Blue Light Special at Farber College

I guess I have been around too long, since I still remember K-Mart’s surprise sales. The loudspeaker would say “Blue Light Special on Aisle 3” and the stampede would be on for a genuine bargain. It was a great promotion for a few years and attracted many customers. It also helped shape the image of the institution. You can imagine my surprise and recollection when I heard the report last week that in the most recent year, schools in higher education collected only 59% of the full tuition/fees for attending. Yes, in the aggregate, higher ed’s discount pricing amounted to a 41% discount. Now that is a Blue Light Special!

My first reaction was a predictable knee-jerk criticism of what I called “Higher Education Socialism”. It seems so obvious – universities continue to raise tuition and fees at relatively high rates, so that those students and their families that had more wealth (or had been more frugal in their savings) would pay full freight and thereby subsidize the poorer students who were unable to afford the high price tags. So the Ivy League schools are able to charge the maximum increase the market will bear and use the extra funds to support the poorer valedictorians. (With an endowment larger than most countries I doubt Harvard really needs the cash!) So we have a neat transfer of wealth that increases opportunities for those in need and is supported by those most able to carry the freight. Depending on your political persuasion you might find this either very pleasing or very disdainful. But it does seem effective. Of course, each year these figures are announced there is a great deal of contentious discussion. One of the most compelling discussions was posed by Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic Magazine of May 12, 2013 in his article “How Colleges Are Selling Out the Poor to Court the Rich.”

I’ll have to admit that I was completely taken back by this story, I guess because of my naivety, but it sounded preposterous. He starts with the proposition that if the government aggregated all the funds it dispenses to students through a variety of loans, tax breaks, grants and other benefits, it could almost pay the entire tuition bill for ALL students in public colleges and universities (approximately $60 Billion). Of course this wouldn’t be very pleasing to the private schools and for-profits of the world, but it is an interesting concept that illustrates the dimensions of the dilemma.

But as I read I became more and more persuaded about the dynamics at work here. The additional factors that were added to the discussion were the role of Federal loans and other Federal tax benefits in the mix, combined with the increasing pressure on many colleges to compete for the better students.

Weissman refers to a report released recently by Stephen Burd of the New America Foundation on the state of financial aid in higher ed. It documents the “obscene prices some of the poorest undergraduates are asked to pay at hundreds of educational institutions across the country, even as these same schools lavish discounts on the children of wealthier families in order to lure them onto campus.” How so, you may ask?

These mid- and lower tier schools are relying on federal grants to cover the costs of needy students while using their own resources to furnish aid to richer undergrads. “With their relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue,” the report continues, “the nation’s public and private four-year colleges and universities are in danger of shutting down what has long been a pathway to the middle class for low-income and working-class students.” The theory was that, in a time of tight state budgets, charging wealthy students exorbitantly would allow them to charge poorer students reasonably. It hasn’t worked out that way. Unlike twenty years ago, the report explains, it is now more common for colleges to hand out aid packages based on “merit” rather than financial need. And “merit” is often a rather nebulous concept. In other words, low-income families are routinely being asked to fork over more than half of their annual income for the privilege of sending their child off to campus for a year, much more than other families.

Of course these institutions continue to stress the Federal loan program for newer students. These schools are accepting government money meant to make college accessible for low-income Americans, yet still charge them extravagantly. Meanwhile, they continue to hand aid off to wealthier students, either because they score higher on the SAT or bring in extra revenue.

The results are big discounts and lower prices for the wealthier students so that the school can be more competitive for the better students as well as increase its “ranking”. The poorer students are paying increasing shares of their income as the school’s aid is shifting elsewhere. No wonder student defaults on Federal loans are so problematic.

What are we left with? For me, the only way to make a difference is to find ways to lower the cost of higher education for all students, regardless of income. Secondly, the Federal loan program must be revamped to include more restrictive rules limiting tuition increases and their linkage with loans amounts. For too long colleges have raised tuition and fees each year to absorb the increasing loan limits. This is the very reason that students now graduate (or worse, drop out) owing large sums they will never repay.

At least Blue Light Specials applied to all customers equally!

One thought on “Blue Light Special at Farber College

  1. Plagiarism and you!

    What do you as UOPHX faculties understand plagiarism to be?
    In my opinion, it means taking another person’s work (without their permission) and calling it your own.

    Additionally, we must be cognizant of the two words (Plagiarism and copyright infringement) that are often used interchangeably by many. While they may exhibit and share some things in common across the spectrum they are extremely different. The two words both involve the unauthorized use of intellectual property. Webster’s definition of plagiarism [Noun]- The act of purloining another man’s literary works, or introducing passages from another man’s writings and putting them off as one’s own; literary theft…
    Source: Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary.
    Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of the copyright holder, when material is used without the copyright holder’s consent.

    I will continue my focus on plagiarism…
    Admittedly, our today’s society condones plagiarism, and that is a fact…

    We have witnessed time and again, that plagiarism occurs in all aspects of our everyday business. To that end, our society has become one where instant gratification and convenience is a way of life. “Case- in-point” there are many domestic and global contracting agencies that provides their clients with business and uniform contracts- is this viewed as plagiarism? Well! many business entrepreneurs and business pundits have viewed this as a way of doing business “This further exemplify, that even the best known authors, writers, politicians, scientists, civil rights activists, theologians, musicians, historians,— are engaged in using words and ideas of others.

    Conversely, without a shadow of a doubt, I am convinced that our students see this unethical behavior as a way of life within their respective workplaces … and we wonder why they would not replicate the same (unethical) behavior in the academic world.

    There are many consulting companies that sell the exact same documents to companies over and over again… does this not embodied plagiarism?

    On many occasion, I found plagiarism to be very frustration in addition to being challenging.

    However, I just keep forging ahead with the compliance of our college plagiarism policies, thus reporting plagiarism as they occur. This is nothing new….plagiarism has been on-going for a number decades. It simply is easier now than ever before to both commit the act whether intentional or unintentional and to find the plagiarism courtesy of the internet.

    Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional.

    Intentional plagiarism entails looking at someone’s words and reproducing them with the intent of passing them off as one’s own. Unintentional plagiarism on the other hand entails pulling an idea out of one’s head without realizing that one had remembered it rather than coming up with it for themselves.
    The former form (Intentional plagiarism) is reprehensible. The latter form (Unintentional plagiarism) underlies teaching at all levels of academia, and virtually all levels of intellectual society.

    The whole notion of schools and colleges is not only to instruct students about academic subjects, it is also to teach planning, economics, preparing students for various tasks, and ensure they are performed the correct way.

    Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

    According to Brooklyn College policy, plagiarism is representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. Examples include:
    • Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and citation to attribute the words to their source.
    • Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source.
    • Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source.
    • Submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the Internet without citing the source, and “cutting and pasting” from various sources without proper attribution.

    It is easy to avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism by following the guidelines outlined below. As always, if you have specific questions about whether something is plagiarism or not, ask your instructor.

    Source:“Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism” and Part 1 of the “Plagiarism Quiz” was adapted from Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, by the Brooklyn College Writing F

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