The rising cost of college

What’s behind the runaway cost of a college education? According to the College Board, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students at public four-year colleges are up an average 8.3 percent this year, roughly three times the overall rate of inflation. (In South Carolina, the increase was a more moderate 2.5 percent.) The costs for in-state undergraduates average $8,244; out-of-state undergrads pay a mind-boggling $20,770.

Private non-profit four-year colleges charge an average $28,500, an increase over last year of “only” 4.5 percent. For-profit colleges charge $14,487, up 3.2 percent. (The latter, obviously, are providing a service deemed less prestigious than the non-profits. Whether the education their enrollees receive is half that of their higher priced competitors is another question.)

For parents hoping to give their children a better start in life than they themselves had, there is another cost consideration. Many of them grew up when four years to an undergraduate degree was the norm.

Now, the length of time taken to get that first degree is stretching out. Either undergraduates are not working as hard in college as earlier generations, or colleges are not working as efficiently.

The excuses given for all of the above are legion. They range from financially strapped states subsidizing public institutions less than they formerly did, to the distractions students today face (e.g., the social media they seem so wedded to, the greater awareness they have of economic and social “injustice,” the burden of crippling student loans and — dare we say it? — an upbringing that did not adequately prepare them for hard work and self discipline.)

And then, of course, there is the amount of time and expense virtually all colleges, even upscale ones, expend in remedial education, in effect teaching what should have been taught in high school or even earlier.

Another curious fact the College Board discovered is that in the last three years, federal grants and loans per student increased by an inflation-adjusted 30 percent. If this taxpayer largesse was meant to contain the rising cost of a college education, it seems to have failed. Miserably.

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2 thoughts on “The rising cost of college

  1. Pingback: Chart of the day: College Tuition is Out of Control «

  2. University of California hijack’s our kids’ futures: student loan debt
    I love University of California (UC) having been student & lecturer. But today I am concerned that at times I do not recognize the UC I love. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Regent Chairwoman Lansing, President Yudof, Chancellor Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases. Paying more is not a better education.
    Californians are reeling from 19% unemployment (includes: those forced to work part time; those no longer searching), mortgage defaults, loss of unemployment benefits. And those who still have jobs are working longer for less. Faculty wages must reflect California’s ability to pay, not what others are paid.
    Current pay increases for generously paid University of California Faculty is arrogance. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income!
    Paying more is not a better education. UC Berkeley(# 70 Forbes) tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increases. Chancellor Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university.
    UC President Yudof, Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. They did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, cutting & freezing pay & benefits for chancellors & reforming pensions & the health benefits.
    They said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for UC”. Exodus of faculty, administrators? Who can afford them and where would they go?
    We agree it is far from the ideal situation, but it is in the best interests of the university system & the state to stop cost increases. UC cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
    There is no question the necessary realignments with economic reality are painful. Regent Chairwoman Lansing can bridge the public trust gap with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s economic reality. The sky above UC will not fall

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents

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