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Navigating College Financial Aid

The inside dope on college financial aid. The way it really works, who gets what, and how.

Students cheer and wave as President Barack Obama, not pictured, exits the podium after speaking at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, beginning his two day bus tour speaking about college financial aid.  (AP)

Students cheer and wave as President Barack Obama, not pictured, exits the podium after speaking at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, beginning his two day bus tour speaking about college financial aid. (AP)

It’s the season of decision for American families and their young high school near-graduates looking to head off to college. Where will they go? And what will it cost? The two are all mixed up together. The cost of college is truly daunting for most families in this country now. And figuring out real costs, financial aid and the bottom line is a challenge. Colleges can be anything but transparent. Financial aid letters are marketing documents. “Need” and “aid” can mean all kinds of things. This hour On Point: paying for college, and college financial aid. How it really works. Who gets what, and why.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Beckie Supiano, staff reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (@becksup)

Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors Network. Author of “Filing the FAFSA.” (@mkant)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), senior U.S. Senator from Connecticut. (@SenBlumenthal)

From Tom’s Reading List

Chronicle of Higher Education: When Families Ask Colleges for More Money – “April should bring a sigh of relief to seniors with college acceptances in hand. But for some students and their families, the fat envelope isn’t the end of the road.

New York Times: What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should) – “But the price calculators, potentially powerful instruments, vary in thoroughness, ease of use and even accuracy, and most colleges do not use the shopping sheet, which is voluntary. Not only could the tools be better, but many students and parents are unaware of them.”

Slate: Small Private Colleges Are in Deep Trouble (as They Should Be) — “What we’re witnessing right now, then, is a small brush fire, clearing out some of the unhealthier institutions in higher ed. It will be wrenching for the schools and the people who work for them. But hopefully, it will also inspire some better ways of doing business.”

Check Out Our Blog For Some Links And Tips For Navigating Financial Aid

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • HonestDebate1

    Government should not be in the banking business.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Sure they should. Banks need regulation and oversight. Nothing wrong with a few bloodies for breakfast, just be careful what you post.

      • HonestDebate1

        Oversite is fine but they have no business passing around other peoples money. If you need money for college go to a bank and make the case the investment is worth it for them.

        • Ray in VT

          Yeah, just go and get hosed by the banks. That’s a great way to keep the poor out of higher education.

          • TFRX

            The fulcrum tilts: Wired Magazine, among others, seriously published at least one piece saying “Let’s get rid of the USPS. Everyone pays bills online now. Poor people? Have banks setup something to do that for them, for a fee.”

            Think of all the ignorance it took to actually put that idea in print.

          • brettearle

            I’m especially fond of that last sentence

          • HonestDebate1

            Is Marcus Wohlsen a lefty?

          • jefe68

            Not to mention rural areas which might have little or no internet connections.

          • TFRX

            Hey, those rurals can always move to my suburbia, where the Comcast Xfininty and the AT&T Uverse guys are fighting like the Jets and the Sharks.

            And if it happens in a well-off, densely populated suburb with stable home ownership, it’s happening everywhere. Right?

          • Ray in VT

            And they can do that because income is a choice. They can just choose to make more money so that they can live in more upscale areas.

          • HonestDebate1

            Exactly!

          • Ray in VT

            Of course. I just told my boss that I choose to make double the pay. I’m checking my pay stub now.

          • HonestDebate1

            Choosing your income requires much more than asking for more money but I’m not surprised at your absurdity. And your boss already pays you to blog all day, I doubt he (or she) wants to pay you more for it.

          • Ray in VT

            But income is a choice, so shouldn’t I just be able to choose to make more? Shouldn’t everyone? It’s a choice, afterall. Them poor people, why they just choose to be poor and to make little money.

            I don’t blog, thanks. My boss, though, does support my attempts to reduce the amount of ignorance in this forum. Some things can’t be fixed, though. Ignorance is curable, but stupidity is forever.

          • J__o__h__n

            It is cheaper and easier to provide high speed internet in cities, but we don’t see any service improvements or lower bills and have to subsidize rural service. The companies are not interested in profits through competition but by manipulating the market. The government needs to run it as a utility. Instead they select a few low income neighborhoods for free internet and pretend that helps. Same situation as colleges that make no effort to stay affordable and a handful of people get grants to go to Harvard instead.

          • TFRX

            Nice analogy.

            I’m trying to work up something about payphones and cell phones, or bottled water has made people not care about the public water supply.

          • HonestDebate1

            1) Just because the government doesn’t loan someone money doesn’t mean people cannot be educated.

            2) Poor people can be smart and make good decisions. They can make the case they are worth the investment.

            3) If a bank takes that risk then they should be thanked not condemned.

            4) Giving someone a $250K loan for a humanities degree hoses the taxpayers.

          • Ray in VT

            Great. Just more of your 19th century solutions to 21st century problems. I’m sure that the free market and the private banks were doing just a totally bang up of getting people of lesser means educated and into the professions before the big, bad gub’ment got involved, so let’s go back to that.

            Please tell me where people are paying $250k for a humanities degree with student loans. Student loans are profitable for the government, so would say too much so. That “profit”, which can be used to help more needy people get an education, is far less than what the private banks gouged people for. Screw that.

            I see no need to pay homage to banks that put people over a barrel when better options exist. The public sector has done much better in helping people attain an education. I have encountered what comes from a lack of a good education. It’s quite sad really.

          • HonestDebate1

            The system is broken.

          • Ray in VT

            It seems to be working for many. Of course we can always just declare that it is broken, or that it just isn’t working, and that it just the end of it. Just tear it down and let the free market take care of it.

          • HonestDebate1

            No it’s not. The system is broken top to bottom.

          • Ray in VT

            Says the guy who didn’t go to college and can’t even honesty represent the dictionary. Your opinions often bear no resemblance to reality, and I think that that is true in this case.

          • HonestDebate1

            Hey everybody, get a load of Ray! He is referring to his insistence “intent to deceive” is not a component of the verb lie. Have you ever heard anything so insane?

            The dictionary thing is hilarious as you cling to who knows what esoteric cherry-picked to the max, syntaxly (I made that word up) misunderstood definition that no one accepts. While I have all the dictionaries (every one) on my side. What kind of world do you concoct to satisfy your ego? Its amazing. Let it go, you look silly.

            I went to college for a year and a half smarty pants.

          • jefe68

            So you think that the mere physical presence of your being on a college campus for a year and a half counts for as some kind authority on the subject?

            Seems that the time was wasted or you did not partake in classes where critical thinking was required.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, it doesn’t count for anything at all other than the fact was there. I majored in music but dropped out to go on the road and do it for a living. At this point I know everything regarding theory I would have learned in school and a whole lot more about the business end than was obtainable in a classroom. I don’t regret my decision but I also don’t recommend it. I went through a lot of pain in the early years.

          • jefe68

            Music education, which is in decline in this country in public schools, is a very specialized degree.

            And I might add, one that has worse results than any degree in English.

          • HonestDebate1

            In all seriousness, I can attest making a living in the music industry is not something that can be fully learned in school. Unless of course you want to make a living as a college professor teaching music. I have done very well in the industry as a performer, composer and arranger. College had little to do with it.

          • jefe68

            Someone somewhere gave you lessons.
            Most of the people I know who teach music in colleges are professional musicians, it’s a requirement.

          • HonestDebate1

            I learned the basics of music theory at 8 with the Suzuki method taking violin lessons. I never had piano lessons and can’t play a violin at all. I am sure many college professors do play gigs but none of mine did, although one did hire me once for a cocktail party. It is not a requirement. Being a professional musician and a college professor both take a lot of time and commitment.

          • Ray in VT

            Just keep on lying to yourself about what the dictionaries say. It’s dishonest and idiotic, but that is your M.O. Examples of lie as a verb and a noun have been provided, but if it is easier for you to ignore them in order to continue to lie to yourself in order to present yourself as honest, despite all evidence to the contrary, then have at it.

            A year and a half? That’s amazing. One would think that someone who thinks that they can tell the dictionary what words mean wouldn’t be able to stick it out that long. I guess that even some higher education can’t fix the obvious problems that you have with facts, reality, definitions, evaluating sources and the like. How were those 3 semesters at Wossamatta U?

          • jefe68

            Music major, not English. Could have been worse, could have been on the football team.

          • Ray in VT

            One would think that one still needs to be able to read and understand something as basic as a dictionary, though, unless one is on a full athletic ride.

          • HonestDebate1

            In High School I played football in the Homecoming game and then played in the band at the homecoming dance,

          • HonestDebate1

            Hey everybody, get a load of Ray. He can find needle is a haystack, and swear it’s a stack of needles condemning anyone who calls it hay as being unable to discern the difference. Truly astounding, and he’s proud of it to boot! He will insist it’s a stack of needles and will die before admitting the obvious. Have you ever heard such insanity? And he’s college educated! You can’t make this stuff up.

          • Ray in VT

            Yup, just keep on pushing your lies. The dictionary knows better, as does anyone with an ounce of sense. The ignorance that you display is truly astounding. It must be difficult to struggle against something as basic as the dictionary. It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad and pathetic.

          • Ray in VT

            Also, considering how easy it is to find the sorts of definitions which you claim to not exist, one wonders if you are aware of exactly what that needle in a haystack saying is and how it is to be used.

            I would suggest that you consult some sort of reference work, but seeing as how you have shown an inability to use the dictionary properly and seem to think that you can just ignore the existing definitions that do not fit your claims, then I don’t think that such a recommendation would be at all worthwhile.

          • HonestDebate1

            Hey everybody, get a load of Ray doubling down: “It’s a needle stack, it’s a needle stack, it’s a needle stack, it’s a needle stack, IT’S A NEEDLE STACK!!!”. I think he has an “intent to deceive”.

          • Ray in VT

            It’s not about me.

            It must be tough having facts against you. Of course one can always just repeat those lies until they become true, plus one can use some caps lock, exclamation points and an italicized font. Congratulations. Did you hone those debate tactics on your alma mater’s debate squad during your year and a half of college. Generally college improves people academically. One can only wonder what sort of train wreck you were before, considering the depths to which you plunge currently. Just sad.

          • Ray in VT

            Considering that a number of valid definitions exist for lie as a verb and as a noun that do not include an intent to deceive, which you deny and insist do not exist, with your statements regarding how by any definition one must know that one is lying in order to be lying, then it is quite clear, by your repeated insistence that that which exists does not, then it is clearly you who is attempting to deceive people with your lies. It is sad that you feel that you need to stand by such lies. It must be difficult to handle when reality does not show what you insist that it does. Seeing as how I embrace the totality of the definitions, I can accommodate all of them, as dictionaries do. It is a shame that you cannot for some reason.

          • HonestDebate1

            Hey everybody get a load of Ray not saying the number is one… and it was really a noun not a verb. He finds a needle in a haystack but looks at the totality don’t you know, so it’s a needle stack, disregard the mountain of hay. Get it? Me neither.

          • Ray in VT

            Yup. Just keep on ignoring the clear definitions. Just keep on lying about what the dictionaries say. It makes me wonder if you really just flunked out of college for being an incredible dolt. How fitting it is that one with such views holds people like Rush and Palin in such high regard. Sad. Just sad for you.

          • HonestDebate1

            They profit until Obama forgives the debt as he has said he wants to do. But why should government profit off of the taxpayers? Government is not a business. It’s not their money to lend.

          • Qwantfer

            Governments lend money all the time to banks.

          • HonestDebate1

            I do see a need for a last ditch safety net like the FDIC but it doesn’t make loaning money to banks right.

          • Ray in VT

            Oh, is Obama just going to unilaterally forgive the loans? Maybe an EO is in the works.

            The “profit” that it makes helps others. I know. It’s really terrible that people are getting a better financial deal from the gub’ment than from private banks. The gub’ment is stealing their rat to pay more. Last I checked the money has been approved to be spent, so it is the government’s money to spend under the law.

          • jefe68

            Watch out, he might get angry and demand an apology for you pointing out the utter idiocy and absurdity of his comments. Of course, this is all done under the illusion that it’s an “honest debate” using “factual” information.

          • Ray in VT

            It’s probably Obama’s fault.

          • jefe68

            Everything is Obama’s fault.
            My dog was sick the other day and I found myself blaming Obama…

          • Ray in VT

            It’s because of his “apology tour”. He emboldened both the dogs and the things that make them sick.

          • HonestDebate1

            Yes, he has indicated he will do it by EO. That’s the way he rolls, you may have missed it.

            Base line budgeting has built in increases every year so what is approved ends up not being what was approved. Feel free to believe the government is compassionate and altruistic. I don’t.

          • Ray in VT

            Is this his “plan” that you reference?:

            http://dailycurrant.com/2013/08/22/obama-announces-plan-to-forgive-all-student-loans/

            Yes, but you believe many lies, so your beliefs are of little value to me.

        • Shag_Wevera

          “Government should not be in the banking business.”
          “Oversite is fine.”

          • HonestDebate1

            Exactly.

          • jefe68

            He likes to live in a world of confusion and contradiction spiked with mendacious rages now and again.

          • HonestDebate1

            You wouldn’t know a contradiction if it bit you on your confusion.

    • StilllHere

      Agreed, you’d think the free money with no strings was sufficient!

  • Shag_Wevera

    It worked well for me in the early 90′s. I earned a classical university education, and paid it off in under 5 years.

    • HonestDebate1

      And that’s beautiful, no problem.

    • http://www.edvisors.com/ Mark Kantrowitz

      Average debt at graduation in the early 1990s was a third of average debt at graduation today.

  • KOFH

    As the parent of a high school senior, I have been immersed in this awful college application/financial aid process for well over a year. The inanity of it still boggles my mind.

    The timetable alone is a major hassle…most schools require that the FAFSA be submitted before most people have even received all of their tax documents. Every school my daughter applied to–even the one school she was eventually not accepted to–required a mountain of supporting documentation, each school with precise specifications on what was to be submitted, how it was to be labeled, etc. And to top it all off, the financial aid packages all came back with a family contribution at least ten times what the FAFSA EFC said our family could afford to pay. My kid has done everything the right way, but because her parent (who is also in college while working full time) has limited money, she must assume nearly $80,000 in debt to attend her first choice school. And that’s before grad school. So much for upward mobility.

    People are making money every step of the way in this process, therefore it will continue on as is, despite the inanity. If I wasn’t cynical before, it’s oozing out of me now.

    • AnneDH

      You’re writing my experience as well, except I have one daughter now graduated and another now a junior. My elder daughter attended an expensive school, which had recently constructed a multi-million-dollar student center that the students scoff at as what their loans are primarily paying for.
      She plans to get a master’s degree to get into a career that will help her pay off her debt.
      Meanwhile, I feel guilty every day being on disability and unable to help either daughter financially.

      • HonestDebate1

        Don’t feel guilty, they will be fine.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    It seems like whenever we get private for-profit entities involved, it royally screws things up – medical providers, colleges and universities, military contractors, prisons …

    • OnPointComments

      It seems like whenever we get government involved, it royally screws things up – medical providers, colleges and universities, military contractors, prisons …

  • StilllHere

    This is what pensions and tenure gets you.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      How dare those professors expect a living wage and a retirement!

      • HonestDebate1

        Bravo, they shouldn’t expect squat, they should earn it.

        I’ve worked many different jobs in my life and before I built a reputation and resume I always, when asked, refused to name my price. I took what I could get and ended up with more than I expected. I was still a bargain.

        • Ray in VT

          Yes, the years of hard work and scholarship that they put into attaining their credentials and tenure shouldn’t lead them to expect to be well compensated for their skills and knowledge. Their work to earn such positions shouldn’t lead them to expect to be well compensated at all.

          • HonestDebate1

            Exactly, it’s the other way around.

          • Ray in VT

            Yup. Higher ed is just full of layabouts who expect somethin fer nuthin.

          • jefe68

            The anti-education misers are in full swing.

          • HonestDebate1

            “Anti-education”? Yea, that’s want we’re against. You’re a genius. Your logic is impeccable.

          • jefe68

            If you post screeds against the people who teach at colleges and universities one does get the idea that you’re not exactly a fan of higher ed. Without decent professors most people don’t learn a thing.

            I also base my opinion on the amount of teacher bashing you and other right winger engage in. Your comments are becoming a string of comedic errors.

          • HonestDebate1

            False, I admire people in higher education and have not said anything negative about college professors. If that’s what you got out of the above then I have no idea how you came to the conclusion. Saying they should not expect anything unless they are a proven asset is a no brainer that applies to every walk of life. It’s not even an accusation, I don’t think many do expect a free ride. None of the many I know do. We have a PHD who actually used to clean the 4 outside stalls once a week to trade for lessons. She even joked PHD stood for “Piled Higher and Deeper”.

            My wife teaches an accredited class for a university. The student come to the farm and ride, it’s a PE credit. We coach the Equestrian team at two Universities. I hang with a few professors, sometime we discuss in Latin. They’re my friends.

            I don’t bash teachers. Where do you get this stuff? It’s just weird.

          • jefe68

            I’ve seen you post and support posts against teachers and their unions and the public school system. On top of that you posted some pretty negative comments about professors “earning” their salaries instead of expecting them. First off all full time professors earn their salaries and have to work their butts of to keep their positions. Even if they get tenure they are not really secure until they reach full professorships. Which can take over 15 years. Also tenure is not the norm anymore. About 60% of college professors are adjuncts now.

          • HonestDebate1

            I do not support public sector unions, That is NOT a proclamation of disapproval for teachers.

            I have been very consistent is my belief of earning respect and wages, across the board. I just reiterated that here regarding professors which is, again, consistent with everything I’ve alway said about every profession. I don’t recall ever singling out professors before now because of the context. What are you referring to with your plurality accusation? Why should anyone expect anything if they didn’t earn it? I never said Professors don’t work their butts of or earn they salaries? Ever, including this thread.

          • HonestDebate1

            I thought you were done with me. If I made no sense I would be easy to ignore.

        • StilllHere

          Apparently we can control our expectations for compensation but we can’t control what compensation we actually get and just have to take whatever job is offered.

          • HonestDebate1

            Bingo. It is those who have not nurtured the skills, work ethic and responsibility who demand what they don’t deserve then scream foul when they don’t get it. It’s amazing.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          They do earn it. They work in good faith, and commit themselves to education, and the should be supported.

          • HonestDebate1

            That’s obvious. Are you under the impression I disagree with that?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            My reply to SH was facetious, in case you missed it.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, I got it and used it to make my point. Then you came back with a non-sequitur. But that’s cool, I’ll glad to clarify.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            I don’t think you understand what ‘non-sequitur’ means.

          • HonestDebate1

            I think I do. I did not write they should not be supported. I did not say they didn’t earn or deserve it. I did not say they weren’t committed or working in good faith. I said they should not expect anything if they were not those things. That’s just common sense.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            What I posted was right on point. Maybe you didn’t expect it, or didn’t agree with it?

          • HonestDebate1

            i didn’t expect the question mark. I’m confused but you are entitled to your opinion.

    • adks12020

      Except that colleges are employing more and more adjunct professors which cost them substantially less while tuition and fees are still rising every single year.

      • StilllHere

        Because pension costs keep rising for past and present employees.

        • jefe68

          Rubbish.

    • TFRX

      Too bad you’ve got suckered into that crap. Maybe more education would help you.

      • StilllHere

        Stick to your beltway inbred garbage.

        • jefe68

          Stop being such a foul troll.

          • StilllHere

            Heed your own empty words.

          • jefe68

            Again, be gone troll.

          • StilllHere

            Again, do us all a favor and heed your own vile words.

          • jefe68

            Who’s us troll boy? You really do have a very inflated view of yourself and what you post. Which is mildly amusing to watch, up to a point.

          • StilllHere

            Then do me a favor, nasty man, and the rest can be free-riders. You know a lot about that. I don’t care if you’re amused; in fact, I normally don’t give you a thought which was certainly a more pleasant existence for me.

          • jefe68

            Your so amusing. Such a gent of the forum decorum. By the way, my comments aimed at people of your ilk are responses to the ill-educated nonsense that you and post here day in and day out.
            I’m responding to the garbage that you and others post. Of course you don’t get this because you and some of the other right wingers think you’re all so clever and that your sticking it to the lefties and liberals. The right wing swagger of ignorance and intolerance such a joke.

            I guess this is you being a sweet guy: “Stick to your beltway inbred garbage.”
            I have to say I’m struck by the level of your intellectual prowess in this comment…

          • StilllHere

            Please, look at your own comments. You’re pathetic.

          • jefe68

            Comprehension problems as well I see.
            Your such a “prince”…

        • TFRX

          When you stop trying to insult me then I’ll know I’m off kilter.

          • StilllHere

            Likewise.

      • jefe68

        The salaries of faculty are not the reason higher education costs have gone. Which shows us how an uneducated comment, how ironic, can be thrown into the ether and left to fester. Like some gangrenous wound full of falsehoods.

        • TFRX

          I’ve got a beer that says the same people bitching about overpaid professors are the ones who whine “when my team signs that expensive (unionized, lazy) free agent the ticket prices, parking and concession prices go up”.

    • Charles

      I don’t have any problem with pensions and tenure (for instructors).
      What I have a problem with is the ludicrous ‘extras’ that students are essentially forced to subsidize.
      Football teams, climbing walls, and other things that many students will never use, they have to borrow money to pay for anyway.

      Now we can save some money on administrators, for sure. How many vice provosts does it take to run a school?

      • StilllHere

        Are tuition rates significantly less at comparable schools that don’t have those facilities?

        • Charles

          I couldn’t tell you, I don’t do a lot of research into this.

          I can tell you anecdotally, having recently left a ‘growing’ state university, that the mantra is to spend, spend, spend.

          Administrators get a pet project that will raise their profile, and they get it paid for with an endlessly renewable source of funding.

          Even department heads are guilty of this. Nobody tries to save money. I worked in an academic department over a summer, and the fiscal year was just about to roll over.
          The chair was busy spending the rest of the budget, because if he didn’t spend it all, the next years’ budget would be reduced commensurately.
          So he went out and bought 20 iPads. They didn’t try to negotiate the price, he paid full retail.

          My point is, it’s just Monopoly money to these people. There’s always going to be more, because in a culture where you’re ‘supposed’ to go to college, kids will pay what they are told.

          • StilllHere

            I agree completely and have witnessed the same motivations.

          • jefe68

            It’s not Monopoly money, that’s an misguided overview. It’s how the system is set up that’s the problem.
            If the left over money could be rolled over into the next budget that might help.
            But this is not how budgets are done.

        • TFRX

          Nice Cavutomark.

          You really need to show you can do the first bit of homework before asking others to help you out.

          • StilllHere

            Really? I’ll follow your lead.

          • Ray in VT

            Perhaps you could provide us with a definitive, peer-reviewed study that proves that those things are the only things driving college costs.

          • jefe68

            Don’t hold your breath.

          • Ray in VT

            I won’t, in part due to the fact that rising college costs are legion, including decreased state support, one of the speakers has mentioned.

          • jefe68

            Also if one looks at the explosion of administration positions, such as deans who are no longer being culled from faculty, then you can see a direct collation to the some of the rising costs.

            This is also due to the corporatization of higher ed. Which Noam Chomsky has spoken about in recent years.

            http://www.alternet.org/story/151921/chomsky%3A_public_education_under_massive_corporate_assault_%E2%80%94_what's_next

      • J__o__h__n

        My college even made up a job for the husband of an administrator they wanted to hire. I wasn’t impressed when I heard her speak as she couldn’t even pronounce the name of the school.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      It is what expanding admin costs get you. More admins than ever. Every “next” admin gets more money than the person who last held the job. Wonder how the poor schmuck feels when they retire and the new person gets 150% of what they were paid. “Have to pay to get the good people”. Like they can’t work for less than many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? The “comparable” argument is inflationary. Hire someone from another school, bump the pay to “get them”. And it spirals up since the “comparable” average just went up. Nothing related to actual performance.

      And then, when an admin who was an instructor goes back to the classroom, they get paid above the max for the position because they USED TO BE an admin. Like that makes them a better professor?

      • Ray in VT

        The fact that we, as a nation, also pay so much more for health care costs than other nations do is contributing to increased costs as well.

      • StilllHere

        Exactly, and admins get pensions with h/c benefits as well.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    We need to step back from this: the GI Bill multiplied our investment by at least 7X.

    This is still true – so we should invest in our future with a free education for everyone.

  • http://www.openeyesvideo.com/ Glenn C. Koenig

    This whole thing is just big institutions (universities, banks, the government) intimidating and bullying the little guy. When we finally get fed up enough with this treatment, and revolt, then it will change, not before.
    The big name universities say “jump” and millions of families with high school students say, “How high?” You can get a fine education elsewhere, but big name universities are still “in fashion” so we end up behaving like slaves to them. What is ‘financial aid?” Nothing more than a game to pay for an extremely overpriced slot in a big name institution.

    • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

      Yeah, it sounds like the Sears Roebuck School of (appliance) pricing: you keep a constant sale rotation of items. They list a high markup and then always have a sale going for the items.

  • J__o__h__n

    We should stop all financial aid to students attending private schools and put all resources into improving and expanding public schools which need to be reasonably priced.

    • Jill122

      Really? You’re going to punish the very best in society? This isn’t like charter schools. These are some of the best universities in the country and you think that wealthy AND poor children should not be rewarded for getting good grades and doing high quality work?? Amazing.

      • J__o__h__n

        Let the private schools pay for it. If we put enough resources into public institutions they should be as good as the best private schools.

        • HonestDebate1

          Throwing money into hopelessly corrupt bureaucracies helps no one.

          • Ray in VT

            Agreed. It’s a good thing that that does not describe the public institutions that we are talking about.

        • Jill122

          I learned what I think is a great argument at the knee of FDR (that’s figurative of course). Any social program you offer to the poor and middle class must also include the wealthy, or it’s just a matter of time before the money (read political will) runs out and there’s no program at all.

          • Jill122

            Put another way – never “means test” a program you hope will go on for a long time.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      Most of the non loan aid at private schools comes from their foundations, not your taxes. And given government college loans can NOT be voided by bankruptcy, the taxpayer is actually not paying anything in the long run for those loans (PELL grants are a different matter).

      I am no fan of “charter schools” and “vouchers” in K-12 schools where the public schools ARE funded 100% by taxes and removing students increases the costs. Private non-profit colleges are a different matter. No amount of money will make UVM (and UVM gets little from the state which is why it is the most expensive public university in the country) a better undergraduate school than some of the private non-profits. I came to this enlightenment when my daughter started looking at colleges.

    • HonestDebate1

      I agree with you… just switch public with private and we’re gold.

      • J__o__h__n

        That is a new definition of agree.

        • HonestDebate1

          I’m just looking for common ground.

    • http://www.edvisors.com/ Mark Kantrowitz

      If all Federal Pell Grant funding at private schools were redirected to public colleges, that would be the equivalent of reducing public college tuition by about $650.

  • ThirdWayForward

    It is impossible to figure out how much things will cost ahead of time. It is difficult to figure out how much college will cost in a given year once one’s children are in college (the billing is inscrutable).

    One should just think of it in terms of buying a new car each year and immediately driving it off a cliff (and without insurance).

    At the end of the process, it is like buying a second house and at the end of college, setting it on fire (again without insurance).

    It’s too bad, because we need our universities, for many reasons, personal and social. But colleges have become credentialing systems in a society where almost any decent job requires a college degree, whether or not one acquires the skills needed in college. There is rampant credential creep. It’s a social requirement, like extravagant weddings, and sky’s the limit.

    The colleges charge big bucks but then they hire adjunct slave labor to minimize their costs. Lord knows where all the money goes.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      “The colleges charge big bucks but then they hire adjunct slave labor to minimize their costs”

      Depends on the school :) Certainly true for UVM undergrads. Out of state tuition plus other costs is about equal to most private colleges. I have no idea why anyone goes there as an out of state undergrad.

      • Ray in VT

        But at least some of those higher costs are due to the relatively low amount of state support the Vermont provides to public higher education.

        • BHA_in_Vermont

          Quite true. Doesn’t change the ratio of adjunct vs tenure track/tenured though. At UVM well over over 50% are adjuncts. It is 7% at the private college my daughter attends.

          • Ray in VT

            True, but it may also be a contributing factor to the high ratio of adjuncts. Although, when I was in graduate school I found that I preferred adjuncts, as they were usually out there working in the field, and not just writing papers for publication. I had one guy who was working in the field and writing a textbook for publication that he ran by us for feedback.

  • Ed75

    We tell young people, and quite accurately, that they need a college education more than ever today. Yet it is more and more expensive, out of reach. It still seems to me that the cost would be less if there were more young people.

    • Ray in VT

      Sure. Just more young people. That’s an easy answer. So, let me guess what the culprit is?

      • Jill122

        LOL! It could be immigration! Prolly not, but …

        • Ray in VT

          I am sure that families choosing not to have as many kids via contraception and such is also not the culprit.

          • Jill122

            That’s why I laughed — I figured that or abortion. Either way.

          • Ray in VT

            Oh, it’s abortion for sure.

      • TFRX

        Underperforming white folks’ ova and spermatazoa?

    • J__o__h__n

      More demand always reduces prices of a finite resource.

    • Cutler Hamilton

      Well evidently somebody didn’t listen in their Economics 101 class. Higher demand ALWAYS leads to higher prices. Why do think gasoline prices are higher? Is that the gov’t’s fault? No. It’s called global demand. The same global demand applies to higher education. We have just as many US born citizens as wealthy immigrants going after the same universities and institutions. You really think the amount of young people out there has anything to do with price? You’re right. The more young people vying for the same education equals higher prices for the same education in a system based on capitalism. And yet there has been little investment by the gov’t as a whole over the last few decades. This results in only boosting prices even more because somebody has to foot the bill for new facilities, faculty, administration, technology, etc. That person is the student now.

      Before, the GI bill was a basic experiment in socializing the cost of higher education. It resulted in the most growth of the economy over a thirty year period that has ever been witnessed in history. This after World War II and massive amounts of debt from the war and contributions to re-build Europe. If that same experiment were applied to the poor or middle class families that can’t afford tuition today, it would be demonized as a handout or basically de-valuing higher education. Not as a vital investment in the future of our nation.

      • JS

        Forget it Cuter, facts and logic won’t work on him. He was implying that abortion is the reason for high college costs.

      • StilllHere

        In short-run, in the intermediate- and long-run, supply generally responds and prices find a new equilibrium that could be lower than the original.

        • Cutler Hamilton

          Again, education is not a finite resource anymore. Much of the new types of educational sources are now the result of new technologies (free courses online, free books to download online, seminars, free podcasts).
          It’s now up to the student to choose what they want and then the best way to obtain said education. Many students (myself included) are just scared to death of racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they obtain a job. Many employers assess new employees through their credit report. Sounds counter-intuitive but most corporations are so insulated that they just use computers to pick out potential employees based on simple words or phrases. HR is not human anymore.

          • StilllHere

            Also price reaction depends on its elasticity, but I’m sure you knew that.

      • Ed75

        I see some of this, there are a lot of fixed costs in a college, and more students would lower the costs in this case. Colleges (not the elite) have to compete for the students available and spend money making the campus beautiful, etc.

        • Cutler Hamilton

          Yes and all that money to update campuses would come in the form of federal or state grants like before. It was not the private sector that invested in secondary education. It was the gov’t, believe it or not.

          • Ed75

            Yes, that’s true, and state’s can’t afford it now.

  • Dan

    Look, this is all a business. The ONLY real financial help is “Merit Based”, and this is determined by SAT scores – regardless of what school’s say regarding not using standardized test scores. For undergraduates, consider this – MOST “tier 2 colleges” will offer up to full scholarships for students who achieve tests scores high enough to get into “tier 1 schools”( Ivy Leagues, MIT etc, etc.) but they want to attract these high achieving students…..take this as a serious option….is the cost of a tier 1 going to be worth it? What is the pay back?….if a student goes to a tier 1 college and becomes a teacher, there is no way the investment can make sense…..and SAT scores MAKE A DIFFERENCE….with the volume of applications that colleges recieve, there is NO WAY ELSE to determine “merit based” candidates in the time alotted….invest in your childs’ proficiency in taking SAT’s if you want the best opportunity for scholarships..

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      True. I’m sure daughter’s merit scholarship was based on her ACT score.

      How much a school wants one applicant vs other equally qualified applicants can also be attributed to many other factors such as “the band needs a piccolo player” (true fact as stated by a college admin on a similar NPR story a couple of years ago). Also part of the mix is the desire for diversity of students, both ethnic and geographical.

  • Adam Deutsch

    Federal backed loans offer a great opportunity because of their flexible repayment options. Income Based Repayment is popular because it reduces your monthly payment to service the loan to be capped at 15% of your [income-1.5x poverty level]. It extends the repayment to 20 years rather than 10. There is a huge hidden cost that is never explained: If the reduced payment is less than the amount needed to cover the 6-8% interest rate, the loan negatively amortizes and the principal balloons. I’ve never heard this discussed. Please ask the guests if any discussions have been held to eliminate negative amortization features of student loans.

    • Jill122

      You seem to understand the issue very well. Please write a letter to Mr. Franken and Mr. Blumenthal and tell them what you’ve reported here. At least you will know you tried your best. Cheer! Cheer!

    • http://www.edvisors.com/ Mark Kantrowitz

      Income-Based Repayment (IBR) caps loan payments at 15% of discretionary income with the remaining debt forgiven after 25 years in repayment, not 20 years. Pay-As-You-Earn Repayment (PAYER) caps loan payments at 10% of discretionary income with the remaining debt forgiven after 20 years in repayment. It is possible to be negatively amortized in both IBR and PAYER. A more serious concern is that the 20/25 year forgiveness of remaining debt is taxable under current law, potentially substituting a tax debt for the student loan debt.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    They are all different. Colgate doesn’t do merit scholarships, you have to be rich, very poor or willing to mortgage your future to attend. So my daughter isn’t going there. She was also offered nothing from Macalester College. On the other hand, the private liberal arts college she is attending (one of the Colleges That Change Lives) gave her a very large merit scholarship making attendance there about $2,000 more per year than it would have cost to go to UVM (always high on the party school list) as an in state student.

  • Jill122

    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3927

    Most cuts to higher ed in Arizona 50%; least cuts Alaska 3.2%. Two states Wyoming and ND the aid has gone UP 7.5% and 16.5% respectively.

  • beryl rosenthal

    If you think public universities are less expensive, think again. Tuition may well be cheaper, but the associated fees are many times the tuition!

    • Jill122

      Exactly why we need a bill in congress forcing every school to provide a bottom line after all is said in done. One essential question that is not being answered: what will the child/parents owe, when does the payback period begin. A consumer agreement is what is required.

      • BHA_in_Vermont

        Payback is a function of the job the graduate gets. No school can tell you what YOUR kid will make when they graduate. The best they can do is give the average salary of graduates and even that is dependent on the graduates giving up information that many consider a privacy issue.

        • Jill122

          I didn’t imply payback amount. That’s not what I wrote. I asked for the amount that will need to be paid back. Many children don’t know this until they have graduated. And I asked when payment on the loan must begin. For some loans, it’s not until the child graduates or leaves school (prematurely). For others, as the caller said on the program, the payback begins immediately.

  • Anne

    One issue that hasn’t come up is that college loans, unlike all other types of loans, are not amenable to being refinanced when interest rates drop. I have loans from my own education back in the 1980′s that carry an 8.5% interest rate. My own son is now in college and if I could refinance these loans, I would have more money available to support him in paying for his college. I have written to my senators and representative for years asking that this situation be rectified but apparently, the lenders have a lock on Washington.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      Yeah, that is ridiculous. There is no valid reason these loans shouldn’t be eligible for refinancing at current rates. People do it with houses all the time as long as the refinance costs and new rate work out in their favor.

      • Anne

        Absolutely!!

    • notafeminista

      From the 1980s? Is that a typo?

    • Jill122

      I’m not sure where you are getting your information — from the bank that loaned you the money perhaps? School loans are renegotiated all the time. You can fold it into your house payments if you re-fi. Here’s a website to help you: https://studentloanhero.com/featured/5-banks-to-refinance-your-student-loans/

      and finally, depending on the originator, you can go to fannie or sallie to see if they can help you.

    • http://www.edvisors.com/ Mark Kantrowitz

      There are no prepayment penalties on federal student loans, so nothing stops you from refinancing the loans, other than a lack of lenders willing to refinance this form of unsecured debt at a lower interest rate with the same favorable repayment options.

  • Jill122

    No help for private non-profit schools. I worked for one in their collections department. The school gets less money the following year if students drop out and then don’t pay. So there’s a huge push to get kids to sign a waiver or deferral and keep signing those docs until the federal government takes over the collection. The school knows the kid is never going to pay — will never be able to afford it. But if they can get the deferral doc, then the school continues to be on the list for federal government supports. It’s a rip in more ways than one. They take the students who cannot get in anywhere else promising them a job at the end. The work is too difficult, there’s no remedial help but tons of $$$ in it for the private for-profit.

  • sharlyne1

    I’ve been going through this for 10 years and finally more and more people are speaking out against the opaque financial aid “opportunities” for students. Higher education was never more non affordable as it was beginning in 2000. As a nation we’re now finally accepting that today’s 30 and 20 somethings are more than stuck in a rut, it’s financial quick sand.

    While I do not believe tax payers shoulder any burden, I do think it’s time for universities of higher education to clean up their books with a transparent process. I also believe that part of cleaning up their books should incorporate a percentage of loan forgiveness through the vendors. All universities should send checks to Sallie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wells Fargo, and any other major lender so that students in severe debt can have some relief. I find it impossible to believe with large endowments and university presidential salary packages higher ed schools are unable of helping students beyond this issue. They have the money, make them spend it and spend it on the students. Case in point, my alma mater is building a new lab. They built a new lab when I attended school 2001-2004. It’s 10 years later, why do you need a new science lab?

    Lastly, unlike university lobbyists and advocates claim, it isn’t impossible to investigate exactly how many students who graduated between 2000 and 2008 are in astronomical debt. The disclaimer that students graduate on “average” with 20-25,000 in debt is beyond misleading. Take that number and multiple by the whole student tenure ($25,000 x (4-5 years)) and it’s easy to see how our nations youth is shackled to a whopping combined total of $1 trillion dollars in debt. Higher ed institutes have no business raising tuition, costs, and other associated fees without proving the ROI is worth it. I should have bought a diamond, not an education, at least diamonds appreciate in value.

    • Karen

      Something should be done up front, BEFORE students take out loans they can not repay, before parents take out that home equity loan.
      My kids are paying high interest rates on their student loans because of the high rate of default. So they get slammed twice. Once because their parents earn too much money to get any financial aid, and twice because other students have borrowed too much money.
      I agree with transparency, probably would help.

      • sharlyne1

        totally agree! It’s out of control.

  • notafeminista

    Funny – no comments about what parents can or should sacrifice to pay for their children’s college education.

    • Karen

      I feel like colleges have parents over a barrel. You fill out FAFSA and the CSS profile so parents’ income and assets are known. Then colleges charge our children accordingly. Our children have to pay for college based on what their parents earn not on what they earn or are expected to earn after graduation. How can parents NOT contribute to their children’s higher education? If they don’t get that degree they don’t have a chance at getting a job that pays enough to live on in this country.

      • notafeminista

        Maybe its time for parents to re-think how they pay for college tuition. No one says a loan MUST be taken out.

        • Karen

          How do people bridge that gap? We are conservative in our spending, saved money for our kids to go to college in a 529 and have some savings. Our EFC is unreasonably high. It’s 30 percent of our income. In MA, we can not live on what’s left. We still have 2 children at home. We have to continue to save for their education.
          I believe that colleges expect families and/or students to take out loans because this is how most people are meeting the cost obligation.
          Yes, students can get work study and/or part time jobs. The jobs pay minimum wage and they may make enough to pay for their books and help out a little. But, they will not be making thousands of dollars and will not be contributing to the $200,000 cost of a 4 year college.
          If there are other ways to pay for college tuition, we’re all ears.

  • Kaye Henderson

    Why is the interest rates on student loans so high. Our daughter who is a family practice doctor has $180,000 in med school loans to repay at 6% from the federal govt. Yet the fed loans to banks at less than 1/2 that rate.

    • StilllHere

      Fair question, interest rates are generally a function of the term of the loan and the perception of the borrower’s ability to repay.

    • http://www.edvisors.com/ Mark Kantrowitz

      There are two key differences. The interest rate on federal student loans is fixed, not variable, and the loans to banks are very short-term.

  • notafeminista

    “Teaching Assistants” at the college level are grad students or sometimes even upper level under grad students. It’s already been going on for years.

  • hennorama

    Student loan debt is the only form of consumer debt that has grown since the peak of consumer debt in 2008. Balances of student loans have eclipsed both auto loans and credit cards, making student loan debt the largest form of consumer debt outside of mortgages.

    – Federal Reserve Bank of New York (DATA AS OF FOURTH QUARTER 2012, RELEASED MARCH 29, 2013)

    This has both short- and long-term economic implications for the US economy.

    Poster [Anne] below, stated “I have loans from my own education back in the 1980′s…,” which was questioned by another forum member as if it were “a typo.”

    No doubt this reflects a general lack of awareness of the facts about student loan debt, a few of which are below:

    (Source for all data below, and the quote above: http://www.newyorkfed.org/studentloandebt/ All data as of 4th Quarter 2012)

    Age Group … Total S/L Debt .. # Borrowers .. Average Balance

    60 and older … $ 43 Billion ….. 2.2 Million ….. $19,521
    50 to 59 $112 B 4.7 M $23,820
    40 to 49 $168 B 6.0 M $27,828
    30 to 39 $321 B 10.9 M $29,364
    Under 30 $322 B 15.0 M $21,402

    OVERALL $966 Billion 38.8 Million $24,803

    Some more info: (Source: http://www.newyorkfed.org/newsevents/mediaadvisory/2013/Lee022813.pdf )

    Student Debt almost tripled between 2004 and 2012 and stands at $966B as of 2012:Q4
     70% Increase in the number of borrowers
     70% increase [in the] average balance per person

    About 44% of borrowers are not yet in repayment due to deferments and forbearances. Excluding those, the effective 90+ delinquency rate rises to more than 30%.

    And the Conclusions, per the source above:

    Higher education is an important investment among young workers for better jobs and higher income, but it is accompanied with a growing student debt burden.

    Total student loan balances almost tripled between 2004 and 2012 due to increasing numbers of borrowers and higher balances per person.

    Nearly one third of the borrowers in repayment are delinquent on student debt.

    The higher burden of student loans and higher delinquencies may affect borrowers’ access to other types of credit and the performance of other debt.

    Other resources:
    http://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/itv/articles/?id=2355
    http://www.asa.org/policy/resources/stats/
    http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation
    http://www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org/bankruptcy/

  • sjw81

    great show today thanks. the root of this problem is not figuring out the marketing acceptance so called aid letters. they are just disguised loans. a degree is not woth 700 percent more now than 25 years ago. that is how much it has increases in costs. it’s not worth the inflated prices charged…50 k year??? loans and debt inflate these costs. stop the fed gov funding this bubble and prices would drop tomorrow. cut aid!

  • Karen

    Colleges will take whatever money you have. Plain and simple. Fill out the FAFSA- but if your income is above a certain amount (middle to upper middle class) you will be expected to spend it on college. The college my daughter is attending looked at the value of our house and retirement funds (which should be off limits – after all we have 2 other children at home who need a place to live not to mention ourselves). And we are trying to be responsible and plan for our retirement. If you have any money that is deemed savings, you will be required to pay the exorbitant cost for college. No relief.

  • DaisyPatch

    I like the Pay Forward idea. If the college gets a set percentage of their graduates’ salaries, maybe they will realize that all those philosophy, etc degrees they give produce graduates who finally find jobs at McDonalds and the percentage they will get back from their salaries is pitiful…. until the graduates go back to a technical school and learn a real trade and finally start earning a salary that is worth taking a percentage of. Maybe colleges will start being invested in actually training students for jobs that will support them and their future families

    • Karen

      We’ve always had our philosophers and history experts and musicians. Maybe they won’t find a job that pays a living wage when they graduate. Forget about paying back tens of thousands in college loans.
      Not every person is interested and/or has the natural ability to study math, science and engineering.

      The big problems are –
      1. The cost of college in this country is too expensive and is putting a tremendous burden on young adults, their parents (middle age parents should be saving for their older years) and the economy.

      In my opinion students should not be allowed to borrow more than a certain percentage of their potential starting salary. Maybe then they will have a chance at paying back their loans.

      2. Minimum wage is not enough to live on especially in some areas of the country. If a person works full time in a service sector job they should earn a salary that at least pays for a roof over their heads and food.

  • Karen

    Who says no one pays sticker price? I know plenty of people who pay full sticker price. Not wealthy people but people who are being squeezed. If your income is above a certain amount and you have saved for your kids education and saved some money for retirement. You may get some merit money (my son did get some merit money for good grades). You are expected to pay. We were shocked when we first looked at what was expected. The cost of college is going to send everyone to the poor house.

  • Karen

    We have a son and daughter in college. Our EFC is 30 percent of our income (which is harsh). The profile looks at all kinds of assets – money that they could potentially get. But it doesn’t look at what it costs to provide for our younger 2 children. We live in an expensive area. We have to pay for activity fees, recreation sports, field trips (you name it – nothing’s free). Our younger 2 children cost money.

    My big objection to the profile is that it looks at the value of your primary residence. I have heard that some parents take out equity loans to pay for college. Yikes! What a risky thing to do. You need a place to live. Are people willing to lose their homes to pay for college? What if someone loses a job (totally possible in today’s economy)?

    Also, think about it, with all this money going to pay for our kids’ education, we’re not saving for our retirement. We will be working long past retirement age.

    • WEC Pawn

      Do you know what EFC really stands for? They take “Every Friggin Cent”

  • Broadnax

    Colleges should take all that financial aid money and just make their tuition cheaper. Let scholarships and aid be done outside the university system.

  • http://www.edvisors.com/ Mark Kantrowitz

    529 plan accounts that are owned by a dependent student or the student’s parent are treated as a parent asset on the FAFSA. This reduces aid eligibility by as much as 5.64% of the asset value of the 529 plan. Thus, for every $10,000 in a 529 plan, aid eligibility is reduced by $564, but the family still has $9,436 more that can be spent on college costs.

    • jkwalker111

      Thanks, Mark – that’s helpful.

  • sengssk

    When the bubble pops, universities will have no one to blame but themselves. Here’s a preview of what’s in store for the industry: http://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2014/02/mooconomics.html

    For those institutions that can adapt, you will need to compete on open prices with your rivals and there will be many more rivals than before. For those institutions that refuse to adapt, it’s not the end of the world. Just the end of you.

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