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.


Brock Masters 5 years, 10 months ago

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

xclusive85 5 years, 10 months ago

I agree whole-heartedly with you Fred. But, there is a point to consider as well. For many students, these are the frst loans they have ever taken. What kind of business gives someone with very little to no credit tens of thousands of dollars? These just aren't the typical loans such as a car loan. No business would let a kid without much income, take these kinds of loans. Why should our government?

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 10 months ago

Unlike car loans, when you take out an educational loan, you cannot clear that debt, even if you file for bankruptcy. I think providing loans to students is a wise investment if they actually complete their education. In the long run, they will be giving back to society as well as dear uncle sam.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

"What kind of business gives someone with very little to no credit tens of thousands of dollars?"

Let's see, until very recently, most home-loan lenders of all kinds were doing precisely this. And credit card companies used to regularly issue any college student who wanted one a credit card with a high enough limit to let lots of them hang themselves with debt they could never repay-- not sure if they still do.

xclusive85 5 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, we saw where the home-loan lenders got us, didn't we? Do we really want to follow that model?

George Lippencott 5 years, 10 months ago

This is an honest question. The visa are fro 50,000 new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Can we find these kind of people here or are we trying to avoid paying the true costs using low cost foreign labor?

rachelind 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure you've never tried to apply for a job without a degree, because otherwise you would understand that everyone, even poor people, need to go to college. Many college students have no other means to a degree without these loans.

Evidently, you're missing the fact that tuition rates spike as soon as grants or funding widens is irrelevant to you. The point is that higher education has become a greedy monster that refuses to self-regulate.

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 10 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.

labmonkey 5 years, 10 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.

Brock Masters 5 years, 10 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

lily 5 years, 10 months ago

Exactly! Hidden costs, rising costs, economy, all these come in to play. I'm glad some can afford to send their kids to college without loans but what about those who can't. Sometimes circumstances change drastically and you can't plan for everything. What about the kids with parents who tell them you're 18 you're on your own? What are they supposed to do? Work their way through. It will take years. Some schools are pricing themselves right out of business.

Brock Masters 5 years, 10 months ago

A college education is not a right or entitlement. Lots of things I would like to do or have but can't afford them. Who is going to pay for my wants?

Can't believe you think that working yourself through school is such a hardship that in addition to paying for my kids education I am supposed to pay for all of them.

Brock Masters 5 years, 10 months ago

I am indeed paying for their education if my tax dollars subsidizes the true tuition cost and most definitely if my tax dollars are used to forgive or reduce loans.

asixbury 5 years, 10 months ago

Go wallow in your bitterness fred. Not everyone is as lucky as your kids are. Some of us had no one to give us advice, no money, no support and did only what the schools told us to. No one is saying college students shouldn't have to pay back their loans. They're saying state tuition prices have gotten out of hand.

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 10 months ago

I'd rather my tax dollar go towards educating the citizenry then to drone bombers or the War on Drugs/Citizens. Educating the masses actually helps everyone in society. The 40-year failure that is the War on Drugs has helped no one but the drug lords of Mexico, lawyers, and the corporate prison system.

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 10 months ago

You don't want your tax dollar going to a disabled veteran either, do ya Phred? Dang leeches.

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 10 months ago

So, are people no longer allowed to reach their dreams of a college education if they are reared in a disadvantaged home?! My mother was a high school drop out and was ignorant in explaining finances to me. I wanted way better for my life and set out to make excellent grades and graduate from college. Who said it was a right or entitlement? It is about reaching goals, expanding horizons and making a better life for yourself, even for your family. I couldn't afford my education upfront, but I paid EVERY DIME of it back with interest. So, don't sit there and act so magnanimous and assuming that you pay for it all. There are many bright people out in the world and to not give them a chance to take out a loan when they have no other means to cover tuition would be a disservice to society.

Brock Masters 5 years, 10 months ago

Hip gal good for you. You should be proud of what you've accomplished.

My problem is not with you but those that portray themselves as a victim because they have to take a loan out and pay it back.

Some have suggested that student loans be forgiven. Quite different than what you did.

asixbury 5 years, 10 months ago

I agree. It shouldn't matter how much money someone has when it comes to education. Everyone should have the right to one.

Brock Masters 5 years, 10 months ago

But it can never be free. Someone will always have to pay for it.

asixbury 5 years, 10 months ago

Then everyone should pay, equally, for everyone to have equal access.

Bruce Bertsch 5 years, 10 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.

ljwhirled 5 years, 10 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.


Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

How do you propose to fund that pie in the sky scheme?

tomatogrower 5 years, 10 months ago

Maybe return the tax rates back to the 50's and 60's. I mean conservatives seem to love that time, and the economy was good.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 10 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.

Jimo 5 years, 10 months ago

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

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 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.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

Ah, the all-purpose blame Reagan/Bush post.

kansasredlegs 5 years, 10 months ago

6 - that legislation was signed by William Jefferson Bubba Clinton. Get your facts. Bush inherited it from the Super Dem.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 10 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.

dipweed 5 years, 10 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.

Windemere 5 years, 10 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.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

The problem is that there aren't a lot of "less expensive schools" these days. The states have stopped funding state education, so the burden shifted to the students to fund it themselves.

While we've never seen it as a "right," unlike k-12 education, I don't think the idea is scary. It's certainly a public benefit to have an educated and skilled population. Other countries do manage to fund the higher education of students who show academic merit, and we used to be a lot better at doing the same.

George Lippencott 5 years, 10 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??

Lartist5 5 years, 10 months ago

Staff costs? Please...... many of the employees of a large college are ta's work study kids and adjunct proffs. None of these people have job security, high pay, or benifits. And the full proff deserve high pay and benifits (which of course are way less then the real value they could get in the private sector) because they are highly educated and ofte the most influencial thinkers and researchers in their areas. And they ca be trusted caue they are reveiwed and critiqued by peers.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

If by "increasing staff costs" you mean randomly laying them off and cutting their hours, then sure, that's exactly what they've done...

Lartist5 5 years, 10 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.

imastinker 5 years, 10 months ago

Quit being so dramatic. The average student loan debt for a graduating student in 2010 n KS was 22k. This includes folks that went to private universities, doctors, lawyers, and anyone that took a long degree program.


My wife and I graduated college in 2006. Many of the changes in college costs occurred while I was in school. If anyone has a right to be ticked it's me and those my age, because we enrolled at a school with tuition rates of $75/credit hour and graduated at rates at least twice that.

Let me tell you a story. I got out of school and the first thing I bought was a brand new chevy pickup truck. It was beautiful. Lots of my friends did the same thing. My wife and my student loans were less than what that pickup cost. The truck was on a five year loan. My student loans could have been paid off in five years if I had better decision making ability.

My loans are in fact paid off now. We worked like hell to get them that way, and I don't plan on helping pay for other people's school too. They can do what I did. It's the american way.

asixbury 5 years, 9 months ago

I hope to have our loans paid off someday, but combined they equal about $75k. That's going to take a while when life keeps getting in the way. Someday....

woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

Of course, then there are the people who paid their way through college by working and have no school loans to pay off. What a concept.

asixbury 5 years, 9 months ago

That was not a possibility when we attended school. I worked 3 jobs the entire time and still had no where near enough money to pay the tuition. Looking back with what I know now, I would have obviously chosen a cheaper school. We were the first of both of our families to attend college, so we had absolutely no advice. We did what we thought was right. Since I was only 18 when I started, I had no idea what to do. I chose an expensive school because that is where my friends went and it was close to home. That was my biggest mistake so far in life.

There aren't enough hours in a year to work to pay off $20,000+ a year in tuition, living expenses, books, etc.

woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

yeah, but hopefully it is a mistake that has benefited you above and beyond the loan payments.

asixbury 5 years, 9 months ago

That is true; our education makes it possible to pay the loan back. The potential to grow economically has been greatly increased.

Windemere 5 years, 10 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.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

The rich seem to be both not financially stressed and undertaxed these days. We could kill two birds with one stone if we didn't have an idiot governor.

Lartist5 5 years, 10 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.

George Lippencott 5 years, 10 months ago

Got some figures?? I bet we could not even agree on what a university should do let alone how much it should be compensated for doing it?

tbaker 5 years, 9 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.

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