All posts tagged debt

The Higher Ed Bubble

At The College of 2020 we love how infographics present data in creative ways. Below is one of the better ones I have seen about higher education and it aggregates a large amount of reputable data.

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College Pays The Bills: The For-Profit Cover Up

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Westwood College has a new guarantee for its students. If you don’t get a job within six months it will help pay your bills. And they are advertising it heavily – I stumbled on the pledge through a paid banner on a news website. Founded in 1953 and based in Denver, Colorado, Westwood College has 17 campuses across the country. Westwood College is a for-profit college that offers bachelor and associate degree programs in business, design, technology, industrial services, justice and healthcare. Currently there are 15,000 students enrolled in classes on campus or online.

The details are simple – if you don’t get a job in six months then Westwood will pay you $500 per month for up to 6 months if you have a bachelor’s degree, and $250 per month for up to 6 months if you have an associate degree. It’s a lot like unemployment benefits for recent graduates. “Eligible graduates must check in weekly in person or via phone with career services beginning upon graduation,” the website says. Not a bad guarantee, but I am interested in knowing if this pushed up the tuition cost a little bit.

The “Westwood Employment Pledge,” is an interesting move in a shaky economy and for an institution with a lot of controversy. There is little doubt the pledge is Westwood’s response to critics of high tuition and the value of a degree from a for-profit institution. According to the Denver Post, Westwood College was sued in federal court in August 2010 for the “misrepresented value of its degrees and inflated potential post-graduation salaries to lure prospective students.” The employment pledge feels like a cover up. Pay $75,000 to Westwood College for the average bachelor degree and get $3,000 back if you don’t get a job. Do the math – the odds are still in the house’s favor.

To learn more about the details of the Westwood Employment Pledge click here.


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College Tuition Problem

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The cost of health care continues to grow at a pace that threatens the financial health of the United States. The real-estate bubble pushed housing prices up at rates that proved unsustainable.

Yet, as Cristian Deritis points out in a fascinating report for Moody’s Analytics, those well-known price spirals were nothing compared to the cost of college tuition. The price of tuition and fees has more than doubled since 2000. Technological and pedagogical innovations are likely to greatly impact higher education in the next decade, but what makes higher education ripe for disruptive forces is it’s simply become too expensive, and, outside of isolated success, there seems to be no widespread effort to contain those costs. A number of reports link this tuition increase primarily to administrative growth. Whatever, the reason, it is undermining the business model of traditional colleges and universities.

Colleges have maintained their privileged position in American society because of the status and monetary benefits the receipt of its product (a degree) can bring. That long-term advantage remains in place. A new report from Georgetown University, “The College Payoff,” finds that individuals receiving a bachelor’s degree earn 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with just a high school diploma. That college-degree tuition premium was 75 percent in 1999.

But that advantage is being lost in the sea of student debt. The outstanding balance in student loans from tuition has nearly doubled in just the last four years, to $750 billion. (see Chart 1 in Deritis report, mentioned above) Students are finding out the hard way that they cannot make enough in some careers to pay off those loans. (Teaching, anyone?) And colleges are rarely responding in creative ways to help their customers.

Look for students, then, to look for alternatives. Straighter Line, for instance, is on an incredible online advertising spending binge, advertising that it is offers college-level courses at 90 percent less than, well, colleges. Students are looking for more answers like that, other inexpensive distance-education courses, and alternatives like Western Governors University, which grants credit for life experience.

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