We’ve seen over the years an increasing reliance on student loans for education. Like it or not, and most of us don’t, this is the method that the federal government has chosen to emphasize and make available at subsidized rates. This in turn has shaped the costs and patterns of “financing” education.
There are good reasons to limit the amount a student borrows, even if there is a good case to be made for borrowing. I mentioned this in an October 30th post to this blog, “Investing in Higher Education—Loans.” I’ve known students who have borrowed far too much, sometimes even carrying minimal full-time enrollment and borrowing funds to live on, and then taking longer to graduate (taking more semesters of study, and borrowing in each semester). We counsel them not to do this.
The other side of the story has finally hit the news, though it probably will not get a lot of play in the popular press. Check out the article here. The story is one that professors have known about for a number of years. They have come to me in my role as Enrollment VP asking what we can do about students who do not seem to have the resources to allow for adequate study. We have not found a good answer, other than keeping tuition lower than most of our sister schools, and not tacking on additional fees.
Some students, and their families try to fund their education as tightly as possible, either not taking out enough in loans to cover, for instance, the cost of books, or working too much to allow adequate time for study, or simply not spending to provide what is necessary to allow the student to study effectively.
Many professors watch carefully the cost of books they assign, and their departments purchase books for student to borrow for class work. Some of us have taken to discussing the problem in class on one of the first days of the semester, explaining that not having a book is not a reason to ask for a delay on a test, or for not studying, and brainstorming how they can share resources like pairs of students buying books together. A little math will help them see the difference between funding their education at $8.75 an hour as a part time employee while in school, and paying back a moderate loan at subsidize rates while making $30 an hour after they graduate.
The moral of the story is that it is really not about money. It’s about making adequate provision so that a student can “spend” their time wisely, studying, learning, and gaining the knowledge and experience that are supposed to be the results of a university education. Those who make that provision graduate in greater numbers and proportions than those who do not. In higher education circles all of this goes by the buzzwords of “retention” or “persistence” or “student success.” But it is better thought of as simply learning, graduating, and entering a professional arena as contributing member and leader.