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weighing the options of higher education in today's economy
photo by Shaila Creekmore

In an era where higher education is more important than ever in a globally competitive world, fewer Americans are able to afford it. In his book, A Current View of Higher Education, Clint Vogus aims to bring awareness to the issues surrounding higher education – awareness that he hopes will help restore the
possibility for a better life for all Americans.

“When I went to college I was able to work during the summers and save enough money for a year’s tuition, fees and books and have a little money for living expenses and start a good job and career after graduation,” said Vogus, a full-time instructor in the Arkansas State University College of Business. With the “pay-as-you-go” method no longer an option for most students, decisions about college require more thoughtful consideration today, which Vogus said is one of the reasons he wrote the book. “The purpose of the book is to raise awareness of the issues so that parents, students, administrators, and anyone involved in making a higher education decision understands the longterm
impact of their decisions and makes the best decision for themselves,” said Vogus. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. The calculus of higher education has changed. The focus of college has changed from ‘maturing’ to one of preparing for a specific career due to cost. Most of us cannot afford four years of maturing before we begin to prepare for our specific career.”

During the last 10 years, the cost of an undergraduate degree has increased by more than 75 percent, said Vogus, compared to a general inflationary increase of 27.6 percent, outpacing even the cost increases of health care.

“In 2001, the average annual cost of tuition only was 25 percent of average income,” he said. “Nearly 10 years later (in 2010) it was 38 percent of the average annual income; today, it is even higher. So higher education costs have outstripped average incomes; thus becoming less affordable.”

In addition to the increased cost of higher education, Vogus said college graduates are no longer guaranteed that it will pay off
for them.

“The current data shows that there is a wide dispersion of salaries for college graduates depending on the field,” said Vogus. “A college degree is no longer a guarantee of a high paying job. Now 284,000 Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher are working for minimum wage; and 42-48 percent of college
graduates between the ages 20-24 are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.”

With the high cost of a college education, Vogus said students are looking more closely at the question of where to go to college. For example, he said, many college students are taking their basic core requirements at local two-year campuses where costs are much lower. Likewise, more students are attending their state colleges and universities where in-state tuition is less.

The current level of student loan debt is approximately $1.2 trillion, said Vogus, with the average loan debt per student at $33,000.

“The current default rate on student loans is 12-14 percent,” he said, “the highest of any form of consumer debt.

As a result of this high level of student debt, Vogus said an estimated 27 percent of graduates have had to move back in with parents. Others have had to delay marriage and child rearing, postpone major purchases such as cars and homes, or work multiple jobs to be able to repay student loans.

Other key topics addressed in the book include financing alternatives, as well as information to consider regarding when to go to college, where to go to college and what to study. A Current View of Higher Education is available on Amazon.
com. Proceeds will go toward higher education initiatives. For more information, email Vogus at vogusfamily@earthlink.net.