Framing the Dialogue

Burden A Little Less on Parents

college tuitionThe front page of my paper offered a story this morning.  It was, again, front page, above the fold.  I was relieved to learn that;

College bill burden falls a little less on parents, Sallie Mae says

Whew.  As a father of two in college I feel a lot better as I would like to retire in seven years, but probably cannot for anther ten at least as of right now.  Of course Sallie Mae is not a parent, but the comments were made on behalf of the student lender through Sarah Ducich, Sallie Mae’s senior vice president for public policy.  Sallie Mae makes an interesting argument, but I don’t agree with the way the concept is framed, hence this post.  As I do in “Phraseology” here are some key phrases from the original article which is linked if you click on the article title;

“Parents no longer foot the largest portion of the bill for college, according to a report from loan giant Sallie Mae. That role goes to grants and scholarships, with student loans coming in third.”

I guess that they don’t value economics at “loan giant Sallie Mae.”  While I acknowledge that some grants and scholarships are privately funded, many are funded by…drum roll…tax dollars.  Any guesses as to who pays the taxes?  Maybe the working parents?  Just because the government takes our earnings, takes their cuts for administrative costs, and then gives it back to our kids doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come from us and the other tax payers.  Thank you by the way.

“The annual survey of student financial aid found students earned about $6,300 in grants and scholarships to pay for college costs, taking the top spots from parents.  Parents chipped in $5,727 on average, a decrease of 35 percent since 2010.  Student loans were the third most common source to pick up the bill for courses, housing and books. The average student borrowed $8,815 in federal loans.”

“The rate for those loans was the subject of debate in the Senate last week, as lawmakers considered a compromise that would offer some students lower rates for the next few years but would prescribe higher rates for future classes.  The Senate is expected to vote on that White House-backed compromise this week.  “Rates on every single new college loan will come down this school year, offering relief to nearly 11 million borrowers,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on Tuesday.  The White House estimates the average undergraduate student would save $1,500 in interest charges if Congress acts before leaving town for the August recess.”

So the President and Congress will ride in with their white horse and save the day by keeping loan interest rates low for college students.  My children will certainly benefit.  Thanks again to the taxpayers who had their earnings taken away.  I both pay and benefit albeit through my children.  My guess is that the news media will herald the fact that Washington saved our kids.  PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE SPENDING OUR MONEY!

“The tuition sticker price at public four-year colleges is up 27 percent beyond overall inflation during the past five years, according to the latest figures from a separate study from the College Board.”

I have wondered why nobody screams that colleges’ inflation rate is so much higher than the rest of the world.

That being said I have a few more comments about college;

  • college-tuitionThe costs to attend college are not limited to tuition, room, board, and books.  Any parent knows this.  If your child decides to save money by attending a community college there are still commuting costs, food costs, and activity costs.  There also may be a hidden cost when Junior decides to transfer to a four-year school and they don’t want to accept his grades from certain classes.
  • Ask any parent what it costs to have their children to school.  Refrigerators for the dorm.  A microwave for the dorm.  Sheets, rugs, cables for computers, computers, printers, food, clothing, rugs, cleaning supplies, lights, window coverings, decorations, extension cords, all the bathroom products, flip flops so they don’t have to walk barefoot in the showers,  storage containers, desk supplies, etcetera.  This stuff costs a lot of money.
  • Don’t forget about taking your child to school.  My eldest daughter went to a school at the limit of where I wanted her to look.  At about a 3.5 hour drive this was comfortable enough to go up and back in a day.  I estimated that for each trip the gas, road tolls, and food  (you really need to eat when you are on the road for seven hours) added up to over $100.00 per trip, more depending on whether others joined in the trip.  Even at a bare minimum of trips I would have a minimum of eight trips.  Oh and many of the trips entailed a trip to Wal-Mart for stuff we “forgot.”
  • Colleges have embraced parents and offered additional opportunities to spend time with your child.  Parents’ weekend and homecoming weekend to name a few.  These add hotel costs to the commute costs and real food costs not just drive through food.  A typical parents’ weekend could cost almost upwards of a thousand dollars.  It’s funny how hotels near colleges really don’t offer discounts around those “family” weekends.  It is true that one doesn’t have to go.
  • Next are the “care packages” that kids love to get.  My son went to school 15 miles from home and actually lived at home for part of the time so I don’t think we ever sent him one.  My second child was sent a few early on, but I found that it cost more to mail the package than the value of the contents.  My youngest suffers from being the third in college and got very few.  She attends college around 90 minutes away and there are a lot of kids from our area that go there.  Sending packages and sharing rides has been a great benefit.
  • Finally there is a cost in time.  We do everything we can to support our children’s education, but all of this stuff takes a lot of time.  There is value to time that, though is hard to calculate, it cannot be totally ignored.

I know that I ask too much of a news organization like the Associated Press to dig a little deeper into the subject.  It is so much easier to take the surficial talking points put out by the government and turns them into an article that deserves to be front page, above the fold.

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