AI & Higher Ed

by Taylor Johnson

This new story from Marketplace Tech is based on the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it may change higher education and the workforce in the near future. This subject is now receiving attention after a small liberal arts school called Colby College has chosen to incorporate AI into subjects/ majors their school already offers. The president of the university, David Greene, argues that  artificial intelligence will become the norm in the near future and that it should be incorporated into more liberal arts universities. While he brings up many interesting examles of how AI is going to be important in each field of study, one of the main reasons he feels AI needs to be incorporated into higher education now is so students can lead AI instead of it leading them. He argues that if AI is kept to only being used in the narrow scope of technology and the defense industry, and continues to not be incorporated into higher education, it will never be able to grow into the powerful resource it has the potential to be. Greene argues the importance of AI’s incorporation in higher education stating:

“one of the beauties of people who are trained in the liberal arts is that they understand how to come at a problem from multiple, different angles… the more that we have people who are coming from liberal arts backgrounds, who are raising the kind of questions that will ultimately shape AI in more positive ways, the better off we’ll be.”

While the advancement of artificial intelligence may seem like a great idea on the surface, many are still apprehensive about incorporating it into higher education. This is usually due to costs and the fear that it may render certain positions useless, potentially positions that colleges are training their students for.

Putting student loan forgiveness in perspective: How costly is it and who benefits?

by Sarah McFarland

A new article from Brookings evaluates the effectiveness of implementing a student loan forgiveness program, as well as more beneficial alternatives to increasing affordability. According to Looney, forgiving $50,000 in student loans would cost almost twice as much as what the federal government has spent on Pell Grant recipients over the last two decades. Even forgiving $10,000 in student loans would amount to what the government has spent on welfare since 2000 and would exceed spending since then on the school breakfast and lunch program. Black and Hispanic households, as well as those with lower levels of education, are more likely to benefit from these programs. Meanwhile, students from white, highly educated, and high-income households are more likely to have higher levels of student loan debt.

According to Looney, student loan forgiveness would place among the largest transfer programs in American history, providing a greater benefit to students from households previously mentioned with higher levels of debt. As a solution, the government should develop targeted programs to relieve poorer students. Such solutions include doubling the Pell Grant for current students and reducing loan balances for former recipients based on the amount they would have received because of this change. Another solution includes pushing income-driven repayment plans, which allow borrowers to repay loans based on the amount they can afford. Each of these solutions would reduce the benefits reaped by students who can afford college, while still increasing affordability for students in need of assistance most.

Back Up and Running!

We’re excited to announce that knowyourcollegecosts.org is back up and running! We lost the domain name for a couple of years and have been operating solely on our wordpress site. We’ve got the domain name back and are getting ready to restart our regular posting. Please check back frequently as we restart our discussion of issues related to the costs of higher education.

Students Get Paid to Work Less During College

by Gabriela Faux

Paying for college has become a growing struggle for students, especially those working their way through school. Recent studies show that working more than 20 hours a week negatively affects grades and the odds of graduating. However, studies also show that students who work 10-15 hours a week are more likely to receive higher grades and graduate. 18% of students who took more than 4 years to graduate said it was because they took fewer classes in order to work. Temple University has implemented a new program aimed at reducing student debt, called Fly in 4. The goal of this program is have students graduate in 4 years by giving students resources necessary to meet the 4 year goal. In addition, 500 of the neediest students in each class receive a grant of $4000 a year if they agree to work no more than 15 hours a week. This grant money supposedly covers what the student would make if he/she was to work 30 hour weeks. Students enrolled in this program must meet with their academic advisor once a semester, register for classes that pertain to their major, and complete 30 credits a year. If students meet all the requirements but still do not graduate in 4 years due to an unavailability of necessary course, Temple would allow students to complete the courses needed free of tuition.

For more information please see:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/01/temple-u-offers-grant-exchange-students-agreeing-work-less-study-more

 http://news.temple.edu/news/2014-02-03/temple-creates-fly-4-initiative-help-students-control-debt

College for All, but Who is Paying?

by Joseph Betz

The rising cost of college is no myth, including compensation for inflation, the cost of tuition and fees at a public university is now 4 times what it was 40 years ago. While government aid covers some of this burden, students still must resort to taking massive student loans to cover the cost of a higher education. But can the government afford to do more?

11.1 million students attended public colleges and universities in 2014, taking into account undergraduates and graduate students. States spent $73 billion funding higher education in 2014 leaving students with $64.3 billion in tuition, which comes out to $5,793 per student on average. In 2000, states spent $51.9 billion which left the 8.6 million students with $21.5 billion in tuition, coming out to an average cost of $2,500 per student.

Bernie Sanders has proposed his “College for All” plan that would aim at paying for this $73 billion tuition bill by increasing federal funding by $47 billion and state funding another $23 billion. The federal government would pay $2 for every $1 that state governments spend on tuition at public universities. In addition to drastic tuition aid, the plan calls for cutting student interest rates to about 2% for undergraduates. The cost of this plan could potentially be up to $750 billion over the course of 10 years.

Sanders plans to fund the program by imposing a 0.5% fee on stock trades, a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. Warren Gunnels claims that this would raise up to $300 billion a year, citing a University of Massachusetts report, whereas Steve Rosenthal, a Tax Policy Center senior fellow, reported that it would only raise about $51 billion.

The expanded access to low cost higher education would be revolutionary, with far reaching societal and economic ramifications.

http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-and-room-and-board-over-time-1975-76-2015-16-selected-years

http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/16/news/economy/sanders-taxes-spending/

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2015/09/28-taxes-inequality/would-top-income-tax-alter-income-inequality.pdf

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/03/politics/bernie-sanders-free-college-costs/

Building a Showcase Campus

by Justin Jackson

I can say almost with absolute certainty that many of us students attending Widener University enjoy the many amenities and appurtenances the school has to offer, from the Pride Recreation Center to the new Harris Hall and its conveniently located Moe’s Grill and Einstein’s Bagels. They, as well as everything else, are very appealing and most certainly do add to the bonuses of the campus and the school as a whole. However, the cost of such benefits and additions is very much a big one to bear. Today, as many high school students are comparing their prospective schools of choice, I know that they all are considering what the school of their choice has over other schools descending their “maybe” list. But, what they – as well as the many currently enrolled college students – may not know is that the cost is being passed down to them in this race to build a showcase campus. According to New York Times writer Andrew Martin and researches at Moody’s, the debt colleges and universities have amassed to attract students to attend their school through building and expansion is well over $200 billion. To pay off these high prices, the colleges raise tuition, which cause more in student loans. One such example of elaborate and exuberant building seen on campus is the one built by the Cooper Union in New York City a few years ago. That development caused the already struggling school to amass more debt.

I fondly remember reading an article back when I was a freshman that caught my attention and frankly caught me by surprise because of its strong and fierce claim: college is a big business. Though I could not fathom the reasons behind such an article headline at first glance, upon reading the piece in its entirety, I soon came to understand that higher education has become a business, from the hierarchy of administrative staff all the way down to the mechanism used by colleges and universities to add to their funding. Education is a business because now it is more evident that the race to educate more students is so fierce so colleges can at least attempt to muddle themselves out of the debts they have acquired.

 

Exponential College Tuition Inflation

by Eric Guzy

 Tuition for college is commonly described as being overpriced and far from payable on the salary of a student working part time at your local diner. However, how come it seemed that the prior generation, with an abundance of hard work and resilience were able to pay for school with a part time commitment? 

In 1980 the minimum wage in our nation was $3.10. However, the cost for four years of university study (plus room and board) was $64,572. In 2015 Minimum wage was $7.25 on average and the average cost of tuition (plus room and board) is $175,684 for four years. The average work week hours logged per capita for a part time job is 30 hours. In 1980, if you worked thirty hours a week for your 8 semesters of college (15 weeks a semester) you would make about $11,160, which is about 17% of total tuition. However in 2015 with the same formula you would make $26,000. This is only about 14.5% percent of total tuition. 

This difference may not seem drastic, but the rate of inflation is rising faster than employee salary can pace. With college becoming such an important nexus between today’s work force and the current generation many people have to choose between whether to suffer uneducated or to suffer constantly in the unremitting circle of getting an education to get paid, to pay off the education people took out loans to pay for because they felt they needed to make more money to change the world. 

This alone is astonishing, but once you calculate for interest rates in today’s world it almost seems as though college should be formally recognized as a debt collection monopoly.

Data Sources:

http://www.alternet.org/education/how-did-college-education-become-so-ridiculously-expensive

http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/chart.htm

http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-and-room-and-board-over-time-1975-76-2015-16-selected-years

College tuition is too high, but why?

By Mason Tracewell

It is clear that college tuition has increased drastically and many students are taking on a substantial amount of debt to go to college. The real question is: Why are tuition prices still rising? A recent study has tried to answer this question and the National Bureau of Economic Research’s (NBER) findings suggest that faculty salaries and state cutbacks don’t drive prices higher, but student aid availability drives prices higher. The argument is that the availability of more student aid allows for the schools to charge more tuition, because the students can pay for it. Also the study suggests with more state funding the schools can offer lower scholarships, so that the students pay the same amount, but the college pays out less money.

My problem with the study is that the study includes both private and public college data. I feel you would have to judge the two separately based on the vast differences between them in regards to funding, scholarships, and tuition cost. The researchers used data only from non-profit schools and this may have skewed the data and therefore the conclusions should not be stretched out to all colleges. I agree with the study that faculty salaries are not what drive tuition prices higher. Colleges are relying heavily on part-time faculty and these members get paid low wages with no benefits. Also the model college in the study combated increased faculty costs with increased student enrollment and this also suggests that faculty wages are not the reason for increased tuition.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/study-increased-student-aid-not-faculty-salaries-drives-tuition