College student debt across the country tripled in the last decade to $1.3 trillion. More than 70 percent of 2015 graduates had average loans of $35,000. One in 10 borrowers is delinquent. Why?
You already have read that college tuition has gone wild. Let me share some insights from what I discovered in my nine years as a trustee of Indiana University. Then I’ll also show how students residing in Indiana are being punished in an additional way.
Since my college days in 1960, even after adjusting for inflation, tuition at Indiana University Bloomington is now six times what it was then. It’s not just at IU; this is happening at colleges all across the country.
It’s happening because of the great pressure to raise money that presidents of all universities face. That pressure comes from two sources. First, the faculty considers the primary job of the president to be fund-raiser in chief. The faculty has its own system of governance, through faculty councils, and would just as soon ignore the president and trustees.
The second reason for the pressure on presidents to raise money is to use it to keep the rating of the university high in U.S. News and World Report and other ranking systems. Few believe such rankings are meaningful, but the president does not want alumni, students and faculty to find that the university has dropped a couple of slots. Money can buy some of the things used in the rating systems.
Unfortunately, high tuition is just one of the problems for college-bound students. Since I left the IU Board of Trustees, the number of students admitted who reside in this state has declined drastically. The student body in 1998 consisted of 72 percent Hoosiers. Now the number of Hoosiers in the freshman class has been reduced to 57 percent. Purdue has only 53 percent. The root of this evil is again money; this is happening at many universities. Tuition for in-state students is about $10,000 at IU Bloomington, but out-of-state students pay a very profitable $34,000. IU estimates that about $15,000 should be added to both figures to cover room and board, etc.
So universities have raised academic requirements to reduce the number of in-state students, and they have replaced them with the better-paying out-of-state students. How can educating fewer Hoosiers be a good thing in a state that ranks 43rd in citizens with college degrees?
So, fewer Hoosiers are being educated at IU Bloomington and Purdue West Lafayette, and they are paying considerably more money. The system is broken, and no one seems interested in fixing it.
Just a few words about law schools in case you know someone interested in becoming a lawyer. A law degree used to lead to a well-paid career. That’s now true for only the top of the graduating class. There is no longer a big demand for many lawyers just out of law school. A law school’s employment rate following graduation may look good, but many count jobs that don’t require legal knowledge (McDonald’s, anyone?).
In addition, the tuition at the IU Bloomington law school has, like undergraduate tuition, increased sixfold since I graduated. Worse yet, since law school base tuition is higher, the $34,000 tuition plus room, board and personal expenses will cost students $53,000 per year as estimated by IU Bloomington (note that there is some financial aid to many). It’s so bad that 44 percent of lawyers polled, including me, would not recommend law school to prospective students.
Whether undergrad or professional schools, universities have become big businesses looking at the bottom line, rather than being interested in getting Hoosiers into school and educating them at an affordable price.
Ray Richardson is a former state lawmaker who currently serves as Hancock County attorney. Send comments to email@example.com.