kitchen table math, the sequel: more more middle class....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

more more middle class....

re: re: We all want to be 'middle class' and Speaking of the middle class

As part of not getting my stride back today, and inspired by my success at finally locating an income chart that includes medical benefits, I tracked down inflation charts on:

public education spending (and here)
college spending
health care spending

Gadzooks.

Good thing apparel prices have been falling or we'd all be walking around naked. Walking around naked or, alternatively, walking around fully clothed with a whopper of a student apparel loan to pay off.



And while we're on the topic of mind-boggling and rising prices for the big stuff, as opposed to reasonable and falling prices for the little stuff, why do I have to keep hearing about housing bubbles when the really huge bubbles seem to be tuition and health care?

20 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Housing is a much bigger part of the economy than college or health care (though health care must be getting close).

Also the tuition and health care bubbles haven't popped yet. They're not bubbles until they pop.

Glen said...

We keep hearing about the housing bubble, because gradual increases in housing prices, leveraged into equity, dramatically increased annual "income" for millions of households year after year for decades. It supported their middle-class lifestyles, and people relied on it to fund their kids' educations and their own future retirement.

When millions of households were seeing their equity (not home values, but equity) rising even faster than tuition, universities could get away with it. You want an engineering degree? Well, we only sell those in packages bundled with classes that no one would voluntarily pay for but that serve the university's political agenda. Take it or leave it. How much does it cost? Well, that depends. How much do you have? Your family owns a home, right? So what's the problem? Don't worry, you'll make it all back after graduation.

No more. The equity vanished, almost overnight. Some of it might come back, but we'll never be able to rely on it again. When you're worried about how your family is going to survive in the future, the $5000 class in marxist lit crit that the university insists is a prerequisite to any real engineering degree isn't so funny anymore.

If enough smart people decide it's time to shop for alternative credentials, employers might start paying more for them. If people can no longer afford to pay for what they don't need, and the employment credential monopoly is busted, higher ed tuition might follow the housing prices down.

Catherine Johnson said...

the $5000 class in marxist lit crit that the university insists is a prerequisite to any real engineering degree isn't so funny anymore

that's for sure

news flash: public education advocates are going to ask that the public pay for bachelors and masters degrees for teachers

they may be asking for it now

Catherine Johnson said...

whether or not equity comes back is pretty much up to the Fed, as far as I can tell

I think we now have an actual housing shortage -- a shortage of houses compared to population

that is to say, if people could afford houses, we would have a shortage

Catherine Johnson said...

we'll never be able to rely on it again

that, too, is up to the Fed as far as I can tell

when monetary policy is stable, people can rely on tomorrow being like today

that's pretty much the point of monetary policy

what the Bernanke Fed has done instead is to allow growth to fall far below trend -- and then 'fight inflation'

fighting inflation when economic growth is far below trend keeps you below trend forever

the new normal

Catherine Johnson said...

the thing is, you can shop for cheaper colleges -- but you can't get rid of credentialism altogether, not without immense political effort

Ed looked at The Daily chart of college costs yesterday and predicted that colleges will be staffed almost entirely by minimum-wage adjuncts (I think the figure is 60% now, but I could be wildly misremembering...)

I was thinking this morning that college could be like the K-12, where you could have a lot of highly intelligent, dedicated, non-ed schooled female teachers whose primary income is her husband's.

The college where I teach is like that now, I think. In some ways, it's a 'dream high school' because you have professors with Ph.Ds who are expert in their subject matter and have **not** attended ed school -- but who aren't doing research and aren't required to publish. The staff is like what you see at private schools in these parts.

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, my question about the housing bubble was rhetorical

rhetorical...and a reference to the fact that Scott Sumner doesn't appear to believe in bubbles

SteveH said...

Hey, I had an English course on Counter Culture Culture in 1972. I also had a sociology course that was really a course on socialism. I also had another English course studying poetry where just about everything was a phallic symbol. That reminds me of a tower in Ypsilanti, MI.


"... and the employment credential monopoly is busted"

I've wondered for a long time about how to break this. It hasn't broken in my lifetime and international demand will keep it going.

But how about the MITx degree? What's the catch? I have to go do my homework. Does anyone have some good links?

Glen said...

Catherine: btw, my question about the housing bubble was rhetorical

I know. I imagined you throwing your arms wide and asking, "Why, oh why...?"

Steve: But how about the MITx degree? What's the catch?

The catch is that nobody at MIT (that I know of) is talking about an MITx "degree". These and the new Stanford online classes only give you credit toward a degree if you are an admitted MIT or Stanford student.

Otherwise, the idea is to give you some sort of acknowledgement that is carefully designed to make it clear that it is NOT MIT or Stanford credit. Both institutions are desperate to avoid diluting their own brand equity.

However, these projects often take on lives of their own. Some Stanford students are now complaining that they have to pay $5000 to take the same online class that non-students take for free. No difference at all in the educational experience, assignments, tests, feedback from TAs, etc., but the Stanford student pays a fortune and gets Stanford credentials; the equally-taught non-student gets it for free and gets no Stanford credential. That's an unstable situation, I believe, that may end up like breaching a barrier between two oceans at different levels. I'm looking for a flood to pour through this opening, which might overwhelm the people who are trying to keep these projects under control.

I see them right now as desperate to defend their monopolies but well aware that huge pressures are mounting to change the system. I think they figure, rightly, that if they don't disrupt themselves, someone else will do it to them. They probably don't want to be the venerable Kodaks and Fuji Films of higher ed as the world goes digital.

Catherine Johnson said...

I know. I imagined you throwing your arms wide and asking, "Why, oh why...?"

horse laughs!

That's a pretty standard mode for me!

A couple of years ago, I took to saying I was amazed at my capacity to still be amazed.

Which is true.

At some point, you'd think I'd LEARN.

Catherine Johnson said...

However, these projects often take on lives of their own. Some Stanford students are now complaining that they have to pay $5000 to take the same online class that non-students take for free.

Ever since I realized what a mess the public schools are, I've been wondering about political, social, and institutional change --- how does it happen?

Glen, I don't think you were reading the blog back when I was quoting Ed a lot....(Ed's a historian).

The main thing I learned from Ed, which I believe is true, is that "all revolutions have writers." (I think he would put it that way.)

caveat: I don't know much history, but I do know enough to understand that revolutions in countries are almost always destructive. Few go well. I don't know whether that applies to revolutions in business or in monopoly institutions like K-12 and higher ed---

Anyway, I'm on a couple of list serves where the subject of reform vs revolution or just reform in general comes up.....and I would like to know the answer.

Nevertheless, I **do** believe Ed's observation, and I tentatively believe that "all revolutions have writers" applies to institutions and social/cultural/political arrangements and structures, too.

That's why I write ktm --- one of the reasons --- and it's why I've written the Irvington Parents Forum.

Ed says that once you have an 'opposition voice,' the political landscape is altered **simply by the existence of an opposition voice."

I believe that's true, and I believe I've seen its effects here in my district.

I don't think it's likely my district is going to adopt a college preparatory curriculum and hold itself accountable for seeing to it that students master the curriculum ----- BUT, on the other hand, my friends and I have highlighted the fact that my district is not doing this.

If the state were to require the district to become accountable - or if the state were to insist that Common Core means a liberal education - I believe the ground here would have been prepared in a way it hasn't been elsewhere.

Still and all, I want to know how bad institutions and bad practices get changed -- because I'm sure they sometimes do (both for better and for worse).

Allison said...

I had often thought that the "experience " of a school like Stanford or MIT would keep the brand alive_ going somewhere and finally meeting a critical mass of people like you feels exciting, let alone the socializing and dating. Now I'm not so sure. will facebook, texting, and virtual interactions he so common that students don't feel the need for the actual experience? Dating isn't virtual yet, but if you come from a culture of arranged marriage, then it doesn't matter. Another concern is it will just push the credentialing earlier to high school. Then, the good high schools will define the social networks of success, and the anonymous MITxer will lose out to the known version.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think I've quoted that great Herb Stein line I discovered just a couple of months ago: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

I absolutely love that, and I think it's arguable that's where we are with Permanent Above-Inflation increases in college prices, health care prices, and public school prices ---- especially when you combine it with the overnight-vanishing of ---- how much wealth was it?

Something's going to have to give, but of course that doesn't mean the next iteration will be better.

It could be that tuition finally gets capped by hiring entire faculties of minimum-wage freeway fliers.

Catherine Johnson said...

I had often thought that the "experience " of a school like Stanford or MIT would keep the brand alive

I would be willing to bet a modest sum of money that the experience can't be duplicated or replaced by a virtual world.

However, the experience of a college campus doesn't have to last 4 years.

One possibility I see happening is parents sending their kids to two years of community college first, then springing for just two years of a selective college.

That makes sense on a number of levels, not least the fact that 18 year olds aren't adults and often make poor decisions at college.

I've talked to parents who are taking this route; one mom told me she had told all of her kids they were spending 2 years at the local community college first.

This is an educated family living in an affluent suburb. I'm sure the financial challenge of paying to put FOUR kids through college (I think she has four kids) is a huge part of her thinking, but she was also highly focused on the number of 'lost freshman years' she was hearing about.

I feel the same way myself, and Chris is a very good kid who has stayed out of trouble in high school.

Nevertheless, he **is** a kid, and it seems pretty clear to me he's still going to be a kid come August.

I'm very happy he'll be attending a college close to home (which I'm hoping will be the college his father actually teaches in).

Catherine Johnson said...

I could see a kind of 'sliding into' a two-year liberal arts "experience" as opposed to a 4-year. Only a handful of very highly selective colleges will be able to hold out against this approach if it catches on.

But those colleges already exist beyond all normal constraints on institutional behavior.

FedUpMom said...

Catherine said:

***
I was thinking this morning that college could be like the K-12, where you could have a lot of highly intelligent, dedicated, non-ed schooled female teachers whose primary income is her husband's.
***

Catherine, are you describing the way K-12 used to be, or the way it is now? Or are you saying this is how it should be?

Where I live, K-12, at least in the public schools, is quite well paid (I'm not against that), and there's quite a high number of male teachers (attracted, no doubt, by the high pay.)

I personally believe that anyone who is working full time should make a living wage, period. I'm not in favor of creating ill-paid jobs that can only be held by people with high-paid spouses.

kcab said...

It could be that tuition finally gets capped by hiring entire faculties of minimum-wage freeway fliers.

There more alternatives than just tenured and adjunct faculty. One example is long-term (say, 5 years, for instance) renewable contracts. I think Olin College (which is new and not well known) does completely without tenure, but I don't know the current details. Long term contracts are already in use for positions which don't fit comfortably into either the tenure or adjunct model for one reason or other.

Anyway, I thought the operating costs were dominated by research lab costs? I could be remembering that incorrectly.

Allison said...

I didn't mean that the college experience world he duplicated. I just meant that the future college students may not care enough about that any more for it to he a detuning factor. It their friendships are virtual already, they may not Value in person experience (as much as they should, even)

the 2 years at community college thing doesn't work for STEM. there isn't time. You need to be taking in-major science and engineering sequence classes by the beginning of sophomore year. Caltech and MIT didn't allow transfers after sophomore year. At Cal, the kids coning in from CC start the summer before junior year, and must be taking full course loads to finish in 9 terms. The math sequence is usually a place where the student isn't ready for junior year Status, also.

ChemProf said...

Anyone planning on the CC route needs to plan to pay for one or two extra semesters at the university. In my experience, there is usually some surprise that requires more time. It may still make sense and will save you money, but budget for that extra semester.

ChemProf said...

"It could be that tuition finally gets capped by hiring entire faculties of minimum-wage freeway fliers."

Naw, they'll take the savings and use it to hire more administrators.