Monday, December 5, 2011

Education Department Looking to Lower Costs of College

Good Luck on That Folks

One of the things that today’s older generation, correctly called the “greediest generation” has done to earn that sobriquet is to allow the cost of higher education to rise to such a degree that students lucky enough to get a degree (and even those that just attend) leave the institution with an almost insurmountable amount of debt.  Burdening their children and their children’s children with student loans so they can have lower taxes is what today’s taxpayers are willing to accept for maintaining a low tax environment.

The Secretary of Education is concerned, as well he should be.  That’s part of the job if you are Secretary of Education in a Democratic Administration  (If you are Secretary of Education in a Republican Administration your major concern is how to channel more public dollars to private schools). 

Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged higher-education officials Tuesday to “think more creatively — and with much greater urgency” about ways to contain costs and reduce student debt.

That’s right, the Sec of Ed asked the people directly responsible for the huge increases in the cost of higher education to have greater urgency about containing costs.  Who exactly did he think he was talking to.

The problem is something like this

“Three in four Americans now say that college is too expensive for most people to afford,” Mr. Duncan said. “That belief is even stronger among young adults — three-fourths of whom believe that graduates today have more debt than they can manage.”

College seniors with loans now graduate with an average debt load of more than $25,000.With outstanding student debt nearing $1 trillion — and exceeding credit-card debt 

Mr. Duncan can be forgiven for not understanding basic economics and accounting.  See every dollar of cost for higher education is a dollar of income to the institutions of higher education, and asking them to find ways to reduce costs is like asking health care providers to find ways to reduce health care costs.  The officials don’t want to reduce costs, they want to raise them.

What about college that have lowered costs?  The old expression, you can count them on the fingers of one hand is applicable here.

Mr. Duncan lauded those colleges, universities and state programs that cut tuition — few enough that he was able to cite almost every effort — and those with programs increasing educational attainment, while lowering costs.

And as for ideas to cut costs, well there are these

Mr. Duncan sketched out three department initiatives using the same kind of financial incentives he has previously used to spur K-12 reform. He described plans to replace the expiring Perkins loan program with campus-based, low-cost student loans awarded in part on how well the campus has done in graduating Pell recipients; incentive grants rewarding states and institutions for making changes that increase completion rates and close achievement gaps; and a fund to support programs that use innovation to accelerate learning and hold down tuition.

And members of the audience were quoted as saying there were general enough and non-specific enough that they could endorse them, knowing they would never have to follow through.

As for costs themselves, with states having to cut support for higher education the prospect is for college costs to continue to go up, and if the next generation falls under the burden of debt, well too bad, at least the current greedy generation got their tax cuts.

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