My Response For Why The Student Debt Financial Problem Is Primarily A Parent Issue.

“AARP is worried about student loans.” 
This is my reply, after reading the post on facebook.
Luis Camillo Almeida Genius, this is an issue, yes. This is what I see though: Everybody under the sun is complaining that college is expensive. I agree, it is. However, there are way too many kids these days who live life as an adult while pursuing a college education. Examples of extra expenses they have that maybe they shouldn’t have are: Adult housing, car payments, insurance, gas, smartphone bills, luxury gadgets, brand clothes, food, fancy trips, beer money… Now, let’s estimate the former and see if this crisis is only a college or student problem. We live in a luxury apartment complex but I have been a college professor for 10 years and can afford that. Some of my neighbors are students. It costs 1K to live in this complex a month. At the bare minimum, these kids are paying $500 per month to live here. That’s $6000 a year. In order to live in our complex, they need a car. Most of the cars I see on most campuses I’ve worked in my life are new or nearly new cars. I estimate a payment of at least $250 a month. Well, that’s $3000 a year. We all know that to be able to drive a car, one must have insurance. Kids driving cars at age 20 will pay high premiums until they reach the age of 25. I bet they are paying 150 dollars or so a month in car insurance a month. That’s $1800 a year. Ladies and gentleman, no car can be driven without gas. I bet they spend 2 to 3 tanks of gas a month. Let’s estimate a $80 a month in gas bill or $960 a year in gas. Smartphones are awesome but they aren’t cheap. I bet most students spend $80 a month on smartphone bills. That’s $960 a year. I see tablets, fancy laptops, DSLR cameras, and name it all over the campuses I’ve worked in my career. These gadgets aren’t cheap. I am going to estimate that students, on average, spend $120 bucks or so in these “extra cool things” each month. That’s about $1500 a year. Now, this one shouldn’t come as a shocker. Most college students these days dress well. Buying that A&E isn’t that cheap. I bet that folks are spending at minimum $25 a month in clothing if we average the yearly clothing expenses. So, $500 for clothe expenses. Food! Yes, this one nickel and dime them badly. Are students cooking their own food to save on this cost? Or are college students eating out (without a meal plan) in most colleges and universities? How about starbucks? and such? Bro, I will estimate $500 in food expenses for the average student and I think I’m grossly under estimating this one. Food total –> $6000.
Luis Camillo Almeida Fancy trips… spring break, studying abroad, going back home away from school many times a year… This one is tough to estimate… on average, I will estimate in $1000 a year. Beer money. I know, not all students drink alcohol but the majority do. I bet that a $200 bill a month on alcoholic drinks wouldn’t cover what kids spend on this these days. So beer expense: $2500.
SO, let’s calculate the total extra expenses: 6000+3000+1800+960+960+1500+500+6000+1000+ 2500 = 24220 a year. Let’s multiple that by five which is the average time students complete a college education: $121,000! There are a three things we can conclude from these simple posts here on facebook. 1) College tuition is far from being the only burden in the contemporary “student loan crisis” rhetoric we have these days. 2) Students are living life as an adult in college and most will be living life a student for life. 3) The actual problem IS NOT a STUDENT problem. It is a PARENT problem for allowing them to make such poor life decisions at this age.
Luis Camillo Almeida I’m going to make this very clear in here. Gen z, millennials… aren’t any different from us when were we young. So STOP BLAMING THEM! The issue, ladies and gentleman, is that most of us (older people) suck at making them accountable for their actions and understand the value of money. The problem is you, bro. Don’t blame the kids or colleges and universities (only) for this serious crisis.

Higher Education Must Change Now

Higher Education Must Change Now
Dr. Almeida signing his photo book

I am afraid that the industry of higher education is putting itself out of business. During this past 9 years, I have been living and breathing higher education in multiple states and observing one of the jewels of american society decaying itself quickly. Education these days is so out of touch with reality which makes me wonder how much more time do we have before the industry implodes itself. The idea that we must publish or perish and leave students hanging is very dangerous. After all, education should be about students not perishable papers that only the ivory tower scholars pay attention to. Trying to argue that research (at least in media) helps students to get jobs in television is ludicrous. It doesn’t and it never will. What helps students to get positions in the workforce is praxis. Let me give you an example… The photo book that I am signing above isn’t considered scholarship in too many media departments across institutions of higher learning in the United States. The reason for this crazy reality is because the book doesn’t have academic citations or what we call, “scholarly content.” What is has, however, is a collection of highly sophisticated angles and edits that students can learn and apply in order to to find positions in marketing, advertising, and photojournalism. Clearly, we have a major problem in higher education in this country. We premium theory and punish practice, at least from a faculty’s standpoint in most institutions of higher education. The good news is that we can fix the problem rather quickly. There are de facto many ways we can fix this issue. These are my three solutions to solve this ongoing problem.

  1. Stop being what you are not. Institutions of higher learning are trying to be what they are not. Because of lack of state appropriations which leads to the need for some institutions to fundraise, colleges whose primary focus is teaching are trying to become what we call in academia research universities. A good analogy to explain how unwise this strategy is can be understood using examples of boxing. What do you think would happen to Sugar Ray Leonard if he had to fight heads on with Mike Tyson? You know, as much as I do, that Sugar Ray would be destroyed quickly by a heavy weight. What do you think will happen to teaching schools without the required resources and infrastructure when they face a well equipped research university with well established resources and systems? Sometimes I wonder what higher level administrators are thinking.
  2. Change the promotion and tenure protocols of your school. If you work in a teaching institution and the promotion and tenure policies of your college or university clearly states that one must publish or perish in order to keep his or her job, you need to mobilize a critical mass of faculty members to present a logical argument to administration proposing a revision to such policies or leave that school if management is sticking to ideas of the past. I am an optimist who believes that good leadership can fix things. The industry of higher education cannot afford to keep old promotion and tenure protocols in the new economy. We have reach a point of saturation and of no return. The way we keep and promote faculty must change yesterday.
  3. Trash mandatory student evaluations. Make student evaluations a component of hiring and retaining faculty but avoid using student evaluation data as a primary means to promote or keep/fire faculty members. The prefrontal lobe of students between the ages of 18 and 22 isn’t totally developed yet. Therefore, some of what we consider to be illogical decisions, e.g., paying 20K to attend college to party and finishing the semester with a 1.2 GPA… criticize good professors for receiving a C or a D grade when students themselves don’t come to class to do their work, are some of the observable behavioral responses of young adults whose prefrontal lobe is quite underdeveloped.  Making personnel decisions using data given from students whose brains aren’t fully developed yet doesn’t seem to be a good idea for any institution. The way to judge whether a faculty member should have his or her job is by having a Chair coming and observing faculty classes at random and evaluate how the class is prepared, whether students are engaged with course content or not, if the professor delivers superb oral content with distinction… not by analyzing responses given by 19 year olds thinking that a PhD in mathematics doesn’t know their discipline. Students evaluations are important but they can be a very bias instrument and should not, by themselves, be the primary means by which colleges and universities hire and retain faculty.

The time is past gone for higher education to be in synch with the demands of the 21st century. If we are not careful, the industry of higher education is going to put itself out of business. I am not aware of any millennial who has either the money or the patience to pursue a college degree under the current state of affairs of our overall educational system. Higher education must change now, I say.