Discovering the myths, facts of higher education

Colleges and universities sell a service – educating students in a chosen field. Consumers of any service or product typically demand quality and value with their purchases. Higher education institutions love to promote all they do – from great academic programs to world-class facilities to preparing students for a better tomorrow. As the costs of these “great opportunities” soar, higher education consumers are directing new scrutiny toward the quality and value of services provided.

SeeThruEdu.com, an independent, non-profit web site affiliated with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has released an interesting infographic that addresses three myths about higher education.

The site describes its nationally-known contributors as “passionate about reforming higher education because it is vitally important and it is in poor shape: it costs more to send two children to college than to buy a new house, student debt is soaring along with tuition, and student learning outcomes are increasingly not worth the money thrown at the system.”

It describes another facet of its mission:

SeeThruEdu.com also champions the case for collegiate civic education, because higher education, to be true to its name, must be more than job training. It must also instruct students in the political, moral, and philosophic foundations of the democratic republic in which they find themselves and of which they shall in time become the leaders. In accord with this, we share Jefferson’s conviction that any nation that expects to be both “ignorant and free . . . expects what never was and never will be.”

With regard to debunking common higher ed myths, SeeThruEd.com notes how “if it weren’t for bad information, the general public would have little information at all about the higher-education crisis in America.”

HigherEdMythsFacts

Emerging realities like dropout rates, graduate unemployment (or under-employment) data and long-term student loan debt consequences are impacting our overall economy and establishing unhealthy trends that could harm future generations for decades to come.

As our nearly $17 trillion national debt currently garners deserved attention, let’s not forget the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, $1 trillion of which is derived from federal student loans. Per Forbes, this debt represents 6% of the overall national debt. More troubling, recent reports indicate half of this outstanding debt isn’t being repaid and barely 10 percent of the federal loan borrowers are enrolled in any type income-based repayment plan.

Starting in middle school, college attendance sales pitches are routinely delivered to virtually all students regardless of their academic performance or other demonstrated aptitudes. This practice is especially tragic when directed at students better suited to a less academic, more vocational path.

Educational financing is “solved” with easy access to financial aid opportunities. Students rarely appear counseled on the long-term implications of these commitments – specifically any cost/benefit analysis to determine if decades of debt for a particular degree truly make economic sense. Fiscally responsible adults bringing practical experience and maturity to the discussion seem absent. Too many of today’s parents succumb to the sales pitches – after all, everyone else is.

And once in college, parental influence in a student’s academic life – from a higher ed institution standpoint – largely ends. Students are usually legal adults and their enrollment in “a school beyond the high school level” creates additional eligibility for protection of their student education records by federal law.

Documents can be signed to sidestep some of these issues, but navigating through that system is a task about which some won’t know, many won’t bother while intimidation will deter others.

Of course, parents’ financial support is always welcomed. And opportunities to pay for breakfast with the school mascot occur. But, feel a need for substantive information about your child’s higher ed experience, question the quality of service they are receiving, wonder about the credibility of academic content being delivered, the outstretch of the welcome mat can change.

As costs rise and outcomes are increasingly questioned, it’s important that students, parents and others involved in students’ lives have access to an array of higher education information. A portion of those rising costs are evident when college and universities spend time as well as significant resources promoting all they are doing – and it’s not to say positive things aren’t happening. Efforts like SeeThruEdu.com present additional perspective.

Today’s collegiate experience stays with a student longer than ever. Not just with the education a student gets or doesn’t get out of it, but also because of the significant debt impacting many students’ lives and livelihoods for years – sometimes decades. With that, isn’t learning all sides of the story important?

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks about a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended beneficiaries or heirs.

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