Fix UC
February 10, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

A student group has a novel idea to reduce college costs: pay nothing up front, instead paying out 5% of their income to the UC system for 20 years after graduation.
posted by reenum (123 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel like there was a similar idea in a post that was on Metafilter years ago, something about a guy who put it out there that if you gave him a 250k loan he would pay you back like 5% of his income for the next 20 years. Anyone else remember this?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:49 PM on February 10, 2012


Debt slavery. Bullshit.
posted by wuwei at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Anyone else remember this?

Was his last name Ponzi?
posted by penduluum at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't student loans, in effect, do much of the same thing?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on February 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


I feel like there was a similar idea in a post that was on Metafilter years ago, something about a guy who put it out there that if you gave him a 250k loan he would pay you back like 5% of his income for the next 20 years. Anyone else remember this?

Kjerstin Erickson
posted by Copronymus at 12:51 PM on February 10, 2012


A student group has a novel idea

Uh...
Not A New Idea

It's an appealing idea to some, but not a brand new one.

Bob Shireman of the nonprofit group California Competes says conservative economist Milton Friedman wrote about similar concepts in the 1950s, saying education should be seen as an investment.

"He suggested the government should provide people with money for college, and then charge them a percentage of their income later," Shireman says.

He points out that New Zealand, Australia and the U.K. have all invested in variations on this theme.
posted by Jahaza at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Romney would figure out a way to get it down to 2% for himself.
posted by oddman at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


This will be a huge boon for those looking at getting multiple grad degrees, those who will live off of an inheritance, those who intend to travel overseas for 20 years after graduation, or anyone else who does not plan to join the ranks of the employed after college.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


How the fuck did you find that so fast?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, this is a student loan, but it passes on the default risk from the federally guaranteed loan program to the institution itself? I don't see why this is a bargain for anyone involved.
posted by Think_Long at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This would be a good idea if the UC system was geared towards getting out a well paying job after you graduate, when in fact, once you've paid your tuition they really dont give a crap. Most of my friends give up significantly more then 5% of their income to pay their loans.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


So if your university needs tuition now rather than 20 years from now, you're just fucked?
posted by pwnguin at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2012


How the fuck did you find that so fast?

I was already looking it up because it also reminded me of her stunt.
posted by Copronymus at 12:55 PM on February 10, 2012


What if, and bear with me here for a second, we all prepaid for college. And not just our own college, but we each pay a progressive percent of our income every year and then college costs nothing when someone goes? We could call it an educational stipend or something.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:56 PM on February 10, 2012 [47 favorites]


pwnguin: “So if your university needs tuition now rather than 20 years from now, you're just fucked?”

I am willing to bet that you could find enough people that have graduated in the past 20 years who are willing to switch over to this system of payment to make this worthwhile.
posted by koeselitz at 12:57 PM on February 10, 2012


I am willing to bet that you could find enough people that have graduated in the past 20 years who are willing to switch over to this system of payment to make this worthwhile.

But then where would their debt be transferred?
posted by Think_Long at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2012


From the student's point of view, this is what IBR is, except it's 15% and 25 years. So a pretty clear win from that point of view, except that...

From the University's point of view, the result would be that everything except the math, hard science, engineering, and business departments would close down. If the risk of lackluster repayment falls on the University, it's only going to offer programs with a proven track record of turning out graduates with well-paying jobs.
posted by jedicus at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


koeselitz: "I am willing to bet that you could find enough people that have graduated in the past 20 years who are willing to switch over to this system of payment to make this worthwhile."

Where's the cash to pay off their current creditors?
posted by pwnguin at 12:59 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe people could, like, all pay in a certain amount of their income to some nonprofit organization and then it could use that money to pay for things that benefit society as a whole, like educating people?
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on February 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


This would be a good idea if the UC system was geared towards getting out a well paying job after you graduate, when in fact, once you've paid your tuition they really dont give a crap. Most of my friends give up significantly more then 5% of their income to pay their loans.

I think that's the point. This would give the university an incentive to make sure you're well paid when you graduate, and your friends wouldn't have to give up more than 5%.
posted by condour75 at 1:00 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


everything except the math, hard science, engineering, and business departments would close down

I mean at the undergraduate level, of course. At the graduate level medical school would also still be a good investment. Most law schools would either fold like a cheap suit or reduce enrollment by about 75%, which might not be sustainable.
posted by jedicus at 1:00 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, this is a student loan, but it passes on the default risk from the federally guaranteed loan program to the institution itself? I don't see why this is a bargain for anyone involved.

Well, for the student, if their degree ends up being worth nothing and they can't find a job, they'll not have to pay back as much as they would for a typical student loan.

This shifts the incentives around a bit. Institutions would have an incentive to encourage students to find employment (at all), and particularly employment that compensates enough for the student to pay back the cost of educating them. Presumably, this would take the form of encouraging students to study subjects highly in demand (my guess is, STEM), and also perhaps to have more effective career counseling services.

Whether or not these incentives are preferable to the current system is debatable. The latter is probably desirable; if you're a big believer in a liberal arts education, I can see why you might be worried that this will encourage universities to gut the humanities at a faster pace than they are currently.

On preview: The liquidity (whether they need tuition now v. later) is maybe an issue but one that I imagine most institutions could get around (via borrowing). Again, whether that's desirable is debatable.
posted by dismas at 1:01 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd just incorporate.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:02 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is an interesting idea with a whole bunch of things that need to be ironed out. What if a person becomes a stay at home spouse? What if a person leaves the country? What if you'd rather pay in advance rather than pay a percentage of your income? What if you're a trust funder that doesn't have any income but rather lives off of a distribution from a fund? Interesting idea, but a bit clunky in practice I think.
posted by Eekacat at 1:03 PM on February 10, 2012


Think_Long: So, this is a student loan, but it passes on the default risk from the federally guaranteed loan program to the institution itself? I don't see why this is a bargain for anyone involved.

That's exactly what you want. The company providing the goods is also providing the warranty. They're making the claim, indirectly, that a college education will make you a lot of money, so it's worth a lot of money. By charging a percentage of graduates' salaries, they show a profit or loss based on how well their graduates actually do.

In general, the company keeping the profit should be running the risk. Having the Federal government run all the risk of default means that colleges can jack tuitions to the Moon. Students will still go for it, because if they default, Uncle Sam will just pay. So who the heck cares if it's four million dollars for a bachelor's degree?

Again, as a general rule, the entity trying to profit should be bearing the risk.

Now, this wouldn't be a panacea, because if colleges could only profit by taking a percentage of graduate salaries, then they'd completely stop focusing on anything that won't pay off immediately. I think the overall impact on education would be pretty dire.

But the system as it's becoming.... that's a freaking racket. Colleges keep all the profit, and the government bears all the risk. Utter, absolute bullshit. That's as bad as the bank bailouts. Privatized profit, socialized risk, yet again.

Plus, if the government ever decided to get mean about recouping their losses, they have prodigious powers to make a defaulting student's life absolutely miserable.
posted by Malor at 1:04 PM on February 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


If the risk of lackluster repayment falls on the University, it's only going to offer programs with a proven track record of turning out graduates with well-paying jobs

And then those would shortly be dropped because the market would be saturated and the pay scale would drop on those.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2012


From the University's point of view, the result would be that everything except the math, hard science, engineering, and business departments would close down.

That doesn't follow as obviously as it would seem. While your future graduates would definitely earn a lot more, it also costs enormously more to train and teach students in those fields. Untangling the actual cost structures of universities is something of a black art and you can slice and dice the numbers in a lot of ways, but there are quite a few persuasive analyses that show that the non-STEM fields (humanities, arts etc.) are the most profitable sections of contemporary universities.

All an English prof needs to teach is a library, a room, a computer (arguably) and a blackboard. The overheads on that are way, way, way lower than the overheads for a Physics or a BioSci dept.
posted by yoink at 1:07 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Debt slavery. Bullshit.

If it's capped at 5%, how is it "debt slavery"?
posted by yoink at 1:07 PM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


What about the students who don't graduate? Many competitive programs admit a large freshman class knowing that most will wash out in the first two years. Their tuition helps to pay for the smaller, specialized senior year courses.

Now that I mention it, I don't know how the existing student loan system handles dropouts.
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:08 PM on February 10, 2012


What if a person becomes a stay at home spouse?

No income, no repayment, presumably. Attaching the repayment obligation to a spouse's income would be tricky, since this isn't an ordinary debt.

What if a person leaves the country?

The same problem you have with any other kind of debt collection, presumably.

What if you'd rather pay in advance rather than pay a percentage of your income?

Once the University had a per-student average revenue worked out they might offer that deal using a time-value-of-money calculation.

What if you're a trust funder that doesn't have any income but rather lives off of a distribution from a fund?

Presumably the contract would define "income" to include all income, even untaxed income.
posted by jedicus at 1:08 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, as a general rule, the entity trying to profit should be bearing the risk.

Would that be the university or the student in this situation?
posted by pwnguin at 1:08 PM on February 10, 2012


How about if we just stop cutting public funding to public institutions, and go back to offering quality education at a reasonable price?

Speaking as both student and staff of various universities, this is bullshit. Universities and the public sector are under constant attack from the right. A funding model that helps students pay out of pocket is not the solution. This crap tends to come hand in hand with funding for departments based on their perceived economic benefit.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:09 PM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why not just move all the money-maker degrees into trade schools, make them completely taxpayer supported (given the proven benefits to society from having lots of skilled professionals, this is a net win for the taxpayer) and let universities teach the stuff that's for the advancement of human wisdom and not for those seeking a lucrative career.
posted by mullingitover at 1:10 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


jedicus: “From the University's point of view, the result would be that everything except the math, hard science, engineering, and business departments would close down. If the risk of lackluster repayment falls on the University, it's only going to offer programs with a proven track record of turning out graduates with well-paying jobs.”

This doesn't seem to make sense to me. Hard science? I know people with hard science degrees. They are not necessarily making boatloads of cash. And I don't think there's any degree which directly correlates with making great money. If there was, wouldn't everybody just do that anyway?

The people I know who are making the most money have philosophy degrees. Weird, I know, but I think people might be onto something when they say that a well-rounded education is the best kind.
posted by koeselitz at 1:10 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


That doesn't follow as obviously as it would seem. While your future graduates would definitely earn a lot more, it also costs enormously more to train and teach students in those fields. Untangling the actual cost structures of universities is something of a black art and you can slice and dice the numbers in a lot of ways, but there are quite a few persuasive analyses that show that the non-STEM fields (humanities, arts etc.) are the most profitable sections of contemporary universities.

That's only true under the current cost structure, which allows the university to charge essentially the same for the high-margin humanities as the low-margin laboratory sciences and engineering. This proposal turns that on its head: humanities grads make less money than STEM grads, so it would be in the university's interest to focus on STEM programs and drop the humanities like a hot, unprofitable potato.
posted by jedicus at 1:10 PM on February 10, 2012


Colleges keep all the profit, and the government bears all the risk.

I think that this statement really encapsulates one of the more fundamental problems: "colleges" and "profit" in the same breath. Education is not, cannot, and should not be organized to serve the accumulation of capital.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:12 PM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


To have a system where people pay a small percentage of their income in return for social services like education, health care, communal parks and roads, and national defense.

What a Utopia!
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:12 PM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and I should add that the University isn't an institution of job training, but rather an institution of higher learning. While many people might attend the university with the intent of leveraging their education towards a job that pays a higher salary, that is not what higher education is about. Of course, engineering degrees from the University of California are a joke in that regard, they're more about job training. In the end, the job training degrees like engineering are going to fund all the art history majors.

I attended the UC back when it was inexpensive, and my father was a professor and administrator there. He was given an early retirement when they wanted to get rid of expensive, experienced professors. I think that the whole situation is a complete clusterfuck, and it's going to take a bigger idea than this to figure it out.
posted by Eekacat at 1:14 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This proposal turns that on its head: humanities grads make less money than STEM grads, so it would be in the university's interest to focus on STEM programs and drop the humanities like a hot, unprofitable potato.

Based on what's been done to the arts and humanities in higher education for the last couple of decades, I would be horrified to see what they'd do if they were actually TRYING to screw non STEM fields.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2012


Can't we just all pay a little more taxes and have publicly funded education all the way through college? Seems so obvious...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


jedicus: “... humanities grads make less money than STEM grads...”

I'd actually like to see some numbers on that, if anybody has them. Most of the statistics I've read on this subject have been more than a little skewed; for instance, they'll take the average salary of people who actually get a job, or they'll only include jobs that are specifically 'in the field' of the degree – which also seems silly to me. If a degree in something prepares people for a career in something completely different, why in the world should it matter that it's not exactly the same field?
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2012


Again, as a general rule, the entity trying to profit should be bearing the risk.

I'm hesitant to wade into economic theory because I'm very much out of my depth, but isn't the idea that the entire country "profits" from an educated population, and that's the whole purpose of having the federal loan/granting program?

Wouldn't stricter 'job placement' criteria standards for title IV institutions be a better way to subsidize education?

Ultimately this feels like it's taking a public issue into the private 'invisible hand' sphere, which makes me nervous.
posted by Think_Long at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2012


This doesn't seem to make sense to me. Hard science? I know people with hard science degrees. They are not necessarily making boatloads of cash. And I don't think there's any degree which directly correlates with making great money. If there was, wouldn't everybody just do that anyway?

There are tons [pdf] of statistics on this that support my position. Of the humanities philosophy probably does best, but it's nowhere near the STEM fields.

In the end, the job training degrees like engineering are going to fund all the art history majors.

No, there just won't be any art history majors. The job training degrees will fund themselves under this scheme, and that's about it.
posted by jedicus at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This could also be known as 'the free arts school program'.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:18 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coming into this post from the UK, I realised that I've always assumed all universities did something like this. It surprises me that they don't.

The UK system, as far as I've experienced it now 3 years post-education, is pretty sound. £25 (the minimum payment) disappears from my paycheck every month without me having to do anything, and if I ever earn under £15,000, it will cease and I won't have to pay back a penny. Sure, it means I'll be under the thumb of these bastards for the forseeable, but without this system I wouldn't have been able to go to university at all, nor would many of my friends.
posted by fight or flight at 1:18 PM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wait, why not just charge a variable tuition based on major? The inputs would be average lifetime income of the major (which should affect supply) and the cost to the school of granting the degree (which can then be transferred to students who directly benefit)

e.g.

Literature (lifetime income: relatively low, cost to offer degree: relatively low, tuition: low)
Math (lifetime income relatively high, cost to offer degree: relatively low, tuition: medium)
Biochemistry (lifetime income: relatively high, cost to offer degree: relatively high, tuition: high)
posted by leotrotsky at 1:23 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would a school want to wait years and years to get its owed money when they can get it upfront and invest it.....what needs to be asked of a lot of private schools: how much of their endowment is used for loans and help to students and why so small a percentage.
posted by Postroad at 1:24 PM on February 10, 2012


Ultimately this feels like it's taking a public issue into the private 'invisible hand' sphere, which makes me nervous.

Yeah, that's a really good point. The current system puts students in debt to the government, but at least (in theory) the govt is answerable to its constituents, ie, the students. And the risk is spread out over a huge pool.

Indebting students directly to their schools would put them under the financial thumb of an institution that, while perhaps state run, is largely independent in operation. And with the schools doing the job of both loan agent/investor AND education, there's less incentive for people to want govt to have any role whatsoever in higher ed. State schools effectively split off to become their own independent corporations. I wouldn't be surprised to see a scenario where many schools end up hiring their own former graduates, building an ever larger administrative bureaucracy to manage its loans and get a return on investment. They pay their former graduates a salary, but like any corporation they make more money off their employees than they pay them. On top of that, you've got their labor going directly to the production of profit for the school, AND they are paying back another portion of their salary for loans that the school gave them. So essentially, education becomes a self-contained industry that trains its own future workers then has them pay it back for 20+ years for the privilege to have been trained to have to work for it.

Or maybe I'm just in a 1984, Foucault, Timecubey mood.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, there just won't be any art history majors. The job training degrees will fund themselves under this scheme, and that's about it.

Your broader argument makes sense, but there are ways to complicate the redistribution of that 5% to help retain non-STEM, "art history"-like programs. For example, laws could dictate to state schools (like UC) that some percentage of the 5% has to go to programs that do not lead to statistically-profitable careers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Forces the university to prioritize job development and procurement over collegiate sports and advertisement
>Encourages the university to thoroughly educate students about all career choices
>Encourages the university to branch out (i.e. open up trades departments, given the extreme need for trades jobs currently)
>And once more: forces the university to de-prioritize collegiate sports funding.

I don't really see a problem with this.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:26 PM on February 10, 2012


On the one hand, yes, a scheme like this would disproportionately impact humanities students. On the other hand, those departments are currently cash-cows that fund (i.e., humanities students' money funds) more costly science departments. That is equally perverse.

On preview, leotrotsky is on the right track.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:27 PM on February 10, 2012


This really needs to be done and up until the last 10 years (when tuition started exploding) is essentially what college entailed financially and society is slowly catching on that current tuition rates are financial destruction for students.

There are a number of values that universities provide to students:

1. Signalling - school prestige signals (on average) the relative ranking of the student in the national applicant pool for his class (e.g. Harvard kids are smarter than you, State U kids less so. And the Harvard kid isn't smarter because he learned more at Harvard or Harvard has better quality powerpoint projectors or whatever; he's smarter because he got in).

2. "Generalized education" - learning to become model citizens. Appreciation for the arts and quoting Chaucer or something.

3. "Job-specific education" - learning a trade that somebody would actually pay you for.

Demand for these services are essentially inelastic since it's hard to survive without some degree of status and money-earning capacity. High school graduates aren't going to stop going to college if every job requires a degree. Since risk of default is placed solely on the borrower/government (through federal loan guarantees) it's somewhat incredible tuition isn't higher than what it currently is. Most middle class kids would pay more than $200,000 to remain middle class. Why not fuck em over more? This is America isnt it?

I really think the three elements should be separated and could be accomplished much more efficiently:

If a kid has an impressive enough application to get into Snooty Private University, he shouldnt have to commit to 4 years and $200,000 just to be able to signal that fact to prospective employers.

If society really gives a shit about model citizens, it should pay for it itself, not make the kid pay 15% of his income for the next 20 years to learn an appreciation for Plato or whatever. It's not like Amazon.com doesn't exist.

As for learning a trade, I have no idea why anybody thinks a trade can be learned sitting in a classroom and gaining precisely 0 experience in the trade.

Education is broken. Who should have to pay for that fact? The people running it or the 18-year olds trying to find their way? Flat income percentages all the way. Hell, make it 2%.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:27 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


How would this scheme force the university to de-prioritize sports funding? It makes them buckets of money regardless of post-graduate job placement.
posted by Think_Long at 1:28 PM on February 10, 2012


How would this scheme force the university to de-prioritize sports funding?

Well, I suppose it might encourage people to go pro out of HS if a 4 year stint in college costs you 5 percent annually.
posted by pwnguin at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Assuming that the student gets a job (and one that pays well), wouldn't this end up costing them significantly more in the long run? This would certainly increase access to post-secondary education, but it'll also drive up the costs quite significantly for the average student.

If we assume, for example, that someone makes $50,000 annually after graduating (and never sees a raise in 20 years), that means they're education will cost, well, $50,000. That seems insanely expensive for a public university. Of course, I'm coming at this from a Canadian perspective, where even the most expensive of public universities charge significantly less than that for most programs. Maybe $50,000 is a reasonable cost in the US?
posted by asnider at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2012


The idea is obviously too problematic; a lot of the problems have already been raised here. It also ignores the fact that very often mom and dad making that upfront investment, or a substantial part of it. So this scheme lets them off the hook and puts the total burden on the student. So first off, there needs to be an upfront payment option: if you or your parents pay 100% of the cost up front, there's no post-college income sharing. If they pay 80%, you share back 1%, if they pay 60%, you share back 2%, etc.

Beyond that, the whole idea of no upfront investment is going to make people value the education a lot less. There needs to be a downpayment, sort of like buying a house. So, pay 20% up front, and finance the other 80% via the 20-year income sharing plan.
posted by beagle at 1:31 PM on February 10, 2012


The broader point, I think, is that federally-backed student loans are not a sustainable model for affordable higher education. The effect is that anyone can go, at any price, so the government is essentially just subsidizing universities' exorbitant tuition increases. Then the crushing burden of paying for it falls on alumni. The schools, meanwhile, take money from the government and tell the students to pay back the feds; they're getting off scot-free. If the universities had some skin in the game, you might see costs start to stabilize.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:31 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


their education
posted by asnider at 1:31 PM on February 10, 2012


Wait, why not just charge a variable tuition based on major?

The risk falls on the student, then. If they gamble on a high-paying major and it doesn't pay off (e.g. the job market tanks) then the student is stuck with a lot of debt. It's a risk pool of one. The proposed approach does at least spread the risk pool out to all graduates of a particular school, though of course full public funding would be best of all because the risk pool becomes the pool of all taxpayers. Students still have an incentive to choose high-paying majors, of course, because most people want to make more money.
posted by jedicus at 1:31 PM on February 10, 2012


Dudes

College is not vocational school. at least in theory they are chartered to enlighten the student not provide job training.
posted by toastchee at 1:32 PM on February 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yea, this is pretty much the scheme in NZ. After this year and an MA, I've racked up 5 years' worth of student loan which I have to start paying back once I earn above a certain income threshold.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:33 PM on February 10, 2012


This is very similar in a lot of ways to the new income based repayment scheme, but it's on a more local level. Which seems good.
posted by ropeladder at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2012


How would this scheme force the university to de-prioritize sports funding? It makes them buckets of money regardless of post-graduate job placement.

Well, if the school were full of STEM students then there probably wouldn't be a lot of student interest in the sports teams, for one thing. But in the more general case (i.e. looking beyond the major UC campuses) most schools lose money on athletics programs. This is basically universally true in Division 3, for example.
posted by jedicus at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2012


Of course we should also keep in mind that tuition isn't the only source of funding for universities, or even the primary one. Nor should it be,

We should be fighting to make institutions less reliant on tuition, not more.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2012


Malor: “Again, as a general rule, the entity trying to profit should be bearing the risk.”

Almost all accredited universities are not for-profit organizations. They are not investment banks.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2012


Last comment I think.

Anyway, I think this is solution is coming at the problem from the wrong angle. College debt is soaring - let's try a different type of debt!

Rather, we should be looking at radical solutions to lower the cost of tuition - a progressive tax system to benefit public institutions as well as increasing federal granting programs.

This puts the burden entirely on the student and gives the power entirely over to the market.
posted by Think_Long at 1:36 PM on February 10, 2012


Well, if this is OPTIONAL, then people in high income majors would simply opt out, right? I mean this would have cost me significantly more than just paying tuition.

Currently you also have the potential for inflation to significantly reduce the amount you're actually paying, which this scheme does not have (since it's a fixed % of income).

Wait, why not just charge a variable tuition based on major?

Based on major when? At graduation? Per semester? I didn't declare a major until end of freshman year, and then changed it at the end of sophomore year...
posted by wildcrdj at 1:37 PM on February 10, 2012



Well, if this is OPTIONAL, then people in high income majors would simply opt out, right? I mean this would have cost me significantly more than just paying tuition.


They could, but you'd be surprised how much money we get from them already in the form of alumni donations. It's significant.

I'm not supporting this model at all, but don't underestimate the will of successful students to give back to their institutions.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2012


Maybe $50,000 is a reasonable cost in the US?
Tuition at many private schools is approaching that number per year. (Of course, that doesn't take into account financial aid and grants; my four-year liberal arts college, easily the most expensive institution in the state, had a lower average debt burden than the two most well-known public universities because of capped student loan debt and the fact that the college got everyone out in under five years. But that's made possible by a massive endowment, and thus probably not as relevant to the UC system).

College is not vocational school. at least in theory they are chartered to enlighten the student not provide job training.

This is mixing "should not be" with "is." My grandparents attended a school whose mission was quite explicitly to train teachers. Many community colleges are quite explicit that they view career training as part of their mission.
posted by dismas at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2012


Almost all accredited universities are not for-profit organizations. They are not investment banks.

Yes and no. Technically they are non-profits. But any Chancellor or President knows that the more money the school brings in, the bigger their salary will be. The same observation has not escaped the rest of academic upper management. Check out the statistics on how the pay of the average professor has diverged from the pay of the average university head (here's a story on CUNY, for example).

Based on major when? At graduation? Per semester? I didn't declare a major until end of freshman year, and then changed it at the end of sophomore year...

Presumably the way it would work is that the cost of a given course would be determined by the department that offered it, with a handful of electives offered at a discount. So it wouldn't matter if you were technically an English major when you took all those math and chemistry courses, you'd get charged the math department and chemistry department rates.
posted by jedicus at 1:44 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


How much of tuition goes into paying for the operation of the university? When I was at university in the early 1990s, overhead collected from research lab grants covered a majority of the school's expenditures (at least, that was what the dean of students claimed, when asked about then-recent tuition increases).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 PM on February 10, 2012


UC President makes a very valid point:

"I really do prefer that the taxpayers pay their fair share — that we not treat higher education as a complete private good, in the sense that only the direct beneficiaries pay for it," Yudof says.

University education access benefits the society as a whole. Seeing it as merely a monetary investment is not a good idea.

At the same time, tying payment (to the university) to performance (of the graduate in the job market) is on some level appealing.

Perhaps a hybrid system could work. Where a share of university funding is tax-based, and the rest is paid by students. But instead of an upfront loan of a fixed amount for each student, the loan size is effectively determined afterwards by post-university salary.
posted by molecicco at 1:47 PM on February 10, 2012


Jedicus: I seek your point about risk pools of one, but aren't we already forcing students to bear the risk of their degree, just unfairly relative to their future prospects?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:50 PM on February 10, 2012


I think the schools would end up partnering with the Mafia and then pay "friendly" visits to those grad students who were working part time at Starbucks (read "friendly" in Fat Tony voice).
posted by snap_dragon at 1:53 PM on February 10, 2012


That's only true under the current cost structure, which allows the university to charge essentially the same for the high-margin humanities as the low-margin laboratory sciences and engineering. This proposal turns that on its head: humanities grads make less money than STEM grads, so it would be in the university's interest to focus on STEM programs and drop the humanities like a hot, unprofitable potato.

This doesn't make any sense at all. If people are currently paying good money for non-STEM degrees even though they know they'll have to pay MORE than 5% of their future incomes (probably) to pay back their student loans, why will this plan be a disincentive for those students? The university can't costlessly ramp up the number of BioSci classes it offers (believe me, they're trying to find ways to do that, and they can't). They can, much more cheaply, ramp up the number of Humanities majors they offer.

If you agree that non-STEM students are high-margin students, then a proposal like this would push the university towards enrolling more, not fewer, non-STEM students. Of course, the premise is difficult to prove (STEM fields bring in far more in the way of grant money, for example, and it gets extremely tricky sorting out what the overall implications for the institution are of that money vs. the costs of plant, materiel, faculty etc. It's an intensely political issue within the institution, of course, so administrations are deliberately fuzzy about it).
posted by yoink at 1:55 PM on February 10, 2012



Yes and no. Technically they are non-profits. But any Chancellor or President knows that the more money the school brings in, the bigger their salary will be. The same observation has not escaped the rest of academic upper management. Check out the statistics on how the pay of the average professor has diverged from the pay of the average university head (here's a story on CUNY, for example).


Hey, executive salary where I work has doubled in under ten years. Tuition hasn't, because it's not allowed to.

Staff salaries certainly haven't doubled, what with difficult economic times and all.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:55 PM on February 10, 2012


Guys, how can you attract executive-level talent without executive-level salaries?!
posted by Think_Long at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2012


I see your point about risk pools of one, but aren't we already forcing students to bear the risk of their degree, just unfairly relative to their future prospects?

Oh yes, the current system is terrible. Pure public funding is the way to go. People will still seek better-paying degrees and the schools that can provide those degrees and good career services because people generally want to make lots of money. And then they can be taxed and the money fed back into the system.

In the mean time, though, compromise with the current system is inevitable. Schools should be required to perform need-blind admissions but offer only need-based aid, with a requirement to spend at least 5% or so of their endowment on such aid every year. Federal student loans should be capped and pegged at inflation, with the cap set much lower than the current cost of attendance. That should provide the necessary downward pressure on the cost of higher education.
posted by jedicus at 1:58 PM on February 10, 2012


How much of tuition goes into paying for the operation of the university?

Currently at the UC system student fees cover roughly half of operating costs. The rest is made up of direct state grants and external grants.
posted by yoink at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2012




Guys, how can you attract executive-level talent without executive-level salaries?!
posted by Think_Long at 1:57 PM on February 10 [+] [!]


You probably don't want to know what the talent search costs.

We drop amounts that easily exceed a professional salary every year on it, starting four years in advance and ramping up from there.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:00 PM on February 10, 2012


If people are currently paying good money for non-STEM degrees even though they know they'll have to pay MORE than 5% of their future incomes (probably) to pay back their student loans, why will this plan be a disincentive for those students?

It wouldn't be a disincentive for the students, it would be a disincentive for the school. Allow me a concrete example.

Suppose a school currently charges humanities majors $30k per year. Suppose the students go on to earn an average of $40k per year.

Under the current system, the school earns 4 * $30k = $120k from each humanities student and who cares what the students earn afterward.

Under the proposed system, the school would earn .05 * $40k * 20 = $40k per humanities student over twenty years.

Those numbers are basically accurate for humanities majors at UC. In-state tuition at UCLA is $31.5k and nationally humanities majors make in the mid-30s, per my earlier statistics links. I bumped it up a bit because UCLA is a pretty good school. We can ignore the fact that the humanities grads will make more at year 20 than at year 1 because the cost of college is increasing faster than increases in income, at least in that quintile.

So yeah, students would love it, but the only rational thing for the school to do would be to close the humanities departments or else lose buckets of money.
posted by jedicus at 2:10 PM on February 10, 2012


Guys, how can you attract executive-level talent without executive-level salaries?!

Conversely, "If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach," according to Alabama State Senator Shadrack McGill. How anyone could reconcile these two positions, I don't know. It seems to be an ability unique to conservatives.
posted by jedicus at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Tuition at many private schools is approaching that number per year.

Yeah, but the UC system is public, right?
posted by asnider at 2:15 PM on February 10, 2012


And I don't think there's any degree which directly correlates with making great money. If there was, wouldn't everybody just do that anyway?

koeselitz, since we already know the average earnings vary wildly by major (BSEE >> BA Fine Arts), the answer to your question is, "No, not everybody. Many students are not primarily motivated by earning potential."
posted by IAmBroom at 2:18 PM on February 10, 2012


Yeah, but the UC system is public, right?

Out of state tuition at UCLA is over $35k per year, with the full cost of attendance at $54k for someone living in the residence halls.

(and I should add that my reference to in-state tuition above is actually the full cost of attendance; in-state tuition is only $12.6k. The numbers still work out for out of state students.)
posted by jedicus at 2:18 PM on February 10, 2012


I have an idea too! It's called "rich people paying their fair share for the society they live in".
posted by DU at 2:20 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have an idea too! It's called "rich people paying their fair share for the society they live in".

I too agree that we should implement a flat tax.
posted by gyc at 2:37 PM on February 10, 2012


In-state tuition at UCLA is $31.5k

Actually, it's less than half that. It's a little under 13K per annum. So recovering it from an average non-STEM grad's salary at 5% p/a is not unrealistic.

I'm not in favor of the plan, myself, because I think education is a social good and only incidentally a private one. This certainly diminishes the private burden compared to the current system, but I'd still prefer it if the state just paid for it all out of taxes. But I think some of the arguments against the system are a little off here.
posted by yoink at 2:43 PM on February 10, 2012


Heh. The defense tried to get me to purchase an annuity too. Lol.

Money now is worth a lot more than money later.

State school should be free.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:00 PM on February 10, 2012


Tuition is just part of the cost of attending college and the various articles are maddeningly vague about what they propose to pay for, alternating talk of tuition with "cost of education" and "financial burden." What about housing, food, books, supplies, fees, etc.? My sister taught at an Eastern European college for a few years and her brililant students would regularly receive full tuition waivers to the very best schools in the US and still not be able to attend because they couldn't afford to get there, or live there once they'd arrived.
posted by zanni at 3:08 PM on February 10, 2012


Better to borrow the money, through the school, directly from the treasury with zero interest. The investment is the value created through the citizen, not the money lent. In the very least, borrowers should not pay more than the rates the banks do. The IRS knows who they are, they don't need banks to collect it.
posted by Brian B. at 3:15 PM on February 10, 2012


The math breaks down to: if you don't make in one year what you paid for four years of college (on average over 20 years), the school loses money.

For a school with $25k/year in tuition/fees, their graduates would need to maintain a $100,000 average salary for the school to break even.

I bet this will get a lot of takers.
posted by chundo at 3:15 PM on February 10, 2012


Actually, it's less than half that. It's a little under 13K per annum. So recovering it from an average non-STEM grad's salary at 5% p/a is not unrealistic.

I corrected myself on that already, but out of state tuition is $35k, which fits my example. About 18% of UCLA students are out of state and the number is rising.

But let's do the math on in-state tuition. $12.6k * 4 = $50.4k. That's still less than the $40k over twenty years that the school can get from a typical humanities graduate. Yes the graduates will make more money at year 20 than year 1, but the school's costs will also increase, and historically tuition has gone up faster than both inflation and middle class wage increases. And if you factor in the other costs of attendance the math gets even worse.
posted by jedicus at 3:23 PM on February 10, 2012


To be honest I don't understand why out-of-state students go to any of the UC schools these days. They'll get a better undergraduate education at any of a number of private schools, for the same price tag.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:24 PM on February 10, 2012


About 18% of UCLA students are out of state and the number is rising.

This is true. On the other hand, UCB and UCLA take a vastly disproportionate number of the OOS students in the UC system as a whole. So if we're just asking about "how might this work for the UC system" that 18% figure is misleading. Also, there's no reason for the State of California to offer this system to both in and out of state students. They could, in fact, offer it for the in-state portion of the fees for both and still charge the OOS fees in the regular way.

But let's do the math on in-state tuition. $12.6k * 4 = $50.4k. That's still less than the $40k over twenty years that the school can get from a typical humanities graduate.

Well, that $40K number is pulled out of thin air, isn't it? Average starting salaries for humanities graduates last year was $40K--but that's for all graduates in the whole of the US. I would guess that for graduates of a relatively elite institution like the UC and in a relatively higher wage state like California, that's probably a low figure. And that's starting salaries: so we're not talking about simple wage inflation (if any) driving an increase over time, but people climbing the career ladder.

Your back-of-the-envelope calculation basically serves to show that this pencils out pretty close to workable (the 40/50 K difference says "yes, close" not "that's absurd!"). It certainly doesn't show that it is orders of magnitude off, or that it would be obviously unworkable to offer non-STEM courses under a regime of this kind.

The real problem with this system that I see is the transition. Who funds the inevitable gap between giving up front-loaded fees and reaping the benefits of the "pay-back" fees? There's no way the State can afford to shoulder that burden--or that it could get through the dysfunctional assembly.

Another problem, of course, is that it would make the university's funding wildly volatile--and that in bad years problems would compound. Whenever the state felt compelled to cut funding because of reduced tax revenue, the funding stream from former students would also dry up. You might be able to smooth that out by clever management during fat years, but how many administrations can resist spending money when they have it?
posted by yoink at 3:46 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


They'll get a better undergraduate education at any of a number of private schools, for the same price tag.

That depends entirely on the field. There are lots of areas where UC schools have faculty that are among the best in the world. For in-state students it remains a bargain--although less so than it was a decade ago.
posted by yoink at 3:49 PM on February 10, 2012


The pseudonymous "Dean Dad" asked some similar questions on this topic: "I like the spirit of the idea. It’s innovative, certainly, and it addresses some real issues. But I don’t buy it, at least in its present form." He got some interesting comments, including a discussion of the Australian system.
posted by epersonae at 4:13 PM on February 10, 2012


How about if we just shut down the universities and invest in more peer to peer education, online lectures supplemented by freelance teachers who can charge a third as much as a university and earn twice as much money?

Then the universities could just lease their facilities for reasonable cost, on a class by class basis.
posted by empath at 4:31 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are lots of areas where UC schools have faculty that are among the best in the world.

I agree. And that's certainly important for potential graduate students. But for undergrads I'm not sure that that makes up for the huge classes which means you'll never actually directly talk to the faculty. Or the fact that students simply can't get into classes because they're all full.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:35 PM on February 10, 2012


empath: I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:36 PM on February 10, 2012


So, pay 20% up front, and finance the other 80% via the 20-year income sharing plan.

And this would definitely help keep those grubby students from poor families out of the university system!
posted by winna at 4:50 PM on February 10, 2012


I recently attended a talk by Bruce Chapman, who is sometimes described as the "father of HECS", this being the Higher Education Contribution Scheme or an income-contingent loan from the Government to take university courses in Australia since 1989 (now called HECS-HELP). Chapman's opinions of the effectveness of HECS some 23 years later was that while it had done very little at changing the socio-economic make-up of the students attending university, it had allowed for a substantial increase in the total volume of places that universities could afford to offer.

You only pay HECS on Australian income you earn above ~$45,000, starting at a rate around 4 per cent. HECS is charge on a per-course basis, so if you don't graduate then you still owe. If you don't earn Australian income, you don't pay. The outstanding loan amount is increased by CPI each year. You can make additional voluntary repayments to get a discount on your existing loan.

The real problem with this system that I see is the transition. Who funds the inevitable gap between giving up front-loaded fees and reaping the benefits of the "pay-back" fees? There's no way the State can afford to shoulder that burden--or that it could get through the dysfunctional assembly.

Chapman talked about this problem when he first proposed HECS to the Education Minister at the time, describing the drawbacks as:
1. It's never been tried before.
2. It might not work.
3. The Tax Office will probably hate it.
4. The Student Unions will definitely hate it.
5. You don't get any money for seven years.
The Australian solution to problem number 5 was to offer a 15 per cent (since reduced to 10 per cent) discount for people who paid all of their HECS amounts upfront. Wealthier people took this option in droves, and still do.
posted by kithrater at 4:56 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is also the huge cashflow crisis that this would create. Many universities derive a significant fraction of the annual budget from current year tuition. Shift that tuition income to 20-year time frame in the future and you have an immediate cashflow crisis of epic magnitude. Try convincing the California legislature to fill this new multi-billion dollar shortfall. Good luck.
posted by notme at 4:56 PM on February 10, 2012


Of course, if the student ends up not choosing to maximise their earnings over the 20 years, the university's screwed. In reality, this would need a personal securitization amendment to the constitution, allowing individuals to incorporate as corporations with control over their lives and sell shares in themselves. If you need a student loan, the university gets a share of you, which includes power of veto over any lifestyle choices which might affect your earning potential. So if you want to use your physics degree for some hippie bullshit like understanding the Big Bang, whereas you could earn 10 times as much applying it to writing algorithmic trading bots, tough luck. You can do the Big Bang thing in 20 years' time and/or once you've bought yourself out.

Of course, the secondary trade in shares in indebted graduates could in itself prove interesting, from a dystopian/sadofuturistic fiction point of view.
posted by acb at 5:53 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


you'll never actually directly talk to the faculty

This is not true--unless, of course, you're pathologically shy or something.
posted by yoink at 6:09 PM on February 10, 2012


This is not true--unless, of course, you're pathologically shy or something.

Well, then, a lot of my students are pathologically shy.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:17 PM on February 10, 2012


Chapman's opinions of the effectveness of HECS some 23 years later was that while it had done very little at changing the socio-economic make-up of the students attending university,

I really think that this is partly a giant marketing/PR failure. I was at uni 2002-2008. I had numerous discussions with people about the horrific cost of university and how HECS didn't work for poorer students because they couldn't afford any upfront costs, including a memorable one with the [vice?] president of the QUT Student Guild who was proposing that we replace the current obviously inequitable system with a utopian plan of his own invention where each student could pay back their tuition debt at a low percentage of their income after graduating, and only if they earned a minimum amount to live on already. This fuckwit was one of the guys you'd see quoted in the paper for the NUS (AUS now?).

Based on major when? At graduation? Per semester? I didn't declare a major until end of freshman year, and then changed it at the end of sophomore year...
Australia actually has several 'bands' of courses, and every subject is categorised in one of these. They roughly correspond to 'law/med', 'math/science/engineering', 'liberal arts' and 'nursing/teaching/areas of high need'. We don't have the same general education courses you do, which might require some tweaking to the system, but the general theory would translate well. I double majored, so I was taking subjects across two bands. My tuition each semester was, for example
subject 1: band 1 cost
subject 2: band 1 cost
subject 3: band 2 cost
_________
sum of costs
posted by jacalata at 6:39 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was under the impression that I went to college to learn. To be academic, to expand my mind. Not to just get a job. If you just want a job that is what a trade school is for. If your school educates you, it has done it's job.
A school doesn't get you a job, a degree doesn't get you a job. You get you a job. That and nepotism works pretty well too.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:10 PM on February 10, 2012


Education is not, cannot, and should not be organized to serve the accumulation of capital.
Education requires the accumulation of capital. That's not some evil scheme Adam Smith cooked up, that's a plain restatement of the fact that running a single institution of higher education under current practices requires multimillion dollar buildings, thousands of man-hours from each of hundreds of the most highly demanded people in the world, and many more thousands of man-hours in accumulated intellectual capital encapsulated in instructional materials.

Given that fact, at what point do we yank capital out of the picture? Is it unfair for the people who built all that to expect some compensation for their time and materials? Maybe, but any unfairness is irrelevant: remove the ongoing compensation and watch the people vanish shortly thereafter. Is it unfair for the students who compensate them to treat that as an investment rather than a luxury purchase? Maybe it's unwise in too many cases, but it's hardly unfair.

If you're looking for a flaw in the above two paragraphs, the weak link is the phrase "under current practices". There are much more efficient ways to teach eager students. The problem is that those ways aren't nearly as good at credentialing students, but students who aren't purchasing a luxury education want jobs, and hiring managers want capabilities, and estimating capabilities (legally, anyway) is easiest with credentials.
posted by roystgnr at 8:09 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A degree ups your ability to get a job. Many jobs require a 4-year degree just by default even though any monkey can type these days. So on some level, yes, college is related to employment. Or at least, I don't think there'd be so many takers if college really just boiled down to a fun time finishing school.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:19 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A big problem is adverse selection. As a few previous comments has touched upon, the individual students can predict their own future incomes better than the universities, so offering this option (and as long as there exist private schools, the UC system can only offer this option) means selecting for people with lower earning potential. In effect, students who choose to attend a UC school and pay under the 5% (or whatever percent) scheme will be choosing to pay a premium. UC is good enough in several fields that people might pay the premium to do their undergrad there, but the other departments would soon enter a vicious cycle where they attract students with lower earning potential, receive less funding, decline in quality, and become even less attractive.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:22 PM on February 10, 2012


I really think that this is partly a giant marketing/PR failure.

One of my favourite stories about the ATO efforts to market HECS is...
A HECS taskforce member [who I suspect to be Chapman], visiting the Tax Office to discuss [another policy], was told not only, `No problem' but asked whether he had a HECS pen. He hadn't known there was such a thing, and was duly presented with a biro inscribed `HECS -- the ATO working for you'. Then they asked if he had a HECS video. Or a HECS balloon. Finally, and proudest of all, they offered him a HECS board game.
Sadly, my Google-fu cannot find any images of this much rumoured HECs board game.

how HECS didn't work for poorer students because they couldn't afford any upfront costs

There is a germ of truth here: poorer students are disadvantaged in not having the same parental resources to pay for accomodation, food and supplies during university, notwithstanding the arguably inadequate payments from Youth Allowance. Not that I doubt anything about your story.
posted by kithrater at 8:23 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread is thematically similar to ones about universal healthcare and gun control. Someone in the US has a proposal, a bunch of other Americans poke holes in it based on their ideas and expectations. A little later people from other countries chime in describing what actually happened in the real world when they enacted a similar proposal. Their comments are ignored or discounted because the US is 'special', and can only solve its problems by itself and WAH-WAH-WAH we're not listening to foreigners.
posted by bystander at 3:45 AM on February 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


...as a general rule, the entity trying to profit should be bearing the risk.

Would you include the private sector in this? After all, corporations, especially in the STEM areas, profit greatly by having schools act as their defacto training arm.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:55 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


empath: "How about if we just shut down the universities and invest in more peer to peer education, online lectures supplemented by freelance teachers who can charge a third as much as a university and earn twice as much money?
Then the universities could just lease their facilities for reasonable cost, on a class by class basis.
"

Khan academy, MIT open courseware, and many many many more examples have shown that traditional institutions' power is not their ability to deliver classes --- that can be done in other ways. Traditional institutions' unique position is the ability to confer degrees.

No one has satisfactorily solved the problem of an adult who has taken courses in lots of different ways and places and gathered relevant experience in lots of different ways and places and... how do we asses the whole and decide if this person should have a degree in X? That is the role that traditional institutions still play, and why you can't just watch MIT OpenCourseware videos for a few years and then call yourself a chemist.
posted by secretseasons at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


on preview: that's assess, not, you know, like more-than-one ass
posted by secretseasons at 11:27 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I totally wrote a paper on this idea in college. Investing in People like you invest in stocks. It was kind of a "Modest Proposal"-type thing. Creepy.
posted by GilloD at 12:16 PM on February 11, 2012


There is a germ of truth here: poorer students are disadvantaged in not having the same parental resources to pay for accommodation, food and supplies during university, notwithstanding the arguably inadequate payments from Youth Allowance.

That's true, and some few of these discussions wanted HECS to expand to cover cost of living* but most of them were focused strictly on the cost of tuition.

*(an idea that I find interesting - see especially OS-HELP - but a little disturbing, as a shift away from the idea that Youth Allowance should be adequate)
posted by jacalata at 1:01 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some high school students from Oakland came up with an idea that, while it also has some problems, seems significantly better than this option. They thought it through for a couple years before taking it to the capitol.

They propose that all UC and CSU (all public universities in California) should be free for four years for all California residents. Anyone with a GPA lower than 2.7 would be obliged to volunteer 70 (or maybe 80, I forget which) hours in a year. This would be funded through a 1% tax on incomes over a quarter million dollars and a 2% tax on incomes over half a million dollars.

I have a couple personal opinions about how it could be improved but it's a great alternative to what we currently have.

Their website is collegeforcalifornia.org and they have a facebook and twitter presence. They need 807,000 signatures from registered California votors by April 15 to get it on the ballot.
posted by aniola at 2:57 PM on February 11, 2012


The UC system is in need of greater transparency of the way it spends its money, and it needs to be held accountable for that.

Also, the UC system was originally intended to be free. Here is an article from 1970 discussing the use of fees. It's worth a read.
posted by aniola at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2012


*(an idea that I find interesting - see especially OS-HELP - but a little disturbing, as a shift away from the idea that Youth Allowance should be adequate)

Unfortunately, that shift has already happened. Youth Allowance is one of those payments that is apparently only for the "deserving poor", e.g. the nonsensical eligibility criteria and the recent legislative change for some regional students. For me, there is a certain attraction to replacing the entire thing with HECS-YOUTH, because it's clear that there is no longer any real policy analysis being applied to decisions taken about Youth Allowance.

Also, the UC system was originally intended to be free. Here is an article from 1970 discussing the use of fees. It's worth a read.

The article is interesting for the elephant-in-the-room that Rodda skirts around - if you don't charge fees then that money instead must come from the general revenue, which means an increase in the amount by which everyone subsidises an institution that predominately benefits the better-off:
One-half of the families in this state have incomes below $8,000; 23% of the University of California students have family incomes below $8,000; 14% of the State College students have family incomes below $6,000, and 4% below $4,000. [I'm willing to bet that 23 per cent received a disproportionate number of scholarships, too]
In a fee-less, student-loan-less world, the poor do not attend university in the same numbers as the rich because they cannot afford to not work for three or more years in pursuit of a degree.
posted by kithrater at 12:16 AM on February 12, 2012


That's why you give them means tested grants.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:12 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for learning a trade, I have no idea why anybody thinks a trade can be learned sitting in a classroom and gaining precisely 0 experience in the trade.

Speaking as someone who is currently in training for a trade I can't imagine a worse way to train an Electrician than 100% work experience. Not only is there fundemental heavy course in the legalities of the trade (IE Code requirements) no one could possibly get the breadth of exposure via work experience that our course work provides. The trade is too large and electricians aren't just technitions; they do much of the design work for most electrical projects.
posted by Mitheral at 8:15 AM on February 13, 2012


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