Robyn Gee on Tuesday, Mar. 20th
Popular California community college, Santa Monica College, recently decided to start offering more sections of its most popular classes during the summer for five times the amount they normally cost, according to the Atlantic. The reason the tuition is so high is because these sections are not subsidized by the state.
Students in California have faced major tuition increases, due to budget cuts. According to the Community College Chancellor’s office, community colleges have suffered $769 million in cuts since 2009, and in 2011 took another $502 million cut.
Because of this, colleges have cut back on their course offerings, which makes it hard for students to get into all the classes they need to complete their programs. By offering more courses at higher prices, students who can afford to pay extra will be able to finish their programs faster.
The Atlantic is critical of this move, saying it creates two tracks–the haves and have-nots– in the school community, and will transform state schools into semi-private institutions. But the article also acknowledges that schools struggling to stay afloat do not have many other options.
Got better ideas? Tell us what you think.
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One day last year I skipped school to wait for acceptances from colleges. It was the final day that letters or e-mails were supposed to be sent out.
I sat in front of my laptop by the front door for at least three hours, listening for the mailman while eagerly pressing the refresh button on my inbox. I admit, at one point, I checked my neighbor’s mail. Getting my house skipped on the mail route was one of the less crazy hypotheticals I imagined while waiting.
The college responses I had already received were pinned up on a cork board in the hallway so everyone in my family would pass by them on the way to the bathroom.
After my 300th click I finally got it; my rejection e-mail. It was just 2 paragraphs: we’re very sorry, such-and-such many applicants, etc. etc. Sure, I was upset. But, I thought, at least I still have the other schools on that corkboard.
A few weeks later, I got my federal financial aid notice or FAFSA. It estimates what your family can pay for college, and how much federal aid you can get. I knew the minute I saw those little black numbers it wouldn’t be enough. My mom was still paying off her college loans and I had already spent more than I could afford on high school transcripts, applications, and the ACT test. Tuition at my top school was 30 thousand dollars a year and I was going to be on the hook for two-thirds of it.
The same night I got my FAFSA, I got an e-mail from a college site I subscribed to. The subject line read: “Can you Really Afford College?” For the first time, I was seeing the price tag of my dream and realizing it was way out of my budget.
I had spent months telling my friends about my plans for the next school year: Journalism and Anthropology classes on the East Coast, taking the subway, and going to poetry readings. That all changed after the financial aid letters. Now I’m attending community college, working two jobs and I’m still trying to figure out next year, and how much debt my college dreams are worth.
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As students and faculty strike on the Cal campus today, UC regents have announced they will be canceling a meeting scheduled for November 16 at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.
The regents cited “a real danger of significant violence and vandalism” as their reason for canceling tomorrow’s meeting. University police told them “rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers were planning to attach themselves to peaceful demonstrations expected to occur at the meeting.”
Whether or not these threats to the regents are real, it is true that Occupy Cal had called for a protest of Wednesday’s meeting. Activists say the regents are acting on behalf of the 1%, implementing budget cuts and fee hikes for university students.
Occupy Cal points out four board members in particular as part of the problem: Monica Lozano, Dick Blum, Leslie Tang Schilling and Paul Wachter.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
“It’s telling that the regents don’t want to face people who are calling on them to make the 1 percent pay for re-funding public education – including their own companies, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo,” said UC Berkeley doctoral student Charlie Eaton, an organizer with the graduate student employees union, which has worked on the protests with a group called Refund California.
Lawmakers have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from UC’s state allocation over the past few years, including $650 million this year alone. Another $100 million could be cut this winter if state revenues fall short as expected.
At the same time, the regents have consistently raised tuition and fees, tripling them in the last decade to $13,218, while cutting campus services.
Turnstyle News looked into the board members some more:
- Dick Blum: Dick Blum is an investment banker and the husband of US Senator Diane Feinstein. He is also the President and Chairman of Blum Capital, an equity investment management firm. An article on Theava.com, (a news site delivering news around Mendocino Country) had this to say about Blum:
Richard Blum is a San Francisco-based finance capitalist presiding over a business empire that is, to say the least, expansive. Hedge funds? Blum owns one outright and wields a significant share of various others. Real estate? His primary investment vehicle, the $7 billion Blum Capital Partners, owns the largest real estate brokerage firm on the planet, CB Richard Ellis, of which Blum is chairman of the board. Construction? Until public scandal prompted him to sell off his holdings, Blum was a majority partner in a construction and engineering company that did billions in business with the US military among other government clients.
According to Spot.us, a community-funded investigative newsgroup, Blum strongly falls into the 1% bracket, as noted by IRS statistics that place the 1% above $347,000 in earnings.
Mr. Blum’s spouse, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), whose wealth is estimated to be as high as $100 million, and whose 200-plus page disclosure statements are almost exclusively dedicated to tracking the labyrinthine activities of Blum Capital Partners.
- Monica Lozano: Lozano serves on the board and is a director of Bank of America. According to Wikipedia, she is also a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. She has also served on board at UnionBanCal Corporation, a San Francisco banking company. She is the publisher and Chief Executive Officer of La Opinión , America’s largest Spanish Language newspaper. According to Spot.us, Lozano may have had conflicts of interest while serving on the Board of Regents:
In 2008, while Lozano served on the board of Bank of America and Walt Disney, the UC General Endowment Pool owned about $5 million in Bank of America bonds and $530,000 in Walt Disney bonds; while the UC Retirement Plan held $99 million in Bank of America bond investments and $8.5 million in Walt Disney bonds.
Lozano’s annual income is also in the hundreds of thousands per year, which puts her in the top 10 percent of earners in the U.S.
According to Forbes, Lozano made a total of $127,376, which includes $47,376 in stock awards, as a director for Bank of America in 2008. And she apparently earned a total of $234,842, including $71,909 in stock awards, $52,090 in options and $17,093 in other compensation, as a member of Walt Disney’s board during the same year.
- Paul Wachter:According to his website, Paul Wachter is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Main Street Advisors. Main Street Advisors provides a wide range of financial, strategic and asset management advisory services to a select group of high net worth individuals and companies. Wachter serves on the Board of Directors of Time Warner Inc. and as a special advisor to the California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth.
- Leslie Tang Schilling: According to The Regent’s of The University of California website, Tang Shilling is s Founder and Director of Union Square Investments Company, a commercial real estate investment and management firm. After 10 years as a Director of the Pacific Bank N.A., she was a director of Golden West Financial since 1997 and retired from its board in 2006 when it was sold to Wachovia Bank. According to Spot.us, Tang Shilling’s earnings would put her in the hundreds of thousands:
As founder of Union Square Investment Co., which was valued between $100,001 and $1 million, Schilling said in 2008 she received a salary of more than $100,000. And she received between $10,001 and $100,000 in income from L.T.D.D., according to 2008 disclosure forms.
Spot’s investigation also cites a past potential conflict of interest since Tang Shilling has served on the Board of Regents:
In May 2006, mortgage-lender Golden West Financial was sold to Wachovia Bank for $25.5 billion while Schilling served on the board of the company and fellow Regent Russel Gould was involved in business development and partnerships for Wachovia in California. Both were Regents at the time.
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Robyn Gee on Monday, Aug. 8th
Once the leader in public higher education, California’s universities and community colleges have sunk to the bottom of the pool in terms of certain aspects of the education experience they offer. A recent study done at California State University at Sacramento (CSUS) shows that the California system suffers from neglect. The state ranks 50th in terms of funding per student, and though California’s academic performance is “average,” the achievement gaps between minority students and white students are not accounted for, and are not being addressed.
How bad is it? The LA Times pulled out the following facts:
• Tuition and fee increases exceed the national average rate of increase.
• The college-going rate of high school graduates rose from 53% to 58% between 2003 and 2007, but dropped back to 53% in 2009.
• California ranks 41st in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded for every 100 high school graduates six years after graduation.
Main points from the study are: lawmakers must ensure equity and access to higher education opportunities, the current approach to funding higher education is not effective, and state policy leadership is missing.
More specifically, the study looked at the following broad areas: affordability, preparation, completion, benefits, and finance. Each section contained key issues and key findings.
For example, in the Preparation section, the study recommends that California reexamine the policy that mandates algebra for all eighth graders. While algebra proficiency has increased, a growing number of eighth graders are testing below basic skill levels. In addition, Asian and white students are nearly twice as likely to be proficient in math or science as are black and Latino students.
The Affordability section is a whole other beast. California has veered drastically from its Master Plan for Higher Education. According to the report, the state’s “Master Plan” promised “tuition free” college to state residents, charging only “fees” for necessary specialized services. However, recent tuition hikes at UC Berkeley recently had students up in arms — just one example of the changing role of California’s public universities.
Diane Dodge, director of the East Bay College Fund (EBCF), sees this issue first hand. Her organization provides scholarships to public high school students who come from low-income families and communities with historically low college attendance rates in the Bay Area. This year, they gave out 30 scholarships, but had 300 applicants. “We wanted to give away a lot more scholarships. We’re ready to expand and grow. When people think of investing in a young person, college is the number one way to make a difference in generational poverty,” said Dodge.
EBCF doesn’t just give out the scholarship and turn their back–the organization provides consistent mentoring and support throughout their college experience. “We don’t look for valedictorians… we’re looking for students with a B average, but have shown resiliency and are really clear they want to go to college,” said Dodge.
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Robyn Gee/Chris McCoy on Friday, Jul. 15th
Students at University of California institutions will face steep tuition increases this fall. The UC Board of Regents just approved a 9.6 percent tuition increase on top of an existing 8 percent increase, bringing total costs up to $12,192 per year.
According to a UC Regents press release, these increases only make up for one quarter of the deficit that plagues the UC system, partially due to the $650 million cut from the state and other cost increases. The chancellors said the tuition increases were necessary in order to maintain the high quality of education at the UCs, four of which rank within the top ten best public universities in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Students aren’t thrilled by the cuts, especially since they coincided with pay raises for administrators. A release from the University of California Student Association said, “Students were very disappointed to see the UC Regents vote for a salary pay increase of $27,500 for Patrick Lenz, Vice President of Budget and Capital Resources on the same day that they approved such an extensive tuition increase which brings his salary up to $300,000. Students do not believe that such an increase is appropriate in light of the sacrifices being asked of students and their families.”
The Sacramento Bee reports that tuition has increased by 242 percent over the past ten years.
Students were successful in getting the Board of Regents to remove an additional 5.9 percent “trigger” increase in tuition — which would have gone into effect if Governor Jerry Brown decided to cut $100 million extra from the UC budget if tax revenues came up short, according to the UCLA Daily Bruin.
Since it is summer, many students aren’t around to protest the cuts on campus — which takes a little bit of the pressure off the Board of Regents.
Turnstyle has been following the data released about the amount of money it takes to get certain college majors versus that major’s median starting salary. Will these tuition increases impact the choices students make? Will more of them choose biomedical engineering over psychology?
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Robyn Gee on Thursday, Jun. 30th
The U.S. Department of Education recently published the tuition costs of every private, public, not-for-profit, and for-profit college on their College Affordability and Transparency Center website.
The college cost navigator allows you to organize the institutions by tuition price and by the percent increase in tuition between 2007 – 2008 and 2009 – 2010.
The public, four-year college to increase its tuition the most was Northern New Mexico College, by 51%, and the private, four-year college with the highest increase was Wells College, by 67 percent. Still, Everest University-Largo, a private, for-profit, four-year college increased its tuition by 99 percent.
The five most expensive four-year, private, not-for-profit colleges are:
Bates College, Maine: $51,300
Connecticut College, Connecticut: $51,115
Middlebury College, Vermont: $50,780
Union College, NY: $50,439
Colby College, Maine: $50,320
We would hope the students attending these expensive colleges are making that money back after they graduate… But it doesn’t look like it. Recently, we looked at the college majors that have the best rate of return – and they don’t match up with the most popular majors at these pricey institutions.
Popular majors at Bates College include politics, psychology, economics, biology, or English and history. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, majoring in politics might get you a median salary of 49K, but psychology is the lowest earning college major on the list, averaging 40K a year – way less than one year of tuition.
Connecticut College students and Middlebury College students are most likely to choose Economics (median income 70K) or English Language and Literature (48K).
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Robyn Gee on Thursday, Jun. 16th
The Department of Education announced new regulations to try and make sure that students walk away from college with gainful employment. The regulations target for-profit colleges that have high tuition rates and high numbers of students that default on their loans.
According to the regulation legislation, in 2008, “46 percent of student loans (weighted by dollars) borrowed by students at two-year for-profit institutions are expected to go into default over the life of the loans, compared to 16 percent of loans borrowed by students across all types of institutions.”
These for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, or Heald College allow certain people more flexibility by offering online classes. Carmen Wong Ulrich is a personal finance journalist and author of “The Real Cost of Living,” said on NPR’s Marketplace, “We’re just in an economy where everyone’s getting the message that you need to retrain yourself, you need to get a new degree, you need to get a different degree in order to be wanted in the job market.”
However, the revenue at for-profit institutions is dependent upon the number of students they enroll, and is not dependent on the number of students that graduate, find jobs, and repay their loans, according to the regulations.
In the final version of the regulations, the government does not put a limit on enrollment. To meet the gainful employment requirements, colleges must have a repayment rate on their loans of at least 35 percent. Or, the college has to show that its graduates in jobs are paying 12 percent or less of their earnings on loan repayments. But these restrictions will only apply to a small percent of colleges.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, writes that the regulations are a step in the right direction, but don’t go far enough to protect students. “It gives programs more leeway. Only colleges with extremely low repayment rates and high debt burdens are subject to any sanction. Programs with dubious debt burdens and repayment rates can continue unrestricted.”
Rick Castellano, spokesperson for the University of Phoenix said, “We’re currently reviewing the final gainful employment regulations and how they may impact our students.”
Stay tuned for more on for-profit institutions from Turnstyle.
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Matthew English on Tuesday, Mar. 29th
College Chronicles takes a look at the issues facing college students in the 21st century. All contributors are currently students working for their college newspapers. These are their commentaries.
By Matthew English, a senior at Virginia Tech University.
Throughout the ever-long budget debate, we have commonly heard the government asking its citizens to make sacrifices — to take cuts and reduce benefits in hopes of reclaiming financial balance. Yet, the difficulty of legislating these sacrifices is determining who and how much. These two factors are the causes of many heated debates and protests.
So, let’s talk Pell Grants. This discussion revolves around two questions: Should college students be asked to make financial sacrifices just like most other voting citizens right now? And if so, how much?
The proposed cuts, which look poised to pass in the House of Representatives, would total around $5.7 billion. With about 27 percent of college students nationwide receiving Pell Grants, that would decrease the maximum yearly grant from $5500 to $4705, a difference of $845. Additionally, about 1.7 million students who receive lower yearly grants would be ineligible for the program altogether.
As someone who receives Pell Grant money, these cuts feel like someone taking money directly out of my wallet. As most of us know, the budgets of college students are quite slim. Virginia Tech tuition, especially out-of-state, will have most of us locked down with student loans for a decade or so. Add on rent, textbooks, food and a couple too many beers downtown, and that $7.70 per hour Subway job between classes doesn’t give much leeway.
The Pell Grant money isn’t just a check. It’s a semester’s rent, a month of extra shifts, more time studying and a little less stress every time I check the bank account. It’s literally three years I won’t be paying back student loans.
For some it means even more — it’s the difference between going to college or not.
As much as I depend on this federal money, I don’t believe the college student’s financial situation garners an exemption to the sacrifices asked to the typical American family, worker or individual at this time.
As much as we don’t want to admit, or act like it, being 18 years old carries with it responsibilities and therefore the expectations of adulthood, which involves sacrifices. Preventing secondary education funding from being cut just pushes the financial burden onto some other group or demographic. One of those responsibilities of adulthood is earning and working for the things you want. In this case it’s a collegiate education.
So, should Pell Grant funding be cut? Even though it means I probably won’t qualify for a grant next year, yes.
Now, by how much?
The program shouldn’t be eliminated altogether because it allows people to go to college who wouldn’t otherwise be able to without the Pell Grant money. This cause was the founding principle of the program and should be its fundamental
The current budgetary problem with the Pell Grant program, and with most other federal spending programs, is it is bloated. Federal funding for the program has increased 400 percent over the last 10 years. This of course would be great, if the country could afford it. At one point we might have been able to, but the truth is, we cannot anymore. It’s difficult for a bloated program to be cut because it is accustomed to the excess spending.
Students who wouldn’t normally qualify for Pell Grants, like myself, received them because federal money was pumped into the system. Now that our federal budget is in a financial mess, we have to cut those programs that grew beyond their founded principles.
The Pell Grant program needs to get back to its roots and give money only to those students who wouldn’t be able to attend college without it. If we are serious about cutting spending, and we should be, then students should be asked to make the same sacrifices every other sector of our country is being asked to make right now.
Matthew English is a senior double major in Philosophy and Architecture at Virginia Tech, and has has enjoyed writing about politics for the Collegiate Times for the past year. He is currently studying Architecture and Italian abroad in a small town on the Swiss-Italy border.
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When Fahiya Rashid started college at UC Irvine, she thought she knew most of the financial traps to avoid. Chatting at an LA coffee shop, she says her father’s experience taught her to watch her spending.
“When he was in college, he went crazy,” says Rashid. “He had, like, 18 different credit cards. He took student loans. And now he’s almost 50 and he’s still paying that money back. And there’s not a stop to it. So he taught me, just limit yourself to one or two cards, and spend very wisely. Don’t spend money you don’t have.”
But during her freshman year, Rashid says she faced an unexpected problem.
“When you start school, they give you a whole bunch loans. They’re like, ‘OK, take this, take that, take this.’ I was under the impression that I needed all of that money, so I said yes to every single one of them, which is a bad idea, of course.”
She returned as many of the unnecessary loans as possible — about three thousand dollars worth. Rashid figures the less she borrows now, the better off she’ll be after years of compounding interest.
Problems like hers are common, says financial expert Kathy Kristof, because students aren’t taught about money. “Most of them are pretty clueless when they first start college, unless their parents have really done a great job of educating them about finance all along. We just don’t get much financial education in high school, and then parents send their kids off to college kind of like pushing them out of the nest.”
Kristof, who wrote the book Taming the Tuition Tiger, says the biggest mistake students make is getting into too much debt, especially by taking out private student loans. She says the loans are easy to confuse with federal loans. But they have much higher interest rates.
There are other financial lessons that have to be learned through experience. USC student Arlene Washington says living on her own taught her how to budget. She learned to save money for hidden fees on things like student government, as well as for smaller purchases.
“When you’re living with your parents, you don’t know everything that comes into what you need to support yourself. So when you’re on your own, there might be certain things, even as little as toilet tissue.”
She says her best lessons in finance came from her job on campus: “Because you know you would get your check at a certain time of the month. And then after you get that check you say to yourself, ‘Well, how much can I spend and how much do I need to use on certain things monthly?’ Whether it be bills or different things. I need to buy food. Things like that.”
Financial expert Kristof says making sure kids have jobs is one way parents can teach them about money. But it has to be part of a larger conversation.
“If you’ve been all along, all through high school, talking to your kids about money, it’s good to let them fly solo right now and take the responsibility for their finances. If you know you haven’t done that, you want to wean them from your protection over time.”
Kristof sees no fast way to make college bound students financial pros. But she says learning how to manage money is as important as what you learn in the classroom.
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