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Opinion

Opinion

Affordable education

Encouraging families to save for their children’s future isn’t the whole answer to making higher education more affordable.

March 28, 2012

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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.

Comments

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 8 months ago

I was going to write a blog on this, but this editorial came up and I had to comment now. Take a look at the following story (published March 23) by a career academic and former university chancellor in the Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/do-college-professors-work-hard-enough/2012/02/15/gIQAn058VS_story.html

There are a lot of thing that could be done differently to bring the cost down. Poorer families don't have enough money to often pay bills, not to even think of a college education for their children.

And don't give me the line that poorer families don't have college material. Students from poorer families often do very well at universities if given the money and resources.

And-a lot of these professors have very little to do with the outside world, including the Lawrence community.

David Klamet 2 years, 8 months ago

Good post, good article.

It is time to ask simple questions and expect simple answers.

Why does college cost so much? Where does the money go? How much value do students receive for their money? Is there a better way to accomplish the goals of "higher" education?

These links are not the answer, there is no college credit, but they raise some interesting possibilities:

http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm http://www.khanacademy.org/ http://ocw.tufts.edu/

And, a specific course: http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/you-you-can-take-stanfords-intro-to-ai-course-next-quarter-for-free

Or we can keep heading down the same road we're on.

Orwell 2 years, 8 months ago

Should lower-income families be left to bear this ever-increasing burden by choosing between saving for college and other, more current necessities? "Sorry, Billy – we can't get your teeth fixed. We have to save more for college."

It's not clear there's an adequate solution available through cost-squeezing at the institutions, except maybe at the margins. A better place to look for relief is in the level of state funding of our public educational institutions. As with most governmental activity that has traditionally improved the lives of lower-income families, our current Republican supermajority legislature prefers to sacrifice the public good in favor of further padding the pockets of their super-rich contributors.

Remind me – exactly when does this trickle-down kick in?

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