Skip to main content

A question comes up pretty often in diaries like this one.  Yes, college is expensive, and I wish it was more affordable.  I will offer here a list of reasons, with some illustrations and reflections.  My disclaimer is that I am a professor in a humanities field at a private university (the expense of college is not because of the salaries of people like me).

Some things below are more true at one place than another.  E. g.  the way the money works at a public institutuion is different from the way it works at a private one.  With some adjustments from place to place, though, I think the factors below hold up pretty well.

So much of this is driven by the U. S. News and World Reports rankings, that I need to mention this at the start, because it is part of the necessary framework for thinking about everything below.  These rankings were first published in 1983, skipped 1984, and have been published every year since.  Look at those categories.  Every school out there is working very hard to improve its numbers in every one of those categories - it has a strategic plan to do so.  Raising each of these numbers costs money, serious money.

I.  Sticker price as a sign of prestige.  Many colleges and universities have deliberately raised their prices because it increases their perceived quality.  Who wants a cheap education.  This a function of the switch over to a consumer mentality about higher education(a theme I will come back to a number of times) that, as best I can tell, really took off beginning in the late 1980's - no coincidence that this corresponds to the rise of the U. S. News Rankings.  

Hint:  Here is a way to keep your costs down.  Go to a school where your test scores are above average.  Of course, this means that you are not going to the best school you got accepted by, but if you are in a fairly standard "arts and sciences" kind of field, then I believe the ducation you get at a school with an Average ACT of 24-26 is just as good as at the school with an average of 27-29.  So, if you have a 28, go to the former

For many students, this means that college is not as expensive as it looks.  Most students are not paying the sticker price.  Who does?  The weakest students at each institution.  Here is how it works.  If a school has an average ACT of 26 (Remember this is a U.S.  News category, so the school is deperate to keep it high), then they have to recruit students with scores higher than 26, and they do this by offering tuition discounts.  If you have a 30, then this school will give you a big discount (50% of tuition or more) because this lets them bring in two 24's and keep the 26 average.  The two 24's will pay full price, or close to it - the inflated sticker price allows the school to offer them a small "scholarship" of perhaps $1000, which gives them, their parents, and their high school something to brag about.

II.  AP credits.  This one may be a surprise, but unless you can cut off whole semesters of school with AP credit, it is raising the price of your education - here is why:

These numbers are generalized and simplified, but I think they will hold up as approximations.  If you take university department expenditures (e) and tuition revenue generated (r) by courses in that department, and calculate ratios of e/r, you will get numbers like this:

Humanities and social sciences   .25
Mathematics and foreign languages  .30
Sciences   .40-.50
Business   .60-.70
Fine arts  .90-1.00
Specialized professional programs 1.00+

Where are most AP credits earned?  In the courses that are the cheapest to teach.

I realize that it can still save money for individual students to use AP credit, but in terms of the total cost of college for everybody, most of that savings is lost, and the average cost per credit hour has to go up, way up.  My own estimate is that the actual cost of first year of to the school is probably around 10% of the four-year program, and the second year not much more, yet the school charges almost the same price for each year (in some cases there are course fees associated with more advance courses that change this equation a little bit).

III. College is way nicer than it used to be.  I know this sounds like "Back-in-my-day..." complaining, but it is demonstrably true.  I am tempted to link to or embed material from a college website, but I don't want to pick on anybody.  They all do it.  My college cafeteria had one choice of entree each meal eat it or don't.  You will be hard-pressed to find a college cafeteria today with less than ten.  The average square footage of dormitory rooms has gone way up, and the dormitories a much nicer.  Have a look at this if you don't believe it.  This carries through into programming.  I know of one college administator who actually refers to himslf as "The Vice-President of WOW!"  Colleges and universities are now expected to program a student's whole life, not just provide a room to live in and some classes to attend.

IV. Technology.  This is only one example of a new cost for colleges that is most visible.  There is now a new computer every 3-4 years for the office or desk of every faculty and staff member, plus hundreds more in libraries and computer labs.  There is now a computer projection system that costs about $15,000 fully installed in almost every classroom.  Along with the machinery comes dozens of staff to service the systems and machines and to train faculty and staff how to use them.

V.  Pedagogy  This has changed drastically.  Experiential learning, service-learning, inquiry or problem-based learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, etc. have all become more prevalent, and these are all very expensive to implement.  In addition to the direct costs, my school has a teaching center, with three staff persons and a large programming budget, to help keep faculty up to date on teaching methods and innovations.  This was unheard of three or four decades ago.

VI.  Ways that above factors combine.  Retention rate is one of the most important statistics for colleges now.  It is the percentage of first-year students who return for their second year.  80% is something of a benchmark.  There are a few schools that manage to get above 90%.  It is vital because it is a U. S. News category by itself, and it is a direct determiner of graduation rate, another very important U. S. News category.  It is also a big deal because it is so hard to raise it.  Students transfer out for a large number of reasons - lack of money, changing majors, dissatisfaction with housing, academic problems, etc.  Improving retention requires improving everything the university does, all at the same time.  It also has to be sustained.  The U. S. News numbers are a six-year aggregate.  If I raise my retention rate by 6% this year, then it will result in only a 1% rise in the rate reported.  I would have to raise it by 6% this year and hold it at that level for five more years to see the number go up by 6%.

Fifty years ago, poor retention rates and poor graduation rates were fine.  Nobody paid any attention to them and schools made a lot of money on dropouts.  Remember from above, the first year of college is much cheaper to produce than the fourth year.  If you have can sell a lot of first years and far fewer fourth years, all at the same price, then you could make a lot of money.  Today, if your retention rate is poor, then you will have trouble recruiting students in the first place, because everybody knows what it is.

No doubt, there is plenty here to question and critique, and I welcome that.  I have blamed U. S. News and World Report a lot and this may or may not be fair.  There are other sources of such rankings, but this is the one that university administrators pay attention to.  It may also be true that this ranking system was, in part, a response to a societal force that would have been present anyway, so there may be differences of opinion over the extent to which it causes, or merely reflects, the problem.  There was a movement toboycott them a couple of years ago, but it does not seem to have gained momentum.  Much of the data is self-reported, therefore, suspicious, and there have been cases and accustions of cheating, including one recent case at a prominent school.

Originally posted to illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:55:38 AM PDT

  •  College and Jobs (10+ / 0-)

    If post-graduation jobs were actually available and paid a livable income, than the cost of college might not be such a factor. The problem is a student racks up massive debt and then cannot pay it back.

    The real sad thing is, in my opinion, that a college degree doesn't mean a graduate will find a job, let alone a decent paying job.

    There seems to me to be a huge disconnect between what is needed for gainful employment in the 21st century and what knowledge is being acquired in America's universities.

    •  Getting an advanced degree (7+ / 0-)

      at least in the field of education can actually be a hindrance.  I know several teachers who have gotten a Masters and found out that nobody wanted to hire them because they cost more than those who only had a Bachelors.

      Looking back through the Bush years for his Positive Accomplishments is, for me, like picking through my toddler's diaper for the undigested corn. - Thers

      by MadRuth on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:10:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those school districts are dumb (3+ / 0-)

        There's nothing more to it. They get to decide the pay scale, and therefore do not have to pay teachers with advanced degrees any more money. They could at least give the teacher with the masters degree the choice--choose to accept the same salary as the less educated teacher or don't get a job.

        •  uh. (0+ / 0-)

          no.

          higher pay for additional education is one of the cornerstones of salary negotiations between teachers' unions and school districts. the union contracts would not allow the concession you've just proposed -- and for a very good reason.

          so, it's an unintended consequence of wanting to encourage well-educated, upskilled teachers: by creating a reward metric for such skills, one inevitably creates a situation where districts looking to save money are motivated to do so by going with cheaper, rather than better. really, the only way around it is to build into the contract some sort of mandated metric for the district to balance its teaching staff.

          the same applies for teachers with experience. once you're in a district, you're looking good, but changing districts becomes very problematic for experienced teachers, because they are expensive. what's more, the new district will end up holding the bag for the teacher's eventual retirement healthcare benefits -- one more reason for Single Payer National SOCIALIZED Healthcare, by the way.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:08:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Getting the masters after you have the teaching (6+ / 0-)

        job is usually a better idea.

        So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

        by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:17:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A teacher is suppose to... (0+ / 0-)

        finish his/her masters after they get tenured.

        •  Whose rule is this? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          northsylvania

          There are numerous universities now trying to serve persons at mid-career who decide to go into teaching.  They alrady have Bachelor's degrees, so what schools offer for them is something like a Master of Teaching degree.  These people already have their disciplinary content.  They need the education courses which lead to certification.  They don't fit your rule.

          So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

          by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:14:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It isn't a rule. It is the smart thing to... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            UntimelyRippd

            do for people that go into teaching right out of college. Obviously I am not talking about mid-career people who decide to make a switch into teaching.

          •  a Master of Teaching degree is going to make (0+ / 0-)

            you almost unemployable during hard times like this -- no district is going to opt to hire someone who places that high on the salary scale, if they have a choice. you're much better off simply getting the certification without getting any degree, if you can. then, when you're in the door, you can start working on your Master's -- which will also help move you up the payscale, as you continue taking courses.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:12:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Supposed to? Who says so? (0+ / 0-)

          What kind of way is this to run professions, by unspoken rules.

          And it's different in different states I guess. No way you get a teaching job in CA without a Master's, except for Math and maybe maybe science. So these unspoken rules don't apply in some regions.

          Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

          by doinaheckuvanutjob on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:19:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  really? i guess that explains why CA is desperate (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            doinaheckuvanutjob

            for teachers, and recruits heavily around the nation.

            the unspoken rule has to do with wise management of one's career. the payscales are set up so that it is in your interest to be in a permanent tenured position before you get your master's degree.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:10:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It does depend on the district in CA (0+ / 0-)

              A poorer or rural district will take BA's first, but more urban & suburban locations (such as the SF Bay Area) generally want the MA's and won't consider anything less.

              Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

              by doinaheckuvanutjob on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:56:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  This is certainly true right now. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Caj, MarkInSanFran, Sychotic1

      I would question whether it is historically true.  Over the course of a lifetime, I am sure that college graduates earn back more than the money spent on their degrees.  Unemployment rates are far higher for those without college degrees.

      Outside of some highly technical fields, there is some disconnect.  I believe that for most jobs there is not a very specific set of knowledge required (and that the knowledge required is pretty easy to learn on the job).  A set of skills is more important, and that set always centers around critical-thinking and ability to communicate - skills that are hard to teach and hard to measure.  Schools, certification processes, and employers end up using a set of knowledge instead, because it is easier to define and measure.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:16:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes income is higher (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Caj, illinifan17

        this chart lays out what the Department of Education and the Labor Department suggests each attainment will receive...or at least the average.    

        •  the key flaw in all such stats is that they (0+ / 0-)

          are not controlled studies. there is no way to know what those same individuals who have the college degrees would have earned, if they had gone out to do something else. they aren't randomly selected from the population, you know. they are smarter than average, whiter than average, come from wealthier families than average, and until recently they were maler than average. all four of those categories bias the final results.

          moreover, those numbers represent a half-century spread in the labor force. it would be enlightening to compare the same numbers only for 25-year-olds.

          which is not to argue that college might be worthless, at least on average -- i have no doubt that most people do benefit financially from their college degrees. however, it is very difficult to quantify that benefit -- we just don't have the necessary data. and if the value is primarily in the credential itself, it is quite possible that folks would be much better off going straight into the work force and earning a degree part-time over 10 years.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:35:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, but... (3+ / 0-)

        Nowadays try becoming a teacher, therapist, doctor, lawyer etc. See how long it takes to get licensed, and the debt. By the time you start in a professional salaried position, you're screwed. Before you get there you have to deal with poor or no pay, disrespect, abuses by superiors etc. The entire system has destroyed our quality of life.

        Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

        by doinaheckuvanutjob on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:22:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  the rise in tuition cost (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    illinifan17, Alexandra Lynch

    At the heart of the issue is the growth of tuition for both the private and public institutions. The rate at which these public and private schools have increased their tuition, faster than inflation, has raised concerns that many are being priced out of higher education. While there have been only subtle changes over the last 27 years in the different percentages of those attaining higher education degrees, the real change has come from the increase in federal student borrowing, which has increased $48,477 million since 2000 to $92,484 million in 2007.

    Lacey
    http://www.project.org  

  •  I agree with two of your points, (7+ / 0-)

    specifically, the one about cost as a sign of prestige. Back in the day, I went to Duke, and Duke was a good bit less expensive than the schools with which it wanted to compete, namely, the top Ivies, so while I was there they significantly increased the tuition and, indeed by my senior year it was almost as expensive.

    The second is how college is much nicer. The spouse is an architect and the former firm did student housing. It was, frankly, obscene. I remember when I was a freshman, you shared a room that had 2 small closets, and room down each side for a single bed, a dresser, and a desk, and there were common bathrooms for many people. The housing built in the last few years have mostly been suites with kitchenettes, no more than 4 people to a bathroom, a common sitting area for 4 to 8 rooms, and all single rooms. And they're all wired for broadband. Nice if you can get it, eh?

    And we wonder why so many kids coming out of college act like they're so hyperpriveleged. It's because, frankly, they are.

    Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

    by stitchmd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:23:54 PM PDT

  •  That is BS. Most office jobs don't... (0+ / 0-)

    There is now a new computer every 3-4 years for the office or desk of every faculty and staff member

    require a new computer every 3-4 years.

    I personally think that we need major reform where the first two years of school are done at a community college and the rest are done at the university for an undergrad degree.

    •  Not sure what you are saying is BS. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ogre, Sharon Jumper, DBunn, nervousnellie

      As a professor, my office computer is rotated out every four years.  I think there are at least two very good reasons for that.  After four years, computers start to break down a lot.  More important than the rising maintenance costs of an old machine is the loss of productivity.  The way universities are set up now, I can not do any part of my job without a functioning computer.  If mine breaks, my productivity drops to almost nothing.  If it it working poorly, then everything I do is affected.
      Second, the technology changes.  Software and on-line resources are quickly becoming more sophisticated, and they require state-of-the-art machines to use them.

      The community college option can work for some people, but if you look at my reason number II above, this will exacerbate that problem.  If universities are only doing the final two years for everybody, the most expensive years, then their tuition per credit hour will have to skyrocket again.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:08:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I largely disagree... (2+ / 0-)

        If you look at Europe, or Finland in particular -- the country that is usually number one in education in the world -- their students show up already knowing what the first two years teaches at a US Institution.  With the Tiered Bologna-method.

        1.  High School Graduation

           A) Go to University? If yes, go to #2, else go
              to 1-B
           B) Go to Tech School? If yes, go to #4, else
              Good luck, kid!

        1.  College Graduation

           A)  Go to University?  If yes, go to #3 if no
               go to 2-B
           B)  Go to tech school?  If yes, go to #4, else
               good luck, kid!

        1.  Attend University
        1.  Attend Tech school

        In the context of the European system, "College" and University are not interchangeable as they are here.  College is strictly preparatory for University.  When you go to University there, you DO NOT spend the first two years studying general studies.  By the time you are in University, you should already know those things.  

        Thus, your first day in University, you are learning skills that you will need for your career, not general studies.  

        This has produced a gap of sorts between Europe and the US.  American students are having a more difficult time competing for jobs abroad since a US bachelor's degree does not imply the same level of study in a given subject that a European one does.  This is exemplified in a quote by Niels Christian Nielsen:  ""The big difference between Europe and America is the proportion of people who come out of the system really not being functional for any serious role. In Finland that is maybe two or three percent. For Europe in general maybe fifteen or twenty. For the United States at least thirty percent, maybe more. In spite of all the press, Americans don't really get the education difference. They generally still feel this is a well-educated country and work force. They just don't see how far the country is falling behind."

        Indeed, just for fun, look up the Website for University of Helsinki (Helsingin Yliopisto) and see what the requirements are for getting into a PhD program.  In many of them (biology comes to mind) a bachelors from a US institution is not sufficient for admittance -- Americans must have a master's to apply.  

        While there is no doubt that higher level classes are more costly to teach and take, I believe this must be done in order for us to compete.  Granted, in Finland and most countries in Europe, education from the daycare/preschool level all the way to graduate studies is provided free of charge to all students...

        ...and therein lies the difference.   Much like healthcare, Europeans have designated education as a public good, one which the government and society have an obligation to provide to everyone.  In this country, education is increasingly treated as a for-profit commodity.  One need only look at the proliferation of degree mill type schools to see this.  One only need be in a academic meeting and hear the term "Educational Industrial Complex..."  

        Yes, higher education (and to a increasing extent primary and secondary education, as well as vocational training) has become a commodity.  A consumer good.  Something to be bought and sold.  The simple fact of the matter is that not everyone who goes to college belongs there.  There are just people who would be happier being a plumber -- and there's nothign wrong with that.  But, we have convinced people they MUST have that degree in order to get a job, and that isn't true.  People are not neessarily getting those good jobs, and in many cases, they are not getting good educations.  

        But they are paying for it.  

        Again, this is just like the healthcare issue.  The parallels are there.  Education must be:

        1.  Treated as a public good, and paid for by society who ultimately benefits from it.  Education for profit is incompatible with its status as a public good
        1.  Education must be reformed.  It must be modernized, and it must be changed to serve the needs of all types of students, not just those who wish to go to University.  

         

        •  Ummmm (0+ / 0-)

          Indeed, just for fun, look up the Website for University of Helsinki (Helsingin Yliopisto) and see what the requirements are for getting into a PhD program.  In many of them (biology comes to mind) a bachelors from a US institution is not sufficient for admittance -- Americans must have a master's to apply.

          Not to disagree or anything, nor to disrespect the European educational system, but I don't personally know of any PhD. program in America where you can apply without a Masters degree.  Are there such programs?

          The apocalypse will require substantial revision of all zoning ordinances. - Zashvill Political compass -7.88 -7.03.

          by Heiuan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:06:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  actually, one TYPICALLY applies for entry (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Caj, Heiuan, SuperSonic Dog

            to a graduate program without a Master's. one typically obtains a master's along the way to one's doctorate, but by no means always, especially if a thesis is required for the master's. it depends entirely on the individual school. but i don't know personally of any doctoral program that requires a master's degree.

            but the key comparison to be made here is this: is a bachelor's degree from a Finnish (or german, even) university acceptable for entry into the Helsinki doctoral program? if so, then SSD's point is proven -- their bachelor's graduates are considered equivalent to our master's graduates.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:20:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And yes, you are correct... (0+ / 0-)

              ...that a Finnish bachelor's (or one from most other EU countries) will get you into a graduate program at Helsinki, but a US student would have to have a master's before applying.  

            •  Wow...you learn something new every (0+ / 0-)

              day!  Thanks muchly.  I wasn't aware that's how it works.

              Heh...I got my business diploma 28 years ago from what would now be called a Techinical school.  Hands-on lessons in what my actual job was going to be.  I took my national certified bookkeeping credentials test later on.  I don't know if they even have these any longer, it's been so many year.

              The apocalypse will require substantial revision of all zoning ordinances. - Zashvill Political compass -7.88 -7.03.

              by Heiuan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:48:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Absolutely... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Heiuan

            ...you can apply into most PhD programs with nothing but a bachelor's.  In fact, one could argue that a master's and a PhD are two divergent courses.  Want a career in industry?  Get a Master's.  Want a career in Academia?  Get a PhD.  

      •  Most new software can run on... (0+ / 0-)

        Second, the technology changes.  Software and on-line resources are quickly becoming more sophisticated, and they require state-of-the-art machines to use them.

        older machines unless we are taking about computer science or engineering type stuff but there are dedicated computer labs for that. Most office type work can run fine on any PC made in the last 7-8 years that runs windows XP. All it may need is some ram.

        The community college option can work for some people, but if you look at my reason number II above, this will exacerbate that problem.

        I disagree. If you cut out all those lower level classes you are cutting out lots of staff, classrooms, and basically downsizing everything. Furthermore, only the serious students attend and therefore the students that are going to drop out aren't wasting the time and resources of everyone else.

        It also solves the binge drinking problem of 18 and 19 year old kids on campus.

        It also solves the problem of 18-19 year old kids that are still really too young to live on their own and don't make the best time management decisions.

        I agree that the cost per credit will go up but it will only be for two years and only the serious students are the ones that pay (kids that drop out after the first or second year in the current 4 year system won't be stuck with a huge bill as they will be at community college).

        Further, how much does it cost to keep adding new dorms, buildings and other things? A lot.

        •  i think you are both right. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          illinifan17

          illinifan17 is right that the per-credit cost will go up -- a lot, really, because juniors and seniors are typically in much smaller classes taught by professors. many freshman and sophomore classes are taught either by grad students, or by professors in gigantic lectures.

          and you are correct that the tradeoff is that there will only be 2 years' worth of such elevated costs.

          so the remaining question -- which we don't really have the data to answer -- is which of the two phenomena will dominate the bottom line. we'd need a fairly sophisticated model in order to answer that question. bear in mind that a lot of the overhead is going to be there one way or another. every department will have a departmental secretary, regardless of how many students there are.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:24:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  entered in fall of 1971 - public university , (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    illinifan17, Sharon Jumper, DBunn

    and the tuition was $155 a semester. Dorm room was , I think something like $225 for the three months , and most courses' textbooks were available used for less than $15. Bookstores carried endless variety of paperback, wonderful books for $1.95 to $3.95 each , and vinyl albums were $1.50 to $2.29 at a record store within easy walking distance. I was young and spry and slim and eager to learn.  The Rolling Stones came to campus a couple of years later , and the tickets were a scandalous $8.00.
    Many things have changed. Glad I haven't had to be a youngster in last 20 years, though , kids have had a much tougher time dealing with weird ,weird world than we did.

  •  Exorbitant administrative salaries (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doinaheckuvanutjob, DBunn

    Layers & layers of administrators at executive salaries at private schools.

    •  and public schools (2+ / 0-)

      The layers of educational bureaucracy follows the bloated upper level economic model of the Wall Street firms that just collapsed.  Look at the CSUs and UC out in CA.  Huge salaries, housing allowances, car allowances supposedly because you can't recruit the best without these retention programs for upper level bureaucrats.

      •  Top admin is overpaid (2+ / 0-)

        ... I completely agree with that. But it would be good to know how much that directly contributes to the overall cost of a university education.

        •  It is hard to figure how this has much affect. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DBunn, Killer of Sacred Cows

          I teach at at insitution that it well known for being lean in terms of administration and staff, yet tuition has risen dratically over the last two decades.  Our tuirion is lower than most other similar schools, but not dramatically so.

          So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

          by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 02:27:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have to admit (0+ / 0-)

            ... my objection to excessive admin compensation is linked to the broader issue of wealth/income disparity in the nation at large.

            Here in CA, there have been some scandals with the UC top admin people, that have kind of fanned the flames for me, I guess. The nominal salaries are several hundred thousand dollars, then you got the perks, then there's the sweet severance payouts for folks who should not have been hired in the first place. Add in the aroma of nepotism and cronyism, and it's just not very pleasant.

            When I compare the tender concern for the dignity and net worth of top administrators, to the rather ruthless way those very administrators treat people on the lower rungs of the faculty and staff ladders, I get sorta angry.

            :::

            But I suppose it's not only the universities per se that are at fault here. They are a micocosm of the broader social landscape. My anger at overpaid university administrators really belongs to the entire elite class, and the cliff edge they have spent the last 30 years leading us towards and now over.

            Each separate university board exists in an environment that they do not control. They have to bid against other schools and the private sector for (perceived) top talent. Their pay scales for executive talent have to stay within an order of magnitude or so of the private sector. Their presidents and deans have to be on at least somewhat of a peer footing when they deal with the corporate execs and major donors, upon whom they increasingly depend for funding. And of course, university boards will tend to be populated by civic-minded elite types, who naturally want to see people (the ones they actually meet and rub elbows with) treated well.

            If we want to untangle this rat's nest, we have to ask a few questions: Why is executive comp in the private sector so high? Why do universities have to turn to corporatations and wealthy donors for funding? If general wealth/income disparity continues to increase, what else can happen other than for college to become increasingly unaffordable to the average kid, while the salaries of top administrators to continue to rise?

            What I'd like to see is some boldness from a few univerity boards. These guys are supposed to be in the leadership elite, so lead already. Just say this: we have a President job for a smart, savvy, accomplished, charismatic, and otherwise fully qualified man or woman who is willing to work for half of what others get for the same job, because s/he agrees with us that, for the good of the university and the nation, this elitist bubble has to be popped. And we're looking for someone excellent who wants to be the point of the pin that pops it.

            Start there, and work outwards. Someone has to start somewhere, right? If nothing else, the university that does this will get a rousing cheer from their faculty, staff, and students.

  •  A Financial Aid Trick (3+ / 0-)

    At smaller private colleges, they may try to 'bait and switch' you by offering you a relatively generous financial aid package for year 1, then slowly paring it away, citing changes in rules, gov't grants, increase in your income, or whatever.  

    Don't believe it.  At well-off private schools, the FA 'formula' is whatever they feel like paying.  And if you show up with your primary tuition payer (dad, mom, self, whoever) at the financial aid office and threaten to become a 'bad retention statistic' if your original package isn't restored, or some of those loans don't turn back into grants, you will likely be listened to.  It helps if you can enlist a well-thought-of professor or two to support, or at least with a letter.  

    Just an idea for those of you out there intimidated by the whole process.  

    Make your free throws at the end of regulation, and you'll be ok.

    by El Sobrante on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:16:51 PM PDT

    •  I don't doubt that some places try to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      El Sobrante

      do this garbage, but I have not seen it myself.  Of course, a flat rate (e.g. $10,000/yr.) scholarship does diminish in percentage if tuition increases.  Always make sure you read carefully and ask this question, but schools with good reputations dont'e do this - they won't keep their reputations for long.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:23:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My experience is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        northsylvania

        that schools with very good reputations (several top 20 liberal-arts colleges, some with 'need blind admission') do this.  People pay the "parental contribution" because they think it's a hard-and-fast formula... it is not.  If a college has the resources to pay for somebody's kid to go tuition free... why not put in a legwork to make it your kid?

        Make your free throws at the end of regulation, and you'll be ok.

        by El Sobrante on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:45:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I was a victim of this (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        northsylvania, El Sobrante

        90 miles or so south of your illini.  I didn't see it in grad school because I paid for that out of pocket but it returned for med school.  I think it is a far more common occurrence than you think.  I have heard about it from others and was warned when I chose my undergrad with partial scholarship vs full rides elsewhere.  Unfortunately 'education' is a scam like any other industry.  

    •  the same thing happens at publics, by a different (0+ / 0-)

      mechanism: tuition rates go up every year.

      illinois thus passed the "truth in tuition bill" which basically says, your tuition is guaranteed to stay the same for the first 4 years.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:26:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i've spent some time looking at the information (0+ / 0-)

    on financial aid packages offered by reasonably high quality colleges, and one searches largely in vain for any evidence of the discounts you claim they offer. most indicate that they have little or no money available for "merit-based aid".

    the best of the best simply assert that it would be meaningless -- that all of their students are good enough that it makes no sense to single some out for merit-based aid, other than rare fellowships.

    the public universities (that i've researched) work hard to conceal any such aid, if any exists. they may have dozens -- or even hundreds -- of available endowed scholarships, but these tend to be nickel-and-dime affairs, $250 here, $500 there. other than that, like the top-tier privates, they may have somewhere between 10 and 25 full-tuition scholarships available for each entering class -- but when the entering class is 5000 kids, big whoop. as an illini fan, you are presumably aware that the estimated cost of a year at UIUC, including in-state tuition, fees, room, board, books, the whole shebang, is in the high 20s -- basically 30K for engineering and science students. this cost includes an astonishing $3000 in fees  -- much of which supports the somewhat country-clubbish amenities to which you have referred -- as well as $1200 for books and supplies.  TWELVE HUNDRED! out-of-state tuition is high enough that i cannot fathom why anybody would pay it.

    on the other hand, almost all of the private colleges have substantial needs-based aid that dramatically drops the actual tuition their students pay. indeed, the elite privates are now much less expensive in practice than the top public universities, which is pretty damned depressing. harvard, i think, guarantees that your family's contribution (including whatever you have to borrow) won't exceed 10% of your gross income. think about that. a family with two 60K incomes can send a kid to Harvard for 12K. that won't even cover your tuition and fees at UIUC.  meanwhile, however, the same colleges push up their nominal tuition, so as to appear more elite -- even though almost nobody pays that tuition.

    which means that your advice to apply at places where you'll be a top dog may be a bit misgiven, depending on whether you're good enough to be among the bottom-most admitted to harvard or penn or duke or caltech and so on. indeed, UIUC has been depressingly ineffective at recruiting students from the Illinois Math and Sciences Academy, an elite state-funded boarding high school -- why go there, when they can go somewhere just as good for less money?

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 02:59:13 PM PDT

    •  Tuition discounts are typically not advertised. (0+ / 0-)

      Suppose you are looking at an institution that has an averafe ACT of 28.  There are some 28's, but there are also a roughly equal number of 32's and 24's.  Trust me, the 32's and 24's are not paying the same thing.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:39:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well there's one really big problem with that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        illinifan17

        model: it takes real time, effort, and cash to apply to any given college. so any four-year college that wants my kid -- whose ACT in 9th grade was in the low 30s, and will probably be straight 36s by the time he's college-bound -- will need to somehow inform our family upfront that he'll get a discount. otherwise, there is ZERO chance that he will apply there. secret discounts aren't a very useful marketing strategy.

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:55:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't worry. You will get the letters in the (0+ / 0-)

          mail.  I got one today from the University of Dayton, offering my daughter (with a 27 ACT) a total of $40,000 in merit scholarship money.  Congrats on your son's performance.  If he makes 36, then your only challenge will be reading all the mail.  Ability like that should also make National Merit Scholar designation a possibility, and that will get you buried in offers again.

          So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

          by illinifan17 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:47:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site