Down From The Ivory Tower: Private College Applications Down

The economic downturn has hit private college admission applications:

Admissions officers nationwide point to several possible reasons for the drop in applications. Some students have pared their college lists this year. Many more are looking at less-expensive state universities. Many institutions accepted more students under binding early-decision programs, and each such acceptance drains off an average of 8 to 10 regular-decision applications. And some experts suspect that students are delaying their college plans.

Two interesting points in the article. First, on the availability of financial aid:

At Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where early-decision applications were up, regular applications are down about 15 percent, said Gail Sweezey, the director of admissions. “One thing that’s happened this year is that there’s all this talk, and one-sided media stories, about how private colleges are unaffordable,” Ms. Sweezey said. “It’s become almost viral that there’s no loans, that schools are having problems. The truth is that a lot of private colleges have more financial aid available this year, but there’s lots of misinformation out there. And my guidance counselor friends tell me students may be applying to fewer places and turning to their state university, which will be at capacity.”

Which, in part leads to this:

If some private colleges are grappling with the specter of too few applications, public universities and community colleges are having the opposite problem — more students at a time when their state financing is being slashed. In California and Florida, some public institutions have been forced to cap enrollment. And even in states like Pennsylvania, where the number of high school graduates is declining, applications to public universities are growing.

Something to watch closely.

Speaking for me only

< Speaking For Me Only | Lieberman Campaign Manager Tapped To Be Obama DHS Spokesman >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Complex problem (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by koshembos on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 07:30:12 AM EST
    Private universities is an American specialty. Most of the world has only public ones. The top private universities have plenty of money; some have huge endowments that rival small countries. These school don't have enrollment problems nor do they have financial aid one.

    Many less highly ranked private universities, especially small liberal colleges that pepper PA, OH and other Eastern board states rely heavily on tuition for their budget.

    It's time to rethink the viability of the early 20th century liberal education. Although every field of human knowledge should be studied that does not imply huge numbers of students in English, history, communication and political science. In reality graduates of such departments are not well prepared for a 21th century industrial and informational market.

    We should go through several major changes in the near future. Energy supply is going to change, banking (despite Paulson's attempt to revive brain dead banks) cannot continue to run the way they did before. American will have to rebuild its industrial base that was decimated the last several decades and the new base will be totally new. (The nonsense about the information society in which no tangible product is produced brought us to where we are).

    There is no reason why universities should not take on a totally different set of tasks.

    Not opposing political science (none / 0) (#5)
    by koshembos on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 08:42:59 AM EST
    I am not suggesting eliminating departments. I merely say that most students should get a degree in more tangible areas. If you love philosophy, there should be a department for you. No doubt and questions here.

    The vast majority of students, however, study without the fire in the belly. They will be better off, as well as the whole society, if they acquire marketable universal skills. For instance, the Chinese department should grow immensely.

    Personally, I don't know what should be the hot topics in a decent future, I may know some, but we have to start somewhere.


    The most important thing about the classic (5.00 / 8) (#6)
    by scribe on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 08:53:01 AM EST
    liberal education was that it taught the student how to think (not what to think), as opposed to just showing the student a box of concepts and how to apply them to a defined problem at hand.

    In so many words, there was a big difference.  The classic liberal education was like going to cabinetmaking school and learning all the principles of how furniture goes together and how the tools work, then turning the student loose in progressively more-ambitious projects where the student's creativity was required as well as the application of those principles.  The non-classic-liberal education (which some upthread propose as the replacement for the liberal education) is like taking a kid, showing him a particular woodworking machine, explaiing how to use it, and then pigeonholing him into that job forever.  

    The former provides the creativity and ingenuity to resolve new problems and it recognizes the inherent value in each individual.  The latter provides good worker droids who won't ask any questions,  will defer to their betters, and know they can be replaced by an identically-trained worker droid at any time.

    In which world would you want to live and, more importantly, work?


    Great comment (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 08:55:20 AM EST
    Uh Oh (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by squeaky on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 10:53:03 AM EST
    Just call me droid....

    Agreed (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 09:43:59 AM EST
    Also, there's something unique about the American education experience. Ask an English University graduate a question about any subject outside of their area of concentration, and they will very likely have nothing to say to you. But you can count on American graduates to know the basics of biology. See Alistair Cooke.

    Uh, engineers (none / 0) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 09:44:07 AM EST
    are taught how to think logically and how to solve problems.

    It is not a mutually exclusive situation for them to also have a background in the liberal arts.

    So it shouldn't be a crime for liberal arts types to have a solid understanding of math and science.


    True (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by CST on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 09:51:06 AM EST
    I was about to write something similar.  However, I also think engineers should have more exposure to the liberal arts.  A lot of engineers can't write at all, and have trouble thinking creatively.

    The problem is the cost of college is so prohibitive, and as an engineering student, you don't have time for extra classes if you want to graduate on time and not pay even more.


    A lot of people have trouble writing (none / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 10:48:02 AM EST
    and thinking creatively, not just engineers.

    The cost of higher education has been out of control for 20 years because it has become an entry level requirement for jobs that really don't require a degree, or an advanced degree.

    Some of the worst managers I have ever see had MBA's and no experience in the industry they were supposedly managing a company in. This problem, though not related to having an MBA, exists in the board of directors of far too many companies.

    But you are right. We need to rethink what the needs of education really are, and how we get there. All we know for sure about the future is that it is coming.


    Creativity is way over rated, imo. (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 11:53:17 AM EST
    Ideas are a dime a dozen, successful implementation of ideas is the be all and end all.

    ah, the Japanese (none / 0) (#14)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 12:36:05 PM EST
    vs the American argument..

    Is it? I suppose some would label it that. (none / 0) (#15)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 12:44:21 PM EST
    Mine's mostly just the "seen-a-few-things-in-my-day" argument...

    me too (none / 0) (#16)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 01:59:40 PM EST
    and no argument

    My cousin (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 02:18:34 PM EST
    Who taught in Japan would disagree.  Not with the America vs. Japan framing, but with regards to which one works better.

    I think we are falling behind technically in the U.S. - and that needs to be improved with greater emphasis on math and science.  But I also find engineers who can't "think outside the box" so to speak, unbearable.  Sure, they can implement the job, but you can't solve new problems with old solutions, that's how you end up with 20-lane highways.  There is a reason silicon valley is located here as well and not in Japan, you don't get innovation through group think.


    and then (none / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 05:09:25 PM EST
    Having worked for two Japanese companies I can tell you that they have many cultural things that are "good" and "bad." They are very good at solving problems related to doing things. They are "bad" at not tolerating deviations from the goals of the group, yet they are "good" at discussing the goals and getting approval, buy in some call it, from the group.

    So "creative" needs to be defined. Both Edison and Bell had labs with assistants. Many times what we view as astounding creations are based on extensions of what others have done. There are few actual "from scratch" discoveries.


    it's not so much because of a lack of profound and creative thought, but rather because there are others who are hungrier.

    Every university (none / 0) (#2)
    by Fabian on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 07:48:00 AM EST
    relies on a different set of funding.  Endowments, research, tuition, state support...

    I remember how disappointed I was to find out that my university was highly research oriented and that undergrad education was considered almost a contractual obligation by some admins and profs.  That's where the money was.

    College is cheap - tuition & fees. (none / 0) (#19)
    by oldpro on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 05:13:03 PM EST
    Living is expensive.  (That's everything else).

    The confusion comes when folks combine the two and mistakenly call it "the cost of college."  I hear this nonsense repeated everywhere.

    Four years at a public college/research university are cheaper than a new car.  Two years at a community college plus two at a 4-year are cheaper than a used car.  Running Start students in my state (and others) who are college ready in high school can get up to two full years of college credits for FREE.  It doesn't get any cheaper than that.

    Student aid, both grants and work/study, is more available than ever, from colleges, states and local communities.

    Where there's a will there's a way...but the student may actually have to work for it and pare other 'usual' expenses of their chosen/preferred lifestyle.

    Everything else counts (none / 0) (#22)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 08:30:18 PM EST
    Wha????? (none / 0) (#23)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 12:53:04 AM EST
    Of course everything (else) counts...but it doesn't count as part of the cost of college anymore than tap-dancing lessons would.

    Most people plan to eat and live somewhere and pay those bills whether they are in college or not.  The cost of living is the cost of living.  If you cut down on extras, and take a second job, you can maybe afford a new car...or to go to college.  Your choice.  

    Both?  Not likely.  Borrow thousands and thousands so you can have it all?  OK...that appears to be what people mean who then complain about 'the cost of college.'  

    What is called for is an attitude adjustment and greater knowledge of numeracy.  It's not rocket science.


    The point is that it is difficult to work and (none / 0) (#24)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:42:38 AM EST
    go to school. In some fields it is impossible.

    I will be happy to join you in noting the softness of many of today's "yutes," seeing as how I am sure we both walked ten miles (one way) to grade school, in the snow and uphill both ways. It became more difficult as we grew older. Surely they can do the same.


    I would also note that the direct cost of college has increased faster than inflation. A characteristics of anything that has government funding and is a monopoly to a large degree. Lifetime employment of the employees also seems to be characteristics.


    Difficult to work and go to school. (none / 0) (#26)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:37:03 AM EST
    But not impossible in any undergraduate program...med school, etc., yes.  Other graduate programs provide TA jobs to their better students, as I'm sure you know.

    The biggest difficulty that I see is lack of significant parental support...both financial and counsel.  It is appalling, really.  So kids want to go to college full time, right out of high school, to the college where their friends are going and they don't want to suffer any loss in lifestyle while doing it!  If they didn't have a job while in high school (saving for college) then they don't want to 'have to have one' while attending college...much less, combine work and part-time college attendance.  These are totally unrealistic expectations for most students.

    Please accept my sympathies for the hardship of your grade-school years.  Mine only involved uphill one way and less than a mile, often in rain but seldom in snow from the 5th grade on.  Before that...can't really remember.

    As for costs escalating faster than inflation...don't blame government...'blame' the unions!  FYI...student aid has mostly kept up with that rise, nevermind what you hear.

    Yes, I held 3 jobs when pay was $.50/hour, saved every summer and finished college (with NO parental help and a paltry scholarship) in four years + 1 summer, owing $400 that last quarter.  Whew.  If you want it, it can still be done.


    Umm (none / 0) (#27)
    by CST on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:49:42 AM EST
    Look, we are not as spoiled as you would make us out to be.

    I had 2 jobs, saved every summer, do not own a car, and still ended up owing over ten thousand dollars.  And that is WITH parental help and a partial scholarship.

    Trust me, I didn't have a "cushy" lifestyle either, and one of the things I had to give up was ample food.

    I don't know who the 20 year olds are that you know, but most of the ones I know worked in high school and college and still have tons of debt.


    Yes, you are! Well, not YOU (none / 0) (#30)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 12:06:44 PM EST
    specifically, but your generation and your parents' generation.  I have evidence!  Documentary!  (Thirty years agao a friend and I started and fundraised for a scholarship foundation for the small-town local high school where we had graduated.  We read all the applications every year and some students and parents come to us for counseling, since our kids got into good colleges and did well).

    YOU have done well and so have your parents in helping you.  That is more rare than you think, although your circle of college friends may not reveal how rare.  YOU have proved my point...that it can be done (two jobs and no car!) and only $10,000 in debt after four years?  

    Congratulations.  Well done.  It will pay off and that investment in yourself will pay dividends all your life.


    Other costs (none / 0) (#25)
    by CST on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 09:03:00 AM EST
    Such as books, are expensive as well, not to mention lab fees, computer fees, and everything else they manage to tack onto the bill.

    Depending on what state you live in, 4 years at a public university can cost significantly more than your average new car in tuition alone.  Most of us don't choose where we grow up.  As for that second job, what jobs??  There are no jobs.  Least of all for someone still in school with little to no experience.


    True! Most of us don't choose (none / 0) (#28)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:54:26 AM EST
    where we grow up...but from then on, we choose everything else!  Everything.  Most people don't stay 'where they grew up.'  For college, yes...it's cheaper.

    I agree...books, labs can tack on a hefty amount, but I was including them in "tuition and fees."

    There are no jobs?  Of course there are.  93% of the US workforce is employed.  And in lowend jobs, turnover is huge.  There are always jobs.  Read the bulletin board in the student union or the want ads in the college paper...taking one of those jobs is how you get experience.

    Of course, you won't be hired as a manager the day you walk in the door with no experience but if waiting tables or flipping burgers is beneath the dignity of a needy student, then they don't know what is required to succeed.  And may not.  But it will always be someone else's fault..."the cost" or "no jobs" or "favoritism" or fill-in-the-blank.

    When is it the student's fault/their parents' fault if they don't get the education they want or need after high school to succeed in life?

    Ignorance plus attitude/unrealistic expectations is a serious problem...every bit as much for would-be students as for would-be homeowners...neither of whom can, perhaps, afford what they want...and aren't inclined to save or wait to get it.



    Well, there's a first! (none / 0) (#31)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 12:11:48 PM EST
    My thanks.

    It is somewhat surprising to me (none / 0) (#21)
    by KeysDan on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 06:33:15 PM EST
    that a private institution of higher learning, with an nation/international mission, would have a tuition differential for out-of-state students.  I believe that tuition used to be the same for both, although the structure was in place.  Maybe, even though private, they get money from the Baptist Convention and/or some state funding for in-state students.