Once again colleges and universities across the country will be graduating a class of seniors students who, for the most part, will leave their hallowed halls of education financially burdened with college loans. Even worse, there will be fewer jobs waiting for them that will pay salaries decent enough to budget college-loan payments in with rent and food and the other bare necessities of life.
The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year, according to the College Board, was $32,405 at private colleges and $9,410 for state residents at public colleges.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, beyond one’s tuition expenses, “room and board” (the on-campus, housing costs plus the cost of food plans) ranged from an average of $10,138 at four-year public schools to $11,516 at private schools.
Added together, tuition and room and board for a four-year college education can run well over $100,000 and up to around $150,000 or more. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 40 million Americans have student loans averaging $30,000.
How do these startling numbers translate to the lifestyle of college students? A recent study of the 460,000 students enrolled in the California State University system revealed that 10 percent of these students are homeless. Nearly 20 percent don’t have a steady source of food to eat.
Members of the class of 2016 who had to borrow money to finance their degrees are leaving college with a record level of debt: ($37,173 per student). That figure was $28,950 only two years ago. Many students who go on to grad school or medical school will ring up over $100,000 in college loans.
It’s no wonder that a politician like Bernie Sanders, who proposed free college tuition and loan forgiveness as his key platform, attracted so many youthful voters. He failed to get the nomination, of course, but he did ring a warning bell to the nation.
We have an education crisis. It is neither caused by a lack of qualified instructors, a lack of class rooms, nor even by a lack of funding. It’s a fact that the cost of a college education in the U.S., even without burdensome federal loans, is just too expensive. Even worse, the financial returns on that expensive investment seem to be diminishing year after year.
In another disheartening trend, more and more college graduates are finding it necessary to move back home after they leave college because they can’t find jobs that pay well enough for these recent graduates to support themselves.
Why Are We in This Dilemma?
Many blame the colleges themselves. Salaries for professors have skyrocketed over the past decade. College coaches earn seven figure salaries without anyone blinking an eye. Staffing for non-educational functions have soared to levels never dreamed of ten years ago.
The U.S. Department of Education figures show that tuition costs have risen 440 percent over the past twenty-five years, far above the increase in the cost of living over that same time span.
Who pays for all of these unchecked expenses? Students of course, either through tuition costs or through mandatory student activity fees.
Others blame the Federal Government and their excessive student loan programs. Cheap interest rates flooded the market with student loan funds. Colleges were able to start raising tuitions as high as they wanted because of the fact that everyone could more easily get students loans.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Many students are now beginning to default on those loans. Many bright, hard-working students have had to settle for a two-year education at a local community college, and many end up working at jobs offering only minimum wage.
A Free Tuition School
French billionaire Xavier Niel, founder of Iliad, recognized the need to provide a targeted education where students would not be burdened by financial worries. He also recognized the injustice suffered by lower economic groups who were being shut out of high paying jobs because they could not afford even the lowest of college tuitions.
In 2013, Niel opened his innovative 42 programming training facility in Paris. A second campus, 42 Silicon Valley, open in Fremont, California in July 2016. Application will be accepted to anyone ages 18 to 30 who seeks to learn how to code.
In case you are wondering, the “42” comes from Douglas Adams’ book The “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” as a reference to the ultimate question of life and the universe and everything.
The private college, funded 100 percent by Xavier Niel, is a computer programming university. The goal is to train students in coding and computer engineering and send them out into the workplace as trained, qualified computer specialists.
It is a tuition-free school. Free dorm rooms are offered to students, and the cafeteria serves quality meals at affordable rates so no student should ever need to go hungry.
No previous degrees are required for acceptance. No degrees are awarded after graduation. 42 is well known for promoting advanced knowledge and developing skilled computer programmers and novel thinkers. Obtaining a degree from 42 isn’t necessary to quality for high-paying jobs.
Social Disconnect in Education
It’s no secret that the gulf between the rich and the poor in this country is widening. The middle class, once the backbone of this country’s economic engine, is all but disappearing.
In a recent Edward Jones poll, 83 percent of those surveyed said they cannot afford the expense of a college education. Other figures reveal that generally only the richest 10 percent of the population are successfully earning a four-year college degree.
Unfortunately for the other 90 percent, only college graduates are getting the high-paying jobs.
Another problem we face is the need to import workers from outside the United States to fill skilled jobs here. In many cases, our colleges and universities are stuck in a time warp and not teaching the skills that are required to fill new jobs being created in the technology and computer fields. The social disconnect goes even deeper when the skilled foreign workers who were brought into the United States under special visas have been willing to work for lower wages than what their American counterparts would earn.
The 42 Experience
It’s a fact that the children of well-off families in this country are likely to stay well off while the children of poor families are more likely remain poor. Race also has a part in this disconnect. Only 60 percent of racial and ethnic minorities graduate from high school compared to 83 percent of white students.
Regardless of these unfortunate, downward trends and statistics, 42 Silicon Valley offers a tuition-free program that is open to all who are dedicated enough to qualify.
Success stories abound. A former restaurant chef, a cab driver, a special forces veteran, a train worker, an unemployed plumber… These are just a few of those who exhibited a natural ability to think and who demonstrated their interest for learning how to code. They enrolled at 42 after bypassing regular colleges because of the high cost. They are diamonds in the rough, as we like to say at 42; they were discovered because they were given a chance.