Real Relief From College Debt (Opinion)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The University of Connecticut men's basketball team has brought much glory to the university and the state, but academically, it's a disgrace. Given six years to earn a four-year degree, a national low 11 percent of players from 2002 to 2006 graduated, the school admits.

In 2005-06, in-state students paid about $8,000 for tuition and fees, plus an average of $13,000 for room and board and miscellaneous expenses, to attend the Storrs main campus. Since then, UConn's price has risen to $11,400, plus more than $14,000 in expenses, but officials have never crowed louder about the school being one of the best public universities in America and an enormous bargain.

The quality claim, it turns out, is largely damning with faint praise, while the 60 percent of this year's freshman who can expect to graduate in four years will pay more than $100,000 for their diplomas and on average will be burdened with tens of thousands in student-loan debt.

This semester, 10 state-run colleges in Texas are exploiting technology and no-frills approaches to begin offering full bachelor's degrees in chemistry, computer science, geology, information systems and mathematics to in-state students for just under $10,000; until now, those diplomas cost upward of $27,000 for tuition and fees. Thomas Lindsay, director the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Higher Education, is among the movement's leading proponents:

"The deficiencies in higher education's business model have become manifest: In the last three decades, college tuitions have risen 440 percent," or twice as fast as health-care costs, while "student loan debt has followed the same upward arc; today (it) stands at $1 trillion — more than total national credit-card debt."

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