Transparency in College Education

Myth of Fact? 

College education is an investment in a better financial future.  It is a necessity in a global economy.

In a recent Editorial [“Deal won’t fix student debt woes”], the writer succumbed to the current conjurer’s sleight-of-hand issue that college must be affordable, and higher interest rates on school loans makes it less so. 

Focusing on the current costs of college in an information vacuum, makes a mockery of the most important decision facing youth – how to prepare for their life’s career path. 

There are larger issues.  For example, our current weak economy has exposed college degrees that are marginally valuable – and expendable.  Why study four years and go into debt just to wait tables or tend bar?

In my opinion, the college education business does not serve their customers [students and employers] well.  However, it serves special interest groups [faculty, government agencies and foundations with grant money, and the most current social fad] exceedingly well.

Assuming that the family and student do their market research of careers and choose a useful major, what other information from a college is important to assure a career with long term economic traction?  For example, by asking career-specific questions they may learn:

·      Only 55% of the students graduate  in five years in that major;

·      Their average student debt is $28,000 whether they graduate or not;

·      Only 50% of their graduates actually receive job offers in their field; and

·      The average annual salary offer is $30,000

Could the parent in good conscience encourage their child to attend that college?

These are unsubstantiated, made up numbers of course, but that is okay, because they are not readily available to parents and students today.  In a data vacuum, the higher education decision is wishful thinking based on emotion.

If you firmly believe that college education is an investment, such information is absolutely essential for an intelligent decision of college major and where to attain it.  Without this information, how can you determine whether a college’s degree is valuable or fraudulent?

Full disclosure:  when I attended college in the 1950s, those numbers were not available either, but only 10% of high school graduates attended college, and few students borrowed to pay for it.

If you received numbers like those above before committing to attend a college, would you insist that your child still attend that school?  Would you insist that they find a major that pays better?  Would you search for a college where a higher percentage of graduates receive job offers, and have higher starting salaries?  If not, you would knowingly start your child on a lifetime of financial stress starting with maybe a quarter of a meager take home pay going for a large student loan.

Cavuto on Business has reported recently that High School students are caught between the guilt trip of going to college to compete in a global economy and the future poverty of a college loan.

Which is more important to the future well-being of our youth?  Attending the attractive college with the incredible sports programs and social life, but leads to dead-end careers and high debt, or a less glamorous school that prepares their graduates for a career that can adapt and compete as our economy evolves?

Our whole college selection process is like a magic show filled with deception and misdirection.  The result is our children are defrauded of productive futures and enslaved to the lender – which now is the federal government.  Parties that could do something to make college affordable put the blame on other participants in the process for the overly expensive, assembly-line nature of our universities.  One false issue, for example, that families worry about is qualifying for Pell Grants. But every increase by the federal government is closely followed by college tuition increases.

Next year’s high school graduates and their parents must demand that colleges answer questions important to a wise career choice.  For example, at each school, what is:  the current total annual cost; the percent who graduate in four years; the average debt of their graduates; the average percentage of graduates receiving job offers; and the average starting salary offer.

These questions are not asked today, so parents may fear jeopardizing their child’s acceptance by a college.  But, is that worse than attending college for five years, having debt two or three times their starting salary, and receiving a degree that becomes extinct in five to ten years?

Lee Jackson, Shalimar

Light A Candle

Have you ever noticed how, when things are gloomy, most people complain about the darkness, only a rare few light a candle?  For everyday problems that affect us, half of us only complain, 40% want government to do something, but only the rare 10% propose something that can be constructive.

I was dismayed to read a promotional letter for the misleading “Marketplace Fairness Act” bill [“Level the Field”, June 30] by a Destin Chamber leader.

That was a “40% letter” asking the federal government to use oppressive force to take sales tax dollars from everyone shopping on-line.  Somehow, it is “more fair” to use force than persuasion.

In economic times like these the creative genius of the American spirit lays the foundation for economic growth, for example:  new businesses are formed; and new marketing approaches developed.

Since you are a Destin business leader, may I suggest a 10% solution befitting your position?  Provide all your members with the expertise needed for an effective on-line presence.  Create a larger economic pie and stop complaining about the current smaller one. 

If that seems too daunting a task, then perhaps you can start workshops for us consumers to instruct us in:  our obligations to pay sales taxes on everything we buy; how to make our quarterly tax payments to the State; and how to fill out our tax returns each April 15th.  We can only hope that the money gets back to Florida.

Be a 10 per center.  Light a candle.

Lee Jackson – Shalimar

The Hero Label

We expect all who wear uniforms – military personnel and first responders alike – to be brave, to show determination and courage when facing great danger. When duty puts life at risk, we honor boldness and success. The individual earns the right to be called a hero. It is earned, never given.

Recently, we celebrated the final reunion of a group of historic, heroes, the Doolittle Raiders. Social engineering has moved us away from equal opportunity toward equal results. Calling everyone in uniform a hero reduces it to a “category,” an attempt to have’ an equal outcome for all who serve.

I appreciate the sincere desire of those who remember the shameful treatment of Vietnam era draftees returning from war to assure that it won’t happen in this generation. Are we so focused on not letting others shamefully denigrate our warriors that we depreciate their efforts by the careless use of a word?

No one can designate a person a “hero” as you might designate a person your barber. People become heroes through their reaction to circumstances, most likely forced upon them by outside forces and not at a time of their choosing. You don’t attend and graduate from “hero school.”

What we want to say about our sons and daughters in uniform is that they are among the most courageous of our nation. That is appropriate and honors them without depreciating the extraordinary honor bestowed upon a few for their actions when their lives, or the lives of others, are at risk. 

Lee Jackson – Shalimar

Vote Third Party

I am writing to those disappointed with their
political party or who have decided not to vote in future elections because of
politicians’ sense of entitlement.
Politicians live in political cocoons suckling on
the teat of power — those tax dollars taken from us by force — but unlike a
newborn baby who becomes sleepy from nursing after a time, politicians merely
grow bolder and create more ingenious ways to extract dollars from our pockets
to increase their power.
Our
paper has been filled with examples this past month. Politicians assume the
following: a false dichotomy of liberal conservative thinking; that 40 to 50
percent of eligible people will not vote; and the “independent” voter determines
who wins.
How do we change this and get their attention?
Salespeople know that decisions are based on a fear of loss. A politician’s only
fear is the loss of power: reduced “political turf,” smaller budgets, or —
horrors — not being re-elected.
The
only power we citizens have to create and amplify this fear is our single vote.
At least David had three smooth stones to fight Goliath!
You
party-line voters need only be tolerated. Those of you who don’t vote can be
ignored! That leaves just 10 to 15 percent of the voters, those precious
“independents,” who must be seduced with the “fear of the day” issue. Imagine
the possibilities — the power of independents and today’s nonvoters when they
start voting for third-party candidates!   We
don’t have to put up with it any longer! Change the political dynamic. Vote third
party.
— LEE JACKSON
Shalimar