The Big Think

October 2, 2007

Hoarding

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:56 pm

Are American colleges hoarding their endowments and causing undue financial constraints on students? (Perish the thought!). At current rates, some college educations for babies born this year will run a half-million dollars.
The Center for College Affordability has an interesting article about a recent Senate meeting.

What the data shows is that endowment wealth is everywhere—except in the hands of the students who need it today. Last year endowments increased 17.7% on average—those larger than a billion increased 18.4%. Yet, despite double-digit increases stretching back a decade or more —endowment spending is at a nearly all-time low of 4.2%–down from 5.1% in 1994, 6.5% in 1982, and 5.2% in 1975.

On the face of it, it seems like colleges (particularly state schools) should pry open their wallets to help out students more. I know of a few graduate students who are getting by on pitifully, horribly small annual stipends (around $1200/month) in exchange for hours of school-mandated teaching. Yes, they’re getting an education, but at the cost of some very valuable employment years.

I’m willing to be convinced by a counter argument, but so far I can’t think of one. My own alma mater has spent the last six years boasting about how big their endowment will be by 2012. Meanwhile the cost of classes has skyrocketed. When I went there classes were $127/semester hour. A few years ago the school stopped charging per hour and instead went to an “all you can eat” style where students can take as many hours as they want for $20,000/year (for comparison, 2 semesters at 15 hr/semester at $127/hour was only $3810 in 1987). Unfortunately, this system is unfairly biased against some degrees (music in particular) where 15 hours is considered full load and 17 hours is near-suicidal (lots of small classes and outside rehearsal time- I tried it one year).

It used to be that the cost of higher education was more than offset by the increased earning potential that a degree conferred throughout your employment life. That tide has shifted recently. I saw one study that stated if you took the average cost of a college education and invested it instead of going to school, at retirement you’d be far better off living off the interest of that seed money than if you’d invested it in a degree. In most cases the job market doesn’t pay the premium for the degree that it used to.

There are plenty of non-scholastic reasons to go to college: taking time to decide what you want to do, exposure to a variety of points of view, major cognitive training that’s hard to get in the 9-5 world, incredible memories, and irreplaceable contacts, to name a few. But it seems increasingly obvious that America’s colleges have become “institutions whose business is to manage large pools of investment assets and that they run educational institutions on the side…to act as buffers for the investment pools.”

Going Nowhere

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 1:57 pm

This makes me sad.

Red Five

Filed under: Mad Science,Movies — jasony @ 1:53 pm

21 foot long scale X-Wing. Oh yeah, it really flies.

Oh, Fafner, We Hardly Knew Ye

Filed under: Mad Science,Uncategorized — jasony @ 1:31 pm

Dang, I shouldn’t have busted up Fafner. He’d have come in handy.

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