There are starting to be some stories breaking about what may be the single greatest crisis facing education and our society — college. The recent stories in the New York Times about the rising cost of college, the pieces in the Philadelphia Inquirer about scholarships being cut and the poor student-counselor ratio in Philly schools and the inevitable ramification of the credit crisis on student loans suggest that we are headed to a major crisis of higher education.
From the NY Times piece:
There are any number of reasons to be concerned about this. According to Infoplease, the difference in median income between a man with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in 2004 was $20,000. But more than that, college represents more than that — it represents both an academic and economic signpost and we cannot go back to a time in this country when it was an option only for the elite.
And I do mean elite. I worry about this now for the students of SLA, but I also worry about this for Jakob and Theo. In the time since I have been out of college, the cost of private colleges has more than doubled. If we see a similar rise, my alma mater will cost over $100,000 a year, which — unless education administration sees a dramatic rise in salary (ha!), that will consume the vast majority of my salary… and there could be at least two years when both Jakob and Theo are in college together. And while urban high school principals have never been the top of the pay scale in this country, there are certainly a lot of people who make a lot less than I do.
And the problem is that there isn’t a great answer here. The credit crisis will make it harder and harder for students to get loans for college, and the increased costs of college means that even for the ones who get loans will be saddled with masive debt when they do graduate, which isn’t a great way to start one’s adult life.
I don’t know where this ends, honestly. I don’t know why we’ve seen the kind of rise in college tuition that is so out of proportion to the rest of the economics of our country. I don’t know how we continue to hold college out as the gatekeeper to a middle-class adulthood, and I don’t know how it could be when a generation of kids start their life hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt — and that’s assuming that they can still get the loans.