When you think of debt and college, your mind likely moves quickly to student loans. There has been much discussion and media attention, rightly so, around the trillion dollar debt-load carried by college graduates and their families. Coupled with continuing increases in tuition and fees at most colleges, the future cost of higher education can look scary indeed.
Per an interesting piece in the New York Times, it's even scarier than what it appears, if all we look at is student loans and tuition. Instead, Jeffrey J. Selingo, the editor at large at The Chronicle of Higher Education, proposes that parents, students and those that cover the higher ed industry understand the real reason behind these rising costs, and ask the tough questions that will help you understand how much trouble a college is really in. Because if that college is underwater, then what your child signed up for at 17, is very likely to cost much more at 21. In fact, Selingo suggests a truly troubled school might not even be in business four years from now:
Bond ratings aren’t scoured like the U.S. News and World Report rankings. But if you’re a parent preparing to start the college search with your son or daughter, the negative financial outlook raises plenty of questions to ask the college tour guide: Will outdated buildings be renovated? Will more part-time instructors replace retiring professors? Will classes get bigger or will students end up in partly online courses? Will the school even be in business by the time your child graduates in four years?
While Selingo does go on to say that it is unlikely we'll see mass college closings any time soon, he follows it with a very sobering statistic:
Only 500 or so of the 4,000-plus colleges and universities in the United States seem to have stable enough finances to be truly safe. The remaining colleges, where a vast majority of Americans attend, can no longer hold off the technological, demographic and economic forces quickly bearing down on them.
With one-third of colleges on an "unsustainable fiscal path", this article and its recommendations is well worth the read. And, whether you take his advice to dive into each college's bond-rating report or not, it is certainly easy to ask some tough questions when on that friendly campus tour. You can also check out the rising tuition costs for each college you are interested in here at College Factual.
To read more:
- Colleges Struggling to Stay Afloat; Published April 12, 2013