally beneficial. This is not to suggest we send students to Indonesia, but outsiders could be hired to teach courses at less than the usual per-credit-hour cost.

Instead of a full-time instructor teaching Hip-Hop Dance 300, students could be taught at a local dance studio by a performance instructor.

Fully digitizing the college experience is not possible, but offering more online classes is cheap, easy and saves the university the cost of a full-time professor. Besides, we’ve all taken a class or two that doesn’t require us being there, so why not take it from home?

Each cost-cutting mechanism has its pros and cons, but something must be done immediately to curb the cost of education.

If we do not change the current model of education economics, countless students will continue to be wrongfully imprisoned by student loans and forced to carry out the new debt sentence.

 

Christopher Ivory is a second-year law student. 

January 16, 2013

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Christopher Ivory


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