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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Schilling says RI played role in company’s trouble

Curt Schilling is blaming Rhode Island economic development officials and the governor for much of the financial troubles facing his video game company.
[...]
Schilling, 45, tells the newspaper he stands to lose all the money he saved while playing baseball, and rejects criticism that he is seeking a public handout.

‘‘I have done whatever I can do to create jobs and create a successful business, with my own income,’’ he said. ‘‘Fifty million dollars, everything I’ve ever saved, has been put back into the economy. The $49 million from Rhode Island has been put back in the economy. I’ve never taken a penny and I’ve done nothing but create jobs and create economy. And so how does that translate into welfare baby? I’ve tried to do right by people.’’

I’m pretty sure that people on welfare put the money back into the economy, too, Curt. They don’t just roll around in a big pile of welfare checks on their living room floor.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: May 29, 2012 at 01:03 PM | 311 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, curt schilling, red sox, special topics

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   201. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 30, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4143184)
Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing.
The point here, which McDonald misses in her desire to attack "political correctness" is that the diversity office deanlets are not special. All of the new administrative positions that have been produced by the university system are being protected from budget cuts, regardless of how nice they sound to readers of the Nation. Higher education is proliferating with new administrative positions and titles, most of varying degrees of uselessness, that indeed include diversity-related positions and titles, but the problem has really nothing at all to do with political correctness.
   202. smileyy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 02:55 PM (#4143188)
This seemed like a relevant tangent to the conversation:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/story/2012-05-30/college-bank-deals-big-fees/55286302/1

Basically, privatizing and monetizing the distribution of loan funds to students, so that more people can get a cut of that. <FrankSobotka>
   203. tshipman Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:02 PM (#4143200)
I doubt the numbers would support the thesis suggested here, that humanities majors have a harder time finding jobs than non-humanities majors. I'd need to see some proof of that concept personally.


Humanities majors have better employment prospects, according to some article that I can't be bothered to remember where I saw. It's a stupid point.

But what if your student loans were significantly lower than they are now? Sure, bankruptcy would make sense when talking about the absurd loans of recent history where many students have no feasible way to get out from under them, but bankruptcy still sucks and I'm inclined to think people would be less willing to go though it if their loans were actually managable in the first place.


The economically rational thing to do is to get a job, find an apartment and declare bankruptcy.


IMO, the interesting comparison would be high school costs and college costs over the last 30 years. Did HS experience the same rate of inflation in terms of cost? If not, why not?

Is this a problem more like health care or more like housing? In my opinion, that's the question to ask.
   204. The Good Face Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4143212)
The economically rational thing to do is to get a job, find an apartment and declare bankruptcy.


If that were true, the credit card companies would have been out of business decades ago.
   205. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:14 PM (#4143213)
If that were true, the credit card companies would have been out of business decades ago.

Unless, of course, people don't always make such decisions with an eye strictly towards economic rationality.
   206. tshipman Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4143221)
If that were true, the credit card companies would have been out of business decades ago.


Credit card debt is literally nothing like student loan debt. There's nothing that student loan debt providers can repossess. In addition, new graduates are unique in that they have very little downside to declaring bankruptcy, while cc debtors typically have more consequence.
   207. zonk Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4143222)


Bankruptcy is only on your credit score for up to 10 years, I believe, and there are ways to raise your score during that time. I will be paying off my student loans for a total of 20 years. Were the option available to me, I absolutely would have declared bankruptcy as soon as I graduated and I would be much better off for it now.


If student loans were dischargeable, in retrospect -- I guess it would have been the best option for me, too.

   208. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4143223)
I doubt the numbers would support the thesis suggested here, that humanities majors have a harder time finding jobs than non-humanities majors. I'd need to see some proof of that concept personally.
My understanding is that STEM graduates indeed do better finding jobs than non-STEM graduates, but humanities and social science majors outperform business / education / health / communication majors. Humanities and social science departments effectively teach students key skills for working life, and it should be expected that they do a fine job preparing people for future employment.

I don't think everyone should be doing STEM - people have different skills and different tastes, and the world can't run on scientists alone - so I think that generally if you're not a STEM kind of person, and you are a going to college kind of person, the humanities and the social sciences are the way to go.
   209. The Good Face Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:22 PM (#4143227)
If that were true, the credit card companies would have been out of business decades ago.

Unless, of course, people don't always make such decisions with an eye strictly towards economic rationality.


Strictly? No, of course not. But people here are really underselling how serious bankruptcy is, and how much it can mess up your life. Nuking your credit, eliminating yourself from home/auto/business loans, and potentially harming your employment prospects for a decade is not automatically superior to paying down manageable debt.
   210. formerly dp Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:22 PM (#4143228)
When our funding gets cut, we either have to make cuts or pass the costs along to students.

This is true, but my understanding is that tuition has increased at a rate way beyond the amount needed to sustain the school after budget cutbacks. Most schools are also paying through the nose for a cascading increase in "deanlets" - new subdivided adminstrative positions - as well as all the facility improvements discussed on the last page. The problems in higher education aren't unrelated to budget cutbacks at the state level, but they go well beyond that issue.

Those other factors are hugely important, and I didn't mean to suggest that they weren't. But one of the reasons you're seeing this problem come to a head is that, in the wake of the crisis, tuition keeps rising, while the quality of the product has leveled off. And the return on investment has become a lot less certain, due to the cratered job market. You're still far better off going to college than not, but if you buy the product as they're packaging it, you're pretty well screwed for a substantial stretch of your life.
   211. formerly dp Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:24 PM (#4143231)
Just saw this note from Furtado on the Ricketts thread:

Rickey swipes another one, eh?
   212. The Good Face Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:31 PM (#4143238)
Credit card debt is literally nothing like student loan debt. There's nothing that student loan debt providers can repossess. In addition, new graduates are unique in that they have very little downside to declaring bankruptcy, while cc debtors typically have more consequence.


They're both unsecured debts, no real difference. You can't repossess 6 months worth of bumming around on beaches, heavy drinking and BJs either. Seriously, pissing away your financial life until you're 32 is a lousy idea. Not necessarily the worst idea depending on circumstances, but it's not a great one.
   213. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4143244)
Rickey swipes another one, eh?


Rickey's got an eye on that Nats thread too.
   214. tshipman Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4143246)
They're both unsecured debts, no real difference. You can't repossess 6 months worth of bumming around on beaches, heavy drinking and BJs either. Seriously, pissing away your financial life until you're 32 is a lousy idea. Not necessarily the worst idea depending on circumstances, but it's not a great one.


You have to make payments on credit cards as you earn the debt. That's a pretty big difference. Also, you have to demonstrate a pattern of paying back debt before you get enough in unsecured credit to spend 6 months bumming around on the beach. And finally, people don't generally make decisions that screw themselves over for 10 years in exchange for one really awesome vacation. So yeah, not really the same at all.

I think that what you don't understand is that the current system involves pissing away your financial life until you're 32 (or much more!). If you take out loans for the cost of a pretty basic lifestyle for four years (edit: plus tuition), you have 100K in debt. That pretty much destroys your financial life for 15 years or more.
   215. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:40 PM (#4143248)
Strictly? No, of course not. But people here are really underselling how serious bankruptcy is, and how much it can mess up your life. Nuking your credit, eliminating yourself from home/auto/business loans, and potentially harming your employment prospects for a decade is not automatically superior to paying down manageable debt.

Not trying to undersell it at all; apologies if that's how I came across. I was simply pointing out that even if it were the right choice, that doesn't mean people would make it.

Another consequence: a lot of professional certifications are voided by bankruptcy. I noticed this fine print when I became a Novell Certified Network Engineer many years ago. Pretty sure Cisco certs are voided too.
   216. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4143252)
I'm mostly with GF on bankruptcy / student loan debt. Bankruptcy is far less popular in this country than would be economically rational, and people have reasonably strong moral views about debt repayment which affect these outcomes. The moral weight of debt has likewise led to an increase in the negative economic consequences of bankruptcy, through policy and the credit score industry.

The place where I part ways with GF has to do with his claim that a free market in student loans would function mostly as an academic meritocracy, with deserving, good, smart students receiving the bulk of the loans. Economic outcomes - especially the avoidance of real poverty and concomitant inability to repay the loan at all - are heavily dependent on class background, and any rational loan officer would base a significant part of their decision on such non-academic factors.

If we want a merit-based system for acquiring bachelor's level education, it's going to take significant non-market investment.
   217. The Good Face Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4143260)
I think that what you don't understand is that the current system involves pissing away your financial life until you're 32 (or much more!). If you take out loans for the cost of a pretty basic lifestyle for four years (edit: plus tuition), you have 100K in debt. That pretty much destroys your financial life for 15 years or more.


If you'd been paying attention to this thread, you'd know that I've been saying this for the past 100 posts. Make the debts dischargeable in bankruptcy and you won't HAVE such massive debts. Lenders won't make the loans and prices will have to fall. The loans that remain won't be nearly as onerous.

You have to make payments on credit cards as you earn the debt. That's a pretty big difference. Also, you have to demonstrate a pattern of paying back debt before you get enough in unsecured credit to spend 6 months bumming around on the beach. And finally, people don't generally make decisions that screw themselves over for 10 years in exchange for one really awesome vacation. So yeah, not really the same at all.


Of course they do. They take out student loans under today's conditions, don't they?
   218. Tripon Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4143267)
There's one surefire way to force Universities to watch for costs. Make them co-signers of the loan, colleges can charge just about whatever they want without seeing any direct consequences of it. Sure, they get pissed off students, but they get their money on their end without muss fuss.

If they were potentially on the hook for all the money they force students to borrow to attend their school, a lot of them would actively try to change their habits.
   219. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4143278)
The economically rational thing to do is to get a job, find an apartment and declare bankruptcy.

If that were true, the credit card companies would have been out of business decades ago.
No. Credit cards are revolving debt. You don't get a big chunk of money (5-6 figures) up front, with no credit history, and then not have to start paying it off for several years during which you are likely accumulating no assets. The only people who get big revolving lines of credit are people who have already established themselves as creditworthy and who have something to lose if they default.
   220. tshipman Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4143289)
If you'd been paying attention to this thread, you'd know that I've been saying this for the past 100 posts. Make the debts dischargeable in bankruptcy and you won't HAVE such massive debts. Lenders won't make the loans and prices will have to fall. The loans that remain won't be nearly as onerous.


Oh, okay. So let's say that the cost of tuition drops in half (I don't know how this would happen, but sure). So now you have 80K in debt. Why aren't you declaring bankruptcy again?

Of course they do. They take out student loans under today's conditions, don't they?


I assume that you know that a 6 month vacation is really nothing like trying to get a college degree. I don't get the point of this comment.
   221. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:17 PM (#4143303)
If you'd been paying attention to this thread, you'd know that I've been saying this for the past 100 posts. Make the debts dischargeable in bankruptcy and you won't HAVE such massive debts. Lenders won't make the loans and prices will have to fall. The loans that remain won't be nearly as onerous.
Lenders won't make the loans because graduates will declare bankruptcy. Which is what I've been saying, and what you've been denying would happen.
   222. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:26 PM (#4143322)
6 years later, I have a BA in political science, $35,000 in debt, and last I checked, Lowe's decided I wasn't good enough to stock shelves for them.


Same process went for me in college, but then I was fortunate to discover I didn't love political science after all after actually engaging in the process for a bit, and - a false start or two later - took the first temp job I could get in a large company, and resolved to work my way up. It worked out. Not that such an option is easily open to everyone, but, you know, the degree itself hasn't stood in my way at all.

Political Science lends itself very well to working in modern business in my experience. The ability to synthesize cohesive and impressive-sounding compromises between fundamentally incompatible philosophies of how the world works is always in demand, and the process of building from apparently undeniable first principles to a towering, tottering edifice of surprising conclusions? Likewise.
   223. zonk Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:27 PM (#4143325)

They're both unsecured debts, no real difference. You can't repossess 6 months worth of bumming around on beaches, heavy drinking and BJs either. Seriously, pissing away your financial life until you're 32 is a lousy idea. Not necessarily the worst idea depending on circumstances, but it's not a great one.


You're screwed either way, really, though --

Let's say I was able to get rid of my loans through bankruptcy years ago -- during that time, my credit was hardly stellar anyway because I had big loan payments (which dominoed into things like charging the phone bill, electric, etc). Near as I can tell, now in my 30s -- I'd now be in pretty much the same financial state either way, except I'd have had an extra $35k or so spread out over the last 10 years.
   224. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:38 PM (#4143340)
More on the Bank "Financial Aid Payment Card" story in [202]:


...
It took Mario Parker-Milligan less than a semester to decide that he was paying too many fees to Higher One, the company hired by his college to pay out students' financial aid on debit cards.

Four years after he opted out, his classmates still face more than a dozen fees — for replacement cards, for using the cards as all-purpose debit cards, for using an ATM other than the two on-campus kiosks owned by Higher One.

"They sold it as a faster, cheaper way for the college to get students their money," said Parker-Milligan, 23, student body president at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. "It may be cheaper for the college, but it's not cheaper for the students."

Among the fees charged by Higher One, according to its website, is a $50 "lack of documentation fee" for students who fail to submit certain paperwork. The U.S. Department of Education called the charging of such fees "unallowable" in guidance to financial aid officers issued last month.

Higher One founder and Chief Operating Officer Miles Lasater said in an email that the company takes compliance with the government's rules "very seriously," and officially swears that to the government each year.

"We are committed to providing good value accounts that are designed for college students," he said, and students must review the company's fee list when they sign up for an account. He cited a study commissioned by Higher One that declared Higher One "a low-cost provider for this market." The same study found that the median fees charged to the 2 million students with Higher One accounts totaled $49 annually.

Among the fees charged to students who open Higher One accounts: $50 if an account is overdrawn for more than 45 days, $10 per month if the student stops using his account for six months, $29 to $38 for overdrawing an account with a recurring bill payment and 50 cents to use a PIN instead of a signature system at a retail store.
   225. The Good Face Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4143347)
Let's say I was able to get rid of my loans through bankruptcy years ago -- during that time, my credit was hardly stellar anyway because I had big loan payments (which dominoed into things like charging the phone bill, electric, etc). Near as I can tell, now in my 30s -- I'd now be in pretty much the same financial state either way, except I'd have had an extra $35k or so spread out over the last 10 years.


Making big loan payments actually increases your credit rating. Well, assuming you aren't missing payments someplace else.

Lenders won't make the loans because graduates will declare bankruptcy. Which is what I've been saying, and what you've been denying would happen.


That depends on the debt burden vs. the ability to pay factored against the reality of bankruptcy really sucking. In a world where college degrees are much cheaper due to dischargeable debt, and much more valuable due to fewer people getting them, it's possible to make a rational decision that you're better off paying down your student loans as opposed to taking a bankruptcy to save a relatively small amount of money up front.

Under the current model, yes, bankruptcy is the only sane option unless you have a really small nut to carry.
   226. smileyy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4143351)

Making big loan payments actually increases your credit rating. Well, assuming you aren't missing payments someplace else.


As I learned when buying a house, your credit score is much more a reflection of a lender being able to make money off of you, as it is a measure of your credit worthiness. The former, of course, being the incentive to lend to you.
   227. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4143353)
That depends on the debt burden vs. the ability to pay factored against the reality of bankruptcy really sucking. In a world where college degrees are much cheaper due to dischargeable debt, and much more valuable due to fewer people getting them, it's possible to make a rational decision that you're better off paying down your student loans as opposed to taking a bankruptcy to save a relatively small amount of money up front.

Under the current model, yes, bankruptcy is the only sane option unless you have a really small nut to carry.

Except under the current model you can't discharge the loans. Only under this new model. I'm still struggling to understand how this would encourage lenders to give out loans to 18-year-olds with zero credit history.
   228. zachtoma Posted: May 30, 2012 at 05:05 PM (#4143369)
the world can't run on scientists alone


GASP! Depressingly, I think this would come dangerously close to heresy for some.
   229. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 05:33 PM (#4143385)
the world can't run on scientists alone
You mean like grind them up in a wood chipper and then pour the remains into the gas tank?
   230. smileyy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 05:49 PM (#4143390)
In-debt humanities majors are the new biodiesel production market inefficiency.
   231. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 05:56 PM (#4143397)
Lenders won't make the loans because graduates will declare bankruptcy. Which is what I've been saying, and what you've been denying would happen.

Have you failed to notice lenders handing out credit cards to students for 20 years without fears of bankruptcy?

   232. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 30, 2012 at 05:58 PM (#4143399)
BLB -

Credit cards begin with quite low credit limits. The risk is not comparable to a $100k or more college loan.
   233. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 06:00 PM (#4143401)
BLB -

Credit cards begin with quite low credit limits. The risk is not comparable to a $100k or more college loan.

Exactly. In fairness I haven't been an 18-year-old for a long time, but I would be surprised to learn they are offered more than a grand in unsecured debt.
   234. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4143407)
Why college is too expensive, mostly calculated by working as an IT drone for a big ten school:

Easy credit. Reduced state funding. Fancy rec center. Transforming the library into a "innovative learning space" with computers, flat screens, coffee shops, etc, because you don't learn by cracking a book. The newly created Office of Diversity with a bunch of expensive important people. (Yes, David wasn't entirely wrong). An army of IT folks (including me) to make it possible for students to enroll in classes from their iphones and a bazillion other niceties such as campus-wide wifi coverage so that I can download porn anywhere. Buildings. Buildings. More and more buildings.

Complaints that TAs can't teach? We'll found a Graduate Teaching Center (with a highly paid director and staff) which allows grad students to take teaching courses for electives and if they complete 12 hrs we'll put some stamp on their degree [I'm not sure how this helps them teach better as TAs), rather than just force every new grad student to go through a rigorous seminar when arriving on campus.

Every "problem" is solved by more and more spending, more offices, etc. Demanded by students and their helicopter parents.

Anecdotally, when I eat at chipotle 3 times a week, I buy only a burrito and feel its still too much money. Half the students around me buy a burrito, drink, and chips. Seeing undergrads drop $12 on lunch like its nothing is surprising, but daddy or a credit card makes it possible. oh, debit cards/credit cards/paying by phone and other "fake money" payments.
   235. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 06:04 PM (#4143408)
Credit cards begin with quite low credit limits. The risk is not comparable to a $100k or more college loan.

I knew people in the 90s who ran up $20k in debt.
   236. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 30, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4143419)
The newly created Office of Diversity with a bunch of expensive important people. (Yes, David wasn't entirely wrong).
To reiterate, these Diversity Offices are being created in an environment where ####### everything that could be related to higher education is getting its own little deanlets. The underlying cause of these mostly money- and time-wasting adminstrative expansions isn't political correctness, it's the self-perpetuating nature of administrative offices in the context of the massive influx of new money from the tuition bubble.
   237. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 30, 2012 at 06:21 PM (#4143423)
I knew people in the 90s who ran up $20k in debt.
Not right from the start. You need to either build up your credit limit or accumulate a store of usurious-interest-derived debt in order to have that much debt on your card. The college loans are at least five times that much, up front.
   238. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: May 30, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4143464)
Not right from the start. You need to either build up your credit limit or accumulate a store of usurious-interest-derived debt in order to have that much debt on your card.
Or have mom/dad's name on the account as well.
   239. Srul Itza Posted: May 30, 2012 at 07:20 PM (#4143467)
I started college about 40 years ago, and reading this thread is massively depressing. Tuition was around $3,100 when I started at MIT and was a bit over $4,000 when I left. Grants and loans covered just about all of it, including the old National Defense Student Loans -- 3% money at a time of high inflation. I lived in a dorm which was a converted apartment building, each living space had a separate bathroom and kitchen, and the fee was around $100 per month.

Followed that with 3 years of law school, and more loans, but when I got, I had a decent job with a big firm in NYC that easily paid the loans. I can't imagine how they do it now.
   240. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: May 30, 2012 at 07:23 PM (#4143469)
I don't remember any place known as "Central". Where was that in relation to East and West? Was it off Campus Drive going up the hill towards West Durham or down the hill going towards the swanky residential district?


"Central" was just a catchall term for a hodgepodge of residential buildings that were in between the two campuses. There wasn't a distinct Central campus, as such. 90% of the people in "Central" lived in Trent, and the rest were in these weird little four-man units that didn't have any names I ever heard.

Trent was (and maybe still is?) located on the corner of Flowers and Erwin. So, north of West campus, west of East campus, a couple blocks east of the hospital, and a hair southwest of the freeway.

What was the name of that really great used bookstore in Durham? Closed about ten years ago. I've been trying to remember, but I can't pull it out of deep storage.
   241. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 07:49 PM (#4143490)
Not right from the start. You need to either build up your credit limit or accumulate a store of usurious-interest-derived debt in order to have that much debt on your card. The college loans are at least five times that much, up front.

In a world without the government backing, tuition would be lower and banks wouldn't be handing out 100k up front. Which is more sensible.

To reiterate, these Diversity Offices are being created in an environment where ####### everything that could be related to higher education is getting its own little deanlets. The underlying cause of these mostly money- and time-wasting adminstrative expansions isn't political correctness, it's the self-perpetuating nature of administrative offices in the context of the massive influx of new money from the tuition bubble.

Political correctness is one facet of it, but I also mentioned the Graduate Teaching Center which is in line with what you're saying. Every "problem" is solved by an importing sounding office to justify their existence.

   242. tshipman Posted: May 30, 2012 at 08:20 PM (#4143511)
In a world without the government backing, tuition would be lower and banks wouldn't be handing out 100k up front. Which is more sensible.


Why would tuition be lower?

A lot of people think that college is a very important investment--so much so that they're willing to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for it. Why wouldn't the cost of tuition go up to match what people believe it to be worth?

I understand that your argument depends on the idea of reduced demand causing tuition to lower. Why wouldn't there just be fewer suppliers? IOW--why wouldn't there be fewer colleges who charge the same amount as now (and experience the same growth in tuition as now)?
   243. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2012 at 09:02 PM (#4143586)
I don't remember any place known as "Central". Where was that in relation to East and West? Was it off Campus Drive going up the hill towards West Durham or down the hill going towards the swanky residential district?

"Central" was just a catchall term for a hodgepodge of residential buildings that were in between the two campuses. There wasn't a distinct Central campus, as such. 90% of the people in "Central" lived in Trent, and the rest were in these weird little four-man units that didn't have any names I ever heard.


Okay, that explains why I never heard of either Central or Trent. When I last lived in Durham (1970) and knew its layout, pretty much everything north of Campus Drive was mill housing that was being torn down to build grad student housing. Just before they started tearing down all the old houses on Swift Avenue, my GF and I rented one of them for $75 a month. It wasn't worth it.

Trent was (and maybe still is?) located on the corner of Flowers and Erwin. So, north of West campus, west of East campus, a couple blocks east of the hospital, and a hair southwest of the freeway.

Yeah, that's the one that must have been built in the early 70's, which is also when the freeway was being built.

What was the name of that really great used bookstore in Durham? Closed about ten years ago. I've been trying to remember, but I can't pull it out of deep storage.

I stopped book scouting in the Triangle sometime in the mid-90's, which is when small town dealers began sticking big city prices on their books. The only halfway decent used shop in Durham I remember was on a side street between Broad and Ninth, called "Books Do Furnish A Room". They also had comic books. Not great, but not bad. The two best stores by far were in Chapel Hill, The Book Shop and the Avid Reader, which bookended the long block of Franklin Street that also had the Colonial Drug Store, a rather infamous location BITD, but which was still there in the mid-90's.

There was also a big shop in Durham at Five Points called The Book Exchange, but that was mostly textbooks and I don't think it survived the 80's. It was kind of a sorry place to begin with.

BTW if you want to see a fabulous site devoted to old Durham architecture and history, check out OpenDurham. It's the best small city website of its type I've ever seen, a real labor of love. (Note: The site loads slowly, but it's worth the short wait.)
   244. rlc Posted: May 30, 2012 at 09:12 PM (#4143601)

Greg (U)K Posted:
That was the advantage of a standard national grant. I'm assuming the $20,000 was designed for living in Toronto. In Saskatchewan it was like being a millionaire.
[...]
My choice of university was entirely based on the where the girl I happened to be seeing lived.
[...]
Unfortunately my long distance matching didn't work out quite so well...though as it turns out I thoroughly loved the place she lived so I count it as one of my better life decisions in retrospect.


Well as long as you enjoyed some quality time in her Regina...
   245. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 30, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4143687)
243: thanks andy - never heard of opendurham before. (edit: but i had been on his old blog, which was very good)

as for the book exchange, it closed in '09. i'm not aware of any great used book stores around here... the area around that corner has been under slow redevelopment in recent years and is becoming a hub for solid restaurants (including my favorite sandwich place in town)

colonial closed in '96 - right before i moved there.
   246. villageidiom Posted: May 30, 2012 at 10:00 PM (#4143718)
Why would tuition be lower?


Student loans can't be discharged --> banks take little risk in issuing loans --> greater supply of loans --> more money can be spent on college tuition --> colleges raise tuition rapidly to capture their "fair share" of that money

In short, higher tuition is a byproduct of the amount of money available to students for college, which is a byproduct of the protected status for banks when it comes to student loans. Take away those protections...

Student loans can be discharged --> banks will be far more cautious in issuing loans --> lesser supply of loans --> less money can be spent on college tuition --> colleges drop tuition levels to meet lower capacity/demand
   247. tshipman Posted: May 30, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4143762)
In short, higher tuition is a byproduct of the amount of money available to students for college, which is a byproduct of the protected status for banks when it comes to student loans. Take away those protections...


Okay. So for you, higher tuition is a supply-side phenomenon. You think it's more like housing. ISTM that there's a relatively equally likely explanation that higher tuition is a demand-side phenomenon. So I'd take your formulation here:

Education is very important --> the cost of college is exceeded by the average benefit to the student --> greater demand for college education --> more money can be spent on college tuition --> colleges raise tuition rapidly to capture their "fair share" of that money

In that formulation, reducing the supply of student loans does nothing to reduce cost, and instead simply changes the debt or reduces the supply of colleges. I don't think that the supply side explanation is inherently more persuasive than the demand-side explanation, which is why I'm very skeptical of the idea that student loans can be blamed for the cost of college.

If the supply-side explanation were true, why haven't high schools experienced the same rate of growth in cost?
   248. Peanut Posted: May 30, 2012 at 11:46 PM (#4143835)
If you'd been paying attention to this thread, you'd know that I've been saying this for the past 100 posts. Make the debts dischargeable in bankruptcy and you won't HAVE such massive debts. Lenders won't make the loans and prices will have to fall. The loans that remain won't be nearly as onerous.


Lenders have already seriously tightened up credit and started making fewer private student loans. I worked at Sallie Mae until last year, and starting in 2008 they severely tightened up their lending policies. Several banks have dropped out of the market. The only lender that has been increasing the number of private loans is Discover and I'm not sure how they are doing it.

Sallie Mae is lobbying FOR making student loans dischargeable. It's a good idea, but it won't change how lenders' credit practices. Those changes already happened, and they don't want to lend to anyone who would end up in bankruptcy no matter what the law is.
   249. zenbitz Posted: May 31, 2012 at 12:52 AM (#4143877)
@226 might be the most insightful thing i have ever read on the internet
   250. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 31, 2012 at 01:13 AM (#4143888)
--> greater demand for college education --> more money can be spent on college tuition -->


Why does greater demand lead to "more money can be spent"? People don't have more money to spend just by wanting to spend it or wishing they could spend it. It has to be available to them. I suppose what you're really arguing is that the loans exist because the cost is so high. But couldn't the same thing be said of housing--that mortgages are the way they are because the prices are so high, not vice versa? Yet price raising because of demand generally happens more incrementally than college tuition has gone up; the trick there is to get the consumer to pay a little more at a time, so he doesn't really notice till it's too late. It's exploratory. With tuition, we've seen increases of 60 percent in the course of four or five years. Businesses don't raise prices that much as an experiment, to see if people will pay. They do it because they know people will pay, because the money will be available to them through credit and they'll have no other choice.

A lot of people think that college is a very important investment--so much so that they're willing to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for it


The 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing tightening of the job market have richly demonstrated that college is not the kind of investment that warrants such wild spending. If people were looking at going to college as an investment, there would have been a significant decrease in applications and enrollment over the past four years, as the idea that it wasn't such a good investment after all became more prevalent. Has there been such a decrease? And with that decrease in demand, there would, if tuition was demand based, have been a leveling off of tuition. Instead, it's continued increasing exponentially.

But people clearly aren't looking at going to college as an investment, because they're enrolling in ever greater numbers even though it's an increasingly bad investment. College is considered more of a social obligation than an investment; there's a stigma attached, in people's minds, to not going.

Well, that's just as good as the investment theory, right? The colleges have a captive audience and raise their tuition because of the demand. But I don't think that's it. Student loans have exploded not because of the demand, but because of the social stigma. They may have started as a stimulus package of sorts, to help people obtain educations that would create a more skilled and productive citizenry, etc., but these days they're a social program. And with the government loaning as much as it takes, the institutions increase how much it takes.
   251. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 31, 2012 at 01:22 AM (#4143889)
The above post might make no sense whatsoever, by the way. I'm very tired.
   252. Greg K Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:49 AM (#4143917)
This isn't a topic I know much about, but I've read that university enrollment goes up in poor financial times because a certain segment of prospective students decide between entering the work force or univeristy out of high school. And if there's no job, they are more likely to go to university.
   253. zenbitz Posted: May 31, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4144069)
I think @252 is a better explanation. People also work part time and go to school part time. College takes both time AND money. Plus, you gotta eat and banks will loan you money to go to school.
   254. villageidiom Posted: May 31, 2012 at 11:11 AM (#4144111)
If the supply-side explanation were true, why haven't high schools experienced the same rate of growth in cost?
You've found the flaw in your own argument.

Something like half of college students were paying tuition using borrowed funds. Borrowed funds are covering, on average, something like 30% of tuition. Since half of students are borrowing 0% of their tuition costs, the other half are borrowing somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of tuition. They are borrowing for both public and private, more for the latter but a significant amount for the former, too.

Fewer than 10% of high school students are in private high schools, and I would assume public high school is largely tuition-free. I don't have a sense of the tendency of that 10% to take out loans. But if private high schools raise their tuition, then the value proposition of tuition-free schools becomes greater, and the 10% market share they have becomes 8%, or whatever. High schools haven't enjoyed the same growth in cost because something like 90% of high school students are in publicly-funded schools.

A good rule of thumb is that any large pool of profits will go to whoever can exert the most influence over it. In the short run, banks could get more profit by loosening their standards on student loans - which was somewhat encouraged federally. In the long run, colleges could handle the increased demand for enrollment (by people who could now "afford" tuition that they couldn't previously) by upping their tuition.
   255. zenbitz Posted: May 31, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4144118)
Speaking of the job market ... Anyone know any web engineers looking for work? Must relocate to SF Bay Area. Apparently twitter/fb/google soaks up all the programmers around here.
   256. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4144133)
The underlying cause of these mostly money- and time-wasting adminstrative expansions isn't political correctness, it's the self-perpetuating nature of administrative offices in the context of the massive influx of new money from the tuition bubble.


It's not just self-induced bloat. It's competing with other institutions. "Come to Eastern State! Our graduate TAs have had an intensive program of training at the Graduate Learning Center! Not like those dunces at Western State!"

If people were looking at going to college as an investment, there would have been a significant decrease in applications and enrollment over the past four years, as the idea that it wasn't such a good investment after all became more prevalent. Has there been such a decrease?


My institution has reported a 5% fall in enrollment for next year.
   257. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 01:01 PM (#4144218)

The unemployment rate for college graduates is only 4.0%, and the emp-pop ratio is 73.2%, only about a 4% decline from the absolute peak in 2007. All of those numbers are significantly better than non-college graduates during the recession. If anything, the recession has shown that having a college degree means a lot, although whether it's worth the cost, I don't know.

Part of the reason that student lenders have tightened their lending standards during the crisis is that in 2010 the government ended the FFELP program by which it guaranteed private student loans. Now, loans are either direct from the government or private and unguaranteed.

Asking whether the cost of education is supply-driven or demand-driven kind of misses the point; it's driven by both. The availability of massive loans that are below market rates naturally increases demand for the product in the sense that it increases the amount people are able to pay. If people couldn't pay as much, you'd find demand reduced, prices declining, etc. Other things can and have happened that move the supply curve, such as increasing costs to provide a college education, fewer subsidies from the state, etc., and those things also affect prices.
   258. Ron J Posted: May 31, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4144323)
#247 As the Economist never tires of noting, the one part of education that the US does consistently well at is top end universities. ( Here is the most recent Times World University Rankings. The top 3, 7 of the top 10 ... are American)

As long as this stays true, these Universities will stay in demand, = expensive, per your model.

EDIT: Of course there is a market for an affordable alternative, and it's at minimum plausible that if student loans could be discharged that prices to these could face the downward pressure.

   259. tshipman Posted: May 31, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4144347)
Fewer than 10% of high school students are in private high schools, and I would assume public high school is largely tuition-free. I don't have a sense of the tendency of that 10% to take out loans. But if private high schools raise their tuition, then the value proposition of tuition-free schools becomes greater, and the 10% market share they have becomes 8%, or whatever. High schools haven't enjoyed the same growth in cost because something like 90% of high school students are in publicly-funded schools.


Isn't this an argument for free college as an effective means to bring down costs?

Why is college different from HS? Free HS greatly depresses the value of private HS, leading to lower costs. Why wouldn't free college do the same?


I have never understood the argument that cheap student loans were what drove the cost of increase.
   260. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4144357)
The unemployment rate for college graduates is only 4.0%, and the emp-pop ratio is 73.2%, only about a 4% decline from the absolute peak in 2007. All of those numbers are significantly better than non-college graduates during the recession. If anything, the recession has shown that having a college degree means a lot, although whether it's worth the cost, I don't know.

It's still a big advantage in the long run to have a college degree, but the worrysome thing in this recession is the number of graduates who are being hired for work that in previous generations were being filled by non-college grads.** And while in some ways it's nice to see college graduates getting a taste of how lower income people have always had to scrounge, when you add in the debt factor you can see the cause for concern.

**which in turns ratchets up the unemployment for the high school grads who used to fill those jobs.
   261. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4144371)
I have never understood the argument that cheap student loans were what drove the cost of increase.


what's really baffling is that you don't seem to see a connection
   262. tshipman Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:18 PM (#4144381)
what's really baffling is that you don't seem to see a connection


I don't. It seems to me that the removal of subsidies explanation is a much cleaner and more logical one.

What's your counterfactual? If there were no cheap student loans, and everything else happened the same (i.e., state government cutbacks requiring the removal of state subsidies), what would have happened? Your argument indicates that in that counterfactual, tuition costs don't go up, and instead a number of colleges close. Is that correct?
   263. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:29 PM (#4144400)
Private school tuition has also grown a lot faster than inflation. I'm not sure where the notion that it hasn't is coming from.

According to this link, the average private high school tuition went from $6,053 in 1999-2000 to $10,549 in 2007-2008, a 73% increase in real cost in just 8 years (the numbers are already inflation adjusted). For non-religious high schools, the average cost went from $14,447 to $27,302, an 89% increase over the same time period.
   264. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:31 PM (#4144404)
What no one's mentioning here (Andy's hinting at it) is that publicly subsidizing education serves the really crucial function of providing a highly-trained workforce for employers. As Bill Gates is fond of pointing out, this passes the burden of education and training from companies onto taxpayers. If wages were rising with the rising expectation of education, this wouldn't be as much of a problem. The short end is companies want better-trained and more competent workers, but they don't want to compensate them for it. The minimum amount of computer skills necessary to do any sort of professional job today is significantly higher than it was a decade ago, and we're (edit: by "we", I mean educators teaching in pretty much all subject areas today) expected to provide students (mistakenly referred to as "digital natives") with those skills as part of their college education. Employers want/expect highly-trained interns to do the work for free that they used to pay full-time employees for. Their free labor didn't train itself.

Barry's Lazy Boy noted in 234 that students expect high-tech libraries because they don't want to learn by cracking a book. That's a really, really poor read on the situation (although it's certainly true that some students would rather not crack books). Schools are providing high-tech learning environments because that's the only way to prepare them for the work environments we're going to be sending them into. We routinely have employers tell us they expect students to be *experts* in using and navigating computers the second they step on the job site. Having this conversation about subsidized education without considering the broader economic function of a skilled workforce seems a bit absurd.
   265. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:39 PM (#4144416)

I don't. It seems to me that the removal of subsidies explanation is a much cleaner and more logical one.

It makes perfect sense to me that both have had an impact.

What's your counterfactual? If there were no cheap student loans, and everything else happened the same (i.e., state government cutbacks requiring the removal of state subsidies), what would have happened? Your argument indicates that in that counterfactual, tuition costs don't go up, and instead a number of colleges close. Is that correct?

I would expect that tuition would go up *and* some college would have to close (or enrollment would decline).
   266. Tripon Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4144428)
I have never understood the argument that cheap student loans were what drove the cost of increase.




Its not cheap to the borrower, its cheap to the colleges and universities who don't see the direct effects of asking students to borrow these ammounts outside of "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MORE MONEY."
   267. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4144434)
#264 - a lot of that is undoubtedly true. It is more expensive to educate kids today given the technological requirements. And the subsidies (in the form of cheap loans) may make sense in that context. But the cheap loans combined with no real constraints on what the schools spend the money on are a bad combination, as others have pointed out with the proliferation of high-salaried administrative positions, luxury dorms, and other things which have little to do with training a technologically skilled labor force.
   268. smileyy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 03:58 PM (#4144445)
It is more expensive to educate kids today given the technological requirements.


Yes and no. Established industries (textbooks, universities) have done a good job protecting their turn from technology, but I can't see it lasting, and it wouldn't surprise me if developing countries tipped the scales.

Why do textbooks, especially elementary, high school, and intro undergraduate textbooks, cost money at all? The fundamental content doesn't change -- where is the leverage of a brand new textbook? The fact that there's not widely adopted digital open-source textbooks amazes me.

The same is true of much course content. If lectures of several hundred are effective, why aren't digital lectures to thousands or more more widely adopted?

I realize there are efforts in this area (particularly Stanford and MIT, IIRC), but they haven't been as disruptive as we have the potential for them to be.
   269. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 04:20 PM (#4144483)
But the cheap loans combined with no real constraints on what the schools spend the money on are a bad combination, as others have pointed out with the proliferation of high-salaried administrative positions, luxury dorms, and other things which have little to do with training a technologically skilled labor force.

I'm the last one to defend luxury dorms or high-salaried administrative positions, but that doesn't tell the whole story-- what we've seen is the shifting of the costs of education onto the students while employers contribute the same amount or less, and expect better-trained workers. What's happening with internships right now is absolutely criminal (and literally illegal, in a lot of cases). Employers are raising expectations without being willing to compensate their employees for the cost of the training they're demanding. Students consider the training in "networking" they get from all of those activities we consider superfluous as an essential part of what they learn in college, because employers are telling them they need those skills to succeed in the contemporary workforce.

In terms of "technologically skilled"-- that means the university has to look like the modern office-- flatscreens, networked to the gills, ect, so that the transition from school to office is a seamless one. That doesn't come cheap. Every class we offer, every class offered at almost every school now, has an online component (like Blackboard), regardless of the content. Pretending that hasn't added huge costs, and huge benefits for employers, misses a substantial part of the equation.

===
The same is true of much course content. If lectures of several hundred are effective, why aren't digital lectures to thousands or more more widely adopted?

I realize there are efforts in this area (particularly Stanford and MIT, IIRC), but they haven't been as disruptive as we have the potential for them to be.


This is a substantial conversation in academia right now-- I think there are big changes coming, but not for a while, in large part because a lot of education is about more than just delivering content. I'll be replaced by a computer program eventually, but for now, you need to be able to scale difficult material to the level of the 20-40 students in the room, cultivate critical thinking skills, ect.Education is only in small part about imparting knowledge; it's much more about imparting the discipline and habits necessary to succeed in whatever work environment your training students to enter.
   270. smileyy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4144511)
but for now, you need to be able to scale difficult material to the level of the 20-40 students in the room


I see your point, but at the same time, the schools that are putting a couple hundred people in a room for intro courses are still charging $20k+ a year.

I could see inexpensive commodity education becoming the new widely accessible "junior college".
   271. Srul Itza Posted: May 31, 2012 at 04:54 PM (#4144533)
Education is only in small part about imparting knowledge; it's much more about imparting the discipline and habits necessary to succeed in whatever work environment your training students to enter.


If the parents haven't instilled that by the time they are 18, or their primary and secondary schools haven't, or they do not just have it within themselves, woe unto them.

   272. Squash Posted: May 31, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4144545)
I see your point, but at the same time, the schools that are putting a couple hundred people in a room for intro courses are still charging $20k+ a year.

Sure, but what happens when those couple hundred people are no longer taking intro courses?

It used to be that lower-level students were funding higher-level research - I don't know if that holds true anymore. I went to a very expensive private college, got out in 1999. People didn't even have cell phones yet. More than a few kids didn't have computers in their rooms (and again, this is at a very, very expensive school) - these were mostly the kids who were there only through heavy financial aid (and who were also uniformly among the most brilliant people there) - but there were a few (including myself for a while) who felt they didn't NEED one to get through college yet. I can't imagine that's the case today. Professors didn't have computers in classrooms, it was still overhead projectors. All this stuff is overhead, both for students and the university itself. Given the technological demands it has to be far more costly to educate students today even than it was just those short 10+ years ago.
   273. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:01 PM (#4144554)
the schools that are putting a couple hundred people in a room for intro courses are still charging $20k+ a year.

And usually funneling those couple hundred people into sections with TAs who are supervised by the instructor of record. I haven't had the pleasure of running a large lecture course yet, but I spent a few years in grad school as a TA for some excellent and well-liked profs (and a couple who weren't as well-liked or excellent). There were a lot of strategic discussions about how to teach material, what unexpected issues or topics were coming up with the students, what students seemed to be retaining from the lectures, ect. The largest class I TA'd for was around 400 students, and the prof was really helpful and curious about what was going on in discussion.

This isn't to say that new models won't emerge-- it's inevitable that they will-- just to say that it's erroneous to assume information flows only one way in a large lecture class.
   274. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:10 PM (#4144571)
If the parents haven't instilled that by the time they are 18, or their primary and secondary schools haven't, or they do not just have it within themselves, woe unto them.

We don't have an industrial model in the workplace any more. Primary and secondary schools still look like the industrial workplace. With how much work people are expected to do remotely, the concept of a "workplace" is even changing. Employers want to know that students can work in these new environments. A college degree provides some sort of vetting process for employers.
   275. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4144580)

Why do textbooks, especially elementary, high school, and intro undergraduate textbooks, cost money at all? The fundamental content doesn't change -- where is the leverage of a brand new textbook? The fact that there's not widely adopted digital open-source textbooks amazes me.


In the case of my field (art history), the images of artworks appearing in the book each have to be licensed and paid for.


If the parents haven't instilled that by the time they are 18, or their primary and secondary schools haven't, or they do not just have it within themselves, woe unto them.


This is simply not true.


It used to be that lower-level students were funding higher-level research - I don't know if that holds true anymore.


Definitely true in the humanities -- the intro courses bring in the money that allows the upper-level stuff to be taught.
   276. smileyy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:16 PM (#4144582)
there were a few [students] (including myself for a while) who felt they didn't NEED one to get through college yet.


Right, but that's also a time when one didn't need a computer to get through modern life. I suspect that everyone in college has a computer because everyone has a computer.

All this stuff is overhead, both for students and the university itself. Given the technological demands it has to be far more costly to educate students today even than it was just those short 10+ years ago.


Right -- I can see an eager embrace of using technology to make education more expensive (or, at least, saying "Technology! Damn the cost!"), but not much traction in terms of using technology to make education cheaper, because, well, there's not much (direct) money in cheaper.
   277. smileyy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4144598)
Definitely true in the humanities -- the intro courses bring in the money that allows the upper-level stuff to be taught.


This makes me think of a business model that has as bright of a future as print newspapers :)
   278. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:39 PM (#4144614)
Barry's Lazy Boy noted in 234 that students expect high-tech libraries because they don't want to learn by cracking a book. That's a really, really poor read on the situation (although it's certainly true that some students would rather not crack books). Schools are providing high-tech learning environments because that's the only way to prepare them for the work environments we're going to be sending them into.

The cracking a book part was snark. But I have trouble believing the argument that the library needs to have all this stuff so that students learn technology. There are technology classrooms and computer centers on campus, in addition to most students having their own technology. What technologies do they miss in class/centers/self that they need the library for?

How about the multiple coffee shops as part of the library? Are companies demanding that students are prepared for on-site coffee shops in the business world?
   279. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4144615)

This makes me think of a business model that has as bright of a future as print newspapers


In all seriousness, can you suggest an alternate one?


How about the multiple coffee shops as part of the library? Are companies demanding that students are prepared for on-site coffee shops in the business world?


I expect the coffee shops serve the purpose of revenue maximization -- they're not adding to the cost of tuition.
   280. smileyy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 05:44 PM (#4144620)

In all seriousness, can you suggest an alternate one?


No, but I can recognize the risk in a model that says "I need to use the money A to fund B" as a longterm strategy. When someone starts doing A cheaper or better than you, B is in big trouble.
   281. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:10 PM (#4144646)
The cracking a book part was snark. But I have trouble believing the argument that the library needs to have all this stuff so that students learn technology.

Wait, are you arguing that libraries don't need computers? Where do you think research is done in 2012? I don't love the electronic subscription model, but one of the big virtues is that it allows for simultaneous viewing. I guess we could go back to bound journals and card catalogs, but if you're trying to prepare students for the information navigation environment they're going to be inhabiting, getting them used to working on multiple computing platforms seesm pretty prudent.

Plus, the library has working printers. It's amazing how many of my students don't actually have a printer at home.

How about the multiple coffee shops as part of the library? Are companies demanding that students are prepared for on-site coffee shops in the business world?

At my university, the coffee shop in the library charges money. So do the 3 Starbucks within a block of campus.
   282. villageidiom Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:11 PM (#4144649)
Isn't this an argument for free college as an effective means to bring down costs?
First, the argument isn't about the absolute level of costs but rather the rapid increase in costs. But, yes, all other things being equal an expansion of free tuition at public colleges would tend to rein in the increase in tuition at private colleges. Not the top tier private colleges, but otherwise yes. The proportion of public vs. private colleges is not as extreme as it is at HS, so the effect might not be as great as seen at the HS level. But it would likely have an effect for some time at mid-tier private colleges.

Unfortunately, as governments pick up the tab for whatever costs exist at public colleges those colleges will redefine upward "whatever costs exist" so they can get more money. As that happens, content providers - faculty, textbook publishers, food services, etc. - would increase their prices to get a share of the money. As content costs rise, and mid-tier private schools can't raise tuition without losing enrollment, eventually the low-tier and some mid-tier colleges go out of business.

As public colleges become free due to public funds, there would likely be a change in who goes to college. That they are going on someone else's dime, and wouldn't have gone otherwise - even when banks are handing out loans like candy on Halloween - suggests they might not have the incentive to work at it. Likewise, people who otherwise would have had loans but went to a free school instead would have a little less incentive to ensure good grades / graduation / job ensues from their collegiate experience. People do work harder when they have a personal stake. The proliferation of unmotivated students at free schools might also encourage the high-tier private schools to raise tuition, as the value of a degree from their school would only increase. (Besides, all that student loan money the banks can lend can now be spread among fewer people, which means those people can afford even costlier colleges.)

So, in the end, costs would be reined in for most individuals, but quality and overall cost could suffer.

- - - - -

As an aside... My own college, in the 10 years prior to my arrival, had added one building, a dorm that made up a bit for the low amount of on-campus housing. In my 4 years there, they added one more building, home to the growing computer science department. So, that's a rate of roughly 4 major infrastructure projects every 20 years, right?

In the 20 years since I left, they have added 4 buildings on campus (one dorm, a student center, a whole three-story building just for the admissions office, and a third athletics* building - so, uh, zero buildings for education), undergone major renovation/expansion of 3 buildings (one for education, two for what is termed "student life"), performed several major general landscape/beautification projects (including one that permanently closed the main street through campus to install a fountain), and built a huge office park nearby to attract businesses in the hope of encouraging them to partner with faculty for research. Yes, they all make the school nicer, more attractive, etc., but most of these are the kind of expenditures you don't make with a tight budget. They're the kind of expenditures you make if you have a lot more money than you need in the short run. They have it because they raised tuition; they raised tuition because they could; they could because the applicant pool could afford higher tuition; they could afford higher tuition because loans were easier to come by; they were easier to come by because banks didn't have to worry about defaults.

* Division III, BTW.

Sure, my college also spruced up their technology, which helps to prepare students for technology in a business environment. But the vast majority of their major expenditures in the last 20 years were around student comfort or school image, not educational quality.
   283. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:15 PM (#4144651)
No, but I can recognize the risk in a model that says "I need to use the money A to fund B" as a longterm strategy. When someone starts doing A cheaper or better than you, B is in big trouble.


I don't think anybody else is doing A, or even attempting to do it, but I could be wrong. I have a real concern, though, that the way A is being done these days, at least in my field, is almost worse than having no A at all. Of course, the way B is done in my field has pretty much jumped the shark, too.


Why do textbooks, especially elementary, high school, and intro undergraduate textbooks, cost money at all? The fundamental content doesn't change -- where is the leverage of a brand new textbook? The fact that there's not widely adopted digital open-source textbooks amazes me.



In the case of my field (art history), the images of artworks appearing in the book each have to be licensed and paid for.




The same is true of musical scores from beyond a certain time. In fields other than art and music, though, I can't for the life of me see why there hasn't been wholesale movement toward open source, free textbooks.

I'm also unconcerned about being replaced by a computer program or an online course model in music*; there needs to be a kind of interaction for music that can't come close to being duplicated in an online format yet (and for applied music, would require some kind of seamless holography--possible, perhaps, but not for decades most likely). I would have to think that lab-based science courses will still have to be done in actual physical proximity for a good while, too.

* That is, those musical disciplines that haven't jumped the shark, which is thankfully most of them (but not the one I've spent the last few years in ).
   284. Srul Itza Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4144653)
This is simply not true.


Well, who can argue with such a cogent argument.
   285. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4144655)
In the 20 years since I left, they have added 4 buildings on campus (one dorm, a student center, a whole three-story building just for the admissions office, and a third athletics* building - so, uh, zero buildings for education), undergone major renovation/expansion of 3 buildings (one for education, two for what is termed "student life"), performed several major general landscape/beautification projects (including one that permanently closed the main street through campus to install a fountain), and built a huge office park nearby to attract businesses in the hope of encouraging them to partner with faculty for research. Yes, they all make the school nicer, more attractive, etc., but most of these are the kind of expenditures you don't make with a tight budget. They're the kind of expenditures you make if you have a lot more money than you need in the short run. They have it because they raised tuition; they raised tuition because they could; they could because the applicant pool could afford higher tuition; they could afford higher tuition because loans were easier to come by; they were easier to come by because banks didn't have to worry about defaults.


And this is why I'm having serious second thoughts about wading into that mess. Ultimately, though, (a) I have no other viable options, and (b), trite as it sounds, it's for the kids, and the kids aren't the ones screwing it all up. They come to the college that there is. There is no other college.
   286. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4144656)
Wait, are you arguing that libraries don't need computers?

Nice straw man.

Where do you think research is done in 2012? I don't love the electronic subscription model, but one of the big virtues is that it allows for simultaneous viewing. I guess we could go back to bound journals and card catalogs, but if you're trying to prepare students for the information navigation environment they're going to be inhabiting, getting them used to working on multiple computing platforms seesm pretty prudent.

Plus, the library has working printers. It's amazing how many of my students don't actually have a printer at home.


The library was already chock full of computers and printers. Yet somehow it needed a $20M "transformation".

Its amazing how there are people who defend every bit of spending yet at the same time wonder why tuition is sky high.
   287. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:38 PM (#4144669)
The textbook thing is interesting to me. I think the problem is that there are plenty of fields that need updating from time to time. Certainly tech fields like computer science, etc., but I would think even other fields have research going on that changes things from time to time.

But be that as it may or not be that, I suspect the bigger issue is the publishers. Each year new students have to buy books. Sure, some can buy used, but not everyone sells their books back, and sooner or later books wear out. I expect that publishers make more money by releasing updated editions every year, forcing the class to buy all new books.
   288. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:41 PM (#4144671)
Wait, are you arguing that libraries don't need computers?

Nice straw man.

This is what you said:

But I have trouble believing the argument that the library needs to have all this stuff so that students learn technology.

I don't spend much time in my university's library (quick in and out to get books), but when I do pass through, the computers are packed with students. And there are a lot of them. Some of my students say they spend a lot of time on those computers, especially if they don't have access to a computer. And I teach at a state school-- many of them don't.

The library was already chock full of computers and printers. Yet somehow it needed a $20M "transformation".

I have no clue as to the specifics of your university's library renovations.

Its amazing how there are people who defend every bit of spending yet at the same time wonder why tuition is sky high.

Wait, what? There's real bloat at universities-- I'm not a fan of dining halls turning into "bistros", boutique dorms, and extra-large upper-level administrator salaries. No one tends to gripe louder about this stuff than faculty-- our wages have stayed pretty flat in the face of increasing workloads while upper-level admin salaries have skyrocketed. My point was to say that some of the cost is there specifically because employers have asked universities to provide training, and that in the past decade, as we increasingly require students with class material online, schools have had to work harder to ensure reliable access to computers.

I know some schools/programs require their students to buy laptops, but unless you're willing to go there, the university needs to provide access. And it's expensive.
   289. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:45 PM (#4144676)
Also, sometimes I think professors, etc. use the textbook system to line their pockets. Took a computer security course at Northwestern. The professor had a typical text book on the list, and a "supplement." The supplement turned out to be a black and white photocopy of a PowerPoint that he (the professor) had written. It was $45.
   290. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:52 PM (#4144679)
The supplement turned out to be a black and white photocopy of a PowerPoint that he (the professor) had written. It was $45.


The copy center sets those prices. The professor probably isn't seeing a penny of it.
   291. smileyy Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:53 PM (#4144681)
[283] Doing "A" better: http://www.good.is/post/the-professor-behind-stanford-s-free-artificial-intelligence-class-launches-an-online-learning-platform/
   292. formerly dp Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:53 PM (#4144684)
The copy center sets those prices. The professor probably isn't seeing a penny of it.

The copy center's making out, though!
   293. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 06:54 PM (#4144685)

A couple of guys I went to college with founded Inkling, which is trying to design interactive textbooks for the iPad. Haven't tried the product yet (as I didn't have an iPad until yesterday, but my understanding is that they're trying to make textbooks better and also less expensive (by allowing people to purchase individual chapters when they don't need the whole textbook).
   294. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 31, 2012 at 07:01 PM (#4144690)
[283] Doing "A" better: http://www.good.is/post/the-professor-behind-stanford-s-free-artificial-intelligence-class-launches-an-online-learning-platform/


I was referring specifically to art history when I said that I didn't know if anyone else was even trying to do A (which I was defining as "teach art history to 200 people at a time").
   295. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 31, 2012 at 07:38 PM (#4144717)
They're the kind of expenditures you make if you have a lot more money than you need in the short run. They have it because they raised tuition; they raised tuition because they could; they could because the applicant pool could afford higher tuition; they could afford higher tuition because loans were easier to come by; they were easier to come by because banks didn't have to worry about defaults.

Just to inject some rounded and vaguely-remembered numbers into the conversation, I had a crappy (and short-lived) fundraising job at the Big Ten school I attended.

IIRC, tuition made up just under a quarter of the annual budget and state funding was about 30%. This was back around 2001.

My personal suspicion about all the various complaints arise from the fact that universities have become increasingly viewed as failures or successes based on the US News rankings of educational institutions. How else does the board of trustees examine the direction of the school?

There are a number of ways to increase that ranking and most of them are only tangentially related to your success at educating students. For instance, the raw numbers of your incoming class is a serious factor and schools drive that up by promoting their visibility which drives more applications, which presumably also means a larger number of elite students to fill your finite number of openings. A Big Ten public university doesn't need marketing to get a sufficient number of applicants - they spend so much effort on marketing to help compete for the best students.

As for the rising administration salaries... most universities (and certainly anything resembling an elite one) get most of their money through alumni donations. From where I sit, much of the administration jobs are PR of one form or another and the bloated salaries are a reflection of the fact that alumni donations are huge and critical parts of what the school does.

Finally, I think the tuition raises at the established universities are less of a crime against humanity than a number of these community colleges. I'm going to sound elitist here but somebody I know is getting a bachelor's from some random college in some random business major. His grade is based off of short multiple choice quizzes he takes online (with a time limit) where he just googles the answers. He thinks he's beating the system but I want to grab him by the shoulders and tell him he's flushing his money away on something completely worthless and he isn't alone.
   296. Squash Posted: May 31, 2012 at 07:51 PM (#4144734)
There's an article on ESPN right now about P. Diddy's (estimated worth: $550 million) son accepting a scholarship to play football at UCLA (valued at $54,000 - I assume, as an out-of-state resident, that's per year?) and their response. Link
   297. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: May 31, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4144738)
The supplement turned out to be a black and white photocopy of a PowerPoint that he (the professor) had written. It was $45.

The copy center sets those prices. The professor probably isn't seeing a penny of it.

No, not in this case. I'd used the copy center myself. No way did photocopying 20 sheets of paper cost anywhere near $45. Were they expensive compared to Kinko's? You bet. But c'mon.

ETA: And if that's the case, why doesn't he just go photocopy them at Kinko's and distribute them as handouts? You know, like in every other class I've ever been in.

OR...why not just make the PowerPoint available digitally? It's a Comp Sci class; I'm pretty sure everyone there knew how to download a file. Or copy it to a flash drive. Or...well, you get the point. In fact, I asked him about getting a soft copy, and he adamantly refused.
   298. Squash Posted: May 31, 2012 at 08:03 PM (#4144744)
There are a number of ways to increase that ranking and most of them are only tangentially related to your success at educating students. For instance, the raw numbers of your incoming class is a serious factor and schools drive that up by promoting their visibility which drives more applications, which presumably also means a larger number of elite students to fill your finite number of openings. A Big Ten public university doesn't need marketing to get a sufficient number of applicants - they spend so much effort on marketing to help compete for the best students.

I was just going to add something like this - a lot of the USA Today ranking components are based on financials. At least as I recall endowment and endowment per student both matter, and then things which are tangentially related to financials - teacher/student ratio, etc.


There's a lot of truth in everything everyone's saying. Like most big problems, increasing college costs are the result of a lot of different factors pulling in a lot of different directions, with no one simple fix.
   299. Kurt Posted: May 31, 2012 at 08:08 PM (#4144747)
There's an article on ESPN right now about P. Diddy's (estimated worth: $550 million) son accepting a scholarship to play football at UCLA (valued at $54,000 - I assume, as an out-of-state resident, that's per year?) and their response

I'm guessing that when Diddy Junior leaves UCLA and gets a job - whether it's with the NFL, Taco Bell or anywhere in between - his employer will also offer him something of value for his services.
   300. Squash Posted: May 31, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4144770)
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