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Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:38 PM

Bloomberg says college costs aren't really increasing

The inflation-adjusted net price of college has risen only modestly over the last two decades, according to data from the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges. ... At four-year public universities, the average sticker price for tuition and fees has risen 127 percent in real terms, from $3,810 in 1992 to $8,660 in this academic year. But only $990 of this $4,850 increase in sticker price, or 20 percent, is due to increases in net cost. The remaining 80 percent is price discrimination. ... In other words, the cost burden of college has become significantly more progressive since the 1990s. Students from wealthier families not only now pay more for their own educations but also have come to heavily subsidize the costs of the less fortunate.

From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-27/misconceptions-101-why-college-costs-aren-t-soaring.html

If real inflation-adjusted net tuitions and fees aren't increasing, or increasing only modestly, and the same is true for room and board, then why is student debt load so high?

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Reply Bloomberg says college costs aren't really increasing (Original post)
salvorhardin Dec 2012 OP
Turbineguy Dec 2012 #1
graham4anything Dec 2012 #2
Igel Dec 2012 #3

Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:34 PM

1. The water isn't rising.

The ship is sinking.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:54 PM

2. re:Title of tread. Evan Soltas is the writer writing at the blog, NOT Bloomberg the person


there is a major difference.

This has NOTHING to do with Mike Bloomberg himself.

Same as MSNBC has Rev. Sharpton but also Joe Scarborough Unfair
one can't say MSNBC says
It depends WHO on MSNBC said it

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:06 PM

3. Innumeracy is a bad thing.

You're given a fact: "More college loan debt than ever before." You see that it's increasing. You see that tuitions have increased.

So when somebody comes along and gives the simplistic answer, "Debt's increasing because tuitions have increased" you assume that the person's saying "debt's increasing entirely because tuitions have increased."

Now, the first statement is true--debt is increasing because tuition's increased. The second is patently false.

A lot of places with high enrollment have had increases in tuition. That increases debt.

However, college debt tends to be long-term. You get it and you pay it down over 20 or 30 years. So when this year's cohort is paying off 29-year-old debt, they're paying off the debt incurred by the set of students who needed student loans 29 years ago at 29-year-ago tuition rates.

When this year's students take out loans, that's debt incurred by this year's set of students needing loans paying today's tuition rates.

Let's look at each part of that, starting with the obvious first: tuition rates. Even if you just include inflation, that's 29 year's of inflation and CPI increases. Ignore the fact that a lot of equipment needs replacing and the current batch isn't just more expensive because of inflation but qualitatively different. Or that 29 years ago was a severe recession and the baby boom folk were pretty much out of school so school's didn't need to build like they do now.

Then consider that tuition's increased faster than inflation not because of greedy schools but because there have been few productivity gains in college teaching. If you taught 4 classes 30 years ago, you teach 4 classes today. If you had a 300-person lecture, two 50-person upper division classes, and a 20-person grad seminar, you still have 420 students.

But look at the first part--the "set of students." The students in 1983 were far more well-off than today's. They were better prepared in many ways. They often worked or had parents who helped with tuition. And most importantly, there were far fewer of them. Even if tuition remained the same, even if students had all the same perks and benefits, the amount of student debt would have skyrocketed. All the increase in student body growth in the last 29 years adds to the debt.

Then pitch in the minor detail that more students attend 5 years or 6 years instead of 4, for an increase of 20 or 40%. Include the fact that graduate school enrollment has boomed. That means instead of 4 (or 5, or 6) years of bachelors, you add in two or more years of master's and PhD education.

Let's not even consider all the part-time and certification-related student debt, or the "for profit" training that a lot of people take out loans for. I spent $ getting cross-trained to teach, for example.

Or we can look at the growth in majors that don't have clear career paths. That history degree did more 29 years ago than it does now. 29 years ago you'd get a job and could pay down debt faster. Now, that's less likely.

There's also a shift in values and calcuations as to how fast to pay down debt. A lot of people I knew in the early '80s hated debt. Some clever folk realized they could leverage their student loans and get higher mutual fund interest. Most just wanted to pay it down--any interest paid is unnecessary interest. Now it's just a question of "how much do I have to pay each month?"

Looking at the total student loan debt is fairly pointless. It's good for scaring people. Producing outrage. Look at inflation-adjusted average student debt as a better gauge, but even then that includes both tuition increase, college choice (some are pricier than others and always have been), length of stay in college and target degree (BA, MA, JD, PhD), choice of careers. Still not so simple. Outrage tends to be incompatible with complexity.

Asking the question, Then why is student debt load so high?" is a good starting point if it's conceding ignorance of the point and not substituting for a conclusion.

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