Wall Street as cause and beneficiary of skyrocketing university tuition


Seriously, its this an attempt to foment a revolution? Am I just living inside the Truman Show?
Because it seems like big finance has gone beyond its mandate to screw us and are now just trying to piss us off.


Sure, wall street has its hand in the till, as usual, but right in Cory’s post is the real primary reason for the rapid increase in tuition rates for most Americans:
“Cuts to public spending drove universities to hike tuition”

The cost of providing education is up, for various reasons, but the main driving factor in ‘average’ tuition is that state support for state universities and colleges per student has gone down quite a lot in real terms. This funding squeeze also makes whiz-bang financial deals more appealing.

Tax revolt.

If the states were still financing the vast majority of the majority of college degrees Wall Street would not have so many opportunities to skim.


Financial losses on University of California at Berkeley’s new Memorial Stadium provide a high-profile example of bond agreements requiring tax and tuition payers to cover payments on excessive debts for amenities.
The UC Board of Regents, which governs the UC system, planned to pay off $445 million in bonds for the stadium by selling the rights for 2,900 luxury seats for up to 50 years.43 In June of 2013, however, UC officials acknowledged that sales of these rights had fallen $120 million short of their targets, increasing the odds that UC will use other revenue like tuition and tax dollars to pay off the bonds.

Yes…Wall Street forced UC Berkely to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a goddamned football stadium (Memorial Stadium is the largest football-only stadium in California.)

This is the real problem, IMO. Universities don’t spend more on faculty or classrooms because they’re not competing for students on those. Rather they spend hundreds of millions on things like football stadiums because that’s where they perceive the real action is.


This is much, much closer to the truth.
If anything, Fed student loans are making it way, way easier to get guaranteed loans for college. And as a result universities can just keep bumping up tuition past any realistic point of return on investment.

So University X knows it can offer 6-figure-priced degrees in Klingon Cultural Studies with guaranteed backing, but students are on the hook for a life of paying off worthless, inflated degrees.

And yeah, there’s colleges around here paying football coaches MILLIONS in salary, larding up coursework with fluff prerequisites and installing ridiculous campus amenities.

Turn off the free money tap and start bringing some accountability for the degrees and the value they carry. Students might not enjoy having a champion football program and a lazy river when they see the hefty price tag for all of it at the time of purchase.


At my public university the state used to pay close to 100% of our budget. Currently the state pays about 10% of our budget, yet retains 100% control over our fiscal decisions. Public disinvestment in education, sold by means of a “higher education is a jobs training program”-trope (as opposed to, say, an investment in a public good: a generally educated population).


I was under the impression that universities spend on sports as a way to get alums to open their wallets, not as a sales point to woo incoming freshmen (aside from the very few ones they’re trying to recruit for teams.) I doubt most high school seniors make major life-altering decisions based on how nice a given concourse is, and they sure as hell aren’t buying any luxury box season tickets.

But maybe I’m giving them too much credit.


Or, you know, publicly reinvest in education, instead of treating education as job-training).


Frankly I found this video disappointing. Sometimes I’m a numbers guy, but the parade of numbers here was confusing. I found myself thinking, “wait, was that per year, or all four years? Or was it ten?” I know a clever cartoon is more persuasive than a spreadsheet, but still.

Also, a few years back I recall the President signed an Executive Order getting the banks out of the middle when students receive federal loans - did that have any impact on the profitability of the market? This video didn’t even mention it.


Cable Company Fuckery, meet Student Loan Fuckery.

Oh, I see you’re already well acquainted. Who’d have guessed?



1 Like

What does that even mean…to “publicly reinvest” in education? The definition of ‘investing’ is to expend money with the expectation of seeing it returned with profit.

I’m sorry, but when there’s a 6-figure pricetag attached to that fluff college degree, you’d better be able to show there’s some fiscal return on it. How does the public receive any value in a $100K degree that never gets used and has no benefit to the community, exactly?

Or maybe you meant the way we already publicly invest in primary education? Although that’s not a great example of sane budgets and improved results, either.

I was under the impression that universities spend on sports as a way to get alums to open their wallets

Most of the research I’ve seen suggests that spending on athletics does increase donations…but almost all of the additional donations are restricted to athletics spendings.

People don’t go “you’ve got an amazing football team, so I’m going to donate to your math department.” Instead, they love the football team so they donate to football or other sports-related activities at the university.

I also think that among the public, all of the money spent on Division I athletics helps undermine the case for public funding of higher education. Because so much money is involved, many people seem to assume that athletics is a big income generator for Division I schools when, in fact, very few universities see any actual net revenue gains from their athletic programs (most run in the red and that deficit is made up by those donations that the athletics are supporting).


Point by point:

Investing does not necessarily connote returns measured in direct financial terms. For example, by making a conscious series of decisions about hard drugs, exercise habits and diet in my teens and early 20s, I am now reaping returns in terms of my health and the kind of life I am able to enjoy compared to my age peers who made different decisions. Of course, we could also value such returns financially, but the motivation was not based on financial concerns, but on experiential ones. What kinds of returns can a society expect from investment in education? A healthier population, less crime, and greater (macro) productivity. All of those benefits (and others) can be measured in financial terms, both for the state (rates of public expenditure on emergency services, imprisonment, recidivism, etc.), and for society, but motivations are not only financial. So that’s what I mean by “invest.”

I am not at all sorry: an educated populace, even “fluff” degrees (like CS engineering degrees for currently marketable skills that are obsolete within 4 years) produce a populace of educated individuals. If you defined “never gets used” as “what job description is defined by the marketable skills detailed in your transcript” I see your point. However, I reject that notion because I see and value public goods like an educated populace. Both the creative and innovative and the merely boring everyday intelligent. Also: marketable creativity is boring as fuck: the risk takers are not generally rewarded by the market (e.g. Van Gogh? In the university this is part of what we mean by “academic freedom” which pertains to freedom of thought, expression and association). And I do not want to live in a gated exurb with 12 other families who can afford my level of education while the vast majority of the populace live in uneducated ghettoized penury (which is where the student debt-spiral is taking us): that kind of world is an utter failure of a society by my metrics.

And as to public investment: I am old enough to remember when education across the life course was largely subsidized as it ought to be (and it still is in some countries) because it is a public good. I agree that there are a lot of problems in how we invest in primary/secondary public education, but we can and ought to do more and better for all education across the life course.


Isn’t disbursement up to the universities? Sure, a donor can write “for new locker room” in the memo field of the check, but that’s not legally binding. And how much of an asshole would that donor look like publicly complaining that his money that he donated to an institution of higher learning went to actual education instead of lux accommodations for a few dozen halfwitted communications majors student athletes?

Well, if I give you money for one thing and you use it for something else entirely you won’t be getting any more money from me. And you probably won’t be getting money from any of my friends either.

Donations can be restricted to a specific use. This link talks about some common restrictions.http://nonprofit.belfint.com/restricted-contributions/


You’ve drunk the neoliberal cool-aid so deeply you don’t realize the definitions you use for words have been hijacked. Investing is not necessarily a finance term, there are a lot of investments societies make that don’t return a direct profit – in fact I’d say the vast majority of investments societies make don’t “return a profit” in the mentally-challenged definition you are using.

If we had followed the neoliberal definitions you rely on during the earlier eras of the nation we would’ve never built roads, let alone the massive infrastructure that allows our society to function so efficiently. Roads, schools, waterworks, electrical utilities, telephone networks, the internet, hospitals, shipping terminals, passenger rail, semiconductors, the space program, the sciences generally… the list of what we wouldn’t have if we lived and died based on the definitions and ideology you espouse in that one sentence is far greater than the list of what we would have. It reminds me of the libertarian fools who completely ignore all of what it took to build the physical and intellectual commons we all rely on so they can demand we put an end to all that foolish public investment. We’d all still be living on feudal estates (most of us would never have been born of course) if your mindset ruled the past two centuries. Amazingly, shockingly ignorant comment, yet par for the course in todays shockingly selfish and shortsighted neoliberal stupidfest.

P.S. And I’d like to add that its this same ahistorical, sociopathic denial of the public good, the commons, that is responsible for the constant degradation of our national infrastructure: a fragile and failing electrical grid, roads, public utilities, state infrastructure, the vast public education system all deteriorating at accelerating pace; no buildout of the infrastructure that will make us successful in the 21st century and beyond, and no addressing the clear and present facts of capitalism’s failure to provide for the needs of the people and society. After all, the capitalists sell capitalism as the system best able to provide the most happiness. Or at least they pretended that when they had to answer the criticisms of the communists. Now the story is everywhere yet somehow unstated, but goes something like “to the victors go the spoils”, which is as anti-commons as one can imagine and sociopathically ignores the existential public acts that made the spoils possible in the first place. That whole “I made this”/“you didn’t make this” silliness only served to obfuscate the obvious, undeniable fact that we are nothing without the communities we are part of. Without them we’d have an almost impossible task everyday, like living out on the prairie in 1830: doing everything for oneself. The neoliberal pretensions of self-creation and individuality only avoid shocking us because they’re so common. The “great man theory” of journalistic and historical analysis are commonplaces in our media from Hollywood to (lesser) historians to the everyday claims of self-righteous business douches, and yet it is utter horseshit. Even the great “wiz” behind Apple, Steve Jobs, was technically weak and relied on his less photogenic partner Steve Wozniak for the technical knowhow.

The insufficiency of what is termed “free market capitalism” but is really oligopolistic, rentier-dominated lemon socialism is everywhere apparent. The denial of the commons, indeed of our common humanity, flowing in a constant shit stream from the power-elite and their ocean of lackeys and buttlicks shocks the conscience. Neoliberalism is at heart denial of conscience. It preaches the “disutility” of the conscience. Neoliberalism is the cruelest of the capitalisms as it preaches that selfishness is the truest morality, totally eviscerating the need to feel for one’s fellow human. No longer must we dehumanize our underling in order to abuse him. The primary neoliberal “moral” principle is denial of mutual human obligation and thus in one move attempts to turn morality into its opposite.


Only if all goods can be measured in dollars. And right there is the soul of neoliberalism. (I use the term soul advisedly.)

1 Like

I am afraid I do not follow your reasoning. Moreover the dictionaries I consult provide laying out of funds in pursuit of financial returns as only one of several possible denotative meanings of invest.

1 Like