Higher education, for what it's worth

Higher education, for what it's worth

Atlanta : GA : USA | Sep 10, 2012 at 4:30 PM PDT
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Student Senate Life Committee

ATLANTA -It seems the cost of everything is rising exponentially these days. The cost of food, fuel, and health care are constantly the topics of educated conversation the world over.

But what about the cost of the education that allows these very sophisticated discussions to take place?

On Aug. 16, Steve Gunderson, association of private sector colleges and universities president and CEO as well as a former congressman, was asked to respond to a 2-year investigative study conducted by the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that was decidedly unflattering to for-profit colleges.

According to the study, for-profit colleges, which Gunderson and his staff oversee, recieved over 25% of the total Department of Education student federal aid funds in 2010. Despite receiving more than $32 billion in federal funds annually, these institutions graduate on average, less than half of the students that enroll.

Gunderson defended his organization and their schools by saying that the study was not a true Senate committee study, saying instead that it was conducted by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and "his staff." Which happens to be the Senate HELP committee.

The study also found that these institutions employ more than 35,000 recruiters as compared to only 3,512 career services staff and 12, 452 support services staff. In other words, these schools work very hard to get students enrolled, but give them little assistance once they are there.

Steve, a military veteran, voiced his displeasure with the cost of his education versus the value it added to his life during a brief call to Gunderson during his Washington Journal interview.

"I'm $89,000 in debt with a degree that's not worth the paper that it's printed on," Steve said.

His master's degree in business administration earned from the University of Phoenix is worthless, Steve said, because most private colleges will not recognize his credits for transfer due to lack of proper accreditation. He cited the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The University of South Carolina as examples.

It may be just as well, however, as more and more Americans are questioning the rising cost of college versus the potential returns on that investment.

"I'm more than $50,000 in debt (student loans) and by no means do I think it was worth it," Officer M. Hawkins of the Lithonia Police Department told me by phone. Officer Hawkins graduated from American Intercontinental University in 2009 with a degree in criminal justice.

Hawkins also talked about another family member who also graduated from AIU, albeit a year earlier. He has $80,000 in student loans to repay and has never been employed in his field of media production.

Since 1980-81, college tuition costs have more than tripled in per semester expenses. That year the cost of attending college for a semsester was roughly $2,100; today it is more than $7,500.

Further, according to a 2007 Pew Research Center study, some 15% of families had "outstanding student loan obligations" averaging $21,500, up from 9% of families with debt obligations of about $8,900 in 1989.

According to a more recent study, greater than 85% of adults believe a steady, secure job is more of a prerequisite to success than a college degree. This coincides with an earlier study that found that 57% of Americans say "colleges fail to provide students with good value for money spent."

Written by Benjamin Burton Jr.

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.

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(Photo: courtesy of sxc.hu)
Benjamin Burton Jr. is based in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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