Archive for ‘higher education bubble’

September 1, 2014

Will today’s families regret that they “grossly overpaid” for college?

by Grace

20 years from now, people who grossly overpaid for their bricks & mortar college experience and are still paying off their massive student loans, will feel like incredible chumps.

Looking at families digging deep into their pockets to pay exorbitant college tuition, this same thought has crossed my mind.  As college administrators ponder the rough road ahead, Stuart Butler of the Brookings Institution advises that it will take more than a few tweaks for some institutions to survive the coming years.

…  if today’s college leaders—even at the Ivies—believe they can merely tweak their business models to carry them into the future, then they are in for an even more unpleasant surprise. They should ponder the still recent experience of the music industry, film and television, booksellers, and news media. If they did, they would soon recognize that the higher education industry is encountering a multi-pronged and existential threat composed of successive waves of disruptive innovation. This disruption will force top-to-bottom changes in the very concept of higher education and its relationship with the broader economy.

Butler sees a pattern affecting many industries, including higher education.

1. The underserved consumers are targeted first, “leaving the upstarts to occupy a sector of the market of little interest to industry leaders”.  Online news aggregators looked to “young people with distinct tastes and only casual interest in the news”.

…Early versions of online courses appealed to students who could not easily maintain a regular schedule, or who needed more time to understand material….

2. The initial product is substandard.

… The Apple I, introduced in 1976, hardly seemed a harbinger of doom to the managers of IBM’s mainframe monsters. So it is no surprise today to read college presidents denigrating MOOCs and the cheap, no-frills degrees being rolled out in Texas and Florida….

3. Episodes of adaptation and refinement occur amid harsh criticism.

… The clunky Apple I sold just a couple hundred units, but the elegant Macintosh, introduced twenty years later, ransacked the computing industry.

That’s why the shortcomings of MOOCs today should be of little comfort to the higher education establishment….

4. Unbundling is to be expected, as both hospitals and newspapers have discovered.

As with hospitals and newspapers, bricks-and-mortar institutions of higher education are particularly vulnerable to unbundling. Universities are modular institutions, and lower-cost competitors can easily siphon off customers and revenue from individual modules. For instance, universities are partly a hotel and food service industry, and partly sports and entertainment centers. They have invested heavily in buildings and services that package these elements together at essentially one price. But this makes them vulnerable to competitors that find much less expensive ways to provide discrete modules like housing or even basic first-year classes—or that simply shed costly facilities like libraries or student centers, as online colleges have done.

While credentials are highly valued, academic information is priced at nearly zero.

Indeed, the most challenging and decisive feature of unbundling and competition for the low-cost parts of the college bundle of services comes from the fact that the price of academic information is falling nearly to zero. Why pay a ton of money to sit with 300 other freshmen, listening to a Nobel Prize winner you will never actually meet on campus, when you have access to everything he has written, maybe even video versions of his lectures, free of charge on the internet?…

Even the social part of college can be unbundled.

But what about the social “college experience”? Well maybe that can be unbundled, too. Does undergraduate college have to last four years, or could the residential, networking, or sports elements occupy just part of the period of study at much less total cost? Britain’s Open University has for years brought students on campus for just a few weeks each year. It retains a similar model today using online classes instead of its original televised courses. Yet it is number three in the UK for student satisfaction, tied with Oxford. Moreover, for many young people today online networking provides the relationship of choice for professional purposes, not just for social life. For them, Facebook, LinkedIn, and texting can be a more efficient and even more personal way of building and maintaining future career contacts than paying for a dorm or hanging out at a college gym.

How should universities respond?  Brooks recommends that they need to “price discriminate” in a way that supports what they are selling.  And “they will have to determine their true competitive advantage”.  So some schools, Ivies and other elite institutions, will be able to maintain high prices for the exclusive campus experience they are selling.  Other schools will drop their prices for the cut-rate learning experience they provide.

How should families respond?  Butler’s forecast is consistent with other predictions of sharper class distinctions and a  ‘growing bifurcation between elite universities and “trade schools”‘.  So families should be careful about paying premium prices today for what may be heavily discounted 20 years from now.

———

Stuart Butler, “Tottering Ivory Towers”, The American Interest, August 11, 2014.

August 21, 2014

Should the government enable every kid to go to college?

by Grace

If college is supposed to represent some sort of advanced or more demanding level of education, why has it become a national priority to send every kid to college?

Jim Geraghty asks this question in an article questioning the wisdom of our government’s expansive student loan policy.

Is it really in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring college student to attend college? Right now the federal government is in the business of loaning money to young people to attend college, only to watch significant numbers — 600,000 or so last year — fail to pay the money back. College students are defaulting on federal loans at the highest rate in nearly two decades, with one in ten defaulting on their loans in the first two years. This is not merely one late check; to meet the Department of Education’s definition of default, a borrower’s loan must be delinquent for 270 days — nine months.

The college gets its money, the taxpayer loses theirs, and the deadbeat student can be left with all kinds of frustrating consequences — seized tax refunds, garnished paychecks or benefits, or a lawsuit. (Though the deadbeat student is often in this situation because their college education failed to prepare them to find a job in a mediocre-at-best economy and make a living, so there may not be much money in their wages to garnish.)

How many of those students really should go to college? If college is supposed to represent some sort of advanced or more demanding level of education, why has it become a national priority to send every kid to college? Wouldn’t the nation be better off if at some point it said to these young people, “you can go to college if you want, but we’re not paying for it”?

Remember the burst of the housing bubble?

 “If nothing else, the recent financial crisis should have taught us that it’s not in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring homeowner to buy.”

———

Jim Geraghty, “The American Dream Peddlers”, National Review Online, April 23, 2014.

August 12, 2014

Interest in Ivy League schools continues to be strong

by Grace

20140731.COCIvyLeague2014Apps3

Despite a drop in applications at Dartmouth, Harvard and Columbia, overall interest in Ivy League schools continues to be strong.

The number of applications has risen steadily for over a decade (perhaps best shown HERE), so even small drops in applications won’t have a huge effect on admission rates at the Ivies. Harvard may have dropped 2% in the number of applicants, but their admit rate went from 5.79% last year to 5.90% this year, not a massive change. Columbia received 1.73% fewer applications from last year to this year, but the competition is not exactly wavering; their admit rate for the Class of 2017 was 6.89% and for the Class of 2018 was 6.95%. Want an even scarier number? Across all Ivy League universities plus MIT and Stanford last year 305,101 students applied and 26,758 were accepted (8.77% overall acceptance rate). This year? 313,981 students applied and 26,154 were accepted. So what’s that percentage tell us? It’s not easier to get in. 8.33% overall acceptance rate. Admissions is a numbers game and the numbers aren’t bending.

There seems to be a general consensus that even with the current downsizing trend in higher education, “elite colleges will continue to hold their value”.

———

“Breaking Down the Numbers in Admissions”, Application Boot Camp, July 24th, 2014.

Tags:
July 15, 2014

Charging $240,000 for a college degree is becoming more common

by Grace

The number of American colleges that charge more than $60,000 per year increased from nine last year to at least 50 this year.

The most expensive school in the country for the upcoming school year is Harvey Mudd College, charging $64,527 — $48,694 in tuition and fees, and $15,833 for room and board.

But very few people pay the full price.

That’s a total of over $258,000 for a four-year degree.  But keep in mind that about “88.9 percent of first-time, full-year freshmen received some kind of discount in 2013-2014″, so very few families are paying those exorbitant amounts.

Here are 50 colleges that charge more than $60,000/year.

20140712.COCExpensiveCollegesList1

———

Peter Jacobs, “There Are Now 50 Colleges That Charge More Than $60,000 Per Year”, Business Insider, July10, 2014.

July 14, 2014

College tuition discounts continue to climb

by Grace

The college tuition discount rate – the amount of financial aid as a percentage of tuition and fees – is “again at an all-time high”.

20140710.COCTuitionDiscountRate2

College continue their “high tuition, high discount” policy.

Private colleges are continuing unabated their strategy of setting high sticker prices while giving most of their students steep discounts, according to the latest survey of private colleges by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

The colleges, many of which are struggling to meet enrollment goals, are taking in only 54 cents for every $1 they claim to charge in tuition.

The “high tuition, high discount” business model is often confusing to students and parents, but it’s how things are done at most private colleges: the colleges charge high prices and then offer students they want huge discounts. The discount comes in the form of need-based aid for low-income students and “merit” aid for students with characteristics that make them desirable to a college. At wealthy colleges, endowments may have actual funds to replace lost tuition revenue, but most colleges are just waiving the chance of getting more.

Is steep discounting a desperate, short-term strategy?

“If you do too high a discount, then perceptions of desperation creep in,” says Rao. People start to ask: “Are they going out of business? Is this product a dud?”

Mitchell Hamilton is an assistant professor of marketing at Loyola Marymount University. He says deep discounts are a short-term strategy at best. “When you’re looking at discounts of half off or more, or buy one get one free, those are for businesses that need immediate results,” he says. “Private universities are hoping that this is just a strategy to stay afloat until the economic situation gets better.”

Most observers seem to agree that if this trend becomes a race to the bottom, the losers will be ‘”smaller-sized, ‘no-name,’ tuition-driven schools.”‘  Top ranked colleges will continue to thrive.

———

Ry Rivard, “Discount Escalation”, Inside Higher Ed, July 2, 2014.

Anya Kamenetz, “How Private Colleges Are Like Cheap Sushi”, NPR Ed, July 12, 2014.

July 1, 2014

Student debt: not a crisis but certainly a growing problem

by Grace

A recently published study by the Brookings Institution, supported by David Leonhardt’s commentary in the New York Times, downplays the growing student loan problem.  But other commentators have raised issues about the study’s data, and even questions about conflicts of interest have surfaced.

The Brookings report asked “Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?”, and the authors found that “the impact of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear”.  Fair enough, but criticisms about the study’s sloppy data analysis include:

  • The statistic that only 7% of borrowers have student debt balances greater than $50,000 is challenged by findings from the New York Fed.
  • Measures of student debt exclude borrowers living in households “led by anyone over 40″, effectively missing young borrowers living with their parents.
  • Borrowers who were not making payments on their student debt were also excluded from the findings.  Interesting, since this would include cases where loan payments were postponed as a way to avoid defaulting.

The role of the Luminara Foundation’s donations to Brookings and to the study’s authors looks a little suspicious to Malcolm Harris .

… When the Obama administration nationalized 85 percent of higher education lending in 2010, executives like the ones who now sit on the Lumina Foundation board were the big losers. Since then, college costs have continued skyrocketing, but the tens of billions in profits have gone to the Department of Education instead of private lenders. If you were them, and you were angling to get back in the game, the first step would be to edge the government out, either by getting the feds to withdraw or by keeping costs rising faster and higher than DoE loan limits. Graduate loans are a great place to start in a divide-and-conquer strategy, so it’s no surprise that Delisle concludes in favor of shrinking the government’s role. Nor is it surprising that Akers and Chingos can’t find a cost crisis, even though theirs is a fringe minority opinion among higher education analysts and investors.

Most people probably agree that the student loan issue is a not a crisis, but is a slowly growing problem.

… The student debt bubble isn’t going to explode like the housing bubble. Instead, it’s going to fill slowly as it grows over decades, burdening borrowers further and further into the future….

It’s certainly worth paying attention to it, and trying to find ways to diminish its negative effects on college costs and on the economy in general.

———

Beth Akers and Matthew M. Chingos, “Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?”, Brookings Institution, June 24, 2014.

Choire Sicha, “That Big Study About How the Student Debt Nightmare Is in Your Head? It’s Garbage”, The Awl, June 24, 2014.

Malcolm Harris, “The college-cost denial industry”, Al Jazeera America, June 27, 2014.

June 24, 2014

Only about 55% of the college wage premium comes from actually attending college

by Grace

The Cato Institute recently hosted a forum on the question, “Is College Worth It”?

Featuring Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Beth Akers, Fellow, Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution; and Neal McCluskey, Associate Director, Center For Educational Freedom, Cato Institute; moderated by Chip Bishop, Director of Student Programs, Cato Institute.

Soaring tuition and student debt, the rise of high-tech alternatives, and a persistently sluggish economy have provoked a startling question: “Is college worth it?” It’s a question that raises many others: Must I go to college to learn skills I’ll need for my career? Is just getting a degree — any degree — the key to my future prosperity? Should higher education be about marketable skills, or is it about personal fulfillment and expanding human knowledge? These questions disconcert students, parents, and taxpayers alike….

According to Caplan, who took the podium first, approximately 55% of the college wage premium is attributable to the college degree.  The individual student is actually responsible for a significant percentage of the higher wages attributed to college graduates.

College grads typically arrive on campus with big labor market advantages. The typical college grad was unusually employable even before they started college.

The choice of major and the probability of graduation are two important factors that influence the college premium.

20140620.COCIsCollegeWorthItB1


The ‘concert effect’

Caplan also discusses the “concert effect” caused by the growing rate of college completion.  Similar to what happens at a concert when some members of the audience stand up, everyone else has to follow in order to enjoy the performance.  Can you see better when you stand up?  Not really, but you are forced to stand because everyone else is doing the same.  Does a college degree make you a better employee?  Not really, but we feel compelled to go to college because “everyone” else is doing it.

The forum podcast is available at the Cato site.  More topics are covered, including the sheepskin effect, why college professors never have to check IDs, and how college is a four-year party for most students.

 Related:  “Let’s be clear, going to college is not always ‘worth it’” (Cost of College)

June 17, 2014

Proliferation of master’s degrees produces wasteful ‘credential inflation’

by Grace

The master’s degree is the fastest-growing college credential in this country, but is that a good thing?

20140613.COCGrowthAllDegree1

Eight percent of the population now holds Master’s degrees, the same percentage that held bachelor’s degrees (or higher) in the 1960s, reports Vox. Master’s degrees in education were by far the most popular, holding at around a third to a quarter of all such degrees from 1971 to 2012, though MBAs had taken the top spot by 2010. In fact, the increase in the number of MBA degrees is astonishing: Only 11.2 percent of master’s degrees were in business in 1971, but in 2012, they were a whopping 25.4 percent.

This “credential inflation” is “in large part driving the student loan crisis”.

The rise of the master’s degree is likely a product of credential inflation. As more and more people acquire bachelor’s degrees, those who wish to make themselves stand out go on to get the MA. And as Vox points out, while a Master’s degree does have a positive impact on earnings, the overall debt of people with undergraduate and Master’s degrees has grown markedly in the past decade. In fact, as we recently noted, graduate student debt is in large part driving the student loan crisis.

The recently expanded loan forgiveness program is “tailor-made for graduate students”.

Students who took out big loans for graduate school and those with higher incomes stand the most to gain financially under President Obama’s expansion of the federal government’s loan forgiveness program.

Lawyers, doctors and other highly trained professionals who utilized federal loans throughout their post-high school education could walk away with most or all of their graduate school debt forgiven by the federal government under the program, say experts.

Is this good for our economy?

… But we shouldn’t want an economy that favors people with polished résumés over people with good ideas. This data is not a good sign for our economic health.

It seems to be another case where excessive government intervention has created inefficiencies resulting in unintended consequences

Public support for higher education helps to create unnecessary barriers in many fields where advanced degrees are now required credentials. … Neal McCluskey argues that “cheap college has almost certainly fueled credential inflation, not major increases in knowledge or skills.”

ADDED 6/17/14:

Advanced degrees don’t generally improve student achievement levels.

A number of studies have shown that teachers with advanced degrees don’t, necessarily, produce higher student achievement than teachers who hold only a bachelor’s….

One study from the Center for American Progress reported “that states waste money by giving salary increases to teachers as a reward for getting a master’s degree, spending nearly $15 billion annually on such pay hikes”.

———

Randy Olson, “College degrees awarded per capita in the U.S.A.”, Randal S. Olson, June 12, 2014.

Walter Russell Mead, “The Rise of the Master’s Degree”, The American Interest, May 22, 2014.

Susan Ferrechio, “The surprising winners of Obama’s student-loan program”, Washington Examiner, June 12, 2014 .

Tyler Durden, “Unintended Consequences Of Obama’s Student Loan Policies”, Zero Hedge, June 13, 2014.

Ida Lieszkovszky, “Liberal Think Tank says Advanced Degrees Don’t Make Better Teachers”, StateImpact Ohio, July 18, 2012.

June 11, 2014

President Obama expands student loan forgiveness program

by Grace

President Obama has signed an executive order forgiving repayment for millions of student-loan borrowers.

The president announced Monday the expansion of 2010’s “Pay as You Earn” program that caps some graduates’ repayments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. The executive order increases eligibility of the program to include those who took out loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011, a move the White House says will expand payment relief to nearly five million people.

Sweetening the pot of loan forgiveness

The federal government offers different repayment plans to help cash-strapped borrowers, including income-based repayments, the graduated repayment program, and forgiveness programs for on-time payments and public-sector employees.

Under many of the plans, low-income borrowers can have their balance canceled after 25 years of on-time payments. The president’s plan moves the forgiveness date to 20 years or 10 years for those in public service jobs.

It’s not likely to boost the economy, which is suffering from the effects of rising student loan amounts.

“It will slightly increase the amount of debt that is forgiven, but it’s not going to be enough to stimulate the economy,” says Kantrowitz. “If the government were to forgo all student loan debt immediately, it would have a 0.4% impact on the GPD. It wouldn’t really move the economy.”

But it my “unintentionally” push college costs higher.

Beth Akers, a fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, says the move could also unintentionally push college tuition prices higher.

“The income piece is a necessary safety net for borrowers. It gives security to not be afraid to take on debt to go to college, but the forgiveness part isn’t always necessary. It induces people to borrow more than they need to, which can have a negative impact on college prices.” She says students are still getting a positive return on their college education investment—but too often, people are borrowing more than necessary. “We need to be careful when granting aid to borrowers because it can raise the prices on the front end.”

Joanne Jacobs seems to agree.

The big winners are people who borrowed for graduate school and private colleges, which can keep raising tuition without fear of scaring away students.

Related:  “Federal student loan programs create perverse incentives” (Cost of College)

———

Kathryn Buschman Vasel, “Obama Announced Student Loan Changes–What it Means for Borrowers”, FOXBusiness, June 09, 2014.

May 26, 2014

2014 college graduates are ‘the most indebted class ever’

by Grace

The average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000 … Even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago.

20140522.COCRisingDebtLevels1

… A little over 70% of this year’s bachelor’s degree recipients are leaving school with student loans, up from less than half of graduates in the Class of 1994.

20140522.COCRisingGraduatesWithDebt1

 … According to a new Pew Research report, a record 37% of young households had outstanding student loans in 2010, up from 22% in 2001 and 16% in 1989….

20140523.COCYoungPeopleWithDebt1

 

Related:  ‘Growing student debt may be a reason for weak housing market’ (Cost of College)

———

Phil Izzo, “Congratulations to Class of 2014, Most Indebted Ever”, Wall Street Journal,  May 16, 2014.

Richard Fry and Andrea Caumont, “5 key findings about student debt”, Pew Research Center, May 14, 2014.

Richard Fry, “Young Adults, Student Debt and Economic Well-Being”, Pew Research Center, May 14, 2014.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 172 other followers

%d bloggers like this: