The College Tuition Bubble Burst?

Perhaps you read the article over at CNBC entitled “The Scary Amount That College Will Cost In the Future.”  It addresses the rising cost of college and the projected cost eighteen years down the line.  According to Wealthfront, the article says that the average cost of most public universities is currently $101,000.  This is consistent with the price of my community’s local college, Illinois State University.  Obviously, that’s a very large amount of money.  However, Wealthfront projects that by the year 2036, public universities will cost an average of $184,000.  As a parent of two children under ten years of age, that number induces paralysis.

Because I teach seniors in high school, we always take a few days and explore the options available upon graduating.  I ask them to review their financial situation and then to investigate the cost of the junior college and the university.  I next ask them to research the projected earnings associated with the kind of career their degree will procure.  We also discuss the pros and cons of entering the work force directly upon graduation.  I’ve done this twice a year every year since 2010.

The cost of a four-year university astounds them … every time.  For some, they immediately give upon on the idea.  They don’t want to take on the debt.  Honestly, I can’t say I blame them.

I believe we have both an ideological problem as well as a practical one.  A typical public university should not cost two or three times as much as a staring salary of its graduates.  It simply shouldn’t.

Once upon a time, a college degree guaranteed employment.  It proved a valid investment that would assuredly pay you back a hundred times over throughout the course of a career.  Undergraduate degrees are now the norm, however.  Most careers require an undergraduate degree for even an entry-level position.  Unfortunately, salaries do not seem to be keeping pace with the rising cost of tuition.  As a result, we have college degrees that are not only taking far too long to pay the graduate back, but also, in many cases, failing to do so at all.

Frankly, I’ve felt confident that the tuition bubble would burst.  I believed, as I’ve witnessed with my students, that the cost would prohibit the demand.  People would simply stop going to college.  My logic dictated that tuition would consequently decrease.

According to these projections, though, my thinking is not only flawed, but flat-out wrong.

Practically speaking, this can’t be good for our nation.  I’m not an economics expert, but it seems clear to me that a country full of people in debt due to tuition costs that outpace most average salary schedules puts an undue burden on the populace.  People in debt can’t spend money.  An economy has a hard time functioning well without money flowing.  The college degree is meant to empower the individual and actually afford them the ability to make more money and thus spend more money.  The inverse seems to be occurring.

Ideologically speaking, I take tremendous issue with the trend.  I believe in education.  I wholeheartedly believe in the power of learning and bettering oneself.  I also believe everyone has the right to an affordable education.  What happens to our nation when the average person can’t afford college anymore?  How many doctors, teachers, and other vital roles are we going to lose due to college costing more than most people can pay?  Are even public universities only going to be possible for the affluent?

I’m not saying college should be free.  I don’t mind paying for my daughters’ higher education.  However, I also don’t think it’s right that families have to pinch every penny for over a decade if they hope to send their child to college for a degree that likely will not pay them back anytime soon.  It seems as though Americans are being taken advantage of by the tuition system.  We tell children they need to go to college if they want a good job, if they want to make their families proud, and so young adults do whatever it takes to go to college — even if it means taking on decades of debt.  We are made to fear the idea of not going to college, and so, as a result, tuition keeps going up and up even as salary increases stagnate.  It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Though it doesn’t appear that the tuition bubble is going to burst anytime soon, believe me when I say that  I’ve seen the hopes and dreams of many students burst these last several years.

It is my sincere hope that we can find a balance between the undeniable value of education and the appropriate amount of tuition fees.

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MR. F – THE SENSELESS END

EPSON MFP image

I want you to know that I did not publish this comic strip lightly.  I’m actually a nervous wreck putting it out there.  I know it’s disturbing, violent, and maybe even shocking.  It’s meant to be.

Mr. F first came into my conscious about seventeen years ago — soon after I started teaching.  Even though I only started (semi) regularly publishing him within the last few years, his supporting cast, his antics, and his future were always in my mind.

He had quite a bright future, too.  I planned to eventually have him capture the heart of Miss Kris.  After that, I would have them get married and start a family.  Mr. F’s cast would grow to include their children.  Mr. F would then be depicted not only as a teacher, but also as a boyfriend, a husband, and ultimately a father.

I’ve always intended the Mr. F comic to be fun-loving.  I never wanted the strip to be too critical, too political, or too heavy.  I wanted the jokes typically aimed at Mr. F himself, never too much at the students.  I meant for the reader to read it, chuckle, and then move on.

I meant for this strip to last decades.

But I’m tired.

Not tired of the strip — I’m tired of our children being shot to death in schools.  I’m tired of America throwing up its hands and saying, “Well, it is what it is.”  I’m tired of thinking, “It could never happen at my school” — as though that’s some sort of justifiable rationalization.

I want all the murdered children to know I care.  I want those children to know that my heart cries for them, that thinking about them keeps me up at night, and that I can’t any longer just hope their faces fade out of my memory.

My first step is to sacrifice something very important to me — Mr. F.  He’s a poor substitute for an actual living child, obviously, but I want those who feel shocked by Mr. F’s senseless death to know that his demise is NOTHING compared to each and every one of the children we’ve allowed to be killed in what should be the safest spaces in our country.  The future ripped away from him is fictional.  The future those children will never get to experience is real.  Too real.

Mr. F is clearly based on me.  I’m a teacher.  For many of you, when you look at him, you see me.  When you look at the above picture, I want you to imagine that it is actually me.  I want you to imagine that I’ve been killed by an assault weapon at my school.  I want you to imagine your child, riddled with bullets, bleeding out on the floor, or your grandchild, or your nephew or niece.  I want you to imagine that, and I want you to try to rationalize why you allowed it.  It’s different when it’s other people’s kids … but it shouldn’t be.

To all the murdered children … I’m sorry.  I’m so, so sorry.  Starting with this strip, I won’t just offer my thoughts.  It’s time to also offer action.

 

The Joy Of Writing With Others

As you may know, I’m teaching a creative writing course this semester and I’m enjoying it more than I ever expected.  My students are amazing–a dream come true.  They are creative, have excellent attitudes, and don’t hesitate to get right to work on their writing.  I can’t imagine a better group to initiate this new chapter of my career.

Today we started on our first “official” genre–Realistic Fiction.  We’ve done a few warm-up activities, but this is the first story we plan to read to each other.  When it comes to reading and writing, I believe in sitting down and doing it with the students.  Luckily, I happen to love both of those things.

So, as my students started their first short story, I started one as well.  I fully intend to partake in each genre, to read my work to them just as they must read their work aloud to the group, and to basically experience the victories and frustrations as an active participant, not just an objective observer.

I’ve been writing regularly for a long, long time now, and virtually all of it has been by myself–mostly in a basement of some sort or another with the lights off and music playing.

Today I wrote in a classroom full of teenagers.  Some of them were sketching characters, some of them were developing plot in their journals, some were typing away.  I’ve always listened to music as I write, so I allow them to listen with their earbuds as well.  I would intermittently look up to see my students lost in their own creative endeavor.  I heard the tap-tap-tap of their keyboards.  I saw the words appearing on their screens, the characters taking shape in their journals, or the pencil gliding across their notebook paper.  I took all of this in and it brought me great happiness.

At the end of class I mentioned to them how fun it is to write with others.  I explained that writing can be such an isolated, lonely activity–to sit in a room and write with others … it felt so … nice!  (Excellent writing there, huh?)

Guiding these young people though the first steps of what I hope will be a lifelong writing journey has not only invigorated me as a teacher, but it’s also already provided a sense of community in regards to writing that I didn’t even realize I craved.

Are You Excited For These Movies? Read the Books First!

Do you love to read the books that movies are based upon before those movies come out?  Check out this activity I had for my students today.  In order to get excited to read the source material, I had them watch the correlating trailers for upcoming films.  I’m happy to say they were very enthusiastic for several of the books (and movies)!  My primary goal as an educator is to help people want to read.  Take a look below and let me know which book you would most like to read, and also which movie looks the best to you.

Black Panther (Trailer)

Black Panther (Book)

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Forever My Girl (Trailer)

Forever My Girl (Book)

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12 Strong [Horse Soldiers] (Trailer)

Horse Soldiers (Book)

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Trailer)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Book)

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Annihilation (Trailer)

Annihilation (Book)

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Avengers: Infinity War (Trailer)

Avengers: Infinity War (Book)

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Every Day (Trailer)

Every Day (Book)

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Ready Player One (Trailer)

Ready Player One (Book)

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Red Sparrow (Trailer)

Red Sparrow (Book)

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A Wrinkle In Time (Trailer)

A Wrinkle In Time (Book)

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Love, Simon [Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda] (Trailer)

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Book)

 

(Last year’s movie trailers and books can be found HERE.)

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(Did you enjoy this post?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Tomorrow Begins a New Chapter In My Teaching Career

I’m so excited because tomorrow begins a new chapter in my teaching career.  Tomorrow marks the first day I will teach a creative writing class.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve taught for sixteen years without ever once instructing a creative writing course, but it’s true.

I’m particularly excited because I can share with the students quite a bit of real world application when it comes to creative writing.  We can explore so many traditional and nontraditional publishing avenues, contacting agents, setting up readings, developing a website, partaking in social media–all of those things that are necessary to reach an audience.  After all, writing the story is just the first step.

I am ecstatic to help these students find their voices, experiment with different genres, hone their craft, build their confidence, and learn about the business side as well.  I’ll share with them my victories, but also my blunders.  I think both will provide ample learning opportunity.

However, my number one priority when I meet them tomorrow for the first time?  Ask them what they want to learn.  Their requests will drive the course.

Wish us luck!