Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Looking at four-year colleges in isolation, with no consideration of the larger ecosystem of higher education or of state politics, can lead to some unhelpful conclusions. Many students now get caught between escalating tuition driven in part by “austerity” and a tight job market driven largely by that exact same austerity. Yes, some four-year colleges (and especially some for-profits) need to rethink what they’re doing. But let’s not let a focus on a headline number lead to a deficit of options. Options are out there; we just need to include them in the discussion.
Students who are supporting their own family seem to be the ones that don't fit into your example of only needing to pay tuition from Pell or their own income.
I just hope someone told kids and their families to avoid borrowing to cover living expenses, which are a larger fraction of costs at a CC than at a selective college. Did any of the kids on the extreme end in that study borrow to get the latest headphones or gaming system? They'll be paying for that forever.
I like that one of the authors is Matthew Reed.
They are pretty clear about how they bought their data set and that it excludes transfer students and only looks at debt acquired at the school they graduated from. Similarly, the wording implies that they are reporting the mean debt held by those who have any debt from the place they graduated from, but it would be nice if they were clearer about that and reported the median and mode as well as the mean.
A casual look at the main data table suggests an interesting signal of college cost: States that ranked highest on the amount owed also seemed to have the highest percentage who owed money. A scatter plot of debt and percent might be instructive.
The table comparing states based on average debt of those with debt creates some odd distortions. By that measure, Delaware has the highest average debt and New Hampshire has the second highest. When all students (or all students from 4-year colleges and so on) are included, New Hampshire has the highest average debt and Delaware improves to 11th.
I also noticed that we can answer another of Matt Reed's questions, because any state with 50% or less with debt would have a median debt of zero.
The winners are Alaska (oil money), Louisiana (also oil money?), Nevada (gambling money?), Wyoming (coal money?) and perhaps Utah right at 50%. The 41% in Nevada is impressive for a state that was hit so hard by the Real Estate Depression, but maybe they are so poor that there are lots of Pell dollars behind that result.
Oil doesn't solve every problem, however. Look at Texas and the Dakotas for the counterexamples.
The University of Wyoming, though, is fantastically low priced, and the state has traditionally strongly supported keeping costs low. In-state tuition is $4.5k a semester, and it's cheaper to attend UW as an out-of-state student (if you're eligible for WUE) than in-state in places like CUBoulder or U. Arizona.