Graduate Student Debt: top is Walden with over $750 million

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by warguns, Jul 9, 2015.

  1. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    This is true- my husband's university will set you back $100k for a bachelor's degree but that's not even CLOSE to the other private universities in our area! Wake Forest University charges $1500 per credit here, Davison up right there too. Frankly, I don't know how you get out with less than 6 figures of debt - that's only tuition. Throw in another $100k for 4 (or more) years dorm, meals, transportation and books.
  2. crisgarry

    crisgarry member

    I even didn't think about it in this's really sad to read
  3. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I brought up the six figure bachelors not to diminish the plight of those who racked up similar debt for graduate or professional coursework but to simply highlight that education in the U.S. is very, very expensive. One of the things that irritated me about the press surrounding Corinthian's collapse was this comparison of for-profit schools to the cheapest of the cheap state schools to show how predatory for-profit colleges were. But no one compared the cost of attending Wilkes University to Penn State. And no one addressed the fact that earning a B.A. in English from Ithaca College would give you similar debt (and job prospects) as the person with the degree from Everest in troubleshooting Windows 95.

    My wife started her career with over $100k in debt. And, honestly, I'm surprised it wasn't even higher. Her Masters (Mental Health Counseling) alone put her in the hole over $50k and it isn't CACREP accredited (her school has since received accreditation for its MHC program but, at the time she was studying, CACREP didn't have the widespread acceptance of being a requirement for licensure in many states as it does now). Her undergrad could have easily risen to the six figure level but she managed to keep her debt just shy of $50k through a combination of merit scholarships and work-study arrangements. Consider that $100k debt for a Mental Health Counselor could very easily overwhelm one's finances.

    So yeah, racking up tons of debt at Walden or Capella might not be the best idea. But it also depends upon your goals. And, honestly, that debt isn't much worse than going to virtually any other private university.
  4. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Rack rate is expensive. :)

    I'm convinced that most people (yes, most) don't care. That's not to say people aren't concerned, but to every pro/con list someone goes through to rationalize the cost, they can always talk themselves into it if financial aid is available and cost is off the table (just sign here). I think that's just human nature and requires a certain type of personality to do things differently.

    ...It's close, it's open enrollment, they have the major I like, they have the sports team I like, they are offering freshman scholarships, it's my passion, so and so went there/goes there, the reputation of school is important, "Yeah it's a lot of debt, but when I graduate I'll be making big bucks, and besides, I won't have to start repaying until 6 months after graduation, and I'll have a good job by then...."

    All of that is the kind of reasoning most people do. The reasoning process here isn't what most people do. Out in the real world I never hear people talking about university or departmental accreditation, profit / non-profit, transfer policy, CLEP, ACE, tuition costs, DL platform used, ROI for the field. Just doesn't happen.
  5. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I think this ties in to something I was saying in another thread. At 18, I majored in Psychology at a very expensive university (listed in my signature line). I majored in Psychology because, based upon the one psych course I took in high school and the BLS labor statistics for licensed psychologists, I decided to embark on a career. Had I not also taken a part-time job as a substance abuse counselor, I may very well have finished that degree and continued along my way. I realized clinical work wasn't for me when I experienced it, worked around people who had the education I desired and worked with the people I hoped to work with, albeit in a more professional capacity, at the conclusion of my formal education.

    I feel like high school maybe should have provided a few more opportunities to get that sort of experience so I could have made an informed decision. I didn't have a passion for psychology. I did well in the course. I found the subject to be interesting. And, because my father was a recovering alcoholic, I basically drew up a Plan A that my guidance counselor praised as being "very mature" for a student. But it wasn't mature. It was a rough roadmap I sketched out because I had really no idea what I wanted to be or how I would get there.

    I like HR. And, I suppose if I could go back and whisper in the ear of 18 year old Neuhaus, I would suggest studying HR in college. But I also acknowledge that I, more or less, fell into HR and simply never left. Perhaps I would have found myself in an equally (or even more) comfortable position had I elected to be a Hospital Corpsman or an aircraft mechanic or an IT guy or a cryptotech. The Navy gave me an opportunity to actually do something and helped me clarify what kind of work I might be interested in. I just kind of wish there was a way to get that experience between the ages of 14 and 18 rather than, at age 18, arbitrarily declaring a major based upon (usually) very little information and idealistic dreams of what that major will lead to and then ending up in debt and disappointed.

    Because I also don't think the problem ends with early adulthood. I think there are a lot of people who fell into careers (or worse, didn't) who now see a PhD at Capella as a way to achieve the dream they had at 18. The problem is that these dreams warrant reappraisal that many people don't want to be bothered with. So you always wanted to be a psychologist but became a marketing specialist instead. So you sign the dotted line and earn that online PsyD. Guess what? You might not like being a clinical psychologist. You're in love with an idea. You're infatuated with an impression you formed of a profession without ever having experienced it by say, working with patients in a mental health setting, so you're heading down the exact same path that the clueless 18 year old walks except you have far less time to pay off the student loans for your misguided attempt.

    Obviously, this isn't everyone. But I notice a lot of people have a lot of dreams that they are willing to spend a lot of money on only to find that their dream isn't as dreamy as they imagined. Ask my co-workers (who have zero experience in winemaking) how many of them fully intend to buy a winery when they retire. They envision a leisurely life of wine tasting not the reality of the hard work that goes into the business. People do it with restaurants and bars as well. But education is, I think, even more readily accessible. You don't have to formulate a business plan. You can just sign up in a matter of minutes (in some cases) and be on your way to earning a degree you'll never use (if you ever finish it).

    So, I suppose my opinion has evolved a bit since that earlier posting. Yes, I think high schools should do more to help kids tease out dreams from real career goals. But people will continue to live in their fantasy worlds (and pay for them later) no matter the outside influence. But, I would like it if high school provided a more nurturing environment for those who actually want to live in reality.

    Very true. Right now UofP has a bad reputation in the eyes of some. But some of the same people I hear badmouthing UofP sing the praises of their friend/relative/acquaintance who went to Full Sail University (ranked favorably by the Princeton Review, btw) and went on to get some low level job in entertainment they possibly could have obtained without any formal education whatsoever. I think some people assume that employers are more perceptive than they really are. At the end of the day, employers want good candidates with experience, professional/industry certifications, applicable licenses and in whom they have a modicum of confidence that they won't just spend the whole day on Facebook. The rest is pretty fluid.
  6. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Neuhaus, every time I read your posts, I wish we were sitting down having coffee. Very nice reply, thank you.
  7. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    These are old figures from 2007-2008, but almost three quarters of undergraduate students with more than $100,000 in debt are from private, non-profit schools. Those from high-income families are more likely to have more than $100,000 in debt for an undergraduate degree. It is impossible for an independent or dependent undergraduate student to borrow that much money in direct subsidized/unsubsidized federal loans. That means that independent students and the parents of dependent students need to be creditworthy enough to qualify for other types of federal and bank loans.

    I can't remember if Everest was doing this, but ITT Tech is directly loaning money to students at high interest rates because their tuition is more than the max one can borrow from the federal government. These high-income students who are more likely to have massive loan debt are usually more able to pay back that debt. Loan default rates, surprisingly, are negatively correlated with student loan debt. Those with less than $5,000 in debt are the most likely to default. The theory behind this is that these are people who did not finish college. We cannot pretend that default rates are not a problem at for-profit colleges. I believe they are also a problem at community colleges, but I haven't checked those figures in awhile. While only 13% of college students are attending for-profits, they are responsible for 31% of all student loan debt (even though private, non-profit debt can be higher, these students are overall less likely to borrow) and almost half of the student loan defaults.

    Obama Administration Takes Action to Protect Americans from Predatory, Poor-Performing Career Colleges | U.S. Department of Education
  8. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I don't think anyone disputes that for-profit debt numbers are not very attractive. But we need to consider the underlying cause. I'm not talking about predatory marketing or loan tactics. I'm talking about why we feel that the only reasonable path to a better life is through an academic degree. I also think we need to start looking at the ever growing "degree chain" in some occupations.

    As stated earlier, it has been hammered into everyone's head that you need a college degree. My guidance counselor refused to even consider a non-college degree future for his students. Even his most vocationally inclined students were urged and intimidated into at least going to community college to study "stuff."

    Oh, want to be a mechanic? OK, well, go to the local CC and get an associates degree in automotive technology. What's that? There's a trade school (sometimes even a public one) offering exactly what you want in 1/4 the time of the associates degree (or in the same timeframe but with no liberal arts requirement). No way, you need that A.A.S. Why?

    When we were talking about the Everest debacle we discussed the guy with the associates who couldn't get a job at Best Buy. I assume he was referring to something techy and not just stocking the shelves. For convenience, here are the requirements to be a Counterintelligence Agent at Geek Squad:

    Expertise in DOS, Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP/Vista/8 or Mac OS X
    Knowledge in troubleshooting hardware, peripherals, software, operating systems and Internet connections
    Proficiency in software installations and upgrades
    Strong research and problem-solving capabilities

    Strong plus: proof of Apple certifications (current or expired), Linux experience and netbook repair training

    Ne'er a degree requirement in sight. This guy spent, what, $25 - $30k on an associates and is now lamenting that he can't get a job that his degree may have qualified him for. A job, by the way, which he would have had a stronger shot at if he focused his attention on obtaining an Apple certification rather than an associates degree.

    If you're a working professional and you decide you need a degree to advance your job then I have to trust your judgment (to a certain extent). I have to trust that you've actually looked at the job postings for the sort of job you want and that degree will actually help you achieve that goal.

    But if you're very low income and trying to climb up a rung on Maslow's hierarchy you can generally do that without an associates degree, period. Whether the A.A.S/A.S./A.A. (A.Div.?) is $1,000 or $50,000 it is an incredibly poor choice if the degree doesn't actually help you get a job. I'm not even talking about an easily calculable ROI here.

    I'm talking about opportunity cost.

    You work for minimum wage. Let's say that's $8/hr where you live. You work 40 hours a week. So you're making around $16,640 per year. You're getting by. You might be taking advantage of at least one social service program (subsidized housing, food stamps, childcare) or other privately run social service program (food banks etc). If you could just break around $25k, you feel like you'd be on more solid footing.

    So, you run out and enroll in an A.A. at wherever. You're going to close out the program with around $30k in student loan debt after you factor in the oppressively high tuition and the fact that you might be using some of that student loan money to live on while you attend school for 1 - 3 years.

    Your reward? A degree that is very seldom even included in job requirements. It's too little to help you get that job that requires a bachelors and only gives you a marginal advantage (if any at all) over a job candidate with only a HS diploma (for a job where only an HSD is required).

    Not attractive at all. But hey, if it gets you out of poverty, right?

    The problem is that it won't deliver. It can't deliver. You went into the program as an unskilled worker and you emerged as an unskilled worker with an associates degree. It doesn't matter if that degree is from Everest, ITT or your local CC.

    Or, you could walk down to the local truck driving school. I did a quick google search and found tuitions ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 and terms ranging from 3 to 16 weeks for CDL qualifying programs.

    So, two (ish) years + lost wages during that time, $30k in debt, and an associates degree or

    3 - 16 weeks, max $10k in debt and a CDL

    Which one is going to launch you out of poverty more readily?

    Now, I get that not everyone is going to be a trucker and that, with this information, unemployment offices (and trucking schools) have basically been forcing CDLs on unemployed people so the market is a bit flooded with inexperienced drivers but still, overall, the CDL recipient has a better shot of realizing an immediate benefit to their education and seeing a pretty significant boost to their income.

    Don't like truck driving? Fine, Certified Nurses Aides give us the same result. And that's for paid training. Skilled trades with paid apprenticeships are a world unto themselves.

    But people feel like they need degrees. And, for some jobs, you do need degrees. I'd hate to try to compete in the HR world with no degree. You're pretty much guaranteed to be relegated to only the smallest employers (and likely serving as a one person HR department). But if you are working for minimum wage in retail the temptation to grab an associates degree seems strong. Why? Because we, as a society, have misled people to think that that is the only legitimate path to take. College = degree and degree = financially stable professional.

    And the irony is that a for-profit truck driving school might truly be the path to a better future than a $50k online MBA from the University of Scranton (AACSB) for many, many individuals. But in our desire for status at all costs we aim to create a society consisting entirely of professionals. But such societies don't exist. Forcing people with a PhD to take out our garbage and wash our cars doesn't make us a smarter society. It doesn't make our economy stronger. And it really doesn't make us look like we know what we're doing.

    Anyway, end of rant.
  9. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Community colleges often are the trade schools for a region, and they offer many certificate programs. I believe Texas only has one public technical college with just a few locations. Pretty much, the vocational/technical training is done at community colleges here. They even offer truck driving. There are non-public options, but they are usually for-profit and much more expensive than a whole associate's degree program at a CC. When I was looking at phlebotomy programs, the ones at the for-profit colleges were often longer than the ones at CCs.

    I do agree that there is degree inflation in some fields, mostly the healthcare fields. I also agree that some people need to research their field of interest before picking a program. A person on another forum asked if he should get a second bachelor's to become a pharmacy technician. What?
  10. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I have seen it go both ways. The CC where I work has very few vocational programs compared to the CC in my old town back in PA. In PA they had a truck driving school, a bartending program, HVAC, electronics, Phlebotomy, CNA etc.

    Up here, it's a mixed bag. Onandaga CC has a few vocational programs (phlebotomy, physical therapy aide etc) but some of the other surrounding counties the CCs are offering almost exclusively academic subjects for transfer to four year colleges.

    An important distinction to make is between the schools themselves and the programs offered. I'm not saying CCs are bad, as a whole, just that associates degrees, as a whole, are fairly worthless with a few notable exceptions (nursing, physical therapy assistant, respiratory therapy, engineering technology etc) compared to non-degree vocational programs.

    So when I say a CDL program at a for-profit trucking school might bring you a stronger ROI than an MBA from UofS I should also add that it's entirely possible that a one semester certificate program at a CC might very well command a higher return than an associates from the same school. I wasn't really trying to make a for versus non-profit statement, per se, just pointing out that a lot of student success comes down to research and goals.

    But I do feel like students feel inclined toward degrees because we've perpetuated the myth that a degree is a money maker. If an associates does improve your situation it is generally because it either teaches you an actual marketable skill or qualifies you for a license (and, arguably, both).

    I'm a bit baffled when I see some of these degree requirements. Prior to Vet Techs being licensed it wasn't uncommon for a vet to just train someone to help out in the office (presently, these people would be described as "Veterinary Assistants"). Then the associates degrees came. Now, bachelors degrees are increasingly common. I give it no more than five years before we start seeing a B.S. - Physical Therapy Assistant being offered somewhere.

    Degree inflation, aside from being irritating, also perpetuates the notion that you need a degree to improve your financial situation. If you don't have a degree and a degree is needed to work the front desk at a doctor's office you're probably going to feel that you need a Masters degree just to keep your head above water (even if you don't work in healthcare).
  11. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    And here I thought Texas State Technical College was a very large multi-campus system.
  12. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Degree inflation took over culinary arts. I earned my degree, however, it was what was offered at the time. It could have been a certificate and I would have done it, I was looking for the training.
    Now, line cooks need degrees. Not so they can prove they're line cooks, so they can beat out the other 20 line cooks with degrees.
  13. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    You are right. They do have 11 campuses, but they aren't convenient to millions of people. When I was in San Antonio, the closest campus was an hour and a half away if you took the toll road. If you avoid the toll road, it's probably closer to 2 hours away driving through Austin traffic.
  14. novadar

    novadar Member

  15. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

  16. novadar

    novadar Member

    Haha. :lmao:

    I really laughed out loud when I saw your overly optimistic guess and my google search turned up those two gems.
  17. scaredrain

    scaredrain Member

    I can also attest to Walden via a friend, she is in one of their psychology doctorate programs and owes over 100,000 USD so far and is still in the dissertation phase, with only 2 more years left to actually finish the degree within the 7 year limit.
  18. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I'll admit I did a very sloppy initial search before I posted that. I saw that a few schools were offering a B.S. in Health Science to PTAs. I didn't see the actual degree in PTA. Now, of course, when I search it is the first result. I can't say I'm surprised. Vet Tech bachelors are becoming increasingly common (why? Please, someone tell my why this needs to be a thing).

    Next up, associates degrees for Physical Therapy Aides.

    Or maybe Associates degrees for CNAs. That could be fun.

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