College Planning:  Sharing Reality with the Teen

How much should a parent make the child follow the news?  I typically don’t, but tonight will be the exception as I discuss the stunning 32% University of California tuition hikes at the dinner table.

California is in the throes of near-bankruptcy and a projected 2010 deficit of $21 billion is leading to both draconian cuts and unsustainable cost hikes.  Given the situation, the University of California Board of Regents today announced that starting next year, there will be a 32% tuition hike for the approximately 175,000 students scattered at campuses across the state.  The response?  After what I can only surmise as stunned amazement, a number of students rioted.

California might be described as being at the far end of the Bell Curve in terms of budgetary woes, but there are many other states in a similar situation.  Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, and the list goes on.  They are just experiencing now what I anticipate other states will have to endure although their tuition hikes will probably not be as bad.  The problem is simply that there isn’t enough real wealth to support all of the promised programs – education, law enforcement, social service network, transportation – that states manage.  There’s a great deal of paper wealth, but not enough productive assets to support the structure.

From news sources and bloggers, I’m aware that the UC system has dramatically cut back on services and construction, and eliminated staff via layoff and furlough.  But the cost structure to support a system constructed during times of plenty is too great to be controlled solely by contracting services.  So the students will take a substantial hit and I don’t expect that it will be the last.  The system will contract painfully until it can reach a new equilibrium where the services provided can be supported by the state and its students. 

So Eldest – and Middle, who’s more aware of news than his elder sibling – will hear about the California college riot.  And the point of this is that colleges have to pay for the classes and services that they offer and they will do what they must to survive.  So the questions once again:  How much will college cost?  What’s the final debt load?  Is this supportable?

We refer to our colleges and schools as alma maters.  The crucial difference is that real mothers love you back.


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