Opinion: We are urging Georgia students to attend college while making it harder for them to do so

Jessica Cooke was a lecturer with the English Department at the University of North Georgia.  She recently resigned her position to protest the ongoing tuition increase in Georgia, including a 5 percent tuition hike at UNG.

In a note to her students, she explained:

I have to walk away from higher education now because I can no longer be a part of this industry which simultaneously capitalizes on your aspirations and spits on them.  Yes, a college/university education may be the primary means to career opportunity and advancement because the American myth still lingers heavily like a bad perfume in a cramped elevator, but the race is hardly a fair one when many of you must leverage your futures to secure those opportunities.  After graduation, because some of you will be tethered to outrageous student loan debts, you will begin your life’s journeys from well behind the starting line.

That’s not fair, and that’s not the higher education system I signed up to work in.

In this essay, Cooke focuses on the impact of rising tuition and crushing college debt on one of her students, a young woman who delayed college and could not apply for HOPE. (From state website: “Students are only eligible to receive the HOPE Scholarship until seven years from the date of the student’s high school graduation, home study completion, or successful GED test.”)

By Jessica Cooke

In 2008, Jemmy Case was a fresh-faced 19-year-old breaking away from a life of homeschooling and heading toward adulthood and freedom.  She moved into an apartment, elected not to go to college, and got a full-time job. It was a big time for her in 2008, but Jemmy said she “quickly learned that a degree was necessary for any type of employment that paid more than the minimum wage,” and by her mid-20s Jemmy recalls, “I found myself feeling left behind on the staircase to success.”

Nicole A. Evans / SCAD-Atlanta

Nicole A. Evans / SCAD-Atlanta

What she could not foresee was that delaying her college education was going to cost her massively.  As Jemmy’s former writing instructor, I can say she is precisely the type of student the University System of Georgia should welcome and support in every way possible — including financially.  She is committed, intelligent, hard-working, and savvy.

Yet, Jemmy’s reward for not starting college in 2008 is paying 65 percent more in tuition.  To put that in perspective, a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline today sells for $2.55, but at a 65 percent discount in 2008, it would have cost $1.66.  (In 2008, that gallon of gas actually cost about $2.45.)  Except for higher education, there is no other product or service in Georgia that has seen such price increases and has been endured for so long by education consumers.

It shouldn’t be.

Part of the problem lies with students and parents who reasonably believe that a four-year degree is necessary and, ultimately, worth more to have than it costs to get. A four-year degree is one way to career opportunity, but it is not the only way. Technical programs, two-year degrees, and training certificates also provide lasting opportunities at significantly lower costs.

Additionally, many large companies, including Starbucks and Chrysler Motor Company, now offer tuition reimbursement options to eligible employees. Responsible education consumers should explore all options instead of instinctively racing to the doors of the four-year degree-granting institutions.  Here’s why.

There are actually two different tuition rates paid at every institution of higher learning. The first tuition is the one paid out-of-pocket. Those rates are posted at the time of matriculation, and in Georgia, tuition rates go up almost yearly. (Georgia Tech’s tuition increased 9 percent in both 2014 and in 2015.)

The second tuition rate — the one Jemmy pays — is funded through borrowed money, such as subsidized and unsubsidized federal financial aid.  Over time, borrowing students pay a much higher tuition rate because of the accumulated interest over the term of the loan — 10 years, 20 years, even 30 years.

Imagine, for a moment, Jemmy’s frustration, disappointment, and economic hardship with the life and career decisions she made seven years ago.  She describes, “I have become increasingly frustrated and appalled by the fact that an MBA could potentially end up costing me nearly as much as a mortgage if I attend any of the major universities in Georgia.”

Attending college used to be a race to the top of the academic achievement ladder, but it has since turned into a race to see who graduates with the lowest debt. The race is hardly fair, though, specifically because so many USG students like Jemmy have no choice but to leverage their futures to secure a degree that — just seven years ago — cost 65 percent less.

Some current USG students will be tethered to outrageous student loan debts, and as a result, they will begin their lives’ journeys from behind the starting line. Beyond the financial liability itself, those with student loan debt often are forced to sacrifice or delay major life milestones, such as getting married or starting families, not to mention buying large durable goods, such as houses, cars, and more, or — heaven forbid —saving for their retirement. The delays and sacrifices then rob Georgia and our nation of economic growth.

Jemmy laments, “I started college in order to make a better life for myself and my family, but I also genuinely wanted the education. I was homeschooled for the entirety of grade school and wanted to experience what it was like — not just to go to school — but to go to college. I have that experience now, but it is difficult for me to fully enjoy it knowing how much it is costing me now and how much it has already cost me. The debts that I have accrued since I began college are not exclusively monetary either. There are large chunks of time that have been taken from my personal life to pay for this education, increased stress and anxiety over how to pay for it, and lost time with my family and friends. These are payments toward my educational investment that may never show a return in the future, years of my life that I will never get back. I know that I am the kind of person who will find a way to benefit from my education out of sheer stubbornness and determination, but right now I am unsure if 20 years from now I will be able to look back and say that it was worth it just to be able to make it to the top of the staircase to success.”

That Georgia higher education has experienced decreased state funding since 2008 is scandalous but certainly explains — at least in part — why tuition rates in 2008 were 65 percent cheaper. Georgia state legislators should be mortified by repeatedly placing the entire burden of state-level funding cuts on education consumers, like Jemmy, essentially pushing them down the staircase to success. Moreover, it is time for USG employees, students, and parents to be stronger consumer advocates, to ask more pointed questions, and to demand answers.

The University System of Georgia and the Board of Regents cannot possibly reconcile urging a student like Jemmy to pursue her college education while simultaneously raising her in-state tuition by 66.5 percent since 2008. I don’t mind saying either that these tuition and fee hikes come at an onerous price, often unaffordable and frequently unrepayable by the many the USG and the Board of Regents claim to serve.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

65 comments
Looking4truth
Looking4truth

Just waiting to see if we're going to hold colleges to the same standard we hold K-12 schools.  No graduation = no increase in tuition. 


Also, make all professors, including those with endowed chairs, teach four classes each semester.  We're paying them big bucks - make them earn them and don't let them dump on TA's. 


The problem with higher ed is no one knows completely how it works.  I say throw open the books and the windows and let the "sunshine" laws in!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Looking4truth 

Cool. All those professors, especially with endowed chairs, will leave at once. They can.  They have moveable capital: their brains and their credentials.

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

@OriginalProf @Looking4truth  Yes, I agree - but are they there for status or to teach?  To teach - yes, with good evals (the same type of K-12 teacher evaluations come to mind) bring 'em on.  If they are here for status - either for the university status or personal egos - let 'em go.  Profs should be mentoring those who want to learn - not lining their pockets with research $$ and providing no benefit to the students of their university. 


Publishing esoteric articles about non-topics such as film noir is not producing for the good of the university or the students. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Looking4truth @OriginalProf 

Professors have to have something to teach, and should keep up with the research in their field to do so. Their research grants give them time off to do their research...how do you think it "lines their pockets"?  Publishing "esoteric articles" is for the benefit of the field of study the professor teaches, not the students or the school.

You sound full of misplaced, and completely false, resentment of professors who "don't work for a living." Maybe it's not work you understand, but it's work.

PelicanBrief
PelicanBrief

I agree with Jessica Cooke. Tuition in Georgia has gone out of control. What is wrong with the Board of Regents? Or are they the rich men and women who  does not know what it is to work and pay for a college education. No college tuition should be raised no more than the cost of living, which would only be 3% of less. If all college professors were doing a good job of teaching it would be different, Some are not. The individuals who want to go to college should be able to afford it without massive debt at the end. The Hope scholarship, I believe has had slot to due with the massive increases. Think about it! More money going to colleges through increased tuition and Hope is paying. Why not keep raising the tuition. Why not have a massive exit of students from college and see what happens. No students - No jobs for the college professions, etc.

PelicanBrief
PelicanBrief

Therre are two errors  sorry! should read "I believe has had 'a lot' to due.." "Why keep rising the tution"

sorry for the inconvenience.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@PelicanBrief 

And check out the credentials of those Regents, appointed by present and past Governors. Businessmen, usually. A few years ago the Regents Chair was the prosperous owner of a used car chain.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

No one has addressed the reason for the bloated administration.  When you get money from "the Fed," it comes with a lot of admin requirements.  When the state demands an increase in the grad rate, "tutors" must be hired.

Now you've got to keep track of the tutors - new hire.  More clerks for payroll, more accountants, more accounting supervisors, more supervisors for the supervisors, statisticians, assistant statisticians.  New faculty...WHAT??? YOU WANT TO HIRE MORE FACULTY???  Over my dead body!  They only work 4 hours a day, and they have grad students (read slaves) to give their tests, teach their classes.  We need to CUT faculty!!  They're just liberals and they're brainwashing our children (sob, whimper).  Global Warming!!!! Don't let them fluoridate your water!!!!!   

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@OldPhysicsTeacher 

Your generalizations may hold true for K-12 education, but they sure don't for higher education. There are no federal requirements for administrators, or tutors, or whatnot.  There isn't required paperwork for supervisors, etc.


There are an awful lot of fantasies about higher education on this blog-thread.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

I'm reminded of a quote from 'Airplane:'  "Shana, they paid the low price (airplane flight).  I say, Let 'em crash!"

In other words, "I got mine.  Blank them." 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Why are all you school accountability types not furious that you pay taxes to support  UGA, a horrible school -that is, based on a 4 year graduation rate of 63%(much worse than the K-12 crowd). 


UGA takes elite, high performers who can't seem graduate in 4 years at a rate higher than 63%(surely must be bad teachers). Definite sign of a failing school, eh?  UGA has no accountability in terms of EOCT's, grad tests, post-grad tracking, ..... nothing, and you don't seem to demand that the Governor take over UGA and "run it right". 


Maybe that's because the "right" people already get the millions of dollars in hope scholarship money and student loans that your kids may  be paying off for decades while living back at home. You also get to watch the game and say "Go Dawgs" while paying taxes that help to subsidize a multi-million dollar coaches salary. Go figure. Oh yeah - here's a group pic of the Board of Regents (notice anything?) http://www.usg.edu/regents/

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

@AvgGeorgian 

Actually, not everybody needs to go to college.  What we're seeing now is the result of the "To Get A Good Job, You Need A College Education" crap.  Not everybody is qualified to earn a college degree.  A 4 year degree should mean that you are able to learn a lot of really important (to the profession) information very quick at a high level of memory.  You should also be able to take that information and make important CORRECT decisions for your profession based on your observations of what REALLY happened.  Very few people are able to do that.  THAT'S WHY THEY PAY THEM A LOT OF MONEY. If it wasn't hard, they'd pay minimum wages.  Less than 25% should be able to pass.  The fact that over 60% pass just means that UGA, like most every other college, has reduced the difficulty of the degree - thereby lessening the value.

redweather
redweather

@OldPhysicsTeacher @AvgGeorgian I suspect you've been away from the job market for a while. Without having a college degree, job applicants are at a distinct disadvantage.  And this has been true for decades, so this is nothing new.  Additionally, a college grad will typically make a much better impression during a job interview.  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AvgGeorgian


I noticed that at least 6 members of the Board of Regents were appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue and at least 4 were appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal.  Those Board Members would more than likely reflect the worldview and thinking of Georgia's two most recent Republican governors. Give a moment of reflection to that, blog readers.  


And, now Gov. Deal wants to take over public elementary and secondary "failing" schools, yet he will not expand Medicaid in Georgia as part of the ACA.  Reflect for a moment on that, also. What kind of worldview is that?

Astropig
Astropig

"(In 2008, that gallon of gas actually cost about $2.45.) 


Something about that didn't quite ring true when I read it this morning and darn if my memory wasn't correct.I was restoring a house in Florida during 2008. I wish the price had been $2.45.Around Labor Day, it was well north of $4 a gallon. A round trip from north Georgia cost me well over $150.





http://www.treehugger.com/cars/2008-us-gas-price-year-in-review.html



She may want to check her figures,because $2.45 is what I paid today in Valdosta.






Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

A little bit dated, but here is a ten year study of UGA tuition as compared to various peer institutions.  Note that the rate of increase for non-residents, which should be a good indicator of the unsubsidized rate of increase, over that ten year period was 138%.


http://oir.uga.edu/studies/Tuition_And_Fees_Comparison.pdf


Whenever you have a disconnect between the action and the cost, rampant inflation will result.  The HOPE Scholarship, for all the good it has done, shielded students from the effects of tuition inflation.  Easy money (student loans) was akin to putting it on the charge card.  It was a perfect storm and now colleges have just about priced themselves out of business.


Of course, most are waiting for Congress to pass some type of "Every Damn Body Goes to College" law.  

Lexi3
Lexi3

@Lee_CPA2 


All those diversity administrators have to be paid too.


So, have government efforts to "make college affordable" achieved that goal? Could they? A.: Nope. All those efforts do is increase demand for space in classes and encourage colleges to raise prices and costs, often by adding "administrators" and amenities that have little to do with the core function of college, education.


Even then, if a college degree really increases one's lifetime earnings by seven figures, why shouldn't the student pay for that benefit?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Just as an FYI.  In Georgia, the Regents set the tuition rates for all the USG schools, and the schools set the individual fees. These fees cover everything from the personnel and running costs of the Library, Counseling Center,  gyms, student organizations, medical office, Career Services...everything that the students use besides the classrooms. And even there, the student fees don't cover all the costs.  Also, the buildings on campus usually are paid by additional funds allocated by the Regents or from University Foundations, not student fees.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

A few observations here. 


GuyOnThisSite is quite accurate: it's the costs of the extra, unnecessary administrators that have driven up the tuition costs across the country (NYTimes recently had an extensive study showing this). But it's not because of "diversity staffs and special programs for minorities." That's so 2000. I'm not quite sure why administrative positions proliferate, but they sure do. Maybe it's a way of promoting/giving raises when there's a general pay and job freeze on. Give the person a new job title and a raise comes with it.


Also, I happen to know some faculty at UNG. If this author is a lecturer, she's an adjunct without any job security. That school has recently had some faculty cutbacks at the non-tenure track level because of funding cutbacks and falling student enrollments. I seriously doubt that any faculty member would quit because of raises in student tuition. 

Astropig
Astropig

@Jessica Cooke @OriginalProf  '


"This essay's primary claim is that tuition rates have climbed 65% in under a decade, and no other good or service in this state or nation comes anywhere close to that level of inflation. It needs to stop. That's really my only point."



How do we do that without distorting the true cost of attending? What intervention (and by whom) would reverse this rise in MSRP? I'd really like to know what mechanism you would suggest to decelerate the rise in tuition.


Mind you, I'm not arguing for high or higher tuition (we had two kids in college),but how can we arrest the rise in tuition without creating idiotic distortions in the natural supply/demand dynamic?

Lexi3
Lexi3

@Astropig @Jessica Cooke @OriginalProf 


The distortions you describe are created by government interventions: subsidized loans, HOPE scholarships, Pell grants, pushes for diversity administrators and "studies" curricula, and political aims of a predominantly leftist academia. That's how government makes college affordable.

Jessica Cooke
Jessica Cooke

@OriginalProf Hello, I'm Jessica Cooke, and I appreciated your comment very much because of its accuracy and level-headedness. Thank you for it. This essay's primary claim is that tuition rates have climbed 65% in under a decade, and no other good or service in this state or nation comes anywhere close to that level of inflation. It needs to stop. That's really my only point.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

In 2008, Jemmy Case was a fresh-faced 19-year-old breaking away from a life of homeschooling and heading toward adulthood and freedom.

Ms. Downey included ^^^ that sentence because.........? 

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

Get a clue, it's not the state's funding cuts, it's the bloated administration costs. Administrations have ballooned why faculty numbers have stayed about the same. We're paying more and more non-educational staff.


You can thank everyone who urged colleges to have diversity staffs and special programs for minorities, among many other issues, for this bloated non-educational spending at educational institutions.


The extra money is going somewhere, but it's not going to hiring more and better educators. Maybe you disagree with where it is going, but you must admit it's not going to better the education at schools.

Jessica Cooke
Jessica Cooke

@GuyOnThisSite Hello, I'm Jessica Cooke, and I appreciated your comment because you did address other serious issues at stake in higher education. My essay's primary claim is that tuition rates have climbed 65% in under a decade, and no other good or service in this state or nation comes anywhere close to that level of inflation. It needs to stop. That's really my only point.

straker
straker

I would urge many potential college students to go to a good two-year tech school.


There you can learn something that will earn you a good living and not leave you crushed in student loans.

popacorn
popacorn

@straker

Plus you get teachers who have actually lived in the real world. Makes them much more effective and less full of the crap so many ivory tower, insulated 'professors' are. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@straker 

I agree, if the student wishes to go into a technical field. Another possibility, since the tech schools offer Core courses, is to attend the tech school for 2 years and then transfer to the higher-cost 4-year school.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @straker 

You probably won't believe me, but those ivory towers are long gone.  Today's colleges/universities are run more like corporate businesses.  At my former university, the Provost even tried to get everyone to term students "customers," but there was widespread rebellion.

Jessica Cooke
Jessica Cooke

@straker Hello, I'm Jessica Cooke, and I appreciated your comment very much because of its accuracy and level-headedness. Thank you for it. Two years ago, a freshman student was enrolled in one of my composition classes. He was a German language major. I bumped into him a year later, and he told me that he'd switched over to Lanier Technical College for a welding degree, and I can tell you that with his certification and training, he will well out-earn me for the long term.

class80olddog
class80olddog

The author (of course) makes the comment about the cutting of state funding. State funding made more sense years ago when the majority of students stayed and became lifelong residents of Georgia. Those days are long gone. Why should Georgia pay to educate a student that immediately moves out of state? When I went to college, I had "scholarships" that were paid back by working in my field in Georgia - otherwise they became loans. Perhaps that is a way to go.

I still think more emphasis should be on reducing college costs ( and making it harder to get student loans).

jd1
jd1

Yes these Universities need to cut the fat.  All the dorms have been replaced with what are now really university owned apartments, new buildings everywhere you look on campus.  Let's start by eliminating any degree with "Studies" and all professor positions that support those degrees.  Let's look at what jobs are needed, and if the university system is producing more graduates than there are job needs then let's shrink those departments down to size, or eliminate the departments in some of the colleges and universities. 


I agree the costs is too high and this high costs is going to be an economic burden on the state as a whole in the long run, but the system needs to cut costs. 

bu2
bu2

@jd1 

Facility costs have gone through the roof.  Faculty keep demanding the newest and greatest facilities.


That's one place to start.  I know at my university there were always empty rooms.  Yet despite the fact that enrollment in the business school is half of what it was when I went to school, they built a new building for the graduate school.


The state needs to reward efficiency.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @jd1 

Just speculating...maybe the old building was falling apart and failed to meet building code and ADA regulations; maybe present enrollment patterns show a predicted rise in business enrollment; maybe the University has decided to seriously expand its business school because its emphasis has changed. 

I don't think it's due to faculty demand, for they usually just teach where they're assigned. It's always the administration that decides construction and campus expansion. If only faculty had that power!

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf @bu2 @jd1 

No, the building is in fine shape and used by the undergrads.  One wing was built in the 70s.  The other is old, but has been extensively renovated at least a couple of times since I was in school.  They've got 5k in the college of business compared to the 12k when I was there (more engineers and computer science majors now-plus they make it harder to get in) so enrollment size is not an issue.  Its much like the facilities race in athletics.  They compete with facilities instead of price, trying to attract faculty and students with flash.

Intteach
Intteach

@jd1 Hmmm ... sounds like the old Eastern European and Soviet approach of letting only certain students study what the government deems necessary. Who will determine in your vision who and "what jobs are needed"?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@jd1 

Job markets notoriously change and the marketability of majors changes too. How can a University know today what will be true in a decade? University administrators must plan for the long-term.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

To all, Georgia not only needs more high school seniors to attend college; it needs more adults to return to school and earn degrees. That's why it has created the "Go Back. Move Ahead" program.

I don't quite get the attitude that this young woman somehow made a fatal error when she did not go to college at 18. What is wrong with working for seven years?

When I taught college, the older students were the most dedicated. According to her professor, this young woman is dedicated and bright. 

Why wouldn't we want adults like her to return to college and earn degrees? Their advancement advances the state as a whole. 


http://gobackmoveahead.org/


redweather
redweather

@MaureenDowney Amen,sister.  So many of my fresh-out-of high school students are doing little more than taking up space.  They have virtually no experience of the real world--still living at home and being supported by mom and dad--and even less motivation.  Many of them are on a fast-track to a sub 2.0 GPA.  And their poor grades are never their fault.


The handful of older students (age 25-30) enrolled in my classes each semester have figured out a few things about themselves and the world at large.  They are motivated, they don't take anything for granted, and they seldom make excuses. Some entered college right after high school and proceeded to flunk out because they were just like the students I describe in my first paragraph.  They know better now.  


I don't see why an older student like Jemmy can't have a year to prove herself and then be eligible for HOPE.  If she is like my older students, she would put it to good use, unlike so many of our younger HOPE recipients.  The amount of HOPE scholarship money that goes to students who don't earn degrees is staggering.

Sandra Gibson
Sandra Gibson

@redweather @MaureenDowney  I agree with the points that you have both made.  It makes no sense to penalize older students with what amounts to age discrimination!  I am a single mother who is a  much older student in my junior year at UNG. I have a 3.95 GPA and am a Middle Grades Education Major - a course of study that Georgia desperately needs more graduates in!  I would say that I would be a pretty safe bet yet there is no provision for me to ever be eligible for HOPE.  It simply makes no sense.  I  say that we should be encouraging high school seniors to take a few years off to get some real life experience and get their heads on straight before beginning college rather than discouraging older students from going back. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The young woman bewails the costs.  These are borne by all students, in the form of opportunity costs.  Many students also face the financial costs.  These are a reality, and they are tough. 


I suggest that she focus her energy on making the most of her opportunities in college, as she does what many must do--work, take out loans, and study.  She might also think about how her state leaders have increasingly shifted the costs to the individual students (rather than the state as a whole) by decreasing the percent of the cost paid by the state toward the college education, and moving it onto the backs of the students.  Then, she might work toward electing candidates that believe higher education benefits the whole state, rather  than the current mindset that it is a personal cost and benefit.

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

@Wascatlady Just ignore the fact that the rise in tuition corresponds with the rise in administration jobs at colleges, not with state funding.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Milton Man, thank you for your service to our country.

woodrow404
woodrow404

So, I'm guessing that the largely unsympathetic response in this comments section is from folks who own their own homes, and are not leveraged up to their eyeballs.  I think these pejorative comments display a lack of understanding about the fix that our college-educated young people are in. To grow an entire generation into this kind of economic slavery is short-sighted madness, and will have regretful consequenses. Young people who have engaged college loans tend to be matter-of-fact about their situation, and accept the burden they have brought upon themselves, but that should not be interpreted as support or loyalty for the system that led them there. Revolutions have been spawned over far less.