Monday, June 3, 2013

Documenting the Horrendous Rise in the Cost of Higher Education – And Why

The Why? – For the Same Reason Mitt Romney is Building Himself More Houses

As anyone who has a child who is going to college, or knows a person who is going to college, or has even a passing acquaintance with someone thinking about going to college knows, the cost of that education is staggering.  Unless the student receives massive financial aid or is the offspring of very wealthy parents, that student will leave college with a huge student loan debt. 

The source for the indebtedness is the fact that the cost of a college education has risen rapidly over the past several decades.

Yeah students, you could leave here with no debt but that would mean our faculty had to work full time 

The average tuition and fees at a public, four-year university rose to $8,655 in 2012-13, not counting the costs of room and board, according to the College Board. That’s 250 percent more than it would have cost in 1982, when a year of college would have set the average student back just $2,423 in today’s dollars.

The tuition at private colleges has increased at a slightly lower rate over the same period: the average four-year private institution costs $29,056, not counting room and board. It would have cost $10,901 in 2012 dollars back in 1982.

Notice that this doesn't include the cost of texts, which have risen by even more than the cost of tuition.  College texts are a classic monopoly, the professor assigns them and the students must by them.

Now the reasons for this increase in the overall costs of college are many, and here are a few.

One theory, referred to as “Bowen’s Rule,” says that the decisions made by many colleges and universities—such as how many administrators to hire and how to spend its cash—primarily drive the cost.

A competing theory, called “Baumol’s cost disease,” posits that higher education is expensive because of outside macroeconomic factors that affect other businesses, like the cost of hiring highly educated workers.

In other words, it’s either the colleges’ fault, or it isn’t.

Actually both of these are correct.  Colleges have become administratively inefficient, and students now require a ‘college experience’ instead of an education.  This means luxury accommodations, entertainment from a luxurious student center, athletics both participatory and those that are watched and about everything else.  Education at college is just one of many aspects of the college experience, as the 'fee' components of the overall cost will readily attest to.

But one reasons costs are so high is that the faculty has become a group of overpaid, underworked, part time professors.  Senior faculty in many institutions teach two courses a semester, work about 2 to 3 days a week, for about 30 weeks a year.  Anyone who has any doubts should simply visit the faculty offices on a Friday around 3 p.m. during the school year.  In one word, DESERTED.

And finally, the reason colleges want to hide about why costs are so high.  Colleges and universities discovered they have an essential service, that without a college degree most people are doomed to limited economic success.  So colleges have raised their prices for the same reason Mitt Romney is building yet another home.  Because they can. 


  1. You may want to rethink this a little bit. I examined increased tuition in the state university system of florida. While the costs of running the system increased on a per student basis, the increase in real dollar terms was very small - an annual rate of 1 or 2 %. The vast majority of the tuition increase was making up for reductions in the state government support of the universities. This ties with your comment that private universities had a lower rate of increase - the costs of professors etc. should be similar. The true issue is that our state politicians are reducing the use of government funds to support university education.

  2. Take a look at fees and textbooks,particularly fees. In many cases colleges kept tuition costs low by raising fees by a very large amount.

    Unquestionably the decline in state aid is also a factor here. In fact, it is easy to visualize that at some point in the future state support for colleges and universities will be zero.