Tuition Rates Going Up == Evil Universities October 29, 2009Posted by gordonwatts in university.
The CollegeBoard recently did a study for college tuition prices with the sub-title Public Four-Year Tuition Continues to Rise at Faster Rate than Private Four-Year Tuition. The report actually isn’t that bad:
The College Board announced today that college prices for the 2009-10 academic year continue to rise as state funding and endowment values decline. The financial difficulties facing households across the nation are putting increased pressure on financial aid budgets.
This was picked up by lots of news paper articles – for example this one from the AP:
With the economy struggling, parents and students dared to hope this year might offer a break from rising college costs. Instead, they got another sharp increase.
Average tuition at four-year public colleges in the U.S. climbed 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall as schools apologetically passed on much of their own financial problems, according to an annual report from the College Board, released Tuesday. At private colleges, tuition rose 4.4 percent, or $1,096, to $26,273.
From there it turned into articles talking about how universities were taking advantage of the students and families. At least the article that appeared in the New York Times got the real reason right – here is paragraph 2:
Hit hard by state budget cuts, four-year public colleges raised tuition and fees by an average of 6.5 percent last year. Prices at private colleges rose 4.4 percent, according to a report issued Tuesday by the College Board.
The next quote in that article takes a sharp left turn into.. well:
Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, called the increases “hugely disappointing.”
“Given the financial hardship of the country, it’s simply astonishing that colleges and universities would have this kind of increases,” Mr. Callan said. “It tells you that higher education is still a seller’s market. The level of debt we’re asking people to undertake is unsustainable.
I’m sorry, but give me a break. I totally understand the tuition problem. My university is going to raise tuition by 30% over the course of two years. Ouch. That will certainly strain students that don’t have financial aid. But what exactly were people expecting?
The state of Washington cut almost 30% of the UW budget. The voters in Washington made it clear that there were other priorities. So, UW has two choices: shrink by 30% in 6 months (about the length of time we knew what was going to happen). Shrinking by 30% is certainly possible – but it would be huge. We’d have to take about 30% less students than we do now – that probably would mean no incoming students this year at all (or we would have to kick out students that were already here), fire 30% of the faculty, close lots of departments. Probably have to completely kill off research. Actually, that would help with firing 30% of the faculty – most of us would just leave as fast as we could. Students who came to a major research university for learning would now be at what was basically a teaching college full of very pissed off professors – not what they signed up for. So Seattle raised tuition by 30% and took a 6% over all cut to the operating budget. All signs point to the same thing happening in the next two year budget as stimulus money disappears.
So look – we like to call these things public universities – but that implies public support. Frankly, the more the state backs out of its implied contract with the university, the more like a private university these institutions will look. At some point the state support will be small enough that the universities will want to change their relationship with the state. Heck, why deal with the oversight if they aren’t getting anything in return for it!?
Somewhere out there there is a year-by-year trend plot of state support of universities. It has been steadily falling for over 20 years. This last year was particularly bad, but not really that different from the trend overall. California is at risk of destroying one of the best university systems in the country over this very same issue.
Want to keep tuition down? Keep public universities accessible? Don’t just yell “cut costs, get rid of waste” at the universities. Make sure your state legislature continues to support the university as well. The budget has to balance. If the state gives less, then that extra money has to come from somewhere!
Ah, the soap box. How I have missed thee.