Reader’s Digest has bad news for the University of Kentucky’s business model

Yep, when a meme has gotten so far into the mainstream as to appear in Reader’s Digest, you know something is happening.   This month Reader’s Digest has an article that spells trouble for UK, and by extension, Lexington.  (And really every other large university and accompanying city.)

The article, “10 things every parent should know about college,” starts off with a shocking pronouncement:  “Don’t let your child go into debt for college.”  Read that again.  The article goes on to state that almost two thirds of undergraduates borrowed money for college in 2010.

As more and more parents and young people wake up to the fact that a college degree isn’t worth any debt, enrollment at UK and other schools will plummet.  There’s simply no other way to make up for debt.  Very few parents can save enough for college on their own.  And there’s no way for a student to earn enough working while in school to pay for it. “People have been sold this propaganda: ‘The rates are so low; just get a loan,’ ” the article says. “The long-term effect is to cripple your children.”

Yeah, maybe kids could take some time and work or join the military before college, and apply savings and benefits, but those will be few.  Bottom line:  the days of every single kid that can get a loan going to college are nearing their end.  UK’s enrollment will drop accordingly, as will employment at the university.  Lexington is not prepared for this new reality.

The second – and related – piece of bad news for UK is the next point of the article:  “Research universities are no place for undergraduates .”  Again, as more parents and students seek value alternatives to large research universities, enrollment will drop at those places, as will employment.

This means that the education industrial complex that Lexington has used as cover from the deeper economic realities of the last two decades will soon wane. With it will come a new day for both UK and Lexington – are we planning for it?

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One response to “Reader’s Digest has bad news for the University of Kentucky’s business model

  1. Danny

    As you say, this reorganization has been going on for a while; it’s interesting how it’s not been covered here, particularly considering that the much publicized Top 20 has been the localized language of privatization here in Kentucky. Focus on expensive research, hire a business man president, claim a need to attract (recruit) national and global students, pay for a narrow strata of rock star faculty, under-pay the rest, separate yourself from the state’s community college and then turn around and use it as a cost-effective way to shunt off any obligations to the first 2 years of undergraduate work.

    It’s why I don’t get why people claim the problem is underfunding of higher education (UK) in this state. That’s like saying, we need to give more to Wall Street. Here in Lexington (and to a lesser degree the state), UK is our Wall Street. The smartest guys in the room taking public money and telling us why it makes good business sense for them to get it. Wolfe, henhouse.

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