Letters to the Editor

Tuition victims

May 22, 2012


To the editor:

George Will’s column of May 17 argues that college student indebtedness is mostly the fault of the students, and Americans, especially those who never attended college, should not have to share in the easing of this burden, even by supporting the current low interest rate of 3.4 percent.

Will ignores the vast changes that history has imposed on our society since his generation’s time. In 1968, at the University of Illinois, where Will’s father taught, annual resident tuition was $300; adjusted for inflation, today that amounts to about $2,000. At the University of Texas, which I attended in the ’60s, it was $100. Illinois tuition now runs $14,000 to $19,000; Texas $9,000 to $10,000.

So members of Will’s generation, including tight-fisted legislators everywhere, if they attended one of our then-great state universities, include a large number of powerful hypocrites who refuse to extend to young people today the opportunities that existed for them. State college tuition rates ARE scandalous, but the last people to blame for this situation should be its victims.


tbaker 1 year, 10 months ago

Speaking of adjusting things for inflation, in the last 30 years, inflation is up 160%, but tuition costs are up 750%. Ever wonder why?

Federal aid for students has increased from 32 billion in 1987, to 169 billion in 2010. Ever wonder why?

Because colleges have no incentive to cut prices when students can get money from government. When the government steps in and says they will fill the gap between what someone can afford to pay and what the college is charging; is it surprising that the college inches up the tuition cost a little bit higher?

This is yet another example of government creating perverse economic incentives. Colleges don't worry about high tuition costs and have no reason to control them because they know their customers have government subsidies. If the free market was allowed to work we wouldn’t have this problem.

Victims? You’re darn right there are victims. Those people being deprived of a chance to go to college because they cannot afford it are victims of the altruist statist who wants to maintain this scam, and continue perverting the market forces that would otherwise be controlling tuition costs. Of course all of this is veiled in self-righteous elitism making them utterly certain that they are “helping” make things “fair.” Bottom line, if the government got out of the business of paying for college, a lot more people could afford to go.


Lartist5 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm saying properly funded higher education costs less than student loans. You get faster production out of graduates when they have less debt. that's good for the economy. It make sense to have less debt in people starting off. The other issue is that of for profit colleges. They are not on the same level as universities that are not for profit. Maybe tere should be no federal student aid for these mone pits that drag in people who buy their lines. Maybe limit the use of the .edu to only accreddited non for profit schools. If you really look subsidised higher educations is way less expensive.


Windemere 1 year, 11 months ago

So Lartist, what is your proposal? More govt funding? Paid for by already financially-stressed taxpayers? Who might otherwise put that money into buying consumer goods or reducing their debt or building a cushion so they have an emergency fund? It doesn't grow on trees. And, as noted above, when the cost of college is subsidized, that tends to make costs rise faster than they otherwise would. Doesn't sound appealing.


Lartist5 1 year, 11 months ago

College costs are rising way faster than inflation but almost exactly in step with funding cuts. When you factor in the weak job market it becomesvery hard to pay back the cost of an education even at a state school. I think everyone should pay fr what they get as far as education. But if you pay x% of your income for x years and that only pays back half then that's fair. The degree wasn't worth much in the economy, you paid fair market value for it. And X shouldn't be more than a house payment. If you want a generation that supports the ecomomy and contributes and make this counrty better, then you can't expect them to have to pay for a house in student debt before they can even buy a new car. The joke will be on all the its not my problem people when they are old and their kids didn't have kids until they were in their 40s and there is a shrinking population in this counrty among educated and middle class house holds. Seems to me the ecomomy as a whole would benifit from 20 somthings having money to invest and buy with and raise kids on.


George Lippencott 1 year, 11 months ago

moderationman (anonymous) says… As usual, the "personal responsibility" zealots …

Moderate opines. Exactly what is driving college costs? I recently did a run on Kansas and based on inflation the state was providing about what it always did. It is the costs that have escalated much faster than inflation.

Could the problem be that the university has increased staff costs well above inflation (fact) and has been able to do so because of available government underwritten loans? So the student is paying for the costs of the professors (about double the average income) by incurring large debts?

I would also point out that way back when attendance at college was about 20% now it is close to 50%. Demand does increase costs. It would seem to me to be unfair to ask people who had to pay their own way back then to now pay so much more of yours when the real driver appears to be staff costs??


Windemere 1 year, 11 months ago

Mainstream news reports I've read tell me that tuition costs have increased at much greater rates than inflation (e.g. 6% per year vs. about 2% a year) mainly due to: -reduced state expenditures subsidizing tuition (i.e. burden has shifted more to the actual consumer/student vs. taxpayer) - generous federal loans/federally-backed private loans (when risk is reduced, lenders become more generous -- but tax payers hold the bag) - an arms race for newer, ever-more-grandiose, showy facilities/dorms/student unions at schools, in keeping with the general rise in expectations of the typical consumer in the U.S. (think of McMansions)

Scary to think of a college education as a right. A right is something all people can exercise without infringing on the rights of others. Speech, for example. What's next? Right to a house? Right to a car that's 5 years or newer? Sad that parents are not informing kids about the huge downsides of incurring all this debt (and not advising them to pick less-expensive schools). The market must push tuition lower but ignorance combined with govt. interference is undercutting that.


dipweed 1 year, 11 months ago

There are no tuition victims. There is no crime committed. The so-called victims know exactly what the tuition is before signing the document.


kuguardgrl13 1 year, 11 months ago

Public high education is incredibly different now than it was 20-30 years ago. Tuition, fees, living expenses, books, everything is more expensive now. Did you ever have to pay $150 for a textbook that couldn't be sold back at the end of the semester because it was already obsolete? Campus jobs are usually reserved for those who qualify for work study, and the entry-level job market in Lawrence is overflowing. Paying your way through school on a minimum wage job while paying your own living expenses is nearly impossible. Regardless of if your parents are assisting you or not, their tax and income information is required on the FAFSA form until you're 26. Trying to find a job in your career field after graduation is nearly impossible in this economy. College graduates usually lack the "experience" that employers are looking for. Even fields like engineering or business are hard to get into. Forget about education or liberal arts. Many are stuck with unpaid internships that can't cover living expenses, let alone loan payments. You get usually 10 years before you are required to start paying college loans back. Most will start bothering you after graduation. The entire system is a mess. Most private universities run about $30,000 per year. Hard to believe that that's "market price" for something that cost $300 twenty years ago.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

The student loan program became victim to the same white collar criminals that the home loans did.

Inflate the cost of college,increase the interest on college loans and keep loaning out money no matter the cost. Not knowing how in the world this large amount of money will ever paid back.

The job markets have been taking serious hits since the Reagan/Bush days falling victim to such nonsense as:

  1. Mergers
  2. Hostile Takeovers
  3. Leveraged Buyouts
  4. Free Trade Agreements
  5. Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan home loan scandal which killed the economy and cost the USA millions of jobs.
  6. Bush/Cheney Home Loan scandal killed the economy and cost the USA millions of jobs

All of above ultimately translated into millions upon millions upon millions of USA job losses. Big time layoffs are the end result. These jobs go abroad with tax codes that prevent taxation on profits made abroad from USA big name corporations.

There was a time when becoming employed by corporate America came with long term employment, fine wages and dependable retirement benefits. Those days are gone.


Jimo 1 year, 11 months ago

And George Will's long march to senility goes on.


Gotland 1 year, 11 months ago

Those that pay the inflated price out of pocket caused by government subsidized credit are victims too.


yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

Education is not free. There is no free ride when it comes to education. Someone must pay.

In the past, state universities were subsidized by tax dollars to keep tuition low. Now, more of the cost is being shifted to individuals (the ownership society).

Private universities charge $20,000-$40,000 in tuition, which is a market-based estimate of the "real" cost of a university education.

There is no free ride. Those who cheer for tax cuts and cuts to universities while at the same time decrying the rising tuition are seriously misguided. They are certainly not capitalists. My guess is that they want a handout and a free ride.


weiser 1 year, 11 months ago

Give them school for free and pay the overworked professors more. That will solve it.


ljwhirled 1 year, 11 months ago

Tuition increases are what happens when you privatize a service that should be publicly funded.

Lack of public funding and oversight has led to this. The same would happen if we privatized our water supply and didn't adequately regulate the provider.

The same is happening with health care in this country.

We are allowing our kids to take on the burden of debt for obtaining an education that eventually benefits us all.



Bruce Bertsch 1 year, 11 months ago

As usual, the "personal responsibility" zealots have missed the point. During the 60's and 70's the state of Kansas provided about 75% of the cost of a college education for residents, thus keeping costs low. today that number is closer to 20%. So, not only have prices risen with inflation, but states have chosen to believe that funding higher education is not a priority, which is short sighted, but politically popular.


Brock Masters 1 year, 11 months ago

My son will be in college in a few years and we have been saving for it for a long. We have not taken vacations purchased fancy cars or bought the house we could "afford". Instead we've lived well within our means to send our kid to college.

You say the kids don't understand interest so I ask where are the parents? Why aren't they explaining loans and interest?

My points are they are not victims and their loan is their responsibility. College is a choice and an investment. If you have to borrow X and it will not return enough to pay it off then it is a bad investment. Don't make it. And if you do then it is your responsibility to pay it off


labmonkey 1 year, 11 months ago

As long as students taking out the loans are majoring in a field that will earn them a job, I am okay with the loans. Also, if a state school will handle your educational NEEDS, then they should have to go there. I do not want to hear complaints from the Art History major who went to Reed or NYU or the elementary school teacher who went to a distant private school who owe six figures.


Sharon Nottingham 1 year, 11 months ago

fred, have you had a kid in college, yet? Well, I do. My husband and I are paying for it, but I can tell you, that is not the norm nowadays. The cost is NOT afford ble by many. Kids cannot earn enough to cover the cost and avoid taking out loans. When I attended school, I had to take out loans since I was one of 5 children being raised by a single parent after my father died. There was no savings. I worked and went to school and still could not have completed college were it not for loans. It took SEVERAL years to pay off and I was too naive to understand how loan interest worked. This should be a prerequiste for all college bound students...and a good explanation about the importance of retirement benefits for future employment, which is another topic altogether.


Brock Masters 1 year, 11 months ago

Victims? Really? Who forced the students to take the loan? No one. It was their choice - no crime and no victims.


Benjamin Roberts 1 year, 11 months ago

My comment from the LJW poll regarding tuition costs:

College tuition is a case study of government funded hyper-inflation. There is a time-line coordination between the sky rocketed cost of tuition and available government funding (grants, loans, etc.). The never-ending supply of government money is just a student loan away from the insatiable appetite of the bureaucracy that is higher education. Students have been willing to sign on to the high price of education only because there is no correlation as to the real cost. The deferred payment schedule (loans) provides no understanding of the real cost of education.

If students were to earn and pay for a college education as it is consumed the price would be driven down post haste.

"Who should be most responsible for making tuition to a state college affordable?" The consumers' demand would set affordable rates if it was allowed to operate unmolested by government funding.


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