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Monday, April 20, 2015

College Education Today

The fleecing perpetrated by rising college tuition.

Full article below the fold.
The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much


BOULDER, Colo. — ONCE upon a time in America, baby boomers paid for college with the money they made from their summer jobs. Then, over the course of the next few decades, public funding for higher education was slashed. These radical cuts forced universities to raise tuition year after year, which in turn forced the millennial generation to take on crushing educational debt loads, and everyone lived unhappily ever after.

This is the story college administrators like to tell when they’re asked to explain why, over the past 35 years, college tuition at public universities has nearly quadrupled, to $9,139 in 2014 dollars. It is a fairy tale in the worst sense, in that it is not merely false, but rather almost the inverse of the truth.

The conventional wisdom was reflected in a recent National Public Radio series on the cost of college. “So it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students,” Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute told NPR. “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding — and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”

In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.

Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in today’s dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased a mind-boggling 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.
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For example, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in 1980, my parents were paying more than double the resident tuition that undergraduates had been charged in 1960, again in inflation-adjusted terms. And of course tuition has kept rising far faster than inflation in the years since: Resident tuition at Michigan this year is, in today’s dollars, nearly four times higher than it was in 1980.

State appropriations reached a record inflation-adjusted high of $86.6 billion in 2009. They declined as a consequence of the Great Recession, but have since risen to $81 billion. And these totals do not include the enormous expansion of the federal Pell Grant program, which has grown, in today’s dollars, to $34.3 billion per year from $10.3 billion in 2000.

It is disingenuous to call a large increase in public spending a “cut,” as some university administrators do, because a huge programmatic expansion features somewhat lower per capita subsidies. Suppose that since 1990 the government had doubled the number of military bases, while spending slightly less per base. A claim that funding for military bases was down, even though in fact such funding had nearly doubled, would properly be met with derision.

Interestingly, increased spending has not been going into the pockets of the typical professor. Salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970.

By contrast, a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

The rapid increase in college enrollment can be defended by intellectually respectable arguments. Even the explosion in administrative personnel is, at least in theory, defensible. On the other hand, there are no valid arguments to support the recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators, unless one considers evidence-free assertions about “the market” to be intellectually rigorous.

What cannot be defended, however, is the claim that tuition has risen because public funding for higher education has been cut. Despite its ubiquity, this claim flies directly in the face of the facts.

Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the author of  Don’t Go to Law School (Unless).
Something will continue as long as it can.  Then it will stop.

That said, what these tuition rates are causing is a loss of upward mobility.

Also, so many are graduating with oppressive college debt that they may never extricate themselves from that debt.  Worse, in some cases, parents have been literally bankrupted trying to fund their own children's education — those especially parents who cosigned college loans with their adult children.

Furthermore, many who are solidly middle class right now are seeing and will continue to see their own children sinking below the middle-class level.

There is also the matter of our society's needing those well versed in certain trades: plumbing, auto mechanics, electricians, and the like.

Not everybody in a vibrant society can be white collar. What's more, there is no shame in being blue collar!

Additional reading: Affirmative action in action as applied to SAT scores.


  1. Fannie Furst said

    Don't send you kids to college. Make them learn a good honest trade. None of the founding fathers went to college. Shakespeare never went to college. Jane Austen never went to college. Dickens never went to college. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven never went to college. I'll bet most of the great inventors never went to college either. The Pilgrims and the pioneers never went to college.

    Are you beginning to get the message?

    A Bachelor of Science degree today is just what it says –– BS.

    1. Geez, I would have never guessed you didn't go to college, lol!

    2. Lester Libtardman is a standing admonition against snorting crayons in your mother's basement

    3. None of the founders went to college but Jefferson thought it important to fund the University of Virginia.

      Of coure college was a bit different in those days and often concentrated on training the clergy.

  2. Fannie Furst is partially correct.

    Some degrees are BS, but others are not. A degree in accounting from a small no-name college will get you an immediate job paying pretty good money for a 22 year old. Getting a degree in 18th Century French Literature will win you a chance to stand in line for a job at Starbucks.

    If French Lit is your passion and you understand the consequences going in, God bless you, but too many students take such a path, and then complain that they are Ivy League educated but can't find gainful employment.

    I blame adult counselors at the service of the Big Ed Industry.

    Also, the rise in administrators is egregious and probably accounts for almost all of the cost bloat. Private Industry, and even some sectors of government, like the military, went through downsizing in the 90's and cut whole layers of bureaucratic fat. Looks like higher ed has done the opposite.

    Parents: If your children tend toward skilled trades, send them in that direction with your blessing. They will never go hungry, and they will most likely be more satisfied than their over-degreed peers.

    If they do want to go to college, have them knock out the lower-level classes at your local community college and go to an affordable college to finish up.

    Unless you're looking at a Wall Street or DC career in finance, law or politics/diplomacy, nobody cares where you went to school.

    1. I did that, SF...took my 'breadth classes' at Pierce Junior College near home, then went to 3 years of college which mostly included the classes in my career. Worked out very well and cost a lot less. Nobody needs to go to Princeton or Stanford$$ for "english I"

    2. Big Ed Industry, well that does say it all, Silverfiddle.
      Just when it became such a huge business isn't clear to me but it happened gradually. Lot of money to be made and that's what's important, isn't it.

      But what do I know, my degree is in the arts and I even found myself indoctrinated by leftist writers like John Berger and Clement Greenberg. Such an indoctrination, right z? They couldn't possibly have anything useful to say and a trip through Ways of Seeing or Art and Culture is a waste, right?

    3. Ducky,

      I believe there is great value in the arts and humanities, and it cannot be quantified by money. I also believe a university education should include at least a few credits from the arts and humanities.

      It is apparent that counselors are not giving kids the straight scoop on the ups and downs of various degree programs.

      I'll go even further and conjecture that colleges don't give a damn about their graduation rate, or the employability of graduates. It's all about the bucks.

      Being the libertarian I am, I don't propose dogpiling them with protests and layers of government oversight. Let the free market reign. Education innovations (moocs being but one example) will correct the market. Sure, the stupid or heedless rich will continue to get fleeced, but working class folks like me will find cost-efficient solutions.

    4. I agree, Silver. I think the first thing would be to have politicians stop serving Big Ed by implying that 4 year university is needed by everyone and that it is the only way to become educated.

      One of the problems with saying "let the free market reign" is that an ideal market transaction need full awareness by both parties and there is just too much hype over the need for a degree and unwillingnes to hire those with no degree (although it's becoming clear that the degree doesn't guarantee comnsurate employment).

      And you'll have to pardon me but I do get upset when the idea that you "only" studied art comes up or the equally ridiculous idea that college is a net of indoctrination.
      If you aren't a Faux Snooze addict you must not be informed. It is intensely sad.

    5. Ducky,

      In technical areas, believe it or not, degrees are not important. Can you code in Java, SQL Script or Python? Many businesses don't care about the degree.

      Certifications are another avenue. Having a Cisco CCNA will get you hired over a brand new college graduate with a EE, and the CCNA makes you pretty good money as well.

      Professional photography works that way as well, doesn't it? The customer doesn't care about your degrees or credentials, they want to see your previous work. Right?

      Again, I think career counselors are doing a seriously poor job helping kids and parents sort it all out.

      I don't know what fox news has to do with any of this, but the evidence is clear that people in positions of power at universities use their power to indoctrinate the students, while simultaneously shutting down constitutionally-protected speech and activities they disagree with.

    6. SF,
      Excellent point about certain careers not requiring or needing college degrees for successful pursuit of those careers.

      Performance on the job is what matters, and too often college degrees have zero to do with training for that performance.

    7. The Faux Snooze reference was aimed at z who has this bizarre idea that the culture is indoctrinating the young.

  3. @SF,

    I couldn't have said it better. Insofar as the Affirmative Action issue is concerned: If the SAT score is so corrupted what purpose does it really serve?

  4. I was admitted to the U of M College of Engineering.
    The Dean gave me a Oral Exam and admitted me on that after calling to find out why I hadn't applied. So I'm no dummy.
    I dropped out for the draft.
    Learned an electronics trade in the USAF.
    Got out, went into an auto plant as a summer job waiting for college and got into Skilled Trades instead.
    As part of that, I got the equivalent of an AA (no Poly Sci or English).
    One of the plant engineers asked why I wasn't an engineer.
    I told him I couldn't afford the cut in pay.
    I am now an Automation Engineer and a Maintenance Manager.
    I have never seen a successful college degreed Maintenance Manager, and I've seen a lot. They come and go. No feel for it. But corporations insist on a degree. Except ours.

    I worked for a EE degreed Automation Manager a couple years ago, who, looking at our work requirements, wondered why he ever accumulated so much debt to do what he was doing.

    Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education, wrote a book recently "Is College Worth It" and we talked about it. He doesn't believe it is in most cases.

    I live near Ann Arbor.
    Scherie was receptionist/bookkeeper for a premium builder there.
    I've been in house built for administrators.

  5. I blame adult counselors at the service of the Big Ed Industry.

    SF makes great point.....too many prospective students are being coddled and steered toward degree paths in which they will have no realistic opportunity to repay their college loans, at least through their field of study.

    We need to practice expectation management with our children. Not everyone will be able earn a living on a Womyns Cultural Art for Global Peace Studies degree.

  6. Dennis Prager, too, talks against college for everybody; has for years. People pay a fortune to have their kids indoctrinated so badly.... not thinking about all viewpoints but only their profs'. If I could only tell you again the stories my own centrist nephew told me about his years at Columbia...starting with "I give back what the prof wants and get a good grade...or else."

    Yes, time to get our kids back to making things, fixing things...pride in their working with their hands. And no huge college debt to start life with. And, gee, not the resentment toward the illegals who're getting free college while they don't.! ..like I'm hearing from college students today.

  7. AOW, are you okay re the tornado heading for DC? I'm sure you'll be fine but know we're thinking of you! xxx

    1. Z,
      We're on a tornado watch until 10:00 P.M., EDT.

      I guess we're as okay as possible. I just moved a lot of things under cover. Going out right now to put the Hyundai in the carport. We may get large hail.

    2. AOW, have you ever had damage from a tornado? I know there have only been approximately seven since 1814, so as old as you and I feel, you still haven't been around for ALL of them :-)

    3. Z,
      We're never had tornado damage to our home although back in the early 1970's, there was a lot of tornado damage in a city about 7 miles from us.

      We've had hurricane damage done to our property but never directly to the house itself.

      One big thunderstorm did bring a tree down onto our roof about 8 years ago, but we didn't have to vacate. This is an old house, but very sturdy.

    4. Z,
      Addendum: I've seen tornadoes pass over several times in my lifetime. One time, I was outside. I flattened out, and the funnel cloud passed just over my head and touched down at a neighbor's house. A tornado makes a freight-train sound.

  8. I have a B.A. in Spanish as well as several graduate-level credits in Education.

    Back when I got my degree, there were strict mandates for getting a B.A.: x number of credits in English (12 credits), History (Western Civ required), foreign language (requirement to complete a full year of a level-300 course, unless an Engineering major, which required completion of a level-200 course), fine arts (Music Appreciation or Art Appreciation or Applied Music), Social Science (Psychology, Anthropology, or Psychology), Lab Science, Mathematics or Physics, Non-Western Studies (only one 3-credit course, I think), Electives to fill in the semester load to a minimum of 14 credit-hours to stay enrolled -- unless granted a dispensation. Few received that dispensation.

    Honestly, I don't recall any "fluff" courses. There was one "fluff" professor -- Dr. S., who taught philosophy. Mostly, he just sat around and smoked pot with his students in the classes he taught. Yes, in class!

    Certainly, some professors were easier than others, but only one professor I had to endure was a member of the Counter Revolution and didn't teach a single thing (Math -- of all courses!). Frankly, everyone at the university I attended didn't have time to party! We were buried in readings, research papers, projects, etc.

    1. Tuition during my first four semesters of college = $250-$300/semester.

      Tuition went up significantly in my last two years, but wasn't unreasonable.

      Tuition there now = $5500/semester for in-state students and $15.000/semester for out-of-state students.

      I got my B.A. in 1972.

  9. In my view, the very idea "Everybody should go to college" is a big contributor to the topic of this blog post.

    We master teachers realize that there are different learning styles -- and different inteligences. See Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner).

    The world would be a very boring place if everybody were the same!

    1. Indeed neither of my grandfathers had more than a 6th grade education, but both were smart men and skilled craftsmen with many talents who could do some crazy math in their heads.

  10. Everybody would probably love to attend even a year of college. Not all can afford it. I prefer that college bound students first consider giving back to the nation with a stint of military service. smile


    1. Our little kids can't even play with guns anymore...they don't have to say the Pledge, and I can't imagine anybody growing up to defend this country....we're taking the 'fight' right out of them...babying them, telling them at inappropriate ages any bad thing at all about America, etc etc.
      This is a huge worry in regard to future military. Among others.

    2. Eunuchs can't get any girls pregnant, Z.

      I hope you and others see what I mean?

  11. Our colleges are overstuffed with people don't belong there (students AND teachers/staff, BTW) and who deserve a culture that congratulates for their accomplishments elsewhere where their talents lie. But once the culture DEIFIED 'college' you had to go or face the life of a zit. A win-win for the left who got 1) good paying jobs they couldn't get in the real world and 2) a chance for 4 years of solid indoctrination unbalanced by parents or real life.

    Public expenditures on college began to explode late in the Carter years. Sadly, the Reagan camp didn't tourniquet this bleeding, and today you can look at a graph that shows parallel rises in federal spending and tuition costs. Hand in glove.

    Plus, as the author mentions, admin costs are shooting disproportionately ahead. Example? The Univ of Calif fritters away millions that COULD go into classrooms and research programs on this nonsense: http://tinyurl.com/University-Diversity-Scam

    1. Baysider,
      As one who teaches advanced courses (college-prep material), I find so disheartening what has happened to our institutions of higher learning. I feel as if I'm sending my wonderful students into a void. One obvious exception to that: Hillsdale College. Hillsdale, however, doesn't offer certain majors in which my students have a keen interest.

    2. Baysider,
      BTW, none of my students have, as yet, opted for a California college. I do have one high school student -- one of the three most brilliant students with whom I've had the privilege of teaching -- who will be attending Stanford Summer College for High School Students. I'll get full report from him, I'm sure.

    3. Baysider,
      Excellent video! I've shared it with some people over on Facebook.

      Thank you for the link.


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