Dark clouds have gathered and threaten to cast a pall over the dreams of many American higher-ed aspirants. "A new report finds that it's taking increasingly more student debt to produce a degree in this country, " an August 8, 2011 California Watch article reports, "meaning that while students are collectively paying more for an education, the nation's colleges and universities aren't producing a proportionate increase in degrees and certificates."
This plateau in the amount of degrees conferred in a time of escalating tuition rates bodes ill for the expansion -- indeed, the perpetuation -- of an American middle class. Educational costs increase at a time when the economy has become increasing high-tech and the job market has begun demanding highly skilled workers. The fear is, then, that the digital age will see remunerative work go to only a small segment of the eligible workforce -- namely, those who can pony up the premium to gather the credentials and training -- while everyone else is left to shift for themselves.
The Dickensian implications of this new socioeconomic reality are not lost on many experts. The California Watch article quotes senior policy analyst Erin Dillon who observes that "'[i]t's taking more and more debt to produce each degree.... States ... have had to lower their investment in higher education. But that doesn't mean lower prices; it just means students are paying more. At the same time, we're not doing a good job of graduating students.'"
Among the schools forcing students to pay more private sector colleges and universities are the worst offenders. The average amount of debt that a student must take on in order to matriculate stands at some $43,000 for for-profit schools, as compared to $21, 000 for private nonprofit and $16,000 for public schools.
Several measures have been presented in order to address this issue. "The Education Sector report recommends that states take urgent action to focus financial aid policies on the most needy students, while also bolstering programs to help students at risk of dropping out," the California Watch article continues.
Also, the Department of Education's forthcoming regulations on the for-profit sector could help decrease the debt-to-degree ratios among proprietary colleges. In particular, the federal government's new rules on gainful employment will require career colleges to better prepare students for the workforce or risk losing federal financial aid.
The reality of work in the 21st century is that specialized training is a must, whether you elect to enter a career in business administration or medical assisting. Only certain entities are capable of providing this training. Yet if they demand so much up front in exchange for this training, students may upon graduation find themselves running to a standstill, financially speaking. Clearly, then, some sound and effect solution is in order.