In this country, the cost of going to college has almost always faced a steeper curve than the annual inflationary rate has. And it’s just as applicable to private colleges as it is to public ones.
As in the case of our utility companies’ perpetual annual warnings—gas and electric utilities in particular—that the cost of energy will double “over the next TEN years,” we’ve come to expect that the cost of a college education will also rise annually. We’ve grown accustomed to it and, in fact, expect it.
So, it becomes an accepted self-fulfilling prophecy; not because it HAS to be, but because too many shirtsleeve Americans don’t understand how the system works. And, the politicians LOVE it!
It provides each side of the political aisle with handy little pre-packaged stump speech.
From the Right comes the ever-popular accusation that the LEFT consists of a bunch of elitists who advocate that a college education is a human right that should be accessible to EVERYONE. In other words, access to a college education is another perceived ENTITLEMENT.
And from the Left comes the equally bogus claim that the impetus behind the Right’s annual budget goals is the constant screwing of the poor… in ALL matters, not just educationally.
Both of these positions are bogus extremes. The news media perpetuates the hissy-fit because it sells newspapers and elevates TV and radio advertising ratings.
And Mr. and Mrs. America tend to buy into it because the country falls deeper by the hour into the throes of an epidemic of sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Stupidity is stupidity, conscientious or otherwise. “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us this gem; and it most certainly is apropos to our political perceptions whether they involve defense spending, health care, social security, educational programs, or whatever.
Relative to educational costs, tuition payments have not covered the full institutional costs involved for DECADES. And I’m betting that the percentage of working Americans that DON’T understand this far exceeds the percentage that DO understand it.
For example, we need look back to as recently as the year 2000 to discover that tuition paid by students covered only about ONE-THIRD of the full cost. But today, that figure stands at about ONE-HALF.
Our favorite designated “blamee” for this is, of course, GOVERNMENT, at both levels: federal and state. The feds cut allocations to the state and the state passes the cuts on to students.
Some states have made Draconian spending cuts to higher education with no relief in sight. We’ve gone from 33% to 50% in 12-years. This is a 51% increase that must be covered by tuition payments.
As well, the social contention that EVERYONE needs a college education does not help the situation one bit. Some automobile insurance companies now advertise discounts for college graduates.
At this rate, in another 12-years a lot more people will not be able to afford the cost of college because tuition payments will have to cover about 90% of the full cost of a college education; not to mention that the cost-cutting process has led us to some nasty unanticipated consequences.
As tuition costs increase, fewer students enroll; they seek alternatives. And, trust me on this; public colleges and universities are not going to go away. They’ll find other ways. Too many professors and administrators enjoy good earnings.
Currently, a fair percentage of students are ill-prepared for college. Many are academic and EMOTIONAL lightweights. And, academia’s solution? Lower the hoop so everyone can slam-dunk.
Now we have people with the financial capacity to pay entering universities for nothing more than obtaining an accredited credential. And the relevancy of that credential is immaterial.
Cash-paying bodies are increasingly becoming an imperative while academic and emotional preparedness are becoming secondary concerns.
But, there is another solution that can lower the full institutional cost of providing college/university educations and still maintain a much higher academic and emotional level of preparedness.
Keep in mind that I do NOT include the nation’s community colleges in this critique. These institutions serve their students well. They do a superb job of preparing their graduates for employment.
And while some of their administrative costs are higher than necessary, they’re nowhere near as exorbitant as those at the 4-year college and university levels.
Back in the early ‘80s, general university pay policies dictated that administrators would be paid no more than 25% above comparable faculty levels. University presidents would be paid no more than 20% above this.
This is no longer the case. Some sports-program head coaches—most notably football and basketball programs—earn two or three times what the institution’s president earns.
And administrators are proliferating at the university level faster than wild rabbits. They’re grossly overpaid and have managed to create a level of bureaucracy dedicated to perpetuating their own species.
We love to scream about imposing term limits on politicians. We need to stop it because we already have relative term limits; we call them periodic elections!
Instead, we need to start demanding term limits for college/university presidents, provosts, academic department heads, etc. And, I’m going to include community college presidents this time.
We should make it five years, eight at most. The private business sector has been doing this for decades on the contention that by the end of such tenures, those in charge have accomplished their goals or they’re simply not going to accomplish them.
In the academic world, long-lived management tenures breed ineptness that becomes institutionally endemic.
I know of one community college president who managed not only to secure for himself a “president-forever” job, but also managed to get the board of trustees to mandate corporate inbreeding.
That’s correct, as a formal policy, all future presidents of that college must come from the ranks of its president’s council, which he instituted shortly after he was named president.
This nation can reduce the full cost of a college education. All we have to do is exercise some common sense at the top, rather than automatically blaming everything on unions and faculty.