Posts tagged ‘Inside Higher Ed’

July 18, 2013

Don’t hold your breath for Oregon’s ‘free’ college tuition plan

by Grace

“Pay it Forward, Pay it Back”,  Oregon’s plan to let students attend college without paying tuition, needs a lot of work before it becomes a viable solution to making higher education more affordable.  First of all, despite the headlines, it’s not “free” tuition.

When an advertisement says “No money down,” an asterisk and some fine print typically follow. And it’s probably wise to look for that.

That seems to be the case with an Oregon proposal that has generated headlines such as “Plan would make tuition free at Oregon colleges,” “Oregon is doing free higher education the right way,” and “Oregon looking to eliminate tuition and loans for higher education students.”

Despite the headlines, the state didn’t suddenly abandon all plans to charge tuition. Last week the Oregon legislature took the first steps toward possibly implementing a plan that would allow public college and university students to forgo upfront tuition payments in exchange for paying a portion of their wages back to their alma mater for about 25 years following graduation. While it may mean no money down, it could still add up to large tuition bills.

One proposal calls for students to agree to pay “3% of their salaries annually for 24 years“.

Don’t hold your breath.

  • It is unlikely to become active for another three to four years at the earliest.  The bill still requires the governor’s signature, and many logistical issues need to be finalized before a possible 2015 pilot program.
  • The budget for implementation has not been approved, a significant hurdle given the current economic climate.
  • The plan faces strong opposition from many critics, particularly those who see it as transferring increased financial responsibility from the taxpayers to individual students.

A myriad of potential problems

Pay it Forward faces a myriad of potential problems.  It does not seem to address the problem of soaring college costs, but only defers payment to some future time of supposedly improved economic conditions.  In particular, with dropout rates approaching 50%, many who leave college without degrees may find it particularly challenging to pay back tuition costs.  There is also concern about how the program can be manipulated, with graduates taking on jobs that pay in cash to escape paying back their debt.  And then there’s the problem how this program would drive away many of Oregon’s strongest students, those with the highest potential to earn financial aid at out-of-state schools.  This would increase the percentage of low-earning participants, creating an imbalance that could threaten the financial stability of the program.

Related:  Oregon’s Very Radical and Very Terrible Plan to Make College ‘Tuition-Free’ (The Atlantic)

October 22, 2012

New web tool shows salary data broken out by college and major

by Grace

CollegeMeasures. org has a new web tool that allows you to compare salaries of recent college graduates, “with data that is broken out by college and major”.  College applicants making decisions about schools and fields of study should find this data helpful.

For example, a bachelor’s degree-holder from George Mason University who majored in computer engineering can expect to earn $59,000 in his or her first year after graduation, according to the College Measures website, which is 56 percent more than the state average in that discipline. On the other side of the earnings scale, the average George Mason graduate who studied biology earns $32,000, still 15 percent more than peers from other Virginia colleges.

So far, this resource is only available for colleges in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia, but plans to add more states are in the works. 

Choice of college makes a difference.

I spent some time looking at various salary comparisons, imagining myself as the parent of a kid in the process of applying to college.  The data shows that for a mechanical engineering degree there was not a huge difference in salary outcomes among the various colleges, ranging from $53,441 to $50,917.  However, salaries of graduates from several different electrical engineering tech programs showed substantial differences, ranging from $42,223 to $25,141.  This is good stuff to know.

For graduates with a bachelor’s degree in economics the average salary was $39,298.  But the range was signficant, from $42,895 at the University of Virginia to $29,532 at Radford University.  Similar differences were reported for business majors, depending on the specific areas of study and on the schools.

Choice of major makes a difference.

Comparing associate’s degree programs at Northern Virginia Community College, the data averages showed that dental hygienists earned over $59,000 their first year after graduation and radiographers earned about $46,000, but childcare workers only made about $32,000.  Meanwhile, EMT Paramedic graduates earned almost $60,000.  While other factors besides yearly salary, such as hours worked and previous experience/age of graduate, must be taken into account when making comparisons, this basic salary data is a good starting point.

The individual student makes a difference,

Students, with varying interests, strengths, and levels of persistence self-select themselves to particular schools and majors.  For example, a student who lacks the skills to pursue a rigorous quantitative-based major at a top-ranked college has already established the groundwork for the path to particular areas of employment and salary.  Within any given field of study, a person who works hard and is strongly motivated by financial success will usually do better than a slacker.

Some shortcomings of the web tool

  • Only first-year salary data is available, which fails to capture long-term earnings potential.  (How will the salaries of the dental hygienist and the engineer compare in 10 or 20 years?)
  • Only graduates employed in that state are included.
  • Data for federal employees and members of the military is excluded.

Even with these shortcomings, checking this website could be a valuable wake-up call for students  unaware of the consequences of taking on large student debt.

Related:  College ROI results by PayScale for Bloomberg Businessweek (Cost of College)

May 31, 2012

Distracted by digital devices

by Grace
A survey of 500 college students has found that 67 percent can’t go more than an hour without using some sort of digital technology, and that 40 percent can’t go more than 10 minutes. The independently conducted survey was prepared for CourseSmart, which sells e-textbooks on behalf of leading publishers. The survey found that students today are more likely to bring a laptop to class than to bring a textbook.

Ugh, but aren’t many of us older folks in the same boat?  I was attending a live music event last week, but I noticed both my husband and I each felt compelled to check our smartphones a few times during the hour-long performance.


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