Patterico's Pontifications

4/21/2008

Going to College

Filed under: Economics,Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 11:57 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

It’s getting harder to gain admission to elite colleges, especially this year in which there are a record 3.3 million high school graduates and 60-65% are going to college.

Take the case of Navonil Ghosh, an Austin, Texas, magnet high school senior who scored perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, is 4th in his class, plays the piano, has a black belt in Kung Fu, and has more than 400 hours of volunteer time. Yet his applications were rejected at Stanford, MIT, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and the University of Texas Plan II honors program. Ghosh was waitlisted at Yale and plans to attend either CalTech or Rice, where he was accepted.

Stories like this aren’t that surprising for those familiar with current college admissions. There are so many impressive applicants at elite colleges that schools can afford to be selective. In addition, because colleges emphasize the US News ranking factors such as yield (the percentage of accepted students that actually attend the college), private colleges want to admit only those applicants who are likely to attend.

Not only is demand up but the cost of college tuition is increasing faster than inflation or household income. Steven Pearlstein addressed rising costs last November in an article at the Washington Post:

“Part of the problem is that it’s virtually impossible to have a coherent conversation about an industry that takes in Harvard, East Podunk Community College and everything in between.

It’s also hard to bring economic logic to a market in which the product is usually sold at a loss, competition tends to push prices higher rather than lower, and at many schools, half the customers are forced to subsidize the other half.”

Pearlstein identifies several problems that are contributing to spiraling tuition costs, including the financial assistance race to entice better students and the fact that demand for college is growing faster than supply.

Growing tuition costs have caused some applicants and parents to reconsider the benefits of an elite college education. As a result, lower-cost colleges and state schools may be benefiting from the increased competition and costs at elite colleges, although costs are going up there, too.

Of course, there will always be colleges like the University of Colorado that are attractive to applicants because of the special atmosphere:

“A crowd of about 10,000 people collectively began counting down on the University of Colorado’s Norlin Quadrangle just before 4:20 p.m. Sunday.

Yet the massive puff of pot smoke that hovers over CU’s Boulder campus every April 20 — the date of an annual, internationally recognized celebration of marijuana — began rising over the sea of heads earlier than normal this year.
***
Smoke-out participants — thousands of whom wore green or T-shirts promoting pot — climbed trees, played the bongos, snapped pictures and had miniature picnics. That, of course, after they sparked the weed they had come to smoke.

CU freshman Emily Benson, 19, of Kansas City, said she thinks the decriminalization of marijuana will become a hot topic in the upcoming political season and said she felt part of something bigger than just a smoke-out on Sunday.

“We’re at the starting point of a movement,” she said. “This is a big part of the reason I applied here — for the weed atmosphere.”

I’m sure Emily will have wonderful college stories to tell her children someday.

— DRJ

39 Responses to “Going to College”

  1. Her parents must be so proud…

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  2. “I’m sure Emily will have wonderful college stories to tell her children someday”

    …if she remembers any…

    Gib (e61a16)

  3. Heh. I had one college roommate who remembers very little about college for that very reason.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  4. I read somewhere that such a vast gathering of substance-abusing students has not been seen in the state of Colorado since the previous weekend, at the Colorado State University football game.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  5. ITS NOT TEH SAME THING, PHIL!!!

    Leviticus (35fbde)

  6. Seriously, I am wrestling with this right now with the last of my kids. If I was that kid in Texas, I would jump at the chance to go to Cal Tech. That was my goal in high school and I was accepted but, in those days (1956) scholarships were the only way and mine didn’t come through. Student loans were hard to get and I didn’t now enough to find one. Cal Tech has the highest ratio of faculty to students, a small student body, a beautiful campus and s world famous in science. If you want to make a bundle as a hedge fund manager, major in physics. Those are the guys who are doing it. Be another Ron Unz.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  7. Racists.

    JD (75f5c3)

  8. I agree, Mike K. CalTech is a great college and Ghosh is very fortunate to have some good choices. In addition, he wants to major in biomedical engineering so CalTech or Rice would be good fits. However, some kids are so driven that they have problems with rejection. It sounds harsh but it can be a good lesson to learn about handling rejection.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  9. JD,

    Just wait 14-18 years!

    DRJ (a431ca)

  10. My 6 year old, Kaitlin, is going to the University of Illinois. She prays for the Illini nightly. Madeline will be the same way, insha’allah. With careful planning, and a well funded 529, we should be able to afford it. Frankly, even if she is as brilliant as her mother, I would not want her to go to one of the elite schools. All we ever seem to see from them is a special brand of crazy. Midwestern land grant universities did quite well for her parents and grandparents.

    JD (75f5c3)

  11. Heh. U of Colorado…weed atmosphere…17 year home of Ward Churchill til recently….

    It all makes sense now.

    Dana (b4a26c)

  12. JD

    So apparently winning sports teams aren’t high on her priority list? :)

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  13. Is this what you are going to do, JD? We did the Texas plan for our kids and it really paid off.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  14. I wonder how the relative ease of applying to colleges nowadays plays in to all of this. When I applied a couple of decades back, you had to fill-out application forms, get recommendations, and write essays for each school to which you were applying. I recall it being a pretty onerous task, and I limited the number of schools to which I applied because of it (well, that and the application fees as well). Now, in the age of computers and (especially) the web-based common application form that many elite school use, a student can apply to several schools with minimal effort.

    JVW (835f28)

  15. Scott – not funny.

    DRJ – I cannot open that link from my phone, but I know that you are not gleenwaldian in your linkage, so I have to assume that the plan here in Indiana is quite similar to the one in TX. Consistent early funding should take the sting out.

    JD (5f0e11)

  16. I strongly recommend that any parent who sends their child to CU Boulder ( former home of Ward Churchill … ) be investigated by Texas CPS as a child abuser. Boulder is insane, town and university.

    On another topic, many people are going to college today for no good reason other than avoiding entering the job market for 4 … or 5 … more years. I’m currently of the opinion that almost every young person would be better off spending two years at a community college before wasting money on a faux “degree” in some silly topic like Koala Studies. The only exception would be someone with a serious focus on a technical field like medicine, engineering or a hard physical science.

    SPQR (a261d3)

  17. On another topic, many people are going to college today for no good reason other than avoiding entering the job market for 4 … or 5 … more years.

    Aw SPRQ, don’t diminish the role that easy access to binge drinking and casual sex play in the decision to attend college (and to stretch out one’s undergraduate experience for extra years). Not to mention great road trips for football and basketball games.

    And don’t get too keen on the benefits of community college. A good part of a community college education is just an extension of the high school experience. Better that two years be spent (1) working a full-time entry level job, (2) serving in the armed forces or (3) serving in the peace corps or some similar domestic enterprise (for our friends on the left who are repulsed by the military).

    JVW (835f28)

  18. don’t diminish the role that easy access to binge drinking and casual sex play in the decision to attend college

    I keep hearing about all the casual sex college students are having, and I have to admit, I wonder what coleges these are. Central IL had none of this fun stuff… :)

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  19. JD,

    On further review, I don’t think the link I found is an official Indiana link nor does it look like a real prepaid college fund. It looks more like a 529, which is a good thing but that wasn’t what I was thinking about. I’ll keep looking.

    When I was in the prepaid tuition market over 10 years ago, several Midwestern states had prepaid tuition plans but I haven’t looked recently so I don’t know if they still exist. The Texas plan we bought was put on hold because it couldn’t keep up with tuition increases, and that may be true with other state plans.

    Of course, the real problem is that you don’t know where your children will ultimately go to college but I assume all the plans refund unused funds, typically with interest. I consider prepaid tuition like an insurance policy that guarantees certain colleges will be paid for when the time comes. It’s a nice cushion and, for us, prepaid tuition was more worry-free than investing the funds.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  20. Scott,

    I don’t know if I agree but this is the 2008 list of Top Ten Party Colleges according to the Princeton Review, in order:

    West Virginia Univ.
    U-Mississippi
    U-Texas at Austin
    U-Florida at Gainesville
    U-Georgia
    Penn State
    U-New Hampshire
    U-Indiana at Bloomington
    Ohio University of Ohio
    U-California at Santa Barbara

    DRJ (a431ca)

  21. JVW, I grant the binge drinking part. However, community college is an inexpensive way to obtain college credit in basic college requirements without incurring large student loans. It is also a fine way to ease into college and mature a bit before hitting those top quality party schools.

    By the way, any list of party schools that omits San Diego State University lacks credibility. Who paid off Princeton Review?

    SPQR (a261d3)

  22. However, community college is an inexpensive way to obtain college credit in basic college requirements without incurring large student loans.

    Inexpensive to whom? To the student, perhaps; but not to the taxpayer. I would be in closer agreement with you if it were not for the fact that so much of today’s community college education is in remedial math and English courses that the student should have learned in high school. The taxpayer ends up paying twice just to teach Sally and Joe how to write a proper sentence or change a fraction to its decimal equivalent.

    JVW (835f28)

  23. Thanks DRJ. You’re like my enabler or something… :)

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  24. JVW, that’s a different issue.

    SPQR (a261d3)

  25. JVW,

    Here in IL, Community COlleges cost the taxpayer very little.

    Though, that might be because “Springfield” (and by that, I mean Chicago) is holding a LOT of the funds for other stuff…

    Boy I just love my Governor.

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  26. UCSB just never escapes the list. Any econ majors have Prof. Crouch? That voice, that crusty personality! We now return you to your regular topic…

    Vermont Neighbor (629f2e)

  27. And just the news no one wanted to hear…

    “Today’s environment is the most difficult we have seen in our 35-year history of student lending,” Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord decried this morning. “Under current conditions… loans can only be made at an economic loss.”

    Tight credit markets have “dramatically” increased the cost of funding. Without a “systemwide liquidity solution,” says Lord, the government-backed student lender won’t be able to continue making profitable loans.

    Sallie Mae chiefs announced a $100 million quarterly loss this morning — their third quarterly loss in a row. They also announced they’ll be forced to whack 1,000 jobs from the payroll.

    allan (a82501)

  28. DRJ – I am not sure if we have the “lock in” tuition rates available to us. We chose the 529 plan due to the ability to get tax free investment, and the totality of the ways the money can be used, for essentially all things related to college. Over 18 years, it is an excellent investment option for her education.

    JD (5f0e11)

  29. JD,

    Here’s the Indiana version: The Indiana Education Savings Authority (IESA) serves as the governing board of the CollegeChoice 529 Investment Plan SM (formerly known as the Indiana Family College Savings Plan).

    This plan gives you far more control and investment choices than we had but it looks like it’s an investment vehicle, not a guaranteed prepaid tuition plan. However, it may be worth it for the tax benefits. I’m not up on the pros and cons of 529s.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  30. Sorry – I didn’t see your comment before I posted mine.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  31. college tuition in relation to some of the endowments these schools have is way out of control. if only there were some governmental body that could investigate and look for price gougings or out of control costs and salaries and try to regulate things.

    chas (3fb29b)

  32. At the risk of sounding out of the mainstream, too many kids are being pushed into college under the pretense of college grads earn more than non college grads. While this is true, an individual’s earning capacity is more a reflection and the result of the individual’s apptitude and intellegence. A college education more aptly refects the apptitude, (essentially a college eduction, does not significantly increase earning capacity, but merely reflects the individuals earning capacity via intellengence and apptitude). There is currently a large student population that is paying high college costs without appreciable increase in future earnings.

    College costs have expanded in a large degree due to demand and the availability of government grants and student loans, etc. Cease the govt subsidy of student loans, allow student loans to be dischargable in bankruptcy, reduce, the availbility of govt grants and you will see a tremendous reduction in the rise of college costs.

    Joe - Dallas (d29492)

  33. Couple of points that are inacceptable, but have as much to do with the increase in costs as anything. There are courses, in some colleges at least half, that have no redeeming intellectual value at all other than to grant tenure to useless profs and degrees to equally useless kids. Confining my statement to Duke and the “rape case” look at almost all the participants on the side of the accuser and who moved heaven and earth to convict the innocent. Almost 100% of them were from “Women’s Studies,” Black whatevers, and a few liberal arts people. Women’s studies are simply indoctrination without anything resembling a discipline. Black or whatever ethnic studies are ditto–these courses are so poorly attended that the profs shop for students, and failing to attract enough they manage to blackmail their way into the subsidization of their useless courses. When I went to school I almost majored in sexual studies, meaning we had classes that actually went to bars and strip clubs and “studied” them and their so-called effects on society. Take a deep look at what is being taught, who is tenured and teaching, and the salaries paid perks like books assigned, and the actual time spent teaching classes.

    Most universities cannot pass the smell test. Ward Churchill is just one of thousands of complete academic frauds roaming the halls along with William Ayers and Bernadette Dorn.

    Howard Veit (cc8b85)

  34. That’s “Bernadine Dohrn”. If you’re going to going to call the woman a “complete academic fraud”, then you should at least get her name right.

    And for what it’s worth, she teaches in Amsterdam now, not the U.S.

    Leviticus (e87aad)

  35. The University of Colorado never ceases to amaze. They managed to unburden themselves of Ward Churchill and now this.

    It is no wonder community colleges have become so popular.

    Thank you for your time.

    The Outlander (6b77d3)

  36. #34…
    I surely hope she doesn’t offend any defenders of Islam whilst she’s in Holland. It would truly be a shame if she never comes back.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  37. “When I went to school I almost majored in sexual studies, meaning we had classes that actually went to bars and strip clubs and “studied” them and their so-called effects on society”

    Bars and strip clubs clearly have an effect on society. If you can’t see that, maybe it makes sense that you not major in that. You won’t be very good at it.

    stef (b7ee98)

  38. c – o – n – t – e – x – t !!!

    …shake head vigoursly …

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  39. vigorously….Oops

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)


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