Friday, December 9, 2011

OWS, Student Debt, Tuition Increases and Tuition Free Colleges

Higher tuition, more student loans, and greater access to higher education…what do we do? The Occupy Wall Streeters (OWS) say they are not going to repay student loans and are demonstrating on college and university campuses.  In today’s Inside Higher Ed daily updates, there is an article about how their energy might be misplaced.  This article argues that college and university administrator’s hands are tied because states are cutting funding to higher education and students are demanding quality student services and education.  They are feeling that their only or best choice is to raise tuition and fees, which ultimately increases the debt burden for college graduates.

According to there are 10 colleges and university with $0 tuition.  Yes that is right, $0.00 in tuition.  Perhaps we should look at these institutions to see if we can apply some best practices to reduce the cost of higher education.  Many require students to work on campus.  College of the Ozarks nicknamed “Hardwork U” requires 15 hours/week of work from the student to graduate tuition-free.  Berea College offers every student a full-tuition scholarship and a laptop computer while attending Berea and work-study to offset food, room and board.

Higher education is not free.  It is expensive to pay for buildings, professors, administrators, support staff, research and everything that makes college “the best years of your life.”  So the question is how do we lower the cost of higher education without additional taxes and reduced quality of education and services?

My answer is YOU!  Did you graduate from college?  Did you benefit from college?  If so, it is time to give back.  You can give back to a specific scholarship, start a scholarship, name a building or give to the general fund.  You can ask anyone who asks for donation, the amount is not important, but it is important that you get in the habit of giving.  We are all at different places in our financial lives, so whether you give $1 or $100 million, just give. This holiday season, think about giving your college or university a gift.  Contact your alumni association or foundation to see how you can help reduce the cost of higher education and designate your money to the area where you believe it would do the most good.

If you value higher education, and if our society values higher education, we need to put our money where our mouth is and give back.  College and university administrators, faculty and staff — You have a huge responsibility to do as your donors wish and be good stewards of the resources you are charged with managing.  That not only includes the fiscal responsibility, but the education you provide in the classroom and the support services in housing, recreational services and every service to the students. You are charged with providing the highest quality education and experience at a reasonable price.

I hope you have a happy holiday and take time to reflect on your personal values and where your money goes.  I’ve always said, “If you want to see what people really value, look at their checkbook and see where they spend their money.”  I hope your values and your checkbook are in agreement.

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