Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Cost of Higher Education

I'm not really a fan of Fox News.  I find that they get drawn into ridiculous positions more often than not.  However, this article by Gail Buckner about the increasing cost of higher education is worth reading.

Buckner writes about a recently published paper by Dr Robert Iouse and Dr. Frank Mussano entitled  College Tuition: Four Decades of Financial Deception.  Both authors have significant background as college administrotors, so this isn't baseless rhetoric.  The article lays out the case that colleges are essentially out of control financially.  The system depends on students paying ever increasing tuition, and there is little or no incentive for the schools to rein in their costs.  Professors are teaching fewer and fewer hours, and spending more time on research and writing.  Administration costs have ballooned.  Worse still, the public perceives "more expensive" to equate to "better education".  I have not yet read the book, but plan to do so.  It can be found on Amazon here

As a parent of a high school junior and an eighth grader, this is very much "top of mind" for me.  I spoke to a college admissions counselor recently.  Speaking about the tuition at USC, and many other schools, she said, "I don't care how much money you make.  $64,000 per year is a lot of money."

Fine, you say.  USC is a private school.  Surely my kid can go to a state school and get a great education.  That's true- but you may not want to plan on that state school being in the state of California.  The UC system offers fewer and fewer spots to in-state students.  Chancellor Janet Napolitano blames the legislature for not funding the UC system at the level the regents demand. I'm sure the K-12 educators in California would like to have more funding too, but we don't have the option of just passing the cost on to students.

Once again, I'm reminded of my alma mater, Purdue University.  President Mitch Daniels froze tuition and forced departments to live within a budeget.  While that seems common-sense to anyone who runs a business - or even a household - budgets with limits aren't part of the equation at a lot of schools.  (See article from the Chicago Tribune)

In any case, this is a serious issue in education, and I expect to be writing more about it.  Along the way, I'd love to hear from folks with suggestions about how to fix the system.  It would be great if the collected wisdom of our community could have a lasting impact beyond First and Main streets.