A conference being planned at Kansas University addresses one side of the growing student debt problem, but it shouldn’t let KU and other universities think they don’t have to do their part to cut costs and control tuition.
On Thursday and Friday, a number of education and social welfare experts are scheduled to participate in an “Assets and Education Research Symposium” at KU. The news release about the symposium cited the fact that total student debt now surpasses credit card debt in the United States and noted the emphasis that President Obama and others are placing on keeping college affordable.
According to the news release, speakers at the symposium will focus on the importance of families, especially low-income families, starting early to save money for their children’s college education. Those savings actually will make it more likely that their children will pursue higher education, the experts say, and will allow them to do so without incurring a huge debt.
This probably will not surprise parents who hope to send their children to college one day. Helping families find a way to put money aside or accumulate assets to help fund their children’s education certainly is a worthy goal, but it only addresses one side of the problem. While families are trying to save money for the future education of their children, colleges and universities also must be trying to attack the affordability issue from the other side by finding ways to control tuition, fees and other costs associated with higher education.
How much money would the parents of a toddler have to put aside now to make sure they could meet the cost of a college education for that child in 15 or 18 years? If higher education costs continue to grow at the rate they have in the last decade, let alone accumulate, that number is hard to fathom. Especially in a difficult economy, even families who do their best may not come close to saving enough to allow their children to attend college without incurring significant debt.
When the president and others talk about keeping higher education affordable, they aren’t just talking about families starting earlier to try to save enough money to cover tuition costs that are growing at a rate that will be difficult for even early savers to handle. Top administrators and governing boards also have to make sure colleges and universities are doing their part.