Sunday, May 22, 2011


Runaway tuition: A challenge for students, parents and schools

Iowa's two largest universities expect to pocket millions of dollars in extra tuition revenue next fiscal year, with the vast majority going to pay for additional faculty, programs aimed at lowering dropout rates and other student services, officials said.

That decision comes as the cost of earning a four-year degree in Iowa at a public university continues a steep march upward and pushes students to take on more debt, which, at $26,066 per graduating student, is the fourth-highest average in the country.
In the past 30 years, the average cost of tuition and fees at an Iowa public university has jumped 707 percent, more than four times the rate of inflation. College costs have increased each of the past 30 years for students and their families.

Meanwhile, a new survey shows families and students saddled with rising tuition and debt, stagnant wages and an uncertain job market are questioning whether a traditional college education is their ticket to the American dream.
Some universities are trying to respond to the converging forces with innovative classroom approaches and three-year degree programs.

But the question - should extra tuition revenue go back to students or stay with the universities? - represents the high-stakes challenge facing higher education.

"Why not give it to the students and their parents?" asked former Iowa Board of Regents member Michael Gartner, who in March voted against increasing tuition and room and board fees at the state's three universities for the 2011-12 academic year. "They're the ones who have all the debt. The universities have shown they can live with the cuts."
Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City said he would be interested in learning by how much tuition could be reduced if a portion of the money were returned to students.

"When we have more than was projected, all should share in that excess, in my opinion," he said.

But the Board of Regents would need to approve any return of tuition money already collected from students. Board President David Miles said the board could consider doing so, but he would prefer to use the money to maintain academic quality.
"Right now I wouldn't be very excited about it, because that extra tuition isn't for nothing," Miles said. "A good portion needs to go to educating that student."

Three out of four say most can't afford college

Americans are reassessing what they get for their tuition dollars.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center say the higher education system does not provide a good value for the money they spend, and 75 percent say college is too expensive for most Americans to afford, according to findings released last week.
"We're nearing some sort of threshold," said Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University who warned that universities risk pricing low-income Americans out of higher education.

Salaries make up the largest portion of universities' budgets - typically around 40 percent - so calls to trim waste often center on increasing faculty efficiency, along with slashing administrative budgets.

Vedder said the quickest step universities can take to lower undergraduate tuition is to increase the teaching loads of professors. Not filling open positions, for example, would require faculty to gradually increase teaching levels over time, he said.
But he and other higher education experts say that universities and colleges must dramatically change how they teach, operate and finance degree programs.

Ideas include linking public funding to graduation rates, abolishing the college lecture as the sole delivery system of information, offering three-year bachelor's degrees and encouraging governments to provide college savings accounts for everyone entering public schools.

Cutting expenses such as administrative costs, though, can only go so far, the experts say. Even the few universities that did not increase administrative costs in the past 15 years tended to increase tuition rates above the rate of inflation, according to research by Jay Greene, a political science professor at University of Arkansas who heads that school's Department of Education Reform.
"Right now we're just talking about slowing the rate of increase," he said.

Calculating the schools' extra tuition revenue

How much extra tuition revenue have Iowa's public universities wound up with?

For the current fiscal year, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa will take in $7.6 million more in tuition than officials estimated when a 6 percent tuition increase was approved in February 2010.
The excess amounts to about $104 per student.

For next fiscal year, university officials estimated in March they would take in about $51.1 million in tuition revenue with a 5 percent increase in tuition rates.

Since then, higher-than-expected student enrollment and retention means the U of I is projected to receive about $7 million "in tuition revenues that we had not counted on, or had expected," according to university spokesman Tom Moore.

ISU Provost Elizabeth Hoffman said enrollment at the Ames university was also expected to be above projections. However, Hoffman did not have an estimate on how much more money that would mean for ISU.
University of Northern Iowa officials said tuition revenues were expected to be close to original projections.

Returning money to students isn't unprecedented. In April 2010, then-Gov. Chet Culver signed a bill that returned $6 million to students after the state landed federal stimulus money. The amount refunded was $100 per student - the same as an emergency surcharge assessed to help cover state budget cuts.

ISU's Hoffman defended the current decision to spend most of the extra tuition money to bolster academic programs.
A 20 percent cut in state funding in the past two fiscal years - $141 million - has resulted in tuition increases and cost cutting in the form of increased class sizes and fewer faculty and staff members at Iowa's three public universities. Only two states handed down deeper cuts than Iowa, according to Board of Regents data.

Despite this, tuition remains low when compared with peer research universities, Hoffman said. ISU and the U of I both charge the second-lowest tuition among 11 comparable institutions, which includes flagship public universities in Illinois, Minnesota and Arizona.
In addition, the universities set aside 21 percent of all tuition money for merit and need-based scholarships.

"I think we have eased the burden for students," Hoffman said of tuition rates. "I don't think it's appropriate to say we have quite a bit of money left over."

How college costs keep pinching family budgets

The affordability of Iowa's public universities has significantly declined in the past decade, a period in which the tuition significantly increased, according to a state report issued last fall by the Legislative Services Agency.
Since the late 1990s, the percentage of family income needed to pay for college expenses at Iowa's public four-year institutions - even after financial aid - increased from 23 to 33 percent, according to a 2008 report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in California.

That the Pew research shows Americans question the value of an advanced education is astounding, because college remains a good investment, said David Feldman, an economics professor at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
"The worry about the debt people take out is completely overblown," Feldman said. "As an investment, higher education is a slam dunk."

The typical Iowa student graduates with $200 to $300 of monthly college loan payments, usually repaid over 10 years, he said. In return, college graduates will earn an average of $19,550 more per year than someone with only a high school diploma, according to newly-released census figures.

Many college graduates recognize this advantage, even as they say college is unaffordable. The Pew survey found 86 percent of college graduates called their degree a good investment.
State government gets more, education gets less

As students and parents have been asked to pay more for tuition, the amount of state money used to educate students at Iowa's public universities has plummeted over the past 30 years.

In 1981, state money accounted for 77 percent of the universities' budgets. This year, that number dipped below 40 percent, according to Board of Regents figures.

Over the past decade, funds for state government have grown by 28 percent, while money appropriated for public universities has been cut 24 percent, according to board figures.
This reflects a national shift in attitude toward viewing higher education as a private good and not a public one, university officials in Iowa and the nation said.

"It all comes back again to, for whatever reason, the states seem to no longer realize that an educated population is just as much of a public good as highways or other kinds of civic infrastructure," said James Duderstadt, former president and current science and engineering professor at University of Michigan.
Duderstadt, who proposed several reforms in a March report, believes universities must convince people of the value of higher education as a public good in order to increase state funding.

But with states burdened by aging populations, public colleges and universities shouldn't expect significantly more money for about the next 30 years, he said.

Can schools solve budget problems through cuts?

The University of Michigan, which has become a largely a privately funded university, serves as a national model for those who advocate slashing administrative staff.
Hit hard by a recession before the national economic downturn, Michigan has decreased state funding to only 7 percent of the university's total budget. This forced the state's flagship school to cut costs and aggressively pursue research grants.

The result? Between 1993 and 2007, the University of Michigan kept tuition increases well below the national average, and reduced administrative staff by 5.5 percent, according to a report Greene published in August for the Goldwater Institute.
"I think most state university administrators, in honest moments, will tell you that this is where they're headed," said Greene, the University of Arkansas professor.

Schools nationwide, on average, increased administrative staff - defined as all professional positions not in teaching and research - by 39 percent.

But Greene's research, which is based on self-reported federal data, also shows that Iowa State reduced its administrative costs even more than Michigan, while the University of Iowa increased its costs at slightly less than the national average.
Even so, Iowa regents such as Downer and Bruce Rastetter, who joined the board this month, have said more efficiencies can be found in duplication of programs, purchasing and services.

Some of these recommendations were made by a regents task force in February, but no action has been taken on the items, Downer said.

"I think we really need to get serious about this and focus our resources in directions that will achieve the greatest benefits for our students," he said.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Miss NY Visit

The Miss America Organization as a scholarship program is the number one provider of scholarship to young women.  As a supporter of the encouragement of our youth to achieve their dreams, I am honored to be a representative of this program. 

It was my honor to have had the opportunity to introduce the children in my after school program to Miss New York 2011, Claire Buffie.  Claire was able to visit my program and speak to my students about equality, self-respect, and kindness.  My students immediately fell in love and were bragging throughout the school for the next two weeks. 

Thank you Claire for visiting our school and inspiring us to achieve our dreams!

Career Exploration Week

Beside the crazy life I live as Miss Fulton County I am also a coordinator of an after school program.  While I work with my students, I spend a lot of time discussing with them their ideas of the future and what they would like to have as a career.  In these conversations, I have learned so much about the children and the lives which they live outside of my program.  Our discussions on their career goals have prompted the program to hold a career week.  I want to help my students learn to dream of a career which they would like to have.  From nursing to personal training, we will be having a variety of careers represented.  Our career week will be held May 23 to the 27.  Check back to see how it went!  Pictures will follow!

Food for Thought....

What do you think?

Higher education: Right or privilege?
Michelle Singletary

For many families, the cost of higher education is out of reach, while others can manage it only if they take on debt that could take decades to pay off.

President Obama, meanwhile, has lofty goals for higher education. In his first joint address to Congress, in 2009, the president said that the United States should “once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

Higher education -- right or privilege?

To be first again, the Education Department says, 60 percent of young adults would have to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree by 2020. That means 8 million more young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 would have to earn their degrees.

“Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma,” Obama said.

But how are families going to achieve this when the sticker price for a college education has roughly tripled since 1980 in inflation-adjusted dollars?

To reach Obama’s goal, we have to decide, as a matter of public policy, whether college is a right or a privilege.

In the United States, graduates who received a bachelor’s degree in 2008 borrowed 50 percent more (in inflation-adjusted dollars) than their counterparts who graduated in 1996, according to a report released last year by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project.

Among borrowers, the average debt for recipients of bachelor’s degrees increased 36 percent, from $17,075 in 1996 to $23,287 in 2008. But that average borrowing figure masks the pain felt by many students and graduates. We know many are strapped with an oppressive amount of debt that requires them to stretch payments out for 20 to 30 years. We’ve come to expect high debt for students getting medical or legal training because there’s a promise of high salaries. Increasingly, however, students with no promise of six-figure salaries are accumulating loans with six-figure balances.

So here we are in graduation season, and two studies released this week by Pew provide insight on what people think about the cost of college. One survey polled the general public, including graduates. The other, in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, surveyed the presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public and for-profit colleges and universities.
In the general-public poll, 75 percent of respondents said college is just too expensive. Among respondents 18 to 34 who did not have a bachelor’s degree and aren’t enrolled in school, 48 percent said they couldn’t afford a college education.

The cost is making people wonder whether college is worth it. In the survey of the general public, a majority of respondents said they don’t believe the higher-education system is providing students with good value for the money.

Among all survey respondents who took out college loans and are no longer in school, about half said that
paying back the loan has made it harder to make ends meet, 25 percent said it has made it difficult to buy a home, 24 percent said it has had an impact on the kind of career they are pursuing, and 7 percent said they have delayed getting married or starting a family.

Even a majority of college presidents said most people cannot afford a college education today.
So if it’s in the best interest of the country to educate people so they can qualify for better-paying jobs, who should foot the college bill?

College presidents overwhelmingly said that students and their families should pay the largest share of the cost of a college education. The public doesn’t agree, with only 48 percent favoring this approach to footing the bill. The majority believes the federal government, states, private donations and endowments, or some combination of the four, should cover the cost.

Had it not been for a full scholarship to college, I could not have afforded to go without borrowing. My degree and lack of student debt have helped elevate not just my personal financial standing but also that of many in my family.

There are those who will decry even asking if college is a right or a privilege. Nonetheless, the question must be asked and answered.

If going to college is a right and vital to our nation’s economic standing, then government will have to do more to make it affordable for all. If it’s a privilege, only the nation’s wealthiest families will one day be able to send their children to college. Or are we damning a large percentage of our citizens to burdensome student loans, leaving them to conclude college isn’t worth it?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My name is Kieren Sheridan and I am a college student. My path to college success was not always easy. Finances, home struggles and lack of resources were among the challenges I had to overcome along the way. However from a very young age my parents imparted a strong belief to me that college was a necessary goal in order to have options for achieving success in my life. My objective is to help others to realize how a college degree can have a dramatic impact on their future and show them how they can achieve this regardless of their current circumstances.

In order to reach a wide audience of current and future college students I have recorded an informational video based on my own college experiences that can be viewed right here.

It is imperative that students understand that the outcome of receiving a college degree justifies overcoming the obstacles along the way. I would like to help today’s youth realize their potential through the benefits of higher education. As a student I understand that the process of college application can be daunting, to say the very least. From applying to schools, filing for financial aid, and obtaining student loans, it’s easy to see why potential students would give up before they have even completed the process. Then once attending their institution of education, students are overwhelmed by the changes they are experiencing from homesickness to peer pressure. This is particularly true of students without a strong support network at home, or for students without parents or relatives who are familiar with the college application process. During my visits to classrooms and conversations with students I have found that many potential college students feel there is a lack of information easily available to them regarding the application process. Some do not have a full understanding of how their personal and academic life can be affected by the decision to pursue higher education. In an effort to empower current and future college students to succeed and value higher education, I am currently implementing several cost-free, easily accessible resources for students to help them along their journey, including the video you can view right here.
My goal is to reach young people and make the prospect of career selection or college attendance less daunting while encouraging them to lay a strong foundation for the rest of their education by keeping good attendance and involving themselves fully in both academics and extracurricular activities. I believe building bonds between college role models, close in age to the high school students they are mentoring, will encourage more relevant conversations, as opposed to the typical “lecture” approach. These college mentors will provide students with both advice and the opportunity to be heard. I am currently entering high schools to speak with students about the importance of higher education and also learn what their personal experiences have been with the college process. I hope to provide students with the tools to encourage and empower them to realize and achieve their goals.

I currently hold the position of Miss Fulton County and am utilizing that title to take my current efforts to a higher level. With the support of the Miss Fulton County Organization, I plan to grow my program by reaching out to the middle and high schools throughout the entire state. I also want to reach out to administrators to learn about their accomplishments, areas of concern and ways I can help them expand their efforts to help students meet the goal of higher education. As a representative of the Miss America Organization I am proud of the scholarship opportunities that are available to promote higher education. Sharing these opportunities with people across New York will allow me to continue encouraging our youth to overcome struggles and celebrate their accomplishments while achieving their goals for success.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”-Nelson Mandela