Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education

07.11 7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It [Fox News and Betsy DeVos never talk about this stuff so it must be Bull Shit, right?]

Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

07.17 ‘Off-the-charts’ heat to affect millions in U.S. in coming decades

07.17 Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen forced out by board [Given that states have lost abortion rights on political grounds recently, Wen's philosophical approach to protect abortion rights based on ‘health care’ was smarter – therefore it was that smarter strategy that was killed at the secret meeting.]

07.17 Billions of air pollution particles found in hearts of city dwellers

07.17 What is happening in America's Cancertown is tragic, immoral and evil [Niggardly white government policies could change to produce better students, better jobs and net revenue instead of costs. But it seems they enjoy more cruelty—like Trump.]

07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

07.13 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life [Willfully ignorant governments—having fired many of their best scientists—have made themselves too stupid to despair]

07.13 Trump administration to approve pesticide that may harm bees [The worst government money can buy!]

07.12 These solar panels don’t just generate power—they produce drinking water

07.12 David Attenborough: polluting planet may become as reviled as slavery [1:34 video]

07.10 Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story [Fixing our world begins by educating your consciousness with the best truth from trustworthy news sources—so you'll then insist truly bad things will get fixed. But if instead you are educated by untrustworthy news sources—then your consciousness could be warped to where you are hating and fighting with your best friends. Clue: untrustworthy news sources never seriously report news about the world's most critical emergency—Global warming.]

07.10 Molly Scott Cato: ‘It’s the wealthy who are causing climate change’

07.09 Judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone [Yeh!]

07.07 How Solar Panels Work (And Why They're Taking Over the World) [Hope they leave space between panels for wild flowers to grow so birds and butterflies can flourish!]

07.05 Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

07.04 On reflection: how the 'albedo effect' is melting the Antarctic

07.04 US produces far more waste and recycles far less of it than other developed countries [As expected—and made worse by Trump—the U.S. is best at being the worst]07.03 Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal, experts warn

07.03 Deep-sea mining to turn oceans into ‘new industrial frontier’

07.03 Caravan of Americans battling diabetes heads to Canada for affordable insulin [3:36 video; Like Central Americans flee for their lives from criminal drug gangs, Americans flee for their lives for affordable pharmaceutical drugs]

News Media Matters

07.18 In Sinclair's New 'Must-Run' Segment, Former Trump Adviser Tries to Defend Racist Attacks on 'the Squad'

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

07.18 Deadly Delays in Jail Construction Cost Lives and Dollars Across California

07.18 Inside Trump's DC hotel, where allies and lobbyists flock to peddle their interests [Also, too much ignored by media, the $millions "donated" corrupting moderate Democrats and Republicans every election cycle must stop]

07.18 This Republican's Case for Medicare for All [A well-informed Republican is rare, so let's hold him in the light so others may learn]

07.18 Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after president attacks Ilhan Omar [1:03 video shows Trump pandering to his ignorant idolaters, and together they're making America a greater shit-hole country]

07.18 "Can't Change a Corrupt System by Taking Its Money": Sanders Urges All 2020 Democrats to Reject Insurance, Big Pharma Cash [48:58 video]

07.17 Why Democrats’ oversight machine is moving so slowly against Trump

07.17 Here's the real reason Trump is attacking 'the squad': he's scared of their politics

07.17 'Good,' Says Elizabeth Warren, After Billionaire Right-Winger Peter Thiel Says She's 2020 Democrat He Is 'Most Scared By'

07.17 The American Right Defines Patriotism As Complacency About Racism

07.17 This is what today's America looks like. The squad is us

07.16 As Trump Sows Discord, Chief of Staff Mulvaney Reportedly Focused on 'Building Empire for the Right Wing' [And the South shall rise again...]

07.16 George Will's startling assessment of Donald Trump

07.16 Describing 'Future We Want to Live In' Scores of Groups Unveil New Blueprint for Reproductive Rights

07.16 'Do not take the bait': congresswomen denounce racist Trump attack [3:50 video]

07.16 Money Laundering Scandal Forces Puerto Rico’s Governor to Cut His Vacation Short — Just in Time for Another Scandal

07.16 Turnstile teaching [The problem is NOT the color of students skin, as our fake President reflexively thinks. The problem is the lax attitude and deficient funding by government to always do a much better job for a better future.]

Justice Matters

07.16 Contempt [Variations of frequent loss & theft of property title by organized legal efforts against black owners]

07.15 Australia 'deeply concerned' about China's treatment of Uighur people [What are the reasons, exactly, that justify harsh imprisonment of a million people?]

07.15 Zuma tells South Africa corruption inquiry he is victim of foreign plot [Unaccountable corrupt governments are so in fashion these days...]

07.14 Warren vows to probe U.S. crimes on immigrants if elected [Can you imagine living in a nation with a working Justice System? How far we've fallen!]

High Crimes
Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

07.18 Corporate tax cuts blocked at least 15,000 affordable homes in California. Here’s how

07.15 China’s Economic Growth Hits 27-Year Low as Trade War Stings

International & Futurism

07.18 There are 16 million slaves around the world making our stuff

07.18 ‘No rioters, only a tyrannical regime’: Thousands of Hong Kong seniors march in support of young extradition law protesters [Most people around the world have more in common with these Hong Kong Chinese protestors than with the ignorant people at Trump rallies]

07.18 Dozens Arrested as Over 1,000 Jewish Activists and Allies Shut Down Entrances to ICE Headquarters Demanding Closure of Trump Detention Camps [Obviously these are not the immoral and less educated right-wing jews who support Netanyahu, Trump and ICE, and who slowly exterminate Palestinians when no one is looking]

07.17 Trump Murdered the Iran Deal—And Europe Isn’t Too Happy About It [Only psychopathic Saudi Arabia and Russia are U.S. ’allies’ now...]

07.17 Trump’s Unlawful Asylum Policy Is a Jab at Mexico

07.16 Trump’s race fantasy is clear: the US as home for whites fleeing Europe [1:09 video]

07.15 India’s Terrifying Water Crisis

07.15 Australia now has the highest minimum wage in the world [From 1960 to 2018 – the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to below the tenth place and off the chart]

07.14 Kasich: The chilling effect of British ambassador's leaked memos

07.14 'Just a matter of when': the $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

07.14 At least 24 Yellow Vests lost eyes in violent protests. Now they're more determined than ever [Protests of all kinds will continue until systemic inequality loses political dominance]

07.13 New Zealand Begins Gun Buyback Prompted by Mosque Attacks

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning [Since so-called modern humans evolved there have been 10,000 generations of people. It is extremely far-fetched to think anyone is racially pure. SO ALL THIS HATE IS INCREDIBLY STUPID.]

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning

07.13 Brazil’s President May Appoint Son, Friend to the Trumps, as Ambassador to U.S. [Friend of the Trumps, so we know they're all brain-dead except about near-term profits. They are clear-cutting the Amazon Rain Forest to feed-then-butcher millions of methane farting cows, over and over. Yep, that's there business plan. So therefore the rest of the world will hopefully plant billions of trees elsewhere to sequester CO2 to offset what the Bolsonaro family and investors are destroying. What's wrong with this picture?]

07.13 Trump’s Cruelty and Mexico’s Duty [Our president is immoral to his core and reacts to things like a child, not understanding that his actions are often crueler than they should be. And that cruelty will never completely be excused or forgotten—the people's hatred of Trump is growing, like the Texan's hatred when President General Santa Anna laid seige to the Alamo, which was Mexico's territory at the time...]

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Shut Out: How the Cost of Higher Education Is Dividing Our Country
Newspaper logo

COMMENTARY:

Shut Out: How the Cost of Higher Education Is Dividing Our Country

by Andy Kroll
April 2, 2009
College costs have gone up at more than five times the rate of incomes.
A few months ago, Bobby Stapleton, a 21-year-old student at the University of Michigan, received a phone call from his younger brother. The good news came first: a senior in high school, he, too, had been accepted by the university, the fourth sibling in his family to have the opportunity to make the move to Ann Arbor from rural Hemlock, Michigan.

Then came the bad news: his brother had no intention of telling their parents, because as Bobby put it, "he knew the money just wasn't there anymore, and that it wasn't realistic." The financial crisis had plunged the Stapleton family into severe debt. At this point, paying Michigan's modest (by college standards) $11,000 tuition for another child appeared unlikely. As his younger brother told their younger sister, Bobby recalled, "Things were just going to have to be different for the two of them."

Since that moment, Bobby and his older sisters have tirelessly searched for a way to change that fate. He has sought advice from older relatives who attended the university, met with members of its financial aid office, and explained his brother's situation to officials at the Michigan Education Trust, a statewide tuition payment program; all this in addition to a full class schedule and a dormitory dining-hall job that often keeps him at work until one or two in the morning. Still, Bobby wasn't about to give up. "I can truly say that being part of this university is one of the best things that's ever happened to me." He was, he swore, going to do everything he could to make sure that his brother and sister had that same opportunity.

Engines of Inequality

Welcome to the other crisis spreading quietly across the country: the crisis of college affordability. Talk to enough students and families on a college campus like the University of Michigan, where I'm a student, and you'll hear plenty of stories like Bobby Stapleton's -- of families scraping by in increasingly tough times as tuition bills rise, of students working second and third jobs, of newly minted graduates staggering into an ever more jobless world under the weight of tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt.

Over the past 30 years, the average cost of college tuition, fees, and room and board has increased nearly 100%, from $7,857 in 1977-1978 to $15,665 in 2007-2008 (in constant 2006-2007 dollars). Median household income, on the other hand, has risen a mere 18% over that same period, from about $42,500 to just over $50,000.

This crisis has been a long time coming, but bad times have brought it into clearer focus. In the past several decades, the cost of higher education has climbed at an astounding pace -- faster than the Consumer Price Index, faster even than the cost of medical care. Over the past 30 years, the average cost of college tuition, fees, and room and board has increased nearly 100%, from $7,857 in 1977-1978 to $15,665 in 2007-2008 (in constant 2006-2007 dollars). Median household income, on the other hand, has risen a mere 18% over that same period, from about $42,500 to just over $50,000. College costs, in other words, have gone up at more than five times the rate of incomes.

Simply to ensure that a child attends a four-year public university, a family in the country's lowest-income bracket now has to pay, on average, 55% of total income (up from 39% in 2000); for a middle-income family, the average is 25% (up from 18% in 2000); and for an upper-income family, 9% (up from 7%), according to "Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education" by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Similar figures hold for four-year private schools: In Missouri and Texas, almost 70% of family income is needed to pay college expenses for a four-year private school, after financial aid is included; in New York and Pennsylvania, it's nearly 90%.

Over the same decades, colleges and universities have stepped up competition for affluent students. As a result, many institutions have actually increased the amount of aid they pay out to higher-income students, and done so at a far faster rate than for lower-income students who obviously need it more.

"Engines of Inequality," a 2006 report by The Education Trust, a national education advocacy and policy organization, found that state flagship universities and a group of other major research universities spent $257 million in 2003 on financial aid for students from families earning more than $100,000 a year. Those same universities spent only $171 million on aid to students from families who made less than $20,000 a year. Similarly, between 1995 and 2003, according to the report, grant aid from the same public universities to students from families making $80,000 or more increased 533%, while grant aid to families making less than $40,000 increased only 120%.

"Indeed, the highest achieving students from high-income families -- those who earned top grades, completed the full battery of college prep courses, and took AP courses as well -- are nearly four times more likely than low-income students with exactly the same level of academic accomplishment to end up in a highly selective university," the report concluded.

The current financial meltdown, of course, only exacerbates this crisis in college affordability. With the national unemployment rate now at 8.1 percent and climbing -- 12% in hard-hit Michigan -- those still holding onto jobs often face scaled-back hours. Meanwhile, states weigh ever more severe cuts to education funding, universities watch as donations drop, and the largest university endowments record losses in the billions. Officials at Harvard University, with its higher-education-leading endowment valued at $36.9 billion, reported in December that they anticipate losses of 30%, or over $11 billion, this fiscal year.

Here at the University of Michigan, the financial crisis and its educational twin, the crisis of college affordability, are palpable. On a recent Saturday, I shared a couch at the campus union with Rachel Long, a sophomore and first-generation college student from Romeo, Michigan. The description she offered me of her "school" life was typical these days.

Long constantly juggles studying for her environmental studies program and helping her parents pay for her education. She already works spare hours at a local ice cream parlor and is considering teaching at a test prep center as well. Whatever it takes, she told me, to help her mom, a hairdresser, and dad, an electrician, pay for her future. "It weighs on my mind when I'm at work, or studying," she said. "I just see the numbers in my bank account decreasing and tuition prices increasing."

The longer this crisis continues, the more our four-year public and private colleges are likely to be transformed into "gated communities of higher education" (in the phrase of Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity) and engines of inequality. Meanwhile, for those priced out of the four-year college market, the job of education will be left to public community colleges with fast growing student bodies, the least funding, and the fewest class offerings, as well as overcrowded classrooms and faculties stretched to the breaking point.

How did college, once seen as an increasingly democratic path to advancement, become so expensive?

A Squeeze Play in Higher Education

At the heart of the modern American Dream has been access to affordable higher education. The G.I. Bill, passed in 1944, helped instill this belief by giving returning World War II veterans unprecedented amounts of financial aid for college and spurring one of the most prosperous eras in the past century.

In 1972, the federal government broke new educational ground by creating the non-repayable Pell Grant, awarded solely on the basis of a student's income and the amount of money his or her family could contribute to college costs. The Pell Grant advanced what the G.I. Bill had begun, greatly expanding access to colleges and universities for low-income individuals and families who otherwise couldn't afford it. From the later 1970s on, however, the access promised by the G.I. Bill and the Pell Grant has slowly slipped away.

Published in 2008 before the full force of the economic meltdown had hit, the "Measuring Up 2008" report graded states on the affordability of their colleges and universities based on the percentage of family income needed to pay for college, strategies available to increase affordability, and how much loan debt students take on. The result? It gave failing grades to a whopping 49 of the 50 states. With a "C-," California was the sole exception.

Colleges and universities have also undergone a dramatic shift in the kinds of financial aid they give out. Grants have been largely replaced by student loans issued by governments and private lenders. In the decade between the 1997-1998 and 2007-2008 academic years, student loans more than doubled -- from $41 billion to $85 billion -- and the number of students taking out those loans soared from 4,100,000 to 6,111,000, according to "Measuring Up 2008."

Between the 1992-1993 and 2003-2004 academic years, student borrowing rose by 89%, from an average of $3,884 to $7,336 per year. Meanwhile, grant aid lagged, increasing only 57% from $3,545 per year to $5,565, while the Pell Grant lost much of its purchasing power: In 1979, it paid for 75% of the cost of attending a four-year public college or university; today, only about 30%.

As with the Michigan Alternative Student Loan Program, state governments, facing budget deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have only deepened the affordability crisis by slashing or suspending lending programs. At the same time, hard-pressed public and private colleges are raising tuition costs.

Not surprisingly, hardest hit by the crisis are those who can least afford college to begin with, low-income families for whom the financial burden of education has increased fastest. According to "Measuring Up 2008," the lower-middle class and lowest income groups have seen the largest increases in percentages of income needed to pay college costs -- more than three to four times the increases experienced by higher income groups.

Even as access to college is dwindling, opinion polls indicate that more Americans believe a college education is essential to a successful, productive life, and that those without a degree will be left behind. Recent unemployment figures reflect that. Only 4.1% of those with a bachelor's degree or higher are, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployed at the moment.

An August 2008 poll by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found that the percentage of Americans who believe that "a college education is necessary for a person to be successful in today's work world" increased from 31% in 2000 to 50% in 2007. More than 60% of those polled believe, however, that "many people who are qualified don't have the opportunity to go to college," and that college expenses are increasing at an equal or faster rate than health care in this country. This is especially true among black and Hispanic parents, the poll found.

Between hopes and grim realities, students and families find themselves caught, as the poll's authors put it, in a higher education "squeeze play."

Leveling the Playing Field

How, then, to make college affordable again? With the education funding in the Obama administration's stimulus package and the proposed fiscal 2010 budget now before Congress, the Obama administration has made addressing the cost of higher education a national issue -- at the very moment when it also threatens to become a national scandal. Included in the two pieces of legislation are increases in the maximum value of Pell Grants and tuition tax credits, as well as programs to make aid more available to more colleges, and to create a $2.5 billion program to increase support for access to, and completion of, college (with a needed focus on low-income students).

The crisis of college affordability is too severe, however, for reinvestment at the federal level alone to make the difference. Need-based financial aid programs -- for instance, the University of Michigan's community college transfer program, which focuses on increasing access for high achieving, lower-income students at community colleges -- are no less crucial. Indeed, as more students enroll in less expensive, open admissions two-year colleges, hoping later to transfer to a four-year college, investing in this educational pipeline will increase affordability and accessibility for lower-income students.

What higher education leaders could also try, says Don Heller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State University, is more convincingly selling their message for increased education funding to state and federal lawmakers. "We need to try to sell the message that investments in post-secondary education don't just reap private returns for individuals but also social returns, or societal benefits," Heller said. "We need to do more to get that message out about societal returns. We need to reach the key people."

Speaking of reaching key people, when next I ran into Bobby Stapleton at a campus coffee shop, he was far more confident that his younger brother would make it to Ann Arbor. In the previous month, his parents' financial situation had improved, making it more likely that they could contribute toward tuition costs, and the state had finally agreed to come up with some financial assistance as well.

So his younger brother might just slip through the "squeeze" and into college. If, however, a serious, comprehensive effort isn't soon launched to address the mounting cost of higher education, Americans might emerge from economic disaster with their college and university system looking unrecognizably different and staggering numbers of potential students shut out of an education -- and a dream.


Andy Kroll is a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Michigan. His writing has appeared at the Nation.com, Alternet, CNN.com, CBSNews,com, and Truthout, among other places. He welcomes feedback, and can be reached at his website.

Copyright 2009 Andy Kroll

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission. Additional edifying comments and links can be found here on the Tom Dispatch site.



Copyright © 2009 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on April 2, 2009.

 



Public Service Ads:
Verifiable Voting in Maryland