Thursday, February 08, 2018

New England colleges have one big worry: 2025

To improve "diversity", students are being accepted who can't even fill out the normal application forms!

Although colleges for years now have made at least some effort to diversify their campuses, the country’s changing demographics will soon give them no choice.

The nation’s high school population is becoming increasingly diverse and increasingly unable to afford high tuition prices. Additionally, experts predict a major drop in the number of high school graduates overall after the year 2025 — especially in New England — because people have had fewer babies since the 2008 economic recession. As a result, local colleges will have to work harder to bring students to campus and offer them significantly more financial assistance. And some of them, experts predict, will find this a daunting new calculus, leading to more college mergers and even closures.

“Institutions in places like Massachusetts and New York and Illinois are going to be really challenged to maintain enrollments,” said Joseph Garcia, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, whose research on this topic is the industry gold standard. “There are just not going to be enough wealthy, full-paying students to go around.”

College admissions offices know about these new demographics, which are predicted to continue, and many have begun to alter their recruitment strategies so they don’t find themselves with a sudden dearth of applicants. They are recruiting in new locations, connecting with students in new ways, and trying to find more money for scholarships and ways to cut tuition prices.

Saint Michael’s College, in Vermont, offers some students the chance to enroll in a free college course online during their last semester of high school to help persuade them to attend and also save money.

Suffolk University, in downtown Boston, has a new agreement with state community colleges that guarantees students with good grades a tuition discount to finish their degree at Suffolk.

Hampshire College in Amherst has twice the number of first-generation students and students of color as it did five years ago. To help them afford the $50,000 tuition, it has decreased its merit scholarships and used that money instead for need-based aid.

Earlier this month at Trinity College in Connecticut, Angel Perez, the vice president for enrollment and student success, met with his staff to formulate a plan for how they will recruit amid the expected demographic shifts.

“This is the biggest challenge higher education has right now,” Perez said.

When Perez sends out his recruiters each year, he urges all of them to seek out low-income, first-generation students, even though it can be more time-consuming and expensive. They meet students not only during the day at high schools but increasingly at after-school programs that help such students successfully make it to college.

According to data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the decline in high school graduates will come largely because of a decline in white public school students.

The number of high school graduates has been growing for the past 15 years, according to the research, but starting around the year 2025, the number is expected to decline. The pool of graduates will be down by 8 percent by the early 2030s, the commission predicts.

Regionally, the story is more nuanced. The number of college applicants from the South and West is predicted to grow, while the number in the Northeast and Midwest will likely decline. About 45 percent of the nation’s high school graduates will be from the South by 2030, according to the commission’s latest report on the topic, which means New England colleges will likely focus more of their recruiting efforts there.

Very well-known schools like Harvard and Yale, with their national appeal and vast resources for recruitment and student aid, are likely to navigate the demographic shifts with ease, but not so those with less name recognition, wealth, and prestige. Many have spent recent years beefing up amenities (fancy athletic centers, gourmet dining halls) to attract students who can pay the sticker price. And many will still be paying down that debt when enrollment of full-tuition students is likely to ebb.

In a report released in December, Moody’s Investors Service changed its outlook for the higher education industry from stable to negative because of the expected slowing of tuition revenue growth.

The sector faces even more uncertainty, Moody’s said, because of potential changes to federal policies that could squeeze financial aid and philanthropic support, and raise the cost of borrowing.

Public colleges are not immune from these trends, either. Amid years of declining state support, public schools increasingly recruit out-of-state students because they pay more. About three quarters of undergraduates at the University of Vermont are from out of state, for example. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, about a quarter of students are from other states.

For years, many schools have leaned on international students as a major source of full-pay students. But President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and tighter federal policies have made it harder for students to obtain visas, so they increasingly go to other English-speaking countries like Australia and Canada.

To encourage a more diverse pool of students to apply, many colleges have waived application fees, modified their application forms, and even accepted simplified applications to make the process easier for families who are new to the process and have limited time and money.

Amherst College is translating a brochure for prospective students into Spanish for the first time, according to Katharine Fretwell, the Amherst dean of admission and financial aid.

Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, does not require parents who make $60,000 or less to pay at all. The school’s top admissions official, Matt Proto, said he believes that policy has helped the school become more diverse. Two years ago about 7 percent of the entering class was very low-income; this year that figure was 14 percent, he said.


Surprise: Obamacare Projections on Student Loan Profitability Hit a Snag

A recently released report reveals that projections of revenues meant to offset some of Obamacare’s costs were as flawed as its projections for lower health insurance premiums and healthcare costs. And taxpayers should brace themselves for yet another bailout: this time of the federal student loan program.

An often-forgotten provision of Obamacare, a/k/a the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was its take-over of the federal student loan program, with claims that doing so would provide vast financial windfalls to help offset the ACA’s costs: $61 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Before the ACA, about half of federal student loans originated with private lenders while being guaranteed by the government. With the passage of the Act, the government became both the lender and the guarantor.

Unfortunately, reality is turning out quite differently. In a report released February 2nd, the Education Department shows revenues from the student loan program plummeted by 80% between 2012 and 2015—the most recent year for which figures are available. Further, the data show the total costs for all loans ... approaching an overall positive subsidy.

In case you are wondering, a “positive subsidy” is government double-speak for “Loss.”

With the federal government now in charge, millions of Americans have enrolled in the feds’ debt-forgiveness plans for their student loans, draining $11.5 billion from the program in 2015 alone—an eventuality neither politicians giddy to pass the misnamed Affordable Care Act nor the supposedly nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office apparently could foresee.

Thus, the take-over of the federal student loan program, rather than throwing off vast sums of money to cover spiraling healthcare costs, is instead saddling taxpayers with another bail-out: this time, of the rising number of students now failing to repay their loans.

Undiscussed, unaddressed, and presumably absent from the CBO’s or the Education Department’s projections for the future is the multiplier effect of government’s pouring easy money in the form of federal student loans in turn fueling spiraling tuition rates in turn requiring ever-larger student loans.

If borrowers walking away from loans secured by an over-valued asset—in this case, a college degree—sounds familiar, taxpayers might well be wary of dejá vu all over again. (Can you spell B-u-b-b-l-e?)

43 million Americans currently hold almost $1.4 trillion in federal student debt. With student loan forgiveness increasingly viewed as expected, Obamacare’s costs will easily enter the stratosphere.

The question now remaining: will sense prevail and government be banned from both healthcare and student loans, or will we blindly continue over the precipice to the end of healthcare and educational excellence in America?


Berkeley spent almost $4 million to keep campus safe from people angry about opinions

Free speech can be expensive.

Case in point, a new report reveals the University of California, Berkeley, blew just under $4 million in just over four weeks last fall, faced with the daunting prospect of keeping students safe as people with different viewpoints descended upon campus to express them.

That staggering figure comes courtesy of a Daily Californian report published Sunday, based on public documents the outlet obtained disclosing university police expenses from the time period. Per their report:

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 27, UCPD spent $3,910,259 on security fees and other expenses for three events: counterprotests held in response to the “alt-right” rally Aug. 27; conservative speaker Ben Shapiro’s appearance Sept. 14; and events related to the ultimately canceled “Free Speech Week,” which featured a brief appearance from Milo Yiannopoulos and the Patriot Prayer rally that followed on Sept. 26.

More than $830,000 was spent on Sept. 13 alone, the day before Shapiro's lecture, a figure that even exceeds estimates circulated at the time. Roughly $2.9 million was spent during "Free Speech Week." Neither Shapiro's appearance nor "Free Speech Week" generated the chaos many anticipated; the Shapiro lecture drew a sizable protest, but his speech went undisrupted, while "Free Speech Week" fizzled for a variety of reasons mostly attributable to its organizers.

"The vast majority of UCPD’s expenses," the Daily Californian reported, "went toward reinforcements from outside law enforcement agencies, with $485,283 spent Sept. 13 and $1,858,320 spent Sept. 24–27."

The university's expectation of violence was not entirely unreasonable given the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage protesters caused before Yiannopolous' canceled lecture earlier that year, though administrators are on the hook for allowing the environment on campus to ever escalate to that point. It's hardly the fault of the conservative students who invited a mainstream author like Shapiro to campus that protesters credibly threatened to derail the event.

The university enabled a level of groupthink that should be antithetical to the mission of a university, and then faculty and administrators at Berkeley began to discover the price of their mistakes. And it's not cheap.


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