Thursday, December 03, 2009

Oregonian Fails to Explore Why Oregon Fails on College Debt

Oregon college students graduate with significantly more debt than Washington and California students. This pattern has not changed since 2006. Why does Oregon do significantly worse than its two neighbors?

The percentage of Oregon students who graduate with debt is also higher in Oregon. In 2008 61% of college graduates had debt compared with 58% in Washington and 48% in California. Why are Oregon and Washington percentages so much higher than California's?

The Oregonian has a story noting Oregon's student debt problem but neglects to compare the data with California and Washington. So, the Oregonian never really explores the "why" of Oregon's high student debt rate.

The Oregonian also ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the room--soaring college costs. The same organization that puts out the debt report the Oregonian relies on links to Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education which includes the following chart.

Hmm. There has been a whopping 439% increase in college tuition and fees since the early 1980's. This raise far outstrips every other major family need. In fact college tuition/fees costs have risen 75% more than even health care costs (a meager 251% increase in comparison).

Why are higher education tuition and fees rates through the roof? How can these costs be brought down? No help here from the Oregonian.

The Oregonian's only acknowledgment of this tuition/fee cost problem comes in a five word phrase with no specific content:
"Oregon doubled the funding for state grants for college students in 2008-09 with the intent of lowering the student debt load for graduates. Since then, state funding has fallen and record numbers of students have applied for aid, causing the state to turn down some eligible students and reduce grants to others.

"At the same time, tuition has gone up significantly. Many campuses have increased financial aid to ease the impact on low-income students."
[emphasis added]
The Oregonian has become a news aggregator. It doesn't pursue stories deeper than the reports it links to and doesn't even do a particularly good job of thinking about the meaning of the data in those reports.

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