Colleges are losing pricing power

After years of relentless tuition hikes, many colleges and universities are facing a backlash and more students and parents are looking at value. They don’t want to be stuck with outrageous student loans, and now many private colleges are offering record financial aid to keep classrooms full.

Movement for $10,000 college degree

The value of a college education has been a hot topic, along with the issue of the college loan crisis. With that backdrop, we’re starting to see some momentum behind the movement for what’s being called the $10,000 college degree.

With the cost of going to college already more than $30,000 a year at many California campuses, is it possible to earn a bachelor’s degree for just $10,000 – total?

Assemblyman Dan Logue hopes so.

Borrowing an idea being promoted by Republican governors in Texas and Florida, the Republican Assemblyman from Linda has introduced a bill that would create a pilot program in California for what he’s billing as a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. The degree would be available to students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math disciplines.

Assembly Bill 51 calls for closer coordination between high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses and targets three regions for the pilot: Chico, Long Beach and Turlock. Participating students would earn some college credit in high school through Advanced Placement classes and greater access to community college courses. The bill calls for participating community college students to go to school full-time. CSU campuses, moreover, would be required to freeze tuition for those in the program.

Tuition at CSU right now is $5,472 a year. Books and campus fees cost another roughly $2,000 annually. A statement from Logue said his proposed $10,000 degree would include textbooks. It does not cover living expenses such as room and board.

You’ll note that it’s governors in Texas and Florida, both Republicans, who have started this movement, and it is being embraced by prominent conservatives. I would suspect that Democrats would happily go along, so this could be a significant bi-partisan movement.

Dealing with rising college costs

The issue of rising college costs is a hot topic these days, as young students and families grapple with the issue of how to pay for a college education. Too many young people are saddled with crippling college debt, and as this has gained more attention, it has certainly focused the minds of many Americans as they weigh their options.

Universities are reacting as well, and some of the trends are very promising. Davidson College has created an innovative no-loan policy.

“When I got my acceptance letter and my tuition bill, it told us that everything was mostly paid for,” she recalls. “I had heard something about Davidson’s no-loan policy, but it didn’t make sense because it sounded too good to be true. My mom was like, ‘This can’t be right. We need to go talk to them.’ ” The admission counselor explained that, because of the Davidson Trust, the school was able to cover 100 percent of demonstrated need without loans. Her mother cried. “At the time, I felt kind of embarrassed. When we walked back to my car, she said, ‘I’m so happy. I feel like I should make [the counselor] something.’ ”

Other schools like Harvard are also making it much easier for students to get grants instead of loans in order to lower the student debt burden. Families and students need to do their research, and you have to factor in costs and debt into your decision. Otherwise students will have this debt hanging over them for much of their careers.

You can read more about the student debt crisis and the value of a college education versus the costs here, here and here.

Read all of these materials, and you’ll be much more prepared for the decisions you’ll have to make.

The crippling cost of college

One of the themes we keep emphasizing has to do with the crippling costs of a college education today in America. Sure, college campuses are much nicer with all the new buildings and new technologies, but they are failing in their basic mission if students leave there with massive student debt that will hang over them for the rest of their lives.

More publications are doing good work discussing these problems. In Newsweek, Megan McArdle asks whether college is a lousy investment.

Why are we spending so much money on college?

And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it?

The answer, I fear, is that it’s not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus.

Given the costs, it’s hard to argue with her on this point. She discusses how college was critical for many families in building a better life for the next generation. But sitting on an English degree with $150,000 of debt seems like a pretty bad deal.

That said, we can’t overreact to the current economic conditions. When the economy improves, more of these kids will get jobs with their degrees.

Yet something has to give, and it was very encouraging to hear President Obama challenge colleges to slow down tuition inflation.

Also, the future of free college courses looms on the horizon. Universities would be wise to start figuring out how to lower costs, or they might really have a problem in the future.

Start-ups offer free college education

The cost of college tuition is skyrocketing, so it’s not surprising that some entrepreneurs are trying to fill the void.

Technology start-ups are cracking into the higher education market and there pitch is an enticing one: A college education for anyone at almost no cost.

Sound to good to be true? The founders of tech start-ups behind this revolutionary idea say they have already had success with their models, but they say there needs to be more momentum if their idea is to succeed.
“The 99% should be protesting college campuses,” says Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford University artificial intelligence professor, who recently co-founded Udacity, a technology start-up dedicated to providing higher education at a very low cost.

Two companies doing this are Udemy and Udacity. The new trend is self-education with all of the tools out there, including free lectures on iTunes and Khan Academy.

Smart employers will start to figure this out as well, and I suspect in the future we’ll see job applicants will put a Self-Education section on their resumes. It shows initiative and prospective employers can always quiz applicants on what they learned for verification.

The value of your major in college

This is a very controversial topic. What should you have in mind when choosing a college major?

On the one hand, it’s very important to study something you enjoy. If you do that you will likely excel or at least do better, and then you can think about how to turn that degree into a career. If you love English or History, this thinking says you should pursue these majors.

On the other hand, particularly if you’re taking out big loans, to what extent is it important to study something that will lead to an actual career? Majors like engineering and accounting come to mind.

This article examines the topic from the perspective of turning your major into a career.

The student might say, “English,” “psychology,” “political science” or “engineering.”

And then, in my mind, after factoring in some other information, I say to myself “job” or “no job,” depending on the major.

An English major with no internships or any plan of what she might do with the major to earn a living? No job.

A political science major with no internships that could lead to a specific job opportunity? No job, I think.

Engineering major with three relevant internships in the engineering field? Ding. Ding. We have a winner. Job.

Read the entire article.

In one sense, it tilts too far to the career area. Yet it brings up an important point. Too many college students have no idea how they can earn a living after college, and WAY too many of them are taking out huge loans and then selecting majors that will make it very difficult for them to repay those loans whiles earning a living.

The bottom line is that all factors have to be considered. I think it’s important that college students pursue an education. College has to be much more than just a vocational program.

Yet you have to have common sense. Maybe you can get that English degree at a great public university instead of a small liberal arts school that costs $50,000 per year. This way if you decide that grad school makes sense for your career after you get that English or History degree, you’ll be in a much better position financially to make that decision.

How to Compare Colleges

One of the first things to consider when creating a targeted list of colleges is budget. If you plan to finance your education through loans and/or income from a full or part-time job, this will help narrow your search significantly. Many colleges offer grants and scholarships, so be sure to include these types of schools on your your list—even if the tuition is beyond your budget. If you want to find out about grants and scholarship programs, visit Just about every college website also lists grant, loan, and scholarship program information. Go to each website’s financial aid section for details.

After you have considered your budget, price, and the type of financial aid each college on your list offers, it’s time to think about location. Do you plan to live on campus? In state or out of state? Do you prefer to commute? Once you have decided on a location, this should eliminate a good number of schools on your list. At this point, comparing colleges should be somewhat easy, but an even shorter list will make comparing colleges even easier.

To trim the list to just a few, consider your career path. What do you plan to major in? Engineering? Literature? Architecture? Not all schools offer all programs, so this will help shorten your list to just a select few colleges. If you are unsure about your location, major, and price, you can still compare colleges using the comparison criteria below.

Comparing Colleges

Now that you have your shortlist ready, it’s time to compare colleges. A good way to keep things organized is to use the following comparison criteria:

-Admission Procedures and Requirements
-Campus Life
-Cost and Financial Aid
-Type of School

Admission Procedures and Requirements
The admission procedures and requirements for any given college discusses the percentage of students accepted. This will tell you how competitive the college is. You will also find out whether an interview and/or essay is required, and any SAT and ACT requirements. The school website will usually list the minimum acceptable SAT and ACT scores.

Campus Life
This information is also located on the school’s website and will tell you whether or not the school is in an urban, suburban, or rural setting. This section also includes enrollment figures, so you’ll know what to expect regarding class size, male/female ratio, etc.

Cost and Financial Aid
Cost and financial aid information covers tuition and fee information for both in-state and out-of-state students. It will also list costs for room and board or room only.

Location is all you need to determine whether you’ll have to commute, live on campus, or relocate to another state.

Type of School
The type of school affects price, financial aid, grant offerings, scholarship programs, and more. For example, private colleges cost more than public colleges, and public colleges offer more breaks on tuition than private colleges do.

When comparing colleges, the best place to find the most reliable and up-to-date information about any given college is the school’s official website. For a directory of colleges visit

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