It might sound crazy to say that instructors could help solve our college loan crisis. But by focusing students on a cost-effective course of study and on-time graduation, they could make a big difference.
Every Saturday morning at 9:00, Lisa tutors my 10-year old son. With her round smiling face, Lisa draws him into his books and holds a bookmark under the words to keep his eyes from jumping ahead in the text. Lisa wants to be a special education teacher. I imagine she'll be very good at it, once she finishes her undergraduate education.
Lisa still has another three years of college, despite the fact that she's been in school full time for five years. All those years in college have been very expensive -- tuition, room and board, books, transportation, as well as years lost earning a salary. Although she's now living at home to save money, she's facing at least $30,000 in debt, which will take a long time to pay off with a teacher's salary.
Lisa is not alone. She is part of the Student Loan Generation. Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with loans in 2010, and they carried an average of $25,250 in debt.
Are colleges - and faculty in particular -- doing enough to help students earn their BA's with a limited amount of debt? I tried to chip away at this huge question by talking to several faculty advisors over the summer.
At most schools, students are required to meet with an assigned faculty member every year. Faculty help students choose their majors, take the required courses in the correct sequence, and plan for the future. This is the primary interaction that students have with grown-ups during their college years. In very large, research-oriented colleges, an administrator may take on this role.