I'm Right Again Dot Com

A new commentary every Wednesday                November 26, 2014


    Where were you when the melt-down over student loans began?  Though I read that the tectonic plate-shift in the cost of higher education had reached a reading of 100 or more on the Warren Buffett scale in recent years, I was better focused on the situation when I was dozing in front of the television recently as talking heads droned on about molten lava devouring entire pineapple plantations in Hawaii, while teams of mushers using huskie-drawn, dog sleds, rescued people from a blizzard that struck north Florida.

      It's really difficult to stay awake during the two or three hours of what masquerades as what used to be "news" anymore on a slow news day. All one can expect to see anymore is some interminable commercial filler (mostly about motor vehicles and medicines) and another midwestern American city being incinerated and laid waste by rioters and pillagers.

      Extreme Looting may soon be considered a new sport by the Olympics Committee.

      I was jarred fully awake, when I realized that some hysterical doctoral student at one our leading universities was being interviewed  on PBS. She said that that she was expected to pay back something like $150,000 in student loans—and had awakened to the fact that she had abandoned any hope of marriage, any thought of ever getting financing for a home, or even being able to afford decent transportation—all because she was expected to pay back an ever-mounting debt that was initiated with a monthly re-payment of $900 a month, four years ago. Another small personal factoid: her parents had disowned her and had rented out her bedroom—yes, to another student. 

      Ready? Here's the three-way crunch: Between 1980 and 2010, four-year public universities raised their tuition and fees by an average of 71 percent. Stanford, one of the leading schools, charges something like $51,000 for a four year degree, while taking 8 to 10 units. Takes your breath away, doesn't it?

     At the same time, 50 States are in a race to see how quickly and severely they can slash funding to institutions of higher learning.  Cal State, for example had to swallow a $200-million budget cut.

    On the other end of the scale. the University of Alabama asks in-state students to come up with $3,916 a year, out-of-state, "furriners" (especially Damnyankees), $8,826. Wait, we're not done—with no-frills dormitories' packed-to-the gunnels accommodations, make that $12,800 a year, for starters.  Then there are books, food, clothing and maybe parking fees, just to mention a few of the additional needs.

   Finally, lets do away with the myth that athletics pays for much of the cost of the eternal expansion of campuses.  The Knight Commisson for Intercollegiate Athletics contends that only eight college athletic programs in the USA break even or make a profit.

    Add to this the fact that there is another race going at most of those I of HLs (Institutions of Higher Learning): a need to outdo each other on a scale unknown in the history of education. More and better everything. And let's not forget monstrous salaries for our educators and coaches, those in the top rungs, especially.

-Phil Richardson, Curmudgeon, Observer and Storyteller. 

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