Tuition and Student Debt-Guest Post by Madeleine Hanks

It is no secret that over the past few generations, everything has gone up in price. Milk, houses, Barbies, you name it, the price has increased. This is due to inflation, and although we may not like it, the driving forces behind it make sense from an economic standpoint. But one thing that has dramatically increased in price over several generations is college tuition, and this substantial rise in cost actually surpasses an inflation-based estimate. This concerning reality comes as a result of several factors and brings with it multiple consequences. These consequences include greater personal and collective costs to students and their families, a greater gap between socioeconomic classes, and a decreased practical value of a Bachelor’s degree. These consequences could be minimized by a shift in attitude. Colleges need to stop treating their students as customers at the student’s own expense and start refocusing on enrichment and education.

In the year 1970, the annual tuition for Yale University was $2,550. In the year 2017, annual tuition for Yale is $51,400. “Ah, but that’s due to inflation! Minimum wage has also increased, it’s not as great a difference as it seems!” Well, minimum wage in 1970 was $1.45 per hour. Minimum wage for 2017 is $7.25 (Federally). This means that, if we assume a student works every single day of his or her four-year undergrad (1,460 days), without figuring in tax deductions, and that the entirety of their earnings for those four years goes to tuition, the number of hours per day that a Yale student needs to work in 1970 to pay for college without loans is 4.81 hours. That’s not bad, all things considered. But in 2017, under the same parameters, that same Yale student would have to work 19.42 hours per day (again, being paid the federal minimum wage), and that’s only for tuition! Let alone food, housing, and other basic needs. At 19 hours a day, when does the student even attend classes, or sleep? And that’s when the student works 365 days a year, no Christmas, no weekends, no summer vacation. What’s more, annual tuition for Yale in 1970 when adjusted for inflation to 2017 is $16,195 (as compared to the actual 2017 price of $51,400). Minimum wage from 1970 when adjusted for inflation to 2017 is $9.21 (again, the actual minimum wage for 2017 is $7.25). This means that we have higher costs to pay with lower wages to pay them, even adjusted for inflation. It’s no wonder students are struggling to pay tuition costs. Now, not every college is this expensive. In fact, a great number of Universities are charging a much more reasonable price for education, but it’s worth noting that a substantial number of students can’t even dream of attending an Ivy League school because of how expensive it would be. And even working within the price ranges of the more affordable schools, students are paying for much more than tuition. There’s housing, books, fees, food, and other expenses that make a college education inordinately expensive no matter where you go. Working your way through college just isn’t as feasible as it used to be. Student loans to the rescue! Right?

Wrong. While student loans may be helpful in covering school costs in the short term, statistics show that our generation is the most in-debt generation of students in history, with a national student loan debt of 1.3 trillion dollars. The average college graduate with a four-year degree from 2016 has an individual debt of $37,172. That’s quite a mountain of debt, both nationally and individually. But here’s where things get really interesting: a Bachelor’s degree has, in the last few years, been equated in value with a High School Diploma. Obviously, this is not literally true. Job opportunities are substantially greater for a college graduate than a High School Diploma holder. But so many divisions of the job market are oversaturated with qualified college graduates, insomuch that in order to stand out on a professional resume, one must have a Master’s or even a Doctorate’s degree. Essentially, students are paying far more money for a slip of paper that is far less valuable that it used to be, but students are paying for it because debt is an accessible option.

But it isn’t accessible to everyone. Not all students who cannot afford college tuition can just go out and get a loan, and this leads us to another frustrating effect of these increased tuition prices: an ever-widening gap between socioeconomic classes. Those students (or parents of students) who sit in the high or high-middle range of the financial or economic spectrum either have the money to pay for college or have the financial stability to be approved for student loans. This is the group of people who either go into debt or whose families are wealthy enough to pay tuition costs out of pocket. These students get a degree, and those who are rich go on to obtain Master’s degrees while those who are in debt leave college with no means to pay it off. Students in low-middle or very low economic classes cannot pay out of pocket and struggle to get approved for student loans, so they make do with a high school diploma or lower. They get trapped in low-income jobs with little or no opportunities for advancement. This drives each group of people further and further in the direction they were already heading, driving an even deeper wedge between economic classes.

So why are tuition costs so high? The short answer is that a trend has taken hold in the last few decades: colleges are being run like businesses, not educational institutions. Yes, they educate, otherwise no one would attend them. But universities are leaning more and more towards business goals than educational goals. According to an article from the American Institutes for Research, college students in both private and public institutions have been paying a larger and larger percentage of instructional costs each year. In addition, the spending patterns of universities have decreased in instructional focus and increased in non-instructional focus. In short, colleges are spending less money per student while students are paying more money per student. Where is it all going? The largest category of college spending is obviously instruction, and that’s not a problem. Finding and retaining good teachers and professors takes money, and the rising costs of actual instruction have mostly matched inflation expectations. But it’s the other categories of spending that have been increasing in expense. In large part, university funds go to things like student services. While these services are greatly appreciated, their purpose has started to be less about serving students and more about enticing customers. In other words, students are paying more money so that Universities can boast fancier “stuff” and more “perks” to bring more students in, who can then pay more money so the Universities can get more fancy stuff and offer more perks. It’s a sales cycle! And a lot of the things Universities are spending money on don’t have much actual merit beyond looking good when perspective students and their parents tour the campus. “And here we have our brand-new, state-of-the-art recreational facility. The machines, treadmills, track lanes, and volleyball courts all function exactly the same way as they did in the old facility, but they look a lot prettier because they’re right out of the box and framed by expensive-looking new architecture.” And people are willing to pay for fancier things because they’re already going into massive debt. What’s another fifty dollars a month for the next ten years in the grand scheme of things?

Many people would, upon reading this essay, immediately call foul on my reasoning and dismiss me as just another entitled, lazy millennial. They would argue that there are ways to make college more affordable. For all the factors that make college seem completely undoable, there are also a lot of resources available to help if students are willing to do the work necessary to take advantage of them. There are scholarships, grants, and there’s always good old-fashioned elbow grease. “Just get a job and pay for school! Stop whining about it and get it done.” While a good mixture of all these resources does take the sting out of it a little, the unfortunate truth is that for every student who adeptly uses each of these resources and makes it through financially unscathed, there are myriad students who also wrote the essays, filled out the applications, and put in the elbow grease but were not lucky enough to benefit from anything or everything they tried. Yes, there are heaps of scholarships available out there, but they’re not as numerous as people seem to think they are, and each can only go to one student. College is not impossible, and I don’t mean to whine. However, it isn’t at all fair to assume laziness or idleness on the part of an entire generation when we point out that things just aren’t the way they used to be. We are doing the best we can with what we were given. I believe it would also be appropriate, in the interest of fairness, to point out that not every University or College is trying to take financial advantage of its students, nor are all colleges equally expensive. I don’t think these trends in rising tuition costs are solely in pursuit of profit, nor are they the result of malicious capitalism.  In addition, not every working student is working for minimum wage, and not every single student is in debt. There is always room to dismiss an argument by considering the special case, by using the “not every time” argument. But the factors and consequences we have considered here are, undeniably, generalized trends that threaten the quality of education in each generation succeeding ours, and the different economic factors that contribute to these outcomes should be more closely examined.

Colleges and Universities need to stop wooing students like customers at the students’ own expense. When educational institutions are run like businesses, the students of those institutions end up paying a higher price for a less valuable result, leaving them with crippling debt and less-effective means of paying off that debt. Certain student services and extra costs are valuable and reasonable. However, universities need to examine their priorities in order to fulfill their purpose as a means to enrich and instruct incoming generations in such a way that those students will go out and make improvements on the world. They can’t do that if they’re taking the next ten or fifteen years to pay off the four years spent at a University.

I’m not asking for free education. I’m asking for more affordable education.


© 2017 Madeleine Hanks


Madeleine is a full-time student at Utah State University. She is a writer, singer, actress, and horse trainer.  You can follow Madeleine on Facebook (Madeleine Hanks) and Instagram (Madeleinehanks).



The Dysfunction of Toxic Leadership-Guest Post by Stephanie Wimmer

Research suggests that more and more employees are working with toxic leadership in the workplace which has been shown to cause dysfunctional behaviors in the organization, a lack of employee commitment to the organization, and an overall loss of job satisfaction. So what is toxic leadership and what makes someone a toxic leader? The term “Toxic Leadership” was first used by M.G. Whicker in the book ‘Toxic Leaders: When Organizations Go Bad” (Watt, 2016). This type of leadership is defined by the behaviors exhibited within an organization. A toxic leader is not just the typical bad boss who might have a bad attitude or may lack the knowledge or experience to be in a leadership position, but rather a person whose behavior is intentionally destructive and has serious effects on those they lead.

Over the past few years, a number of research articles have focused on a type of destructive leadership called “toxic leadership” (Goldman, 2006; Boddy, 2014; Boddy, 2015; Gallos, 2008; Goldman, 2006; Lipman-Blumen, 2005; Walton, 2011). These articles describe the destructive effects of toxic leadership in a wide range of organizations. For example, authors have suggested that toxic leadership might impair the physical and mental health of employees, invoke dysfunctional group behavior, and may increase absenteeism and employee withdrawal.

A toxic leader is one who uses the power their position awards them to control and manipulate by any means to further their career or to bring more power to themselves and do this without any regard to the individuals that are beneath them. Aggressive tactics such a bullying, threats, and manipulation along with passive tactics such as withholding relevant information or providing incorrect information purposefully are just a few of the ways a toxic leader operates. Toxic leaders have been described by their employees as bullies, narcissists, and even as psychopaths, which any of these personality types can be detrimental to the environment and productivity of the organization. One study (Armitage, 2015) suggests that three in every ten persons in a leadership position could be considered to be a toxic leader. With numbers this high, one could see how this type of epidemic in the workplace could be cause for concern.

According to a study on toxic leadership and how it affected healthcare workers (Ozer, 2017), there are four categories that the behaviors of toxic leaders fall. They are Inapprecitiveness, which includes such behaviors as humiliating employees in front of and behind the employee’s backs, does not value the employee, does not listen, and unsympathetically reminds the employee of past mistakes. Next, is Selfishness, which includes such behaviors as blaming the employee for his or her failures, takes credit for things only when they have gone well, places personal interests ahead of everyone else, and only cares about how they look to superiors. Selfishness is another category that consists of behaviors such as the belief that they deserve the position they are in (or one even higher), the belief that they are more talented, excellent, and deserving than anyone else, and that the organization will only do well if they are in charge. Lastly is a negative spiritual state which consists of behaviors such as if they are in a negative mood it affects the climate of the workplace and the employee’s act according to the negative mood of the leader.

There is a synergetic relationship between the toxic workplace and the toxic leaders who occupy them. As an employee and employer, we tend to follow the natural order in the workplace. There are employees and leaders and the employee naturally looks to the leader for information, training, mentoring, and advice concerning their position within the organization. When there is a toxic leader involved in that natural order, it can cause dysfunction within the organization. As we think about the way an organization functions, it might help to visualize a wheel with many spokes. Each spoke represents a functional area of the organization. When a toxic leader is in control, the spokes of the wheel start to disconnect and break, which causes dysfunction not only to the spoke but the entire organization as a whole. Therefore, the consequences of a toxic leaders’ behavior on the organization are vast. Research has shown that workplace deviance by subordinates who work for toxic leaders has increased (Pelletier, 2010). Employees tend to show counterproductive behavior and even retaliatory behavior in order to try and balance out the perceived scale of injustice. Negative behavior is disadvantageous for any organization and the trickle-down effect causes more dysfunction within the organization.

As an example of a toxic leaders behavior, let us suppose that the leader of an organization while giving an employee a task to do, did not give the employee pertinent information to carry out that task. Consequently, that task is going will be incorrect. The toxic leader can use this to their advantage in many ways, such as pointing out the inferior work of the employee to superiors or coming to the rescue and “fixing” the employee’s mistakes in front of superiors, thus taking credit and making themselves look admirable in the eyes of others. These types of behavior can cause a myriad of dysfunction in the workplace. The employee spends time working on something that no matter how he or she does it, it will be incorrect. Superiors see the employee as incompetent or lazy. And, the employee could either retaliate or have a “why bother” attitude toward the leader and the organization.  With just this one example, one broken spoke on the organization wheel; it is clear that more than just the employee is affected by a toxic leader.

The dysfunction caused by toxic leadership can also lead to a lack of commitment to the employer and the organization. How can an employee commit to an organization that has a leader that bullies, threatens, or interferes with their ability to do a job? Studies have shown that a very large number of employees prefer to leave an organization rather than endure a toxic leader (Thoroughgood, 2012). An employee who is a victim of a toxic leader would have a lack of trust in the organization which would make it more untroublesome to move on.

One experimental study (Boddy, 2011) showed that in reaction to a toxic leaders behavior and the absence of commitment, employees would engage in counterproductive work behavior that they normally would not have engaged in otherwise. Employees interviewed in the survey admitted to deviant behavior against the organization and not just the toxic leader. Purposely doing work incorrectly or slowly, not following instructions, wasting the employer’s materials or supplies, and even damaging equipment or property are some of the ways the employees took out their frustration and lack of commitment towards the organization. Another study (Goldman, 2008) showed that an employee could have a reduction in loyalty towards an organization just by witnessing toxic behavior directed at another employee. An example of this sort of behavior could be one employee overhearing a toxic leader divulging private or personal information about one employee to another or even speaking badly about an employee behind their back while acting pleasant to their face. This kind of behavior can make an employee think that if the toxic leader could do this to one employee, it could be done to them as well. Not only is there a lack of faith in the toxic leader but also in an organization that would allow one of its leaders to behave in this manner. When an organization condones this type of behavior, directly or indirectly, it sets a workplace culture that this type of behavior is acceptable. Asking an employee to put their faith, trust, and commitment into an organization that permits one of its leaders to disrespect their privacy seems unthinkable. Once an employee no longer feels a commitment to the organization the easier it is for them to be able to move on to another organization, thus the higher turn-over rate for an organization with a toxic leader.

When leadership becomes disengaged, unapproachable, dishonest, unsupportive and untrustworthy and the organization looks the other way it is defining the culture of the organization. This type of culture can make the organization just as dysfunctional and toxic as the leaders controlling it. Looking at the organization as you would a personal relationship, one can see why an individual would not want to commit to a toxic individual any more than they would want to commit to a toxic organization.

A lack of overall job satisfaction is another side effect of toxic leadership within the organization. As human beings we have deep-rooted psychological needs to be accepted and to feel like we make a difference. The turbulence caused by a toxic leader can undermine our feeling of importance. As stated by research (Lipman-Blumen, 2005) constantly being forced to confront fears and uncertainty in the work environment could be not only detrimental to the individual’s job performance and job satisfaction but to the individuals mental and physical health. This “sickness” can carry over and become contagious throughout the organization. Toxic leadership can lead to poor morale, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and higher turnover rates. Employees feel cynical and frustrated, leading to decreased energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem.

Leadership toxicity is an omnipresent aspect of many organizations, yet few organizations recognize it for what it is. Leadership toxicity seems to be an alluring part of the organizational atmosphere that undermines personal and organizational growth and performance. It could be described as a silent killer among organizations. It can consume individuals, groups, and organizations. Failure to recognize and take action can destroy the organization.

To conclude, toxic leadership is extremely dangerous not only to individuals that are affected by it but also to the vitality of the afflicted organization. Individuals having toxic behaviors and dysfunctional traits should not be allowed to lead an organization under any conditions. Toxic leadership and their behaviors will remain within the organizations unless steps are taken to stop it before it becomes an issue.



© 2017 Stephanie Wimmer



Stephanie Wimmer is a Business Management student at Western Governors University working toward her MBA. She is passionate employee/management relations and communication, writing, and sustainability. Connect with her on LinkedIn at: She can be contacted at