American kids’ college plans face auto-destruct


While Detroit’s Big Three automakers are crawling up Capitol Hill once again to plead for a bailout, American families hoping to send their kids to college got more bad news.

Actually, the families just got confirmation of the brutal fact that it’s becoming impossible for them to pay for college.

Basing its story, like other outlets, on the newly released “Measuring Up,” the annual “report card” from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the New York Times grossly understated the situation this morning, especially with its headline: “College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.”

Hey, it already is. “No child left behind”? I don’t think so. The real news is that the crisis is getting even worse — or “worser,” if you can’t afford to get the fine education I got in a small town decades ago.

How bad is it for today’s families? The Times story notes:

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

That’s the problem, but here are the consequences:

“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.

“When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

If your kids are able to read down into the story, they’ll find some news that may even make them feel sympathy for you. Even the Times calls it “stark”:

Last year, the net cost at a four-year public university amounted to 28 percent of the median family income, while a four-year private university cost 76 percent of the median family income.

By the way, you can’t flee to another state where higher education is more affordable. Every state but California got an F in the study — and the only reason California didn’t is that it has a more extensive community-college system.

What does this all mean? Well, this morning, a BBC anchor noted that when Detroit’s automakers pleaded last week for a bailout, they “got sent away with a flea in their ear.”

Your kids may not be educated enough to even look up that idiom, let alone understand what Yale professor Robert Shiller said in reply to the anchor’s question about whether Detroit should be bailed out. “There could be a degree in histrionics in this,” Shiller told the BBC. (See and hear Shiller in one of his many interviews by the foreign press.)

The grim news about paying for college is unfortunately not clouded by histrionics. You could look it up: Read the “Measuring Up” report. If you have to, explain it to your kids. Maybe they’ll take to the streets in protest. For a bailout of a situation that’s not of their own making.

In other business …


McClatchy: ‘Military contractor in Iraq holds foreign workers in warehouses’

About 1,000 Asian men hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the U.S. military have been confined as virtual prisoners in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport, many for as long as three months. Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR, the Texas-based former subsidiary of Halliburton, hired the men for contracts that fell through.

Washington Post: ‘Technology Used as Tactical Tool’

Mumbai attackers used GPS units and satellite maps to plan and carry out assault.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Big Three Seek $34 Billion Bailout’

Detroit’s Big Three presented turnaround plans to Congress that indicate both GM and Chrysler could collapse by the end of December unless they get billions of dollars in emergency loans.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Shalom, Kiosk Christmas Shoppers’

Amid a grim holiday season, mall shoppers are being besieged by a determined crop of salespeople: young Israelis who man mobile carts and have a no-holds-barred selling style.

N.Y. Times: ‘Contrite Over Misstep, Auto Chiefs Take to Road’

McClatchy: ‘Pelosi says Congress won’t let Big 3 carmakers go bankrupt’

International Herald Tribune: ‘U.S. Treasury’s lead role on China in doubt’

When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. leaves office next month, Washington will lose its No. 1 China hand. Paulson, who spent years cultivating Chinese leaders as a Wall Street banker, has spearheaded U.S. policy toward Beijing since 2006.

That raises some big questions, including who will pick up Paulson’s baton in the administration of Barack Obama, and whether the Treasury Department will continue to be the lead agency in steering a relationship increasingly defined by the yawning trade gap between China and the United States.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Goldman Considers Online Bank’

Goldman is weighing the launch of an Internet banking operation in an effort to broaden funding sources.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Paulson Debates Second Infusion: Hostile Lawmakers, Competing Bailout Demands and GAO Criticism Pose Dilemma’

… Mr. Paulson’s dilemma was thrown into relief Tuesday by a report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which criticized the Treasury Department’s handling of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Jones Urges Broad Afghanistan Approach’

James Jones, President-elect Barack Obama’s new national security adviser, said a U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan will work only if other changes take hold there, including a strengthening of the judiciary and national police force.

In an interview Tuesday, the retired Marine Corps general said Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to move as many as 10,000 U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan must mesh with a concentrated international effort to bolster government and eradicate the vast heroin trade.

“You can always put more troops into Afghanistan,” he said. “But if that’s all you do, you will just be prolonging the problem.” …

For his part, Gen. Jones tends toward the sober and methodical. He said he has “every reason to believe” the team can work together. “We have a serious boatload of problems facing us and the only way out of it is for us all to pull on the same oar,” he said. Gen. Jones’s friends say that despite 40 years in the Marines Corps, his conversations are profanity-free. The general has a penchant for words like “holistic” and “embryonic.”

Wall Street Journal: ‘Gates Seeks Congress’s Help in Closing Guantanamo’

Mr. Gates, who will remain in his post in the Obama administration, was one of the first senior members of the Bush cabinet to push publicly for the Guantanamo prison’s closure, but his calls largely fell on deaf ears.

N.Y. Times: ‘College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.’

Tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, while median family income rose 147 percent.

Newsday: ‘New York one of 49 states panned on college costs’

An independent report on American higher education flunks all but one state when it comes to affordability, an embarrassing verdict that immediately drew fire from Gov. David A. Paterson as an incomplete assessment of the state’s college costs and financial aid. …

In New York, the average cost of attending a public four-year college stayed the same between 1999-2000 and 2007-08: 27 percent of a family’s income. Nationally, the average cost rose from 20 percent to 28 percent during the same period, the report found.

Houston Chronicle: ‘College report is warning for Texas’

Texas families spend 26 percent of income for one year at a four-year public college, even after financial aid. …

Rising tuition and the failure to enroll more young people in college threaten the Texas economy, according to a new report.

The National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education, in a report to be released today, found that high tuition is one of the biggest barriers to higher education in Texas and elsewhere.

Texas and 48 other states received an F for college affordability on a report card issued by the center. Only California earned a passing grade for the price of a college education, and then only because the state’s community colleges are relatively inexpensive.

Washington Post: ‘Closet Centrist: In Obama’s Cabinet, the Audacity of Moderation’ (Michael Gerson, former Bush speechwriter)

… Obama’s appointments reveal not just moderation but maturity — magnanimity to past opponents, a concern for continuity in a time of war and economic crisis, a self-confidence that allows him to fill gaps in his own experience with outsize personalities, and a serious commitment to incarnate his rhetoric of unity.

All the normal caveats apply. It is still early. Obama is benefiting from being the only player on the stage — all his pretensions of moderation could be quickly undermined by a liberal Congress, unhinged by its expanded majority. And Obama’s social liberalism could still turn Washington into a culture-war battlefield.

But honesty requires this recognition: So far, Barack Obama shows the instincts and ambitions of a large political figure. …

Second, Obama’s appointments reveal something important about current Bush policies. Though Obama’s campaign savaged the administration as incompetent and radical, Obama’s personnel decisions have effectively ratified Bush’s defense and economic approaches during the past few years.