This strikes me as a sensible intervention into the typically un-nuanced conversation about the price of a four-year undergraduate degree. And what’d'ya know–it’s from a panel of admissions officers, the kind of people whose job it is to know their target audience and to recruit and retain students?
Steven Graff, senior director of admissions and enrollment services at the College Board, said it’s become “knee jerk” to say college is too costly.
“But,” he said, “what I think we have to do is move away from the monolithic assumption that the word ‘college,’ the word ‘price,’ the word ‘cost’ are the same for every student, every institution, for every situation we are dealing with.”
Instead, the panel argued, college prices and costs require a more nuanced view than the one offered by most in the media or perhaps even by President Obama, who last month went on a campaign-style tour to tout his plan to curb college costs.
Graff and two consultants from the enrollment management firm Art & Science Group argued that there is a significant difference between college cost and college price, in part because of financial aid, and there are also rather significant differences among prices at different kinds of institutions.
[M]ost commentary on college costs has been skewed by generalizations or by anecdotes of high sticker prices and debt that then get turned into generalizations.
Citing College Board data, Graff said even though college costs have risen, the shift has not been dramatic across the board.
Instead, high-priced for-profit colleges have enrolled an increasing numbers of students, and they charge more for degrees than do public colleges. According to College Board data, about 75 percent of public four-year students see tuition and fee price tags of $12,000 or less to attend college, while roughly two-thirds of for-profit students see price tags of $12,000 or more.
While public four-years have arguably been able to keep prices relatively low measured this way, the attention-grabbing price tags at private four-years are also notable for exaggerating actual cost. According to the College Board, published tuition and fees for private four-year colleges rose to $29,000 from $17,000 in the early-1990s in inflation-adjusted dollars, but the actual cost to families in 2012 dollars was about $13,000 in 2012, or just $3,000 more than it was in the early 1990s.
Graff also does not feel families are saving as much for college as they once did, part of a cultural shift that may be forcing students to take out loans, which is driving talk of a debt crisis for students.
“I don’t know that the family sees [itself] as being the primary source of funds for higher education — the assumption is somebody else will pay a good portion of it,” he said.
And here’s the beauty part: the more loans students take out, the more someone else stands to make on servicing those debts! Pssst: it’s a feature, not a bug!!! As I’ve written here before: someone’s taking a bath, and someone else stands to profit.