Apr. 2, 2003
The catalogs and magazines from colleges and universities are
impressive: slick paper, full color, attractive layout, lots to read.
But several items of useful information are usually missing.
Getting a bachelor's degree now takes five or six years instead of
the traditional four. That drives up the already exorbitant cost
another 25 or 50 percent more than you may have budgeted, but your
degree isn't worth a penny more.
Only 31 percent of students at state institutions and 65 percent
at private institutions graduate in four years. The primary reason for
this slow-down is the easy flow of taxpayers' money for grants and
loans that make the extended stay pleasant for students and profitable
for the institutions.
Don't count on the college counselors to guide you to the courses
that will enable you to graduate in four years. The counselors are
working for the college, not the students, and they know which side
their bread is buttered on.
In addition to the out-of-pocket costs of tuition and housing, be
sure to count the cost of lost employment for a couple of years. A
University of Texas administrator estimates that each additional year
costs students $50,000 in extra college costs and lost income.
When Pennsylvania last year promised $6-million bonuses to
colleges that graduate at least 40 percent of their in-state students
within four years, not a single state institution qualified. Some
colleges have tried various inducements to increase their four-year-
graduation rate, but none can match the attraction of having tuition
paid by the taxpayers.
According to General Accounting Office figures, 64 percent of
college students graduate with student-loan debt, and the average
student-loan debt is $19,400. After they join the workforce, their
monthly payments take at least 8 percent of their income.
This burden is really even higher because more than half of
student borrowers take out the more expensive unsubsidized loans.
Surveys show that students often underestimate the total cost of their
loans, forgetting about the interest, which over time can almost double
the amount of the loan.
The prevalent use of credit cards by mostly-unemployed college
students is another current phenomenon. The average credit-card debt
of undergraduate students is $2,748, and of graduate students is
$4,776. The average student is carrying three credit cards, and 32
percent have four or more.
Some colleges give the credit-card companies access to lists of
students and then get a kickback of a percentage of charges on the
cards. It should come as no surprise that bankruptcy filings have
reached a record high and the fastest growing group of filers are those
younger than age 25.
College publications brag about their women's studies departments,
but they fail to warn students that there are not many job
opportunities for those with a degree or a concentration in women's
studies except at the declining feminist organizations and their non-
The Independent Women's Forum surveyed 89 women's studies majors
and discovered that all but 18 were earning under $30,000, and 8
reported no personal income at all. In interviews with prospective
employers, many found it useful to conceal or de-emphasize their
women's studies majors.
Maybe women's-studies majors didn't really expect to get a good
job because they've been taught to approach life as a whining victim
who will never get equal treatment. Women's studies courses openly
teach the warped ideology that American women are oppressed by a male-
dominated society and that the road to liberation is abortion, divorce,
the rejection of marriage and motherhood, and non-marital sex of all
The career feminists, however, have achieved some successes in
their agenda to punish the men whom they disdain as the oppressor
class. Feminists in the Clinton Administration misused Title IX to
force universities to abolish 171 college wrestling teams and hundreds
of other men's teams in gymnastics, swimming, golf, and even football.
Another fact of campus life that college publications don't reveal
is the large number of students who are not capable of college work and
are enrolled in high-school-level remedial courses, although that word
doesn't appear in the catalog. An astounding 29 percent of current
freshmen at four-year colleges are taking at least one remedial
reading, writing or math class; at two-year colleges, the figure is 41
What IS in college catalogs can be even more deceptive. Courses
may have traditional titles (such as English 101) but the content of
the course is better described as Oppression Studies.
Courses listed in college catalogs may be actually taught only
once in ten years. Colleges brag about their famous tenured
professors, but they usually duck the large-enrollment courses, which
are often taught by recent hires or graduate students.
It's time for overpriced colleges to give students some truth in
labeling so they can spend their college dollar wisely. It's time to
show students the option of getting a bachelor's degree in just three
years (as I and two of my sons did at top-rated universities).
Phyllis Schlafly column 4-02-03