I believe they want to do good, they are not malicious, they are not evil. I have friends in academia and hold them in very high regard. I have much respect for what they do. No buts!
The conversation about student loans cannot be had without a concomitant conversation about our institutions. I say the words “institutions” and “our” similar to public workers and the government. Who are they supposed to be working for? Serving?
The students, I say. I have met one, just one man that called out the University from within. His words are immortal to me. They spoke so very loudly to me as I sat there consuming the last bits that were my last year in graduate school. He used the following words to describe our degrees –
Upgraded (in a bad way)
Too much, too long (years of school)
When they pay based on experience, anyway.
When discussing matters such as this with instructors, professors and academic folk it is palpable how uncomfortable they are when the conversation turns critical on University itself. They aren’t used to criticism. Students aren’t critical they are too young. People with even a little life experience are no longer idealistic, and that’s exactly when most begin to ask questions.
Another wise old man, George Carlin, said that we should question everything, so that’s what I’m doing!
Let’s talk numbers. I like numbers, they are like a scale. They don’t lie. I paid $8,500 block tuition per semester which was about $75,000 total. This is a base rate. Fees, interest, and that 1K in grad plus loans I took out to go to Key West aren’t included.
Tuition at that same University is now $11,500, which is a 35% increase over 6 years, or a 5.9% increase per year, which is about double inflation. Now that doesn’t make Universities look bad per say, but it don’t make the Universities look good.
The worst part is that the children have no idea what is going on. I didn’t either. To the Universities credit they say the numbers are there, they are public domain, they are no secret. They’re right.
And the students have no idea what is happening. I once learned in a developmental psychology class that full brain maturation which is mature thoughts, higher reasoning and maximum development occur at the age of 25. Most children entering graduate school are 22 when they consent to move forward with payment.
I went to a meeting this week and I don’t think I’ll be going anymore. I don’t have it in me to tell the students the truth, it shouldn’t come from someone like me I am their peer I am young. It is my personal opinion that our Universities are complicit in the student loan problem and our financial insolvency. The government is like Rocky breaking thumbs but it’s always the slick guy in a nice coat and a driver that is the mastermind behind the operation-
I believe the student is 100% responsible. It doesn’t matter that the loan is outrageous it doesn’t matter if you are unable to make payments. The paperwork is clear there’s a lender and there’s the person that took out the loan and the person that took out the loan is 100% responsible for paying it back. And the Universities are complicit. I believe our Universities have upgraded degrees in part to lengthen the amount of schooling needed to become certain professionals. Lengthened degrees means more time in school, means more tuition for these schools. With base tuition from 55 students the school made in three years $4,207,500. The word egregious, is an understatement.
I also came down hard on an instructor. I told him that these kids are good kids and that the overwhelming majority will carry this debt upwards of 25 years. That is a lifetime. These kids will marry, become parents and pay for their own children’s education while at the same time paying for their own. They are going into a financially insolvent avalanche, I cry!
But from within the Ivory Tower, there is no cry. To their credit members in academia welcome conversation, but it must be done with delicacy, deference, and absolutely must extricate the University from any wrong doing.
It’s kind of like someone walking into a police station and asking for guaranteed immunity. It only makes that person, that thing look all the more culpable, responsible, and involved in the issue.
A conversation about student loans cannot be had without a concomitant conversation about tuition, careers, and career history. Who sets tuition? Why do Universities look like empires? Why did a career in physical therapy go from a bachelors to a doctorate in 20 years? What is the justification for a 5.9% increase in tuition every year?
This is when they get sassy with me, and I like sass! The instructor told me that the tuition is up front, when I am telling him that students don’t know and don’t realize how not good it’s going to be for them. He said that maybe, maybe I want to be coddled, that I just want my hand held. So I asked him –
“Is this how you speak with your students?”
This is an instructor who said this, someone that is supposed to act, behave, and advocate for students. I egged him on, I’ll be honest. Who needs friends when you can have kick ass conversations? And what about the humor in this? It honestly looked like Scrappy going after King Kong, just saying –
The conversation only reinforces what I perceive to be true about academic people. They love academia. They welcome funding and grants readily and copiously. They don’t want to leave the Ivory Tower, it’s a one-way entrance with no exit. They have a vested interest in maintaining their positions because of marked competition. The Ivory Tower isn’t so unyielding when you really look at it.
The most surprising part of the conversation was when the Instructor told me that young professionals such as myself are culpable. Young professionals, he said, play equal parts in the financial mess because we don’t advocate for higher reimbursement rates from insurance companies. I told him that there’s no way no flipping way that an insurance company would inflate reimbursement to match the increasing cost of higher education. Because I’m with GT, insurance reimbursement ain’t NEVER going up!
I felt unsettled by the conversation, not for me, but for the bright-eyed, fresh faced young ladies I met that night. I’ve won the lottery of a lifetime with my choices, but what about them? Who protects them?