Friday, December 5, 2008

My Nightmare is All Too Real

December 5, 2008 - It was dark. I remember I was in a navy suit, but I had no shoes and I was climbing to the summit of Mt. McKinley. I knew it was Mt. McKinley because my assistant, Walter Cronkite told me so. OK, it was a weird dream, maybe more a nightmare, but when I got to the top I was confused and screaming at the top of my lungs about how I couldn’t afford to go to college. All I got was an echo.

I woke up in a cold sweat, checked to make sure my degree still had my name on it, and turned on the evening news.

All dreams mean something, so they say, and making a career out of helping colleges cut costs is coming full circle. This week the media frenzy around The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education's Measuring Up 2008 Report shows that people are now listening. No more echo.

Just take a look at some of the headlines:

New York Times - College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.

Christian Science Monitor - A Push to Boost College Graduation Rates

Boston Globe - Tuition Hammers Bay State, Study Says

Kansas City Star – Here’s a No-Brainer: Families in Missouri and Kansas are Bearing More of the College Cost Burden

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - National Study Finds State Lags in Working-Age Adults in College

Huntsville Times - Alabama Students Found Less Likely to Go to College

While every region of the country is examining their state of affairs, the national trends are clear. According to Patrick M. Callan, President of The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “The key findings this year reveal that the nation and most of the 50 states are making some advances in preparing students for college and providing them with access to higher education. However, other nations are advancing more quickly than the United States; we continue to slip behind other countries in improving college opportunities for our residents.”

The results prove that while we are making small strides in opening access to higher education, cost is becoming a major deterrent. With the cost of attendance outpacing family income, students are not earning degrees at acceptable rates. Colleges are now realizing that spending is not going to improve retention, boost graduation rates, or open access. While luxury dorms and oversized student centers attracted students over the past decade, these expenses only increase tuition and unfortunately, don’t help students with their climb up the ivory tower. With a financial crisis on our doorsteps, it’s time to find practical ways to cut costs to make college more affordable. With the mountain growing steeper every day, we can’t afford to have more students turn back and lose their way!

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