Thursday, November 29, 2007

College Angst

Here at Talk central, we find ourselves obsessing over college these days. Ma Talk is in the final stretch of her masters, the Talk kids are beginning to assess their choices, and Pa Talk still has this recurring nightmare where he is sitting all over again for the big Calculus III test with absolutely no idea about how answer the questions.

So this story in the Sun caught our eye. It seems today's ambitious teen spends many late nights and weekends completing as many as 12 applications or more with the help of "lots of coffee."


Technology is part to blame. Many colleges allow people to apply online and they use a common form. We even heard a Podcast lately touting the benefits of the "social media" application, one where you add links to your Web pages and sports highlight reels on YouTube. (But don't forget to scrub the MySpace page!)

For Pa Talk, that's enough to spur some more nightmares....

But there is at least one college trend we believe can't come fast enough. Check out this story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

"Colleges are moving to eliminate -- or at least ease -- student debt as pressure builds in Washington for them to spend more from their endowments to help families afford the rising cost of school.

"This month, Williams College announced that it will eliminate loans from all financial-aid packages beginning next school year and replace them with grants. Amherst College recently announced a similar initiative. And Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., began this fall replacing loans with grants and student employment.

"Other schools are stopping short of getting rid of loans entirely, but are still finding new ways to minimize debt, at least for some students. Colby College, a private college in Waterville, Maine, announced this month that it will eliminate loans for Maine residents starting next fall. Beginning with next year's freshmen, Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., will eliminate loans for its neediest undergraduates and reduce debt by an average of 35% for all other students on aid.

"And this year, Emory University in Atlanta announced its 'Emory Advantage' program, which eliminates loans for undergraduate students whose families earn less than $50,000 a year, while capping total loan volume at $15,000 over four years for families with income of up to $100,000."

1 comment:

John G. Boyle said...

I'll be curious to see just how many institutions go down this path. Maybe it'll just be the mega-endowment ones. As far as I've seen, most schools really can't afford to dip too deep into their endowments.

Frankly, I find it surprising that the tuition/debt issue would be addressed in this way. It seems a bit backwards to me.

I look at how higher ed institutions upgrade their campuses and resources to attract students as something akin to Cold War escalation. One of the issues behind rising tuition is that students, current or future end up having to pay for these improvements - many of which are non-academic "student-life" focused. Combine that with the fact that the end of the "baby-boom echo" is going to lead to a decline in students applying to higher ed institutions in the near future, and you have a nasty little situation brewing.

Although the grant thing sounds nice (for schools that can afford it), also I'd like to see a movement toward "disarmament" where schools invest less into non-academic areas :)