Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Today's Show on student debt, at 11 a.m., but where?

   Kurt Lorey raises an excellent point. We shall shoot today, Saturday, June 30, at my office. That is at 1915 Broad Ripple Avenue a/k/a 62nd Street, at 11 a.m. The topic will be on student debt.

   In 1972-73, the total cost—tuition, room-and-bard, and fees (not books because textbooks varied from outrageously high to extortionately high—for one year at one of the four residential, four-year degree State universities (Ball State, Indiana State, Indiana, and Purdue) was about $1,800-$1,900. That was my senior year of high school and I was considering where I wanted to attend. The most expensive school, as I recall from The College Handbook, in the country was Amherst at $5,700.  Harvard was about $5,100. I went to DePauw and the first year was $4,000. When I attended, and graduated from, IU School of Law-Indianapolis, a credit hour was $65 first year and increased to $85 by the time of commencement in 1989.

   Those numbers look almost quaint today.

   Education is as much a part of a nation’s infrastructure as its highways, bridges and railroads. A child born in poverty in this country faces primary and secondary education provided by a system based, in large part, on the property tax—i.e., the schools will be able to provide resources consistent with the socioeconomic state of the community. Poorer communities have fewer resources for schools. If that child breaks through and graduates from high school, opportunities for further education are limited by finances. That now-high school graduate can join the military. There is no draft. We have made higher education for the poor dependent upon the young person going to Afghanistan and losing life or one or more limbs.

   The debt for the kids of the middle-class can be staggering. It is not uncommon to hear of a person who has incurred $200,000, in debt to obtain undergrad and graduate degrees.

  Like I said, we shoot at 11 a.m. Last week we attempted to live stream, but did not have a WiFi connection of sufficient capacity. For that I apologize. We would shoot for about two minutes and the feed would kick out. By the time we shot the last segment, everyone had turned off cell phones and laptops and the kick outs stopped. We would have gone back and pasted together the bits of the first two segments, but the conversation would have lacked continuity.

   Next week we shall shoot a special: people will gather to show opposition to the smoking ban enacted in Indy and put into effect on June 1.

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Comment by Bill Thompson on July 3, 2012 at 4:19pm

The other thought I had on the original topic (lol) is the role of web-only educational institutions.  Not the first generation like Phoenix, but the new ones that really cut costs like http://www.straighterline.com/ - I know very little about it, except they promise a $99 college course.  The credits don't transfer far, but they do transfer to WGU, another one I admit to not fully understanding.

Comment by Kurt Lorey on July 2, 2012 at 5:08pm

Bill,

1) I have felt your pain. "Research". Hmm. Yes, I'm sure we could talk away the hours about "it", since apparently we have a meeting of the minds.

2) If research acitvely moves along finding a cure for some terminal condition, or the discovery of worm hole technology, or fusion energy - fine. If, on the other hand, research is trying to prove that the sky is green, or worst of all, cheats on the data and findings, well there is a lot to be said for criticizing the process.

5) Well, true enough. I think one of IU's early SPEA majors is some kind of VP (or something) in Bloomington now. Full circle.

Comment by Bill Thompson on July 2, 2012 at 4:31pm

Kurt,

1) Having been a TA, yes, I've graded zillions of papers.  Remove meetings and research, and tenure-track professors spend very little time as educators.  The IU average of 5.5 classes per calendar year per prof = 220 hours in classroom per year, and much of that is covered by TA's or lecturers. The whole reason for a state university system is to educate the masses, not provide cush jobs.

2) The question might be, is there a valid purpose for research at taxpayer-funded state universities ? I agree the bunk-ness isn't confined to social sciences. There's a letter to the editor in today's Star (July 2) from two Purdue profs about the value Purdue research brings, but I don't buy it. I agree this is a good topic.

5) SPEA trains people to work for the government and non-profits.  Nobody graduates from SPEA wanting smaller government. 

6) Yup !

Comment by Kurt Lorey on July 2, 2012 at 3:35pm

Bill, re: your intial comments.

1) You ever try to grade 80 -400 tests in about 48 hours? I don't recommend it.

2) Not all research is bunk, but a lot of it is, even in your "hard" sciences. This is worthy of a discussion in and of itself.

5) SPEA, just for one, goofy? You do realize that the P and A stands for Public Affairs of which there has been a pretty good job market for since the late 70s? Just because you don't see/use Internet 2, doesn't mean it's goofy. I don't even think Folkore and Linguistics are goofy. Esoteric for many, but not goofy.

6) Like student debt, textbooks provide a tremendous amount of profit for certain companies/persons. Find a vulnerable segment of the population and SQUEEZE every last cent out of them. It's the one-percent way.

7-14) Certainly worthy of discussion between civil parties, who apparently aren't a part of the decision-making process anymore.

Comment by Bill Thompson on July 2, 2012 at 1:30pm

Mark, good point about IUPUI being kept down - it's like what the Simons did to Union Station, we can't have competition ! 

I would not wipe out student debt, but if all the penalties were waived and the debt refinanced at 0.25%, that would be a good compromise IMO.  The US has become a nation where the average person is punked non-stop.

Comment by Mark Small on July 1, 2012 at 5:53am

Bill--I agree w/a lot of what you say.

1) At DePauw, teachers taught. I don't necessarily agree with you about IUPUI's original mission. I think IU and Purdue trustees realized the threat an urban public university located in Indy posed to West Laf and Bloomington. As one member of the Purdue Board of Trustees told me years ago, "That Indianapolis campus will never be out of our control." By "our" he meant IU and Purdue.

2) Construction has gone nuts on most campuses---agreed.

3) Folklore has value as a study area, but not as a department. Move it over to history or anthropology.

4) Be careful about the textbooks. Michael Corleone could upset if you eliminate one of the rackets.

5) Wipe out all student debt. It's mainly held by the same big banks we just gave $7 tril. Student debt is $1 tril.

6) I don't know if we can reverse the trend in U.S. culture. The economy has taken "hands on" jobs away from here. But we certainly could focus more on vocational education in high school for kids who do not choose a college-track program.

 

Comment by Bill Thompson on June 30, 2012 at 10:57am

On college costs "my thing" is first to look at where the money goes, in a way that intentionally ignores sacred cows and the status quo.  A nice way of saying that my ideas often make sound like a jerk.  

Education is generally a good thing.  The US spends a lot of money on it, though much of it incorrectly IMO.  Education and college credentials are not synonomous - a BA in Psychology from the U of Phoenix is a "credential", just a piece of paper; one reason their commercials show the 'glorious' graduation ceremony.  IUPUI's original mission was to be a commuter college, convenient and affordable, to benefit local kids who can't afford room and board elsewhere, and working adults.  The statistics show IUPUI is a failure, in terms of the number of students served, costs, and graduation results.  My magic wand would do these things:

1) Tenure track people should teach teach teach. In the IU system they only handle 5.5 classes per calendar year on average.  So, to reduce costs, have profs teach more, and eliminate TA's and lecturers.  At Butler, profs did 4 classes per semester, and they did all the teaching and grading.
2) Other than for medicine or hard science, eliminate research from the state university system. All research in the social sciences is bull. I don't care what Aaron Burr had for breakfast the morning of the duel.
3) Stop building.  A few years ago the total wish-list for new buildings on state college campuses was $500 million, which Mitch thankfully kiboshed.  IUPUI has been on a building spree over the past generation, though its enrollment has been steady. New buildings also make parking difficult and expensive. (I realize building funds come from the state budget.)
4) Eliminate most staff positions. IUPUI has become bloated with employees.  The "Center for Whatever" concept is a make-work program.
5) Eliminate truly goofy programs, like SPEA, Internet-2, Linguistics, Folklore.
6) Move to open-source textbooks, to reduce the criminal-level costs placed on students.
7) Eliminate all student fees.  These have climbed to what, $85 a semester ?
8) Allow discharge of student debt in bankruptcy.
9) Get the federal government out of education.  Eliminate tax breaks for college, like IRA withdrawls and tuition cost deductions.  Eliminate 529 plans. That which is subsidized, costs more.
10) Get the military out of the racket of loan forgiveness in exchange for service.
11) Refinance existing college loans at the same rate the Fed charges banks, which I think is 0.25%.  Then stop guaranteeing new loans.
12) Fund tuition for poor people by taking the $100 billion sitting in college endowments.
13) Go back to teachers only needing a 2-year program - not a BA, and certainly not a Masters.
14) Reverse the trend in US culture that makes so many jobs dependent on a college degree. Have respect for those who work with their hands.

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