Family is where it is!!!!!

Family is where it is!!!!!
Christmas in Disney
Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if there are topics I should be spouting                                   off on.  

Remember that "Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly,                love fully and laugh uncontrollably....."


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

College degree: Not a must for most?

Americans Considering Alternatives To Four-Year Colleges

By Staff
November 10, 2009

With four-year college costs surging, Americans are increasingly considering different educational pathways towards successful careers.

While experts agree that virtually everyone should have access to some sort of post-secondary education, not all concur that obtaining a bachelor's degree is the optimal choice. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently tackled the issue by posing a question to a panel of education officials: Are too many students going to college?

"It has been empirically demonstrated that doing well (B average or better) in a traditional college major in the arts and sciences requires levels of linguistic and logical/mathematical ability that only 10 to 15 percent of the nation's youth possess," pointed out Charles Murray, political scientist and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who was quoted in the Chronicle. "That doesn't mean that only 10 to 15 percent should get more than a high school education. It does mean that the four-year residential program leading to a B.A. is the wrong model for a large majority of young people."

Richard K. Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor of economics at Ohio University, agreed. "A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense," he told the Chronicle. "The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified."

Many Americans appear to be of the same opinion. A recent survey by the Career College Association and conducted by Harris Interactive found that 86 percent support alternative approaches to postsecondary education. In addition, 84 percent said that sometimes this education should focus on careers rather than more academic pursuits.

"Traditional higher education is extremely important in shaping the national character and nothing in this survey diminishes its critical role in society," said CCA President and CEO Harris N. Miller in a press release. "It's not coincidence, however, that private not-for-profit colleges and universities are seeing the higher education landscape shifting quickly. Americans view college as less of a privilege and more of a basic economic necessity. The bottom line: People are more than willing to consider alternative approaches to traditional colleges and universities."

As might be expected, others disagree. As reported in USA Today in an article last summer, the College Board estimates that the lifetime "earnings premium" for a college graduate is $450,000 in today's dollars. Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst for the College Board, noted that a college education is particularly valuable during a recession.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Does College Cost So Much? (in the Motley Fool)

Why Does College Cost So Much?
By Rich Smith
October 29, 2009 | Comments (55)

Two William & Mary professors tackle the "hot-button issue" of the skyrocketing cost of higher education in a new book to be published by Oxford University Press next year. Here, Fool contributor Rich Smith shares the answers he got from his former economics professor David Feldman, co-author of the book with colleague Robert Archibald.

Why does college cost so much? If you have kids in college -- or kids, period -- in America today, the question's more than academic. It can mean having to make a choice between getting your child a college degree or planning a comfortable retirement for yourself.

As college tuition costs soar, a lot of us wonder why. What's wrong with these people that they keep raising prices that are already unaffordable? And what can we do about it? I sat down with Professor Feldman to talk over these issues, and more.

Rich Smith: So, Professor, let's tackle the question head-on -- does college cost too much?

David Feldman: Not "too" much. "So" much. What we've tried to do in this book is go back over the history of the last 60 years and examine college from an aerial view that is rooted in broader U.S. economic history, comparing cost trends in the higher education "industry" to those of other similar industries. We take each of the common arguments against college costs -- that colleges are dysfunctional, that they engage in arms races with their peers, and that give "Country Club U." amenities to their students -- and examine whether they hold water, whether college costs really are rising faster than they should, and if so, why?

Smith: And ...?

Feldman: And what we've found may surprise you: College costs are rising faster than the inflation rate. But that isn't because they're "country clubs" -- it's more because they're "prep schools."

To prepare an undergraduate these days requires a lot more expensive stuff, like high-intensity lasers and big computing resources, than it did in the past. It costs money, sure, but our students demand it because their potential future employers demand it.

Nor is higher education alone in seeing higher costs. Lots of other industries show trends in cost appreciation that mirror those found in higher education, and there are two key reasons for this -- neither of which supports the "country club" critics. If you look at the trends in education costs at not-for-profit four-year colleges, at two-year community colleges, and at for-profit educational institutions like Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL), they're virtually identical, up across the board. Yet you don't have the same "gold-plating" at a two-year community college or for-profit institution as critics suggest afflicts four-year, on-campus universities. So clearly, there's something else driving costs upwards.

To understand what's happening, you need to understand that college is a service. As opposed to manufacturing, where labor is just one input in pricing and improvements in productivity generally lead to lower costs, labor is the primary input in service industries like higher education. This makes college especially vulnerable to cost disease ...

Smith: Hold up a sec. "Cost disease?"

Feldman: Right. That's the real culprit behind the rising cost of college. You see, in a labor market, when one worker's wages rise, so do wages for other workers -- because employers compete to attract them. How does this work in higher education? Improvements in productivity can lead to higher wages at firms like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ). But they also raise wages at colleges that must compete for a limited supply of labor.

The problem lies in the fact that when HP raises wages, it can offset higher labor cost with improvements on its other input costs -- more energy-efficient machinery, better manufacturing processes. As a result, PC prices actually get cheaper every year. Colleges are different because their primary input cost -- labor -- is terribly resistant to productivity improvements.

Example: In 1960, students paid roughly the same for tuition and fees as they did for room and board. Today, you see tuition and fees together exceeding room and board by perhaps two to four times. So tuition has been growing much faster.

Why is this? You can make the teaching process more "efficient" by using Blackboard (Nasdaq: BBBB) software and the like. But generally speaking, every move you make to decrease the amount of time a professor spends with students is viewed not as "improved productivity" but as less personal service.

And so costs rise faster than inflation in any service-intensive industry -- higher education, law, or medicine. This is exacerbated by the fact that ever since the 1980s, workers with college degrees and even higher levels of education have become much more expensive than workers without such degrees. This accelerates the rise in the cost of any industry that uses a lot of this well-educated labor, and directly leads to increased costs for service-oriented industries like higher education.

Smith: So what's your take on last week's news that the government is slashing compensation for executives at AIG (NYSE: AIG), Citigroup (NYSE: C), and the other bailout recipients? Would you expect this to depress wages for university professors, for example, and lower college costs?

Feldman: Actually, no. Remember our aerial view! Compensation in finance has soared relative to compensation in many other industries that use similarly educated people. Ask engineering grads. They'll tell you. What happens in one industry, like finance, is not likely to have a big impact on higher-education wages unless it is part of a much larger market movement toward lower compensation for highly educated workers. I don't see that at present.

Smith: So what is the solution?

Feldman: There really isn't any -- this is a solution in search of a problem. You see, the fact is that the same productivity growth that's pushing education costs up by driving wages higher ... drives wages higher. This provides the income needed to pay the higher costs of higher education.

Our research shows that despite the rapid increase in education's cost, over the long haul, higher wages mean families wind up with more money in real dollar terms after paying the tuition bills.

Smith: Good to know. But let's see if we can help our readers keep even more money. From your vantage point at the college, can you see any "bargains" in higher education? How can parents of soon-to-be-college students best spend their dollars wisely?

Feldman: You can get a fine education at many of the nation's flagship public universities, where tuition remains quite low compared to elite private universities. But remember, list price tuition is paid by a small fraction of students at private universities. Between federal financial aid and discounted tuition that most universities offer on a "need" or "merit" basis, very few students pay the list price.

Smith: Professor, before we close, I'd like to ask if you see the high price of higher education shutting out qualified students. Will the 21st century see U.S.-based companies like Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) starved of talent?

Feldman: It could happen. While our research shows that a rise in the cost of higher education is not a problem on the whole, it is a problem in certain instances -- namely in how it discourages poorer students from seeking a higher education.

Over the past 30 years, income in the U.S. has become increasingly polarized. More people are becoming very rich -- and more very poor. The hollowing of the middle class is an even bigger affordability issue than cost disease. But we believe that a few common-sense changes to how we distribute financial aid could make real progress towards making college more accessible to those who need it most.

Start with the FAFSA application for federal student aid, which all students seeking Pell Grants much fill out. Currently, students must fill out and submit a FAFSA indicating their income and assets, then apply to colleges, and then find out how much financial aid they qualify for. It's absurd to require students to apply to colleges before they know which colleges they can afford.

Second, the government can improve access to higher education and reduce the price of it (not the cost, mind you, but the price students pay directly) by increasing financial aid. We realize that increased government spending is not a popular subject these days, but if legislators were to offer a universal, standard stipend -- and make this the standard student financial aid package -- this could gain broad support and improve access to higher education across society.

Such financial aid, by the way, would be only an incremental increase over the substantial, but extremely disorganized, system of federal programs that currently exists. As such, it would not cost much more than we are already spending on financial aid. In fact, Prof. Archibald and I have developed new evidence suggesting that increases in federal financial aid lower the list price tuition. It could be that extra federal aid reduces each school's need to discount tuition for its own needy students, and this allows the school to cut the list price tuition faced by everyone else.

The changes we suggest in the federal financial aid system would not cost much more than the current system -- really, they would just make it more straightforward, easier to understand, and more reliable for the students.

What do you think about the cost of college, and how are you handling it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sometimes, Putting on a Happy Face Does a Disservice to Reality

This is a very powerful piece on poverty and society with a very different twist.

November 2, 2009 by Teresa Basich from her her blog , Overcommunicated
Breaking through the noise.

Update: After receiving some feedback about this post coming off as whiny and entitled, I want to clarify a few things. I didn’t bring up my inability to buy an iPhone or expensive body wash to shine a light on “Poor Little T”–I made those points to show that I *feel* the quality of my life has diminished; things that I used to be able to afford without question now qualify as investments I have to mull over. Seeing and feeling the quality of your life diminish is a bad and scary thing, no matter who you are. I think a heightened sense of awareness to change in quality of life is common in those of us who’ve lost our jobs, and it bears recognizing. Honestly, I bet we all are a little more aware right now. And I’m sure it’s especially obvious, and infinitely scarier, to job seekers taking care of children and spouses, and I know they have a harder road to walk down than I do. I get that.

The face of poverty and financial hardship isn’t just the face of a starving child in Africa. Am I discounting the validity of supporting children in Africa? Not at all! We all deserve fair and good treatment. But, fair and good treatment is becoming less and less prevalent in the US, and if we don’t recognize where we’re heading we won’t be able to stop our momentum before it’s too late. THAT is my point.

I in no way meant to display any sense of entitlement here other than the entitlement we as humans have to a life we each subjectively define as good, fair and abundant.


No snark. No wit. Just numbers. And anger.

The 2009 poverty line, stated to be an individual’s or family’s pre-tax annual income, for a single person living in one of the 48 contiguous US states is $10,830.

California awarded me unemployment benefits of approximately $11,500 for a year. My weekly award is the maximum a jobless individual can receive from the state.

But, I’m not receiving regular unemployment right now. Because of the inadequacy of my state’s employment department, because it finds you guilty before proven innocent, I’ve received $470 this year from the state. Even though I paid into this system. Even though this system was created to protect me from severe financial hardship.

Read this. Then come back so we can talk about it, because we’ve been sweeping the implications of rising unemployment under the rug for too long and I’ve had it with the bullshit cover-ups.

You know what stuck out to me in this piece? The inadequacy of our current means of poverty measurement and the potential alternative forms of measurement we could be using to better gauge what poverty really means—specifically, the alternative that measures not only material hardship but “…to what extent that hardship blocks full participation in society.”

Financial hardship blocks full participation in society.

How many of your friends and family are struggling with financial hardship right now due to unemployment, furloughs or reduced pay? Are you struggling?

Have you thought about what that financial hardship has done to their or your ability to engage with society?

And, related, have you taken the time to consider the completely outlandish distribution of money in this country?

Does all this make you angry? Does it make you want to FIX things?

It should.

But the funny thing is here we are, still trying to follow the same business strategies that got us into this mess, still acting from a greedy and self-absorbed place, still being narrow-minded and decidedly ignorant about what the future holds if we keep going down this road.

What the hell is it going to take to get us to change?!

In my current situation I can’t really participate in society. I haven’t been able to for about 6 months. When I do, now, it’s because some gracious individual stepped in to make it possible. And it’s SO invigorating that when I go back to non-participation, to living in limbo, it’s like I had the breath knocked out of me…and I can’t seem to get enough breath to bring me back to good.

My luxury item is coffee twice a week. That iPhone I wanted? Yeah, that was a joke. I used to buy this fantastic body wash from Lush—haven’t purchased it in a year. Those slacks my mom helped me buy for MPDM? I didn’t wear ‘em, so they’re going back to the store this week. I need that money to help pay my car insurance.

And I consider myself lucky. I have a family willing to help me.

Do you guys GET this? Do you understand what all this means? This problem of non-participation and real, increasing levels of poverty that keep us from CONSUMING will perpetuate for as long as we ignore what’s caused it—working and living from a place of greed and covering up the truths of what that’s done to people.

Don’t ask me to cheer up or make the best of my situation. I do that often enough. Don’t tell me it’ll all be okay. Let me cry for a bit and show people what the frustration of financial hardship and a year of job searching really look like. Constantly covering up these issues doesn’t motivate us to work to fix them; it just lets us ignore their existence. And the more we continue to ignore, the worse life and business and this world will get

Think about what you’ve sacrificed this year and let yourself be mad about it. You don’t have to cover up all the time what’s happened to your life this past year.

Masks are made to be temporary, and we, as a nation, have worn the “Everything is Okay, This is Just a Phase” mask for way too long. Only when we recognize how far we’ve fallen and where we’ve landed can we plot an effective course back to the top.