5 May 2012
Why is it that so many people offer students straight talk about stuff that they can get straight talk about anywhere, but not about stuff they can’t?
Sex? It’s the best sales tools in history, as my Grade 7 teacher pointed out in 1962. Aren’t we all overwhelmed with straight talk about sex from the marketplace?
Here’s some straight talk you won’t hear from the student loan industry: A student loan is just as likely to get you a debt you can’t shed as it is to get you a job. All too many students graduate and then go back to living with their parents.
Like nothing ever happened in their lives since they graduated from Grade Eight.
Except for one thing: They have contracted a huge debt, including credit card debt. That couldn’t happen to eighth graders—and isn’t the way post-grad life was supposed to be.
Why is life happening this way? There are lots of reasons, and we will unpack them in instalments.
But let’s drive by one issue: the vast increase in administration, sometimes called administrative bloat.
We are told that:
Since the 1970s, Ginsberg notes, the number of administrative staffers has risen by 235 percent, while the number of faculty and students has increased by only about 50 percent.
I have no way of knowing whether those administrators are doing a good job.
But here is a fact worth knowing: Student loans enable universities to vastly increase their operating expenses, without an immediate marketplace penalty. The administration is the true beneficiary, not the student.
When I attended a university in Canada, in 1968–1971, I paid about $8 a week for a room off campus and about $10 a week for food. (In those days, the Canadian dollar was about 75¢ U.S.) I had few other expenses, and worked in the campus library for the lot of them. I even saved money for my wedding.
That was not because we had no possible causes of division: We had one of the biggest programs in Canada for Caribbean-origin students from the other British commonwealth countries. But there were few race-related incidents.
People had a high view of the university. Anyone who would perpetrate such an incident would have been regarded as an ignorant fool who shouldn’t be at a university anyway. And that is no different from how the armed forces of America think today, on race issues.
The basic message here is: If you choose to take on debt for an education, think carefully about what you are paying for. How much of the debt is helping you with your goals, and how much is just maintaining an institution?
Next: How important are credentials for what you want to do, and why?