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Tuition Fees and Student Loan Debt: A Shock?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by overedge, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. madm

    madm Well-Known Member

    Wow, as a retired technical writer who worked 30 years (4 teaching tech journalism at a university and 22 working for a major computer company), I can't tell you how valuable good writing and critical thinking skills are!!! Some of my former writing students (tech majors who were required to take a tech writing course) became managers at my tech company, and one commented to me about how valuable his tech writing course was to his career. He spent 50% or more of his time writing memos/proposals/email/etc. and doing presentations. As an undergrad, he never dreamed his job would involve so much writing. He couldn't have gotten where he is today without good writing skills. Communication is everything in the professional working world.

    I interviewed many job applicants throughout my career, and I learned a lot about each person through their resume and cover letter as well as writing samples and answers to difficult questions (esp. behavioral interview questions). If an applicant can't speak and write clearly, they won't get hired by any reputable company. IMO students who attend liberal arts colleges, where more writing is required than in large public universities, fare better in professional companies than do students who excel at taking multiple choice exams. The key to getting a job these days is not so much a factor of where you went to school but more a factor of what job experiences you've had (e.g. internships) and who you know (professional contacts open doors to job leads).

    P.S. My personal philosophy about the purpose of college is to teach you how to think. Everyone needs good problem solving skills to succeed in life. And since no one works in a vacuum, everyone also needs excellent communication skills.
  2. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    Um, as a person who has a degree in technical writing, among others, and teaches courses in that, among other things, I value good writing.

    But if employers valued good writing, they would hire writers and pay them well, and they do not. And technical writers are among the first to get laid off. The employment stats are lousy for professional writers.

    This is not to say that employers don't value people who can write well; writing by itself, however, isn't high on most priority lists. It's something you do in addition to your primary job.

    When did this become some sort of either/or, where one either goes to a small liberal arts college or is doomed to four useless years of multiple choice exams? :confused:

    Again, I am talking about DEBT.
  3. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    When I was doing my research on colleges, I ran across Kalamazoo College. I had never heard of it before. Apparently you have to have really high grades to get in, and from talking to people it is a really good school.

    That said, how can anybody think tuition and room and board totalling $45,000 a year for a small college in Michigan is worth it?
  4. madm

    madm Well-Known Member

    Sorry I digressed a bit. But the question of the worth or value of an education must be weighed against the cost. If all degrees were equal, everyone would choose the cheapest college and just get their degree from there. Depending on what one wants to do for a career, one should attend a school where there are many courses in one's field to choose from, the professors have credentials/real-world experience in their field, and class sizes are small enough to allow for discussion. It may cost more to attend a school with 25 students per class and professors (not TAs) doing the teaching and grading, but it may be worth it if one gets more out of the experience than say lecture classes of 400 students. For students getting a general education in common non-specialized majors (e.g. chemistry, biology, computer science) there may be good options to get a degree from a smaller state university at a fraction of the cost of a larger institution. I know one student getting a chemistry degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver for only $2600 per quarter out of pocket. Colorado kicks in about $1100 per quarter from a state opportunity fund for residents. This seems like a bargain to me.
  5. reckless

    reckless Well-Known Member

    It's interesting that the title attacks "liberal arts colleges," but never actually identifies any graduates from any. It identifies a graduate with a degree in creative writing from an unspecified school, a graduate with a business degree from University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and a graduate with a biology degree from what I suspect was Middle Tennessee State University (since the bio major met with the career counselor there, something usually reserved for alums). That's really a technicality though.

    I think the issue we're dealing with here -- and where our disagreeement lies -- is focused more on the fundamental question of what kind of training do people need for the jobs they ultimately will hold. College and university has been sold for the past 30 years as a right of passage and the stepping stone to a well-paying career. I believe that is largely due to a few factors and that is an issue that I have long thought we should have been examining.

    First is the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs. It used to be that a middling student could gradute high school, go to work at a local factory, and make a decent, middle-class living. When the factory jobs died or were moved to right-to-work states where they no longer provided the same level of wages, there was little alternative to college and university.

    Second is the absence of good vocational training in our schools. In the 70s and 80s, a lot of vocational training was eliminated because it had been used in discriminatory ways. Minorities and the poor got put into vocational tracks while wealthy whites got put into university tracks. But the reality is that vocational learning is useful and many kids could go from high school into trades.

    Third is the difficulty that some unions place on entrance. Apprenticeships in some unions is extremly difficult. It can take years before someone earns a good wage, so that acts as a deterrent, even though we have a lot of demand for skilled tradespeople. There also is a problem in some unions that you have to know the right people to gain entry. That also leaves some unions with the reputation of being racist and sexist, which keeps them from expanding. (Plus you have the anti-union sentiment from the right, coupled with corruption and political miscalculations by many unions that only substantiate the criticism.)

    So I definitely agree with you that we have a lot of students today who 20-30 years ago would never have been in a university. For a lot of them a four-year education today is a waste of money and they should explore alternatives. But I also think we as a society should be doing more to help kids find those options and make them easier to access. Right now, expensive, private trade colleges or the military are often the only way to become a mechanic. We also should be helping make middle class parents find something "less" than college palatable. The kid who wans to be a mechanic should not be considered a "failure," but in many places he is.

    However, that doesn't mean traditional education is worthless to other students. What bothers me is to see students who should be at four-year colleges and universities, who have the academic prowess, and who would develop great skills through liberal arts educations are now being told that they should be looking at trade schools, taking engineering or computer science courses because those will provide jobs after graduation, or should go to two-year schools that feed into four-year big public universities over four-year liberal arts colleges to save money instead of getting a "worthless" degree. At some point, we will need the next generation of policy makers, civic leaders, diplomats, writers, educators, etc. We'll even need the next generation of scholars and artists, too. I hate the way that higher education is being discussed only in the context of its utility, as if the only measure of the value of an education is how much money a person will get back from the amount they spend to obtain that education.

    Take the example offered earlier of the guy who is working as an attorney in NW Arkansas. The poster suggested that he wasted a lot of money because he wound up back in Arkansas after going to Columbia and Vanderbilt Law School. That's one way of looking at it. But another way of looking at it is that the guy spent four years living in one of the great cities in the world and interacted with some of the brightest students in the country at both schools. He probably could have stayed in Arkansas his entire life and would have a lot less debt, but he would have had a very different life experience. Maybe it was only going to Columbia and Vanderbilt that made him realize he wanted to return to Arkansas and his life would have been very different and full of regrets had he never left. I think we are too quick to devalue that part of an education in these discussions.
  6. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Actually I haven't looked into it THAT much because Mini-Mac is only a Freshman and also because I want her to do this research because it's her dream. I only looking into it enough to identify the top 10-15 drama schools by rep and see what sorts of tuitions they charged.

    I knew her dream of going to college in NYC to study drama and be a Broadway actress was not really financially feasible if she just expected us to pay for it so I showed her some numbers and got her thinking...

    That would be UCLA. :D

    But she has to get in first. It's the hardest of the UCs to get into, I think. There is also UC-Berkeley but she's adamant about moving away from home for college and it's only 45 min. from our house. But U of Michigan is not that expensive for out-of-staters and is supposed to have a great musical theater program. I have no idea how hard it is to get into though.

    Of course, none of this is real to her right now so maybe she'll change her mind when the time comes.

    If they go to my alma matter and want to be a doctor, they have a 95% change of getting into med school. And all the aide there is based on need so cost isn't really an issue.

    This assumes they get through the chemistry or biochemistry program though. It's tough. Which is why they have such a high success rate at getting kids into med school.

    Now, Prancer, these people have above average critical thinking skills due to their liberal arts degrees. ;)

    I had a liberal arts degree from a small liberal arts college. I got it back in the late 70s and it served me well. It helped me do well in my chosen career which has nothing to do with what I got my degree in.

    But I will tell you, the world has changed since I first started working. A lot of the people doing my job do not speak English as a first language and their writing and speaking skills are HORRIBLE. But, in spite of what I was told all through school, no one seems to care. All they care about is that the person have a BSCS or preferably a MSCS. And are able to churn out code.

    Which means I couldn't get an entry level job in my field if I were starting out now. No matter how great my critical thinking skills are or my writing skills.

    And part of this is that EVERYONE is getting a college degree. The kid who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life is competing for those McJobs that will help him sort it out with people who have either years of experience or college degrees. This is how MacBoy ended up back in college even though it was the exact wrong thing for him.
  7. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    Believe it or not, I don't find it particularly appealing, either. But you still haven't even mentioned the word "debt." If you don't find the idea of new college graduates saddled with loads of debt and little means to pay that debt alarming for the graduates because they are, after all, well educated, then you are one of the few. People in academia worry about it all the time--because we cannot sustain the current college model. People can't afford it.

    Ah, yes. Graduate schools, where smart people go to rack up more debt.

    In technical fields, this is absolutely true. And it's increasingly true in other fields, and this trend will continue to increase as we continue to import skilled workers, which we are expected to do more and more.

    Or they're trying to. Most of them don't. And frankly, most people really don't need college training in order to do the work required in most jobs, which is why people with degrees can't find jobs. There are way too many people with degrees for the very few jobs that actually require them.
  8. mgobluegirl

    mgobluegirl Well-Known Member

    I can't speak for the musical theater program (which I've heard is indeed quite good), but on the whole, it's harder to get into Michigan as an out-of-stater. And sorry to disappoint, but Michigan is very expensive if you're not in-state. Last I checked, tuition and fees for out-of-state students were somewhere near $40,000/year.

    I feel like I need to put in a plug here for the big state school experience. I was a science major, and I sat in my share of big lecture classes. Just to illustrate, my organic chemistry class had 500 students in it, and it was one of three sections. Throughout the four years, I took a variety of multiple choice and short answer/essay tests. None of this was a bad thing. In the large classes, there's a bit of a sink-or-swim element to doing well, and as far as I'm concerned, the earlier you learn to "swim" the better. There was no hand-holding in my college experience, and learning to be self-directed in my learning has served me more since college than any of the actual material I studied there has. At most medical schools, the first two years are lecture-based, and when I got to med school I was comfortable with that environment. I watched classmates who had gone to smaller schools and were used to a discussion-based format struggle at the beginning. And all those multiple choice tests weren't a waste either. Taking and doing well on multiple choice tests is a skill, and medical entrance and board exams are multiple choice as well.

    College was an awesome experience. I LOVED feeling like I was a part of such a big community at a big institution, and I can write well and think critically to boot. I was fortunate enough to go to a great public school, and my education cost far less than it would have at a small, private liberal arts school. Smaller is NOT always better.
  9. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Well at least with medical school, the salaries still support the level of debt and there is still demand. :D

    Their website said more like 35,000 which is also about what UCLA costs. Are you telling me they lied?! (Kidding, I know they are trying to attract students.)
  10. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    In a lot of cases, a private school offers more financial aid. In my area, a lot of small private schools have more expensive tuition but room, board and fees are much lower. Total expenses often even out or are lower for students with decent tuition scholarships when compared to the state's universities. The small state colleges, on the other hand, are a bargain in both tuition and other costs. My alma mater is a small private college that heavily recruits from a neighboring state with a lot of success because their total costs are cheaper than resident costs at state schools in that state.

    For nephew, we are interested in one of the public universities that he could live with his dad while attending, taking room and board out of the equation.
  11. genegri

    genegri Active Member

    I thought the same way you do until very recently when I checked my university's current tuition. When I was a freshman (1998) it was around $24,000 a year and I thought that was astronomical. Well presently it's over $40,000, just tuition. And the master program I did in the same university now charges close to $60,000 a year, tuition only. :yikes:

    College tuitions have increased much faster than living cost, and yet faster than salaries. Mainly because they now receive much less help from states. I don't know how Europe manages to give next to free college education to all citizens.

    But I bet those people will never be put in managerial positions. Their career paths have severe limitations and they tend to reach dead ends quickly.

    That being said, I find good writing skills not crucial in today's business world. It's "nice to have", but far from necessary. Critical thinking is important. Networking with the right people, skillful self promoting, playing office politics will get one farther. Yes, I am feeling very cynical today. :slinkaway
  12. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    They would have exactly my job - a lab tech at an academic research lab whose salary is low, but protected since it's paid for by NIH grants. :D Definitely higher than minimum wage though, and I lucked since I have a relaxed boss and we don't work even 60-hr weeks.

    It was only more amusing since my boss's lab setup was completely new and both techs that he hired were biology majors from smal liberal arts colleges. :p Apparently everybody from UCLA was going to med/grad school or had no lab experience. Going to a small school definitely helped, since it was a lot easier to get lab experience if the professors are open to working with students.

    Although, NIH grants have been drying up, and I graduated before the economy went to crap, so it was probably exceedingly lucky that I got the job I did. I'm still paying back some loans but it was less than $10K. And my parents gave me an old beater car to drive, so I didn't have car payments when I first started out. And I had roommates sharing living expenses with me until I moved in with my now-fiance last year.
  13. Scintillation

    Scintillation New Member

    I went to a big public university and I loved it. Yes the campus was huge and the students numerous, but there were smaller communities within each separate college and major. I had friends outside the music and psychology buildings, but going in to those places felt like entering a small town outside of the behemoth big 10 campus.

    I was lucky enough to avoid undergrad debt, but plenty of my friends have quite a bit to pay off. One of them got a degree in chemical engineering and was hired before we even graduated. After 2 years of working for this company down in Alabama he was supposed to be moved to another location, but they decided to let him go instead. He decided to move back to this area since he loves it so much, but he still hasn't found a job here and yes those loans are starting to press down on him. I feel like he should be more open to moving where ever there's work but no he wants to stay right here. I hope he finds something soon.
  14. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    You'd be surprised. Though it is the better communicators among them who end up as managers, many of them are leads of some sort.

    The problem is, if everyone's writing sucks, then that becomes the standard.

    Believe me, I'd love for my superior skills in this area to count more but they are seen as "nice to have" and a "little bonus" so they give me a boost but it's a very small one.
  15. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain


    UCLA lists their tuition and fees (including room and board) for in-state students at $31,902 per year. U Michigan Ann Arbor lists its tuition and fees (including room and board) for out-of-state students at $51,976 per year. That's a $20k difference per year. Multiply that by four years and ignoring that U Michigan charges more to upper level students, you'd save $80k if she went to UCLA instead of Michigan.
  16. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    Higher taxes on the country's people and more support from their federal governments helps. But with the current economy, free or next-to-free tuition is becoming more and more difficult for these governments to be able to offer. The UK, for example, recently reworked its tuition costs, raising them significantly, compared to what they had been. In Spain, where most uni courses cost 1,000 Euros or less, extreme overcrowding is leading to student protests - 790 students in one upper division classroom at U Valencia, for example. So I'm not sure that, in at least some European countries, the free or low cost model will be able to continue, at least not as it was.
  17. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    I guess I misread something. Okay, no UofM for Mini-Mac!
  18. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    Coming from an expensive region of the US, I've heard that some of the midwestern/western public unis can be cheaper than the in-state tuition in my area, even if you pay out-of-state tuition. Perhaps that's true v. the in-state rate at the UCs as well? So although U of M isn't one of those, there may be others that end up being worth looking at.

    Unfortunately, I don't remember which schools those are, so I'm of no help to you on that one. Sigh... :drama:

    But you mentioned your daughter specifically wants to study music theater? Then I'd add Oklahoma City U to my list from earlier.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  19. RockTheTassel

    RockTheTassel Well-Known Member

    I envy anyone who could call Michigan not that expensive. It was my dream school, but I'm out-of-state, and I couldn't justify paying that much. :(

    I am, however, at a large state university that I love. While I wouldn't describe it as prestigious, it's certainly respectable, and it was the right choice for me. It may be intimidating at first, but you learn to find your niche at big schools. There are a lot of people, but the diversity is appealing, and it's worthwhile meeting people from so many different backgrounds. I love how many opportunities there are for things like research, internships, and studying abroad. This semester, I have two small (about thirty students or so) discussion based classes, two big lecture hall classes, and two one-credit PE classes (horseback riding and fencing). Even in many of my larger classes, we often split into groups and the professors are very approachable, so I don't have the "just a number" feeling that's a common criticism of larger schools. I feel like I get to experience a little bit of everything, and I don't have to worry about paying off such an enormous debt after graduation.

    I can understand why someone would favor a small private school for the sense of community and more relaxing atmosphere. I'm sure it's great for students who can afford it. But I don't think it's worth a lifetime of debt when it's just as possible to have a wonderful experience at a state school.
  20. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    I need to start squirreling away all these college mentions. :lol:

    For myself, I went to a small, private college prep high school and then a small, private liberal arts college. I loved HS to bits and was pretty happy in college. I'm very, very, very glad I went to college straight out of HS as I don't think I'd have ever gotten my degree if I had gone to work first. I certainly haven't been successful at going back to school since then.


    I do think my college choice was probably the wrong one for me. It was too much like my High School. A big state university might have challenged me more in non-academic ways (i.e., personal growth) and it probably would have forced me to major in something more tangible which would have made getting a job easier.

    The thing is, you can only know these things in hindsight sometimes. I mean, if I knew that personal computers would be invented and that I'd be in this field for decades, I would have gone to one of the 5 universities that had a CS degree (assuming I could get into them). But at the time I was only vaguely aware of such things and thought I wanted to teach and write and other non-hard science stuff.
  21. suep1963

    suep1963 Well-Known Member

    I went to a state university (local) and lived at home. Between work, school, theatre stuff, I was only there at night--seemed seemed silly to pay money for a bed when I lived 10 minutes from campus. I did spend a year in London (study abroad program), which was more expensive, but I'm trying to remember what it cost (I was in college 82-87) and if I remember right, it was about $3000 a semester, and there wasn't a limit on credits for the semester. 15 was full time, but I usually had 18.
  22. jlai

    jlai Title-less

    I agree. I am currently in the business field, and people, native speakers of English or not, write poorly. And since good writing is not awarded, I find my writing more and more like my coworkers'. :scream:

    Critical thinking is still important, though, as our field is a fairly technical one. But being "obedient", networking with the right people, self promoting and playing office politics, even more important.

    Currently at my state some univ chancellors are touting the new $10,000 degree program ideas but the ones who are toying with the ideas are the less prestigious univs, and a couple of them, in less expensive parts of the state.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  23. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    I work in marketing, where the ability to speak and write well is considered extremely important, and can make or break your career as much as your financial and analytical skills can.
  24. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah. :rolleyes:

    What do these four numbers have in common?
    $27,500, $18,260, $32,916, $36,140?

    ....They're the net price the same family (same income, assets, home equity, student savings) would be expected to pay at four colleges that each ostensibly meet "full need" -- as I tell parents, it is "Need" as the colleges see it. Remarkably, the way they seen need seems to vary inversely with the size of their endowments. But each college's representative touts the line that they give very generous aid, because, after all, they meet full need.

    Parents seem to find it pretty eye-opening.

    But, there are some great colleges with big automatic merit aid offers for kids with great test scores.
  25. genegri

    genegri Active Member

    I seriously have no right to complain because I myself am not a very good writer. I might be one of your coworkers. :lol: :p But I recognize good and elegant writing and appreciate it. Just don't seem to be capable of it myself.

    I also work in marketing and am pretty successful if I may say so myself, but I am not a particularly strong writer. I imagine we must have different functions. I am not doing products. I am doing market research and strategic planning. In my function essay style writing is not very important; but guess what is? Beside quantitative skills that is. Yep, making power point slides, the mother of all evils. I must say I am great at concise and tablet style writing, suitable for presentations and emails. My job seems to consist of giving one presentation after another lately. :scream:

    Completely agree with speaking well is extremely important in marketing. Our entire marketing department are native English speakers. A far cry form our neighbor the IT department. :D
  26. jlai

    jlai Title-less

    I'm not a good writer either, but I used to apply basic grammar and basic writing principles fairly well, but I stopped bothering with that as I realized I didn't need them for my job. :shuffle:
  27. maatTheViking

    maatTheViking Danish Ice Dance! Go Laurence & Nikolaj!

    I don't know anything about marketing, but I think that good writing may not mean essay style?

    Just general composition (getting you point across fast in email? As you said, good presentations? ) and other stuff that might not matter in other jobs.

    I'm an engineer an I know I write repetitively an un inspired, essay style or not, in my native tongue or English. Luckily it doesn't matter by much in my job, and I know enough to do better than some of my peers.
  28. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    In business, the style of writing that's important to be good at is technical writing.
  29. madm

    madm Well-Known Member

    Correct. As a former technical writer for a tech company, I can't tell you how many badly written PowerPoint presentations I was forced to listen to! Too much information crammed onto a slide, illegible font sizes, lack of clear ideas, no parallel construction, crazy use of colors, tables and charts no one can possibly understand, failure to state the main point of the presentation ... Oh, the horror of it all! :scream:

    When I was first hired many years ago, I was the first professional writer in my local division. It took one big project during my first year for managers to realize that engineers and computer scientists cannot write! I worked with the first human factors engineer they had hired to design the software interface and test it, and then write the tutorial and user guide for it. It was a smashing success, and opened the door for hiring more technical writers. It's not easy to take a complicated subject and simplify it for end users. Most technical folks have no understanding of how to write for an audience.

    Sorry to get so off topic ...

    On the subject of college debt, let's remember that there is financial aid for skaters. Anyone who is competing at the Nov-Sr level and is placing in the top 6 at a qualifying competition can apply for aid from the Memorial Fund. And if you are a college student still involved in skating in any way (competing, judging, volunteering), you can apply for the CSAP aid that is also part of the Memorial Fund application. The awards I know of in recent years have ranged from $700-2000, so that's a great help for the college tuition bill. There are other scholarships listed on the USFS Athlete Funding page as well. The deadline for the Memorial Fund application is in early to mid Sept. every year. There are eligibility requirements related to parent's income level and skating history.
  30. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    I think the style of writing most important in business is business writing. Technical writing is for the technical work. There are some commonalities, but business writing is, IMO at least, quite different.