College Debt: What Did You Think Would Happen?

The headline in today’s Boston Globe: “Colleges fear debt puts damper on donations.” Gee, do ya think?

When universities are touting college as a personal, economic investment–and not an investment in society, why on earth did they think loyalty would still exist? Most students have been told that to gain access to or remain in the middle class, they need a college degree. When they rack up massive debt, and at the same time, are forced to take jobs they really don’t want to pay off that debt, did it ever occur to the universities that this might happen?
Rising tuition rates aren’t like tornados or hurricanes: universities can do something about them. They have reaped what they have sown.

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3 Responses to College Debt: What Did You Think Would Happen?

  1. Troublesome Frog says:

    My wife and I went to the same small, expensive private school and we talk about this from time to time. We’re a few years out, young professionals with a solid income, and we do give (although not in the $100M range). We do so because we’re debt-free thanks to generous university scholarships and marketable skills courtesy of a great faculty. My wife (who grew up sharing a bedroom with her parents) worked 3 jobs to get through, so the scholarships meant a lot and we’re grateful for them.
    At the same time, we never spent a week at that school without getting the impression that it was all about the money. In its day to day operations, the administration was all about a few bucks here and there in the short run rather than building goodwill. Any opportunity to squelch competition that may lower prices for books/services/etc was taken. Want to screw the students as an on-campus monopolist? Give the school $100K and then recoup it by snagging $200K from the students using monopoly power. Likewise, they never missed a chance to take a cash only “deposit” for a few months (read: interest-free loan of a few hundred thousand dollars from the student body). If it weren’t for the scholarships that got us through largely unscathed, I think that being nickel and dimed might have left a bad taste in our mouths. I can definitely understand that some of my classmates who are primary school teachers with piles of tuition debt don’t have quite the warm fuzzy feelings we do.
    I know that it’s hard to run a university and make ends meet. Educating people who need labs, expensive faculty and cheap housing is a fast way to turn a large fortune into a small fortune. I don’t know what the solution is, but things are clearly not going to operate the way they did before big debt became the norm.

  2. stogoe says:

    It certainly doesn’t help that ‘brand’ loyalty is heavily invested in men’s athletics teams, either. As an asportual male, I certainly don’t want my hypothetical donations going to prop up the meatheads.

  3. Joshua says:

    It’s frankly insulting that the fundraising requests start literally days after graduation — sometimes even before! It certainly doesn’t put me in much of a giving mood. Could you guys at least, I dunno, give me a little time to find and start a job so I’ll actually have money to donate? Maybe wait until after I’ve moved, if I needed to? You know?
    And, yeah, knowing where the money goes would also help. Frankly, if they would earmark the money for student organisations, I would donate in a heartbeat. Despite the fact that everyone paid a $150 “undergraduate student fee” at BU ostensibly to support student orgs, all of the clubs I ever knew about were comically underfunded. The Ballroom Club seemed to do well enough, but they could only pay for instructors and not much else… after collecting dues. And don’t even get me started about how they snubbed all the theater clubs. Apart from Clique Troupe that had their own build/rehearsal space on campus, the theater clubs were stuck with leftovers. And they would always get less for the Spring semester, so if they didn’t make money on the Fall show they’d be SOL.
    I would love to donate to help that situation, but apparently there are rules against donating directly to the clubs and I know that donations to the school will disappear into a black hole. So why give them anything?

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