Here’s an amusing little anecdote on one college’s unique effort to provide some financial help for students. Or really, it might just be providing some PR help for the school…it’s kind of hard to say. Experts will tell you that one of the keys to good marketing is getting a tag line that really sells. Well, the University of Michigan has picked a real honey for it’s new course offering: The Challenge of College Affordability: Financing the University. It’s a pretty clever idea when you stop to think about it. What could be a more lucrative way to answer student’s questions about why college tuition is so high than to charge them tuition in order to find out. A trifle dizzying, isn’t it?
The course was initiated this semester and is a series of seven two-hour lectures. Sophomores are the intended class level for the lecture series and the course is being offered for a grand total of one credit. The course will be taught by several of the University’s best administrators. The idea is for students to gain a better understanding of the internal finances of the University. The lectures will cover areas such as what the school’s various sources of revenue are comprised of; it will also discuss what creates college costs, as well as how those costs affect the rate of tuition; and it will delve into some of the details of how financial aid packages work.
As insinuated above, the title of the course is somewhat misleading. The goal of the course isn’t to help student rise above The Challenge of College Affordability, but to explain how tuition costs have come to be so high from the point of view of college administrators. As the University of Michigan course guide describes the class: “Using the University of Michigan as a case study, the course will address the challenges of higher education funding and bring in issues related to politics, policy, economics and management, all central to the future of American society and the global world.”
Of tremendous benefit to students would be a course on how to deal with financing the student rather than the university. University finance, while an interesting and important subject matter in its own right, is very much beside the point for a borrower in need of education on personal finance. It’s almost comical to imagine a college sophomore sitting in this class devoted to a relatively abstract and academic topic when compared with some financial information that would have immediate real-world applications for students. Fortunately there are organizations out there that are meeting that need. While establishing classes on personal finance is a great thing to shoot for, it’s heartening that students in need of help managing their debt can rely on expert help.