Friday, May 4, 2007

Who's getting rich from college?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 50% of all students how have financial aid loans. The average loan balance among them is $10,000. In addition, these students also have a credit card and the average balance among graduates is $2,000 (from Wiki). This is 27% of the population, who have at least a bachelors degree (source), and they're all making an average of $45,400 a year (although I certainly didn't make that much right out of college).

That's an average of $12,000 of debt on a $45k income - ie, about 27% of their yearly salary. If they consolidated that debt into a 5 year low-interest loan at say, 6% (a bit higher than college loan averages but MUCH lower than the credit card average of 13%) they would have a monthly payment of $230 on a $2600 monthly income, a debt load of over 8%.

These are averages. There are many with very low loan balances. I myself have a student loan of around $2k. I know another recent graduate however who has a loan balance (from graduate school + undergrad) of over $200k! That's almost twice what my house cost! What I wonder is, among all these graduates (who make an average of $99k/yr) how many have $150-200k in loan debt, plus credit card debt, but don't have any job? A degree is by no means a guarantee of a job?

So where is all of this money going? Tuition is skyrocketing at an alarming rate, by 14% some years and an average of 4.2% over the last decade or so after adjusting for inflation. 6-7% increases! And is college really preparing them for the real working environment? Many twentysomethings don't think so. They just know that they graduated, are trying to get a job, and may have to move back home because all their income goes to their debt. If you're on the wrong side of the bell curve for those national averages, getting a start in life can be tough indeed.

What needs to happen? In my opinion, credit card companies need to be banned from campuses. 18 year olds with the new found power of being considered "adults" are coerced into credit cards and high priced cellphone plans with gimmicks like free backpacks and beer mugs. If a company wants to set up shop somewhere and get financial-unsavvy students to sell their souls, do it off campus. They pay the colleges to educate them, not sucker them by luring them into contracts with little to no knowledge of what they mean. Educate your students about credit and debt, don't throw them into the lions den so they can "learn the hard way".

Colleges also need to be scrutinized for overspending. Where is the money going? Should university research be forced to rely more on privately funded grants instead of university funds? Why not let some students opt out of paying for those ridiculous sports teams. Are ticket sales for the football games really covering the expense of the multi-million (billion?) dollar stadiums or are the students? And if they are, do they also cover all the unprofitable college sports as well?

Professors aren't exactly getting rich, but how about the administration? What kind of salary does the dean pull in? Are they living lavishly like the local ISD superintendents who are given $300k+ a year with $80k bonuses?

Is college really costing what it needs to? Or are people getting rich off of young students coming into their careers already upsidedown?

No comments: