Colleges are going further into debt. Students can relate.

On the one hand, I get it: You are a college student, you may have your own financial stresses to worry about (constantly) and it’s just so freaking hard to sympathize with an institution that requests $20,000 from you every semester in some combination of your hard-earned scholarships and your hard-earned bi-weekly income from working the desk at the student center.

On the other hand, this kind of stuff is actually important, so here, pay attention a little bit: Colleges are taking a massive hit in debt. So be assured that while you accrue large amounts of debt in the form of college loans, your college is doing exactly the same thing. Except, you know, instead of taking Intro to Earth Sciences, they are building a new dorm.

From The New York Times:

Students piling on debt to go to college might attract all the attention, but colleges have been on a borrowing spree as well, nearly doubling the amount of debt they’ve taken on in the last decade to fix aging campuses, keep up with competitors and lure students with lavish amenities.

In January, Moody’s Investors Service put a negative outlook on the entire higher education sector, even at major research universities, which had been spared in previous forecasts. And that came after a year in which the agency downgraded the credit ratings of 22 colleges, including Alabama A&M,Wellesley College and Morehouse College. At the same time, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service downgraded 13 institutions, including Amherst College, Tulane University and Yeshiva University. Combined, both agencies upgraded only eight colleges in 2012.

Our colleges are going through a pretty serious identity crisis: Should they build the kind of large, clean buildings that look flashy when students visit campus or should they hire (potentially) more expensive professors who also happen to be better at educating the students who enroll? More and more, it seems colleges are doing the former as opposed to the latter, which is fine if you like sparkle. It’s less fine if you like having competent individuals teaching you how to be a competent individual.

Call me crazy, but I’d rather be taught by an intelligent professor in a broken-down building any day.

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