The American educational system is faced with the same kinds of financial problems as all our other entities, and there are increasing calls for belt-tightening and budget-altering, particularly at the college and university level.
But while some administrators, such as those at Kansas University, are scuffling to try to make ends meet without serious cutbacks in their offerings, there are others who are not likely, at least for the time being, to feel too much of a pinch.
Item: A record 29,000 potential students have applied for a spot in next fall’s freshman class at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Officials say that despite the sagging economy, that tops the 27,500 applicants for the past fall semester.
How many spots are open? Just 1,700.
Harvard, regardless of how the economic slump is affecting others, says it has generous financial aid packages that encourage huge numbers of applications. The Harvard aid program requires no contribution from families with annual incomes below $60,000 and about 10 percent of income from families that make up to $180,000. Even with market difficulties, schools such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton are so well-endowed they can roll with the punches and not be hurt too much.
Yet consider the chances of an “average student” being helped by that structure. Competition at this and all other “name” schools is so fierce that it is a wonder most applicants even try.
While there will be a relative few blessed to get the kind of aid that Ivy League schools provide, consider the youngsters and their families who face such severe financial challenges in attending even an “ordinary school.”
The estimated cost of attending Harvard this fall, including tuition, fees, room and board and personal expenses, is more than $50,000.
Even half that amount creates a four- to five-year total of $100,000 to $125,000. How many individuals and families will dare to tackle a debt like that?
Schools such as Kansas, Kansas State and their Big 12 counterparts owe it to the public they serve to get the best possible value from the massive numbers of dollars they require to function effectively. We can only hope that more deserving students do not get priced out of the market. A struggling America needs all the well-schooled people it can get.