Another week in higher-education news fades to black, leaving onlookers to interpret the scene.
An August 18, 2011 piece at The Atlantic presents a stark infographic illustrating the massive credit expansion going on in student loans. "Student loan debt has grown by 511% over this period. In the first quarter of 1999, just $90 billion in student loans were outstanding. As of the second quarter of 2011, that balance had ballooned to $550 billion."
This huge increase in student loans threatens to halt whatever economic recovery is underway. "As Americans grapple with high student loan payments for the first few decades of their adult lives, they'll have less money to spend and invest," the Atlantic piece continues. "All that money flowing into colleges and universities is being funneled away from other industries where it would have been spent in future years."
The spirit of caution attending the inflation of the student loan bubble is forcing many higher-ed aspirants to think long and hard about their options. An August 19, 2011 CNN Money article cautions prospective MBA students to beware. "The entire notion of 'irrational exuberance' suggests that emotion trumps reason in some circumstances. And so it may be for many who are pursuing graduate management studies."
Exuberance aside, an MBA degree remains a rational educational move, because it promise a decent return on the time and tuition investments. The CNN Money article maintains "that an MBA is one of the best values in the market today for both seller and buyer. Doors open to MBAs. Employers acquire intellect, experience, content, discipline and maturity."
It appears that uncertainty involves more than just the pessimistic economic outlook engendered by the student loan bubble; many private sector colleges and universities find themselves battling to survive in a new climate of increased regulatory oversight. "Last month," reports an August 19, 2011 Fairfax Times article, "the United States Department of Education released proposed regulations requiring for-profit career colleges to better prepare students for what it calls 'gainful employment' or risk losing access to federal student aid."
It appears that current trends has made things rougher on all parties involved in higher-education. No doubt things will settle. You hope, however, that not too many individuals or institutions will be made to suffer in the interim.