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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Colleges need to get "Lean"
Rob Spiegel   3/20/2012 1:22:21 PM
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Chuck, from what I've seen, digital textbooks are not less expensive than paper-based textbooks. The publishers argue that the cost is in the author expertise and the degree of research, not in the paper. I would guess one of the challenges for the publishers will be to protect the digital books from sharing.

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Re: Colleges need to get "Lean"
Dave Palmer   3/20/2012 11:47:47 AM
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@Rob: Well, it wasn't just a change in the order of the homework problems.  They changed the cover, too.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Colleges need to get "Lean"
Rob Spiegel   3/20/2012 11:14:15 AM
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Dave, your example is a perfect example of how textbook publishers thwart the used book market -- a new edition is merely a change in the order of homework problems. It will be interesting to see how textbook publishers manage to control the swapping of digital files.

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Re: The value of a college education?
Dave Palmer   3/20/2012 10:57:32 AM
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@William K.: I went to the Illinois Institute of Technology.  I graduated in December 2005, which doesn't seem like very long ago, but tuition has already increased by nearly 50% since I started.

Shortly before I graduated, a new student building (the McCormick Tribune Campus Center) was built at a cost of $48 million.  It was designed by Rem Koolhaas, a famous Dutch architect.  The building is situated directly under the elevated train tracks.  A stainless steel and concrete tube was built around the train tracks in order to dampen the noise in the building. (You can still hear the trains going by overhead, but it's not as deafening as it would otherwise be).

It's actually a pretty neat building from an architectural standpoint, but I almost never went there as a student.  I was working full-time and living off-campus, so most of my time was spent in classrooms, in labs, or in the library.  As my fellow students and I struggled with out-of-date equipment in labs in the basements of aging academic buildings, the thought sometimes occurred to me that the school might have found a better use for $48 million.  Also, as a native Chicagoan, I had a hard time supressing a voice in my head that said, "You've gotta be stupid to build a building under the El tracks."

On the other hand, I've heard that the new student center helps to attract students, especially architecture students.  And, having gone on campus tours with prospective students and their families, I've seen how impressed they are. (Except the ones from Chicago, who I could see thinking, "You've gotta be stupid to build a building under the El tracks.")

So basically it's a $48 million advertising campaign.  And presumably the school figures that the increase in tuition revenue will offset the cost.

Did somebody say that universities should be run more like businesses?

William K.
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Platinum
The value of a college education?
William K.   3/19/2012 11:37:18 PM
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I graduated from Lawrence Institute of Technology, which was at that time an excellent technical college. When I checked on it about four years ago, the tuition had risen to 72 times what it was when I started.  THat is a large increase, indeed. OF course, it is a private school and so they can charge whatever they choose to charge.

Now the school is a university, and it seems to offer all kinds of things that serve as distractions from learning about engineering. Of course, the very first graduate degree that they chose to offer when they became a university was the MBA.

IT would be quite educational to have an explanation of why all the distractions are a benefit, and why abandoning the original charter was a good choice, and why engineers are better engineers when they go to a school that offers a variety of liberal arts degrees, and a fancy gym, and a pool, and a huge student activities building full of non academic activities. 

My education was a good value, but I offer a concern that the current education is  not nearly as good a value because so much of it 9is all the distractions. Or is it just marketing to the masses to maximize the profit for the owners and board of directors? That is what it looks like from where I stand today. I am not asserting that it is that way, just that it looks like it is. There might even be another side to the story that explains why the 72 times tuition increase is totally reasonable.

 

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Re: Colleges need to get "Lean"
Dave Palmer   3/19/2012 6:03:16 PM
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@Rob: My physics textbook went through an edition change between when I took Physics II and when I took Physics III. Since I had already spent well over $100 on the book, I was not eager to buy a new edition. Fortunately, I found that the only significant change was the order of the homework problems. With about 5 minutes after class each week cross-referencing problem numbers in a classmate's book, I was able to avoid the expense of buying a new copy.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Colleges need to get "Lean"
Rob Spiegel   3/19/2012 12:33:05 PM
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Good points, Dave. I've been expecting that e-books would not bring down costs considerably. Apple says it can bring down costs for high school texts by going to e-books, but that's a different market.

As for used texts, the industry is already fighting that by producing revised editions quickly. It will be interesting to see how they work to prevent the sharing of e-books.

ttemple
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Platinum
Re: You've got to be kidding!
ttemple   3/19/2012 10:28:43 AM
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The bottom line is the government set out to create an outcome of making college affordable for everyone.  To that end, they start programs to assist those who they believe are not in the system because they can't afford to be in the system.  Institutions see the influx of a new, stable revenue stream, and "adjust" their prices accordingly. (with "confidence", as your article pointed out)  This further progressed to seeing "future earnings" as the next justification for raising prices.

Please don't get the idea that I don't support what government attempted to do.  I just completely disagree with how they went about it, and I believe that it is the primary factor in the cost increases of education over the last 30 to 40 years.  It has undoubtedly accomplished some of what it set out to do, but at a cost.

The article presented here basically asks the question of whether education prices are worth it, and frames the argument around a "value" based upon future earnings potential.  In my opinion, that is not how the price of education shoud be established.  I don't believe the consumer should be paying some price that is justified by potential value, and not at all on the cost basis of services rendered.

Honestly, can you imaging if car dealers were able to adopt a system like the educational institutions have?  The government decides that everyone should be able to have a car.  They start funding vouchers, or some such thing, infusing billions of dollars into car purchases.  The dealers and manufacturers start seeing demand go up, and money flowing in.  They can't keep up with demand, and they start raising prices (with confidence).  The government decides that the vouchers were a bad idea, and sets up a system where they make car loans available to everyone through private banks.  Prices go up some more.  The dealers that have exclusive, more desirable cars figure out that they can really jack up their prices, and give discounts where they have to.  They have an application that you fill out when you go, and you disclose your income, and your parents have to fill out a FAFCA (Free Application for Federal Car Aidform.  They take this information into the managers office, and come back with your "deler aid" discount.

Sounds like a system that most people would have problems with, and would see it for what it is.  Why do we acccept it in the education system?

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: You've got to be kidding!
Dave Palmer   3/19/2012 9:17:45 AM
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@ttemple: Initially, you claimed that federal government action was responsible for high tuition costs.  Now you seem to be claiming that federal government inaction (i.e. the government allowing private lenders to make loans) is responsible.  Whatever; it's all the government's fault, right?

Also, you claim that universities should be run like businesses, but you also complain about universities trying to maximize revenue per student and being run like "jewelry stores." Which is it?

jeffbiss
User Rank
Gold
Re: regulated vs unregulated
jeffbiss   3/18/2012 7:41:14 PM
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Of course some made very bad loans but due to the FDIC and regulators, the negative effects were minimized. The banking world was a different between investment banks of today and commercial banks then because of the size allowed, who could own them, what they were legally allowed to do, etc. Also, financial BS like credit default swaps weren't legal.

If you're alluding to F&F, they were created to provide liquidity to the mortgage market, as do Wall Street investment banks. However, while F&F competed in the subprime loan buy up, Wall Street bought far more of these loans, and while F&F was unleashed to a point it was still regulated to a degree that Wall Street isn't.

The dynamics of 50 years ago were very different than the deregulation era preceeding the subprime mortgage crisis. The reason we need regulation is that people are greedy and can't behave. The reason regulation may fail is due primarily to two reasons: A) the regulators act in the interest of those they are supposed to oversee, and (b) the regulations are drawn up in the interest of the proposed regulated parties because of the undue influence of special interests in the policy making process.

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