Beyond the monetary value of a career aided in part by a college education is the experiential benefits that young adults get. I think the whole experience of leaving the nest, being responsible for their own schedules and work ethnic, meeting new people, making the rent or paying bills, etc. is equally as important to full-on adult development as the pure educational aspects of majoring in engineering or political science.
All of that said, the college experience, whether far away or at a local institution, should be every American's right. That's not to say it should be the only path since it might not fit everyone's needs. But it should be available to everyone and that means available at a reasonable cost. Some how the skyrocketing price tag on a college education doesn't sit well, even if you can pull off some fancy ROI calculations to show there's still a benefit over time.
Government involvement is the primary factor that drove the cost of education through the roof. Everything that the government gets involved with undergoes exponential inflation.
I almost completely disagree that college "should be every American's right". That is the thought process that leads to more government involvement, which will only serve to further escalate the price. Everyone already has "the right" to attend college. All you have to do is pay. The problem is, most people can't afford college, because government involvement has driven the cost out of sight.
When I went to college, it was relatively affordable. I got an Associates degree in Electrical Engineering for a grand total of $2K including books. (yes two thousand dollars), but that was before the government became heavily involved with college funding, quotas, etc.
Please name for me anything that has become more streamlined and cost effective because of government involvement.
If you want education to be affordable, get all governments 100% completely out of it, then watch free market forces bring the price back in line. Same applies to health care.
I'm not sure how can you pin the escalating costs of college education solely on government involvement. The biggest culprits for high cost are the private schools, particularly the Ivy League colleges where tuition is upwards of $50,000 a year (and I think that is the base sticker price). Maybe I'm naive, but what role would government play in encouraging these private, for-profit institutions to jack up the cost of their tuititions to the point where it's unaffordable for all but the wealthy, the ones unafraid to take on debt, or the lucky that happen to qualify for financial assistance?
I am not so naiive as to belive I can sway your thinking, but I would encourage you to carefully observe over the course of your life what happens when government gets involved in something. Keep a close eye on the health care system as an example. The government got into it in a big way over the last 40 years, but 2 years ago they put in place a fundamental takeover of the funding of the health care system. The government accounting office just reported yesterday that the cost estimate over the next 10 years has almost doubled since the program was passed 2 years ago. I can all but assure you that the price will redouble several more times over the next 10 years. Just watch it. There are no more free-market forces in the health care system.
With education, the government spent the last 30 years or so placing piles of money in front of the educational institutions in the form of earmarked savings plans for individuals, governmnet backed loans, tax credits and deductions, and direct financial aid. They don't need to "encourage" educational institutions to gather those piles. They only need to put the piles in front of them, which they have done.
If consumers had to finance their education without these government backed piles of money the prices would drop back in line with normal inflationary patterns due to market forces, and it wouldn't take long for it to happen.
Once again, the discussion gets down to politics. I am not so naiive as to belive I can sway your thinking, but I would encourage you to carefully observe what other countries are doing with universal health care. I think any rational objective comparison on the levels and cost of care in numerous first world countries will show that the US is far behind and far more expensive-countless international comparisons show this. Once everyone is insured, insurers will have more customers (good for business), everyone will be on a level playing field, back-office costs will go way down, etc. It works, the level of service to the consumer is better than in the US (just because hate radio declares that we "have the best health care in the world" doesn't make it so). Ask Switzerland, Germany, Australia.......
I have to question your conclusion regarding the relative merit of our USA based healthcare as compared to other nations. Especially with regard to the western European nations you have listed. The last time I consulted a map, some of the wealthiest scions of the world from the Middle East and Asia seem to be flying over these same nations on their way here.
Granted, the wealthy Canadians (including many in government posts) that choose to simply drive past their own hospitals and over the border, to ours, may simply be looking to save the airfare - but somehow, I don't think so...
Now, is ours more expensive to provide ? Yes. That is, in general, the way of things in life as most folks understand that "you get what you pay for". But, from what I can observe, cost factors do tend to matter less (if at all) when it is ones own health on the line and one has the resources to exercise a choice.
Interestingly, many of these same European nations that you identify as having a lower overall healthcare system cost, also have far lower legal costs and associated insurance costs for their frontline health providers and that is something that I would say merits further discussion...
Well, here's just one site. Of course, many will question the veracity of an organization so radical as the New England Journal of Medicine-what would they know compared to, say, Sean Hannity?
Just one sentence from this report: "Despite the claim by many in the U.S. health policy community that international comparison is not useful because of the uniqueness of the United States, the rankings have figured prominently in many arenas. It is hard to ignore that in 2006, the United States was number 1 in terms of health care spending per capita but ranked 39th for infant mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality, and 36th for life expectancy."
I've seen these statistics before but (once again) I have to disagree with your conclusions. Poor health and dietary habits, criminal behaviour and genetic predisposition will severly impact morbidity statistics. Pointing to these statistics as proof that we have poor quality medical care is not the correct assessment.
PS: Why do you speak so often about "Hannity" and "Hate Radio", etc. ? This isn't supposed to be a forum for airing your political views.
Privatization has been the primary driver of ever increasing education costs. Private business is in business to create profit, money over and above the costs, whereas public schools do not, and are generally held to constraints to meet tax payer expectations. The fact is that private schools' tuition costs are higher than public institutions and private lenders' interest rates are higher than government rates, and are also backed by the federal government.
As for government being "the" problem, I suggest that you read about the failure of the Articles of Confederation that led to the creation of the constitution that we now know. There are severe limits to what the free market can achieve without constraints. So, regardless of the bad behavior of the people of the United States in promoting immoral benhavior of its government, such as in instituting slavery and committing genocide on the native Americans, the US is what it is today because of government and its interaction with private enterprise, such as the transcontinental railway.
And you couldn't be more wrong with regards to the cost of health care. One of the primary drivers of the cost increase is that private for-profit players could game the system to their profit.
At the same time, private universities discovered that they had the pricing power to raise tuition if it were accompanied by institutional grants to students with financial need. The combination of institutional financial aid from private institutions and easily available student loans created a system of finance for the private sector: high-tuition/high-aid. By using the standardized "expected family contribution," plus any eligible grants and student loans, college financial aid offices could determine the maximum amount a student could afford to pay.
Institutional financial aid, or tuition discounts, then could cover the difference between financial capacity and the official sticker price. Soon, only fairly wealthy students paid the listed tuition price at most private colleges, while others paid variable prices determined by the financial aid office. Colleges thus extracted the maximum revenue from each student, while avoiding price resistance in the form of reduced demand. They were thus free to raise tuition for those who could afford it while providing an appropriate tuition discount for those who could not.
I love the line about "extracting the maximum revenue from each student. Pretty telling about those altruistic institutions of higher learning, "not for profits".
There is a lot more information in there that basically makes my point (as I read it), but I don't have the time to elaborate.
The point is that the problem is more complex than your claim that government's the problem. Fundamentally, government is a problem because certain special interests control the policy making process to their benefit at the expense of others. The answer is not to get government out ofthe process but to force it to act in the general interest.
When government wasn't involved, education was the perview of only those that could afford it. With government involved, more people have access but so too do those that can game the system to their benefit. The problem isn't government, but human nature.
"For eight years, students at Michigan State University borrowed tuition money directly from the federal government. But last spring, university officials shucked that arrangement and signed up with private lenders and a state agency that provided loans under a separate federal plan. They guaranteed a profit to the university--something the federal government could not do. Sounds sweet for Michigan State, but it's not so terrific for federal taxpayers, who will almost certainly wind up shelling out $23.5 million more each year as a result of the change."
So it isn't government that is the problem, it is special interests controlling it for their benefit at our expense.
@ttemple: There's a difference between institutional student aid -- which comes from private sources -- and federal student aid. The passage you cite is referring to institutional student aid.
As I pointed out before, the universities with the highest tuition rates actually have far fewer students who receive federal student aid than other universities. So it's hard to make a case that federal student aid is responsible for high tuition rates.
On the other hand, the universities with the highest tuition rates do receive huge sums of money from the federal government, mostly in the form of research grants. I don't think President Obama is entirely out of line to suggest that eligibility for some of these grants might reasonably be made contingent on more affordable tuition rates.
The operative words are "easily available money". The institutions saw this and ran with it.
If you read the rest of the document you referernced, it explains what happened when the government created the atmosphere of (too) easily available loans.
They also allude to how the universities created "future earnings" as a revenue stream. I find this practice predatory at least, criminal at worse. Certainly immoral in my opinion.
It also explains that the private universities were able to basically manipulate their price by elevating their tuition to a very high level, then "lower" their price to exactly what each student could pay, using what you are calling "institutional aid". I call it running a college like a jewelry store.
Someone here pointed out the similarity to the housing crisis, where fundamentally the same thing was done. The government pressed financial institutions to make loans, with the qualification being that the recipient was breathing. Most of us recognize where that took us.
I feel that a similar situation could occur with student loans (the government stepping in and bailing out the financial institutions) when the "future earnings" are not there for many people.
I find great hope in some of what was in the document. While the writer sees the "corporate invassion", or whatever he/she calls it, as being bad, I see a silver lining in it for the consumer. It appears that it is creating competition (to the writer's institutions). Competition is always good for the consumer. I think the corporate takeover of education will do for education what Japan did for the car industry in the US. It will save it from itself.
The fact that the corporate world is stepping into the education arena is all the evidence anyone should need that there is far too much money in it. I hope that the competition will force serious evaluation of the cost side of providing education. (did you notice that the article completely avoids a cost analysis?) Corporations must run like a business, colleges don't. Competition from corporations will force institutions to run more like businesses, which will force them to bring their prices in line.
@ttemple: Once again, the universities which charge the highest tuition have the fewest students receiving federal loans. Do you really think the 3% of Harvard undergraduates who receive federal loans are the reason why Harvard's tuition is so high? As to for-profit colleges, there are already plenty; just turn on your TV and you'll see ads for them. For the most part, they charge more than equivalent public colleges, and provide less value. You're welcome to send your kids to one if you want.
Your assertion is that "federal loans" are the only culprit here. My assertion is that readily available money is at the root of the issue, and that the government is directly, and indirectly at the root of the readily available money.
@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?
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 Aid) form. 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?
The source of the recession can be traced to the unregulated mortgage brokers and Wall Street that bought mortgage backed securities and then protected their speculation with unregulated credit default swaps, that were also used by people with no interest in the mortgage backed securities.
The problem with your argument is that the regulated banks were not the ultimate cause of the subprime crisis, the unregulated banks were. While regulated banks do make bad loans they are under guidelines that unregulated banks are not. That certainly doesn't mean that regulated banks didn't make bad loans or fail, but not near the rate that unregulated banks did. The Fed reports go into detail on that.
The lesson is that proper government regulation, as was Glass-Steagall, prevented this crisis prior to Gramm-Leach-Bliley and other Acts written to allow the financial industry to "innovate", which is never a good idea. Free markets fail to control crises because the market, people, think that the party will never end, until it does.
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.
Dean Orsak, thanks for the snapshot this latest White House policy plank. It resonates with me, especially in your comparison of a Florida State School to an Ivy League school, as it framed a personal family situation, which occurred just this month. My son and his girlfriend attend Florida Atlantic University, and are facing decisions about their direction after graduation in May.She had been offered two excellent choices, and deeply wrestled with her decision.The first was a paid internship right there at FAU, coupled with a full scholarship toward her doctorate in psychology; income coupled with low cost. The second was a letter of acceptance from Columbia University in NYC; an ivy league school reportedly ranked fourth in the nation in her discipline.However, the Columbia acceptance was just that – acceptance – and offered neither income from internship/fellowship, or tuition assistance of any kind.The cost was estimated at $160,000 for two years.Tough choice.Her mother urged that she follow her dreams, musing the Columbia opportunity as an honor and privilege.The former [FAU] was a guaranteed doctorate and a chance to start a career in a few years debt-free.I offered one simple mentoring comment on her behalf: "Consider ROI" [return on investment].In my 30 years in industry, I contend that while the choice of school is important, moreover it's the degree that opens the door, but the integrity of the person that makes or breaks. Which would you choose-?
@Jim: Thanks for sharing that personal story. I think you really raise a great point. We all aspire for our children to have the best opportunity, especially if they are gifted enough to have those elite doors opened for them. But the harsh reality of a trading up an Ivy League education for a mountain of debt isn't always the best choice.
My kids aren't college age yet, but these are the tough decisions I'm already starting to contemplate as I watch friends and family struggle with the financial burdens of making theirs and their kids dreams come true. I think you gave your son's girlfriend some pretty sound advice. I know plenty of Ivy educated, private schooled people who are able to spout off on topics I could never hope to master, but they aren't necessarily sitting any better when it comes to their careers and earning power.
Investing $100,000 over four years in order to gain $1.7 million over a lifetime (let's say 50 years) is about the same as putting the same amount of money in an investment which yields 6% interest compounded annually. That's a pretty decent investment, given that the risk is fairly low.
On the other hand, it depends on having $25,000 a year available to spend for a period of four years. There's the rub. For most people, this is a large fraction of their total income. In the meantime, they still have to meet the rest of their household expenses.
My solution, which I successfully applied to my own education and am now applying to my daughters' education, is to go to a community college for two years and then transfer to a four-year school for the next two.
Right now, tuition for a semester at my daughter's community college is about $1600. For comparison, a semester at a public university costs about five times that much. For a private university, it's about ten times as much. The savings over two years, including summer school, are about $35,000 compared to a public university and about $80,000 compared to a private one. That's not counting room and board, or any other costs.
Other benefits of community college include smaller class sizes, easier access to professors, more flexible class schedules, and a more diverse student body. Also, students who do well in community colleges can earn scholarships to four-year institutions, since they have a proven record of achievement.
I suspect that as more students and parents realize what a good deal community colleges are, they will exert a downward pressure on tuition at four-year institutions. Hopefully, this will bring tuition down to a level which average families can reasonably afford.
There are many factors involved in determining the financial value of a college education. One surprising statistic during the economic difficulties of the past fives years is that the unemployment rate for those with a college education was 4 percent -- as compared to 8 or 9 percent overall.
Having a job versus not having a job has major financial impact.
You only get one chance to go to college (at least as a young person right out of high school). Yes, schools are increasingly overpriced, which in turn wrecks the ROI analysis - unless you start a Facebook-like company at age 19. Regardless, you will never regret having graduated from a good school. I sidestepped the ROI issue by going to a good engineering school which was free, but now wants to charge. Can you guess what school it is?
I agree with you regarding escalating costs caused by government intervention. I went to a private engineering college, which was more expensive but closer to 'home' since I was a 'non-traditional' student who was already stable in my community.
Anyway, even the government had their hands into issues at this private school. The biggest example I remember, from years back, is the government subsidies they were going to hold back if the school didn't go fully 'non-smoking', and close all smoking lounges inside. The government always works that way; do this or we won't give you money.
Where's your support for your contention that the escalating cost are caused by government intervention. So your privae engineering school accepted government subsidies? This doesn't sound like any explanation of the cause of cost increases.
Why not stop the anti-government rant and rationally discuss the issue?
I went to college and grad school and don't regret it. Along with the classroom knowledge I learned about critical thinking, how to examine and solve problems, how to design experiments, how to work with teams, and so on. I also made many helpful professional connections, worked with mentors--good and bad--made lifelong friends and learned a lot about how to live life and be a useful part of society. I suppose you can learn some of those things without a college education, but if you can go to college, I recommend doing so. Also, we have many good, inexpensive state schools in the USA, price doesn't always mean quality in college education.
I think college makes sense in this discussion because many of us majored in engineering, which tends to start paying back immediately upon graduation. But I think it gets dicier for people who don't have degrees that create a foundation for job training. I realize college isn't just about job training, but I would have some second thoughts these days about sending a child to college at one of the $50K-per-year liberal arts schools. Those schools work for kids who want to go to law school, med school or graduate school, but the paybacks are less certain (especially in a tough economy) for kids who don't use their education as a springboard for even more education.
Discussing the ROI is interesting but implies that the rising cost is just a given and so is to be accepted, as it will be paid for over a life time. The big problem, as discussed in "The Bell Curve", is that higher education has already stratified American society, leaving many unable to attend even before the ever increasing cost is a consideration.
Let's not forget the trap that so many young people unwittingly fall into: the school loan. Smart loans are definitely an oxymoron and while the premise of borrowing for something as important as education has merit, I don't believe we educate young people as to the ramifications of borrowing (often well-over the actually tuition amount) rather than working and paying at least part "as you go." Many people become weighed down by loans that never go away although the finance companies are happy to temporary defer payment while continuing to accrue interest when hardships happen.
I am also a huge proponent of community college for the first two years. I have been paying into the Texas Tomorrow Fund since 1999 for my son's junior and senior year – fully expecting him to work and attend community college for his first two years as an affordable and character building option. Now that high schools offer dual credit (college and high school) tuition free, we are also looking forward to him graduating high school with several hours of college credit under his belt.
As far as where a student goes, I think accreditation is a key factor that sadly is often overlooked or misunderstood. There are lots of fine non-ivy league universities that offer excellent educations and life-learning experiences, but if they are not accredited (SACS for example) by the accreditation bodies for that particular area of study, the student may not only have difficulty getting hired, they may find they are unable to pursue a higher degree later because the school they are applying to won't accept the degree they earned. Thorough research is essential in selecting a school - no matter how affordable or what scholarships are offered, if it doesn't have credibility in both the academic world and in the marketplace, it could have very upsetting repercussions for the student's future.
Student loans are the real culprit in high costs. Once everyone is entitled to a degree (sound a little like housing?), demand goes up and so do costs. If you want to go to college and can't afford it, get a loan or part-time job. If you want to get a loan, that is a private matter between you and your bank. The government needs to get out of the student loan busisness, just like the housing business. My state's schools are $8,655/year in tuition. Anybody could make that with a part-time job. I made $12,000/year in college 25 years ago when tuition was $1,500/year.
Note: I originally said $6,500/year, but that was two-year old data. Being a government worker, since my salary hasn't risen in two years, I expection tuition to remain stagnant. If you live at home and commute like I did (free university shuttle), you have minimal expenses. Of course, at this rate ($1,000+/year increase) when my daughter graduates in 11 years, tuition will be $19,655+/year. I made that much my last year of college 25 years ago, but it is still manageable. Plus, her parents and grandparents will kick into the cost. The point is, get Uncle B.O. out of the picture and universities will drop their tuition or go out of business.
(I also did the math, since I graduated 22 years ago the tuition ratio is 5.77 [8,655/1,500]. I made $32,000 in my first job, so graduating seniors should make $184,640 [5.77*$32,000]. Uncle B.O., will you please raise my GS-13 salary to compensate?)
@Patrick Harris: Most state university systems have multiple tiers. An annual tuition of $6500 seems low for any but the bottom-tier schools. At a mid-tier state school, you could easily pay that much for one semester. Still, let's accept the $6500 a year number and compare that with what you paid when you went to school.
If you made $12,000 a year and paid $1500 a year in tuition, you spent 12.5% of your income on tuition. I'm sure that wasn't easy, but it sounds like a manageable amount. Someone who pays $6500 a year in tuition would need to make at least $52,000 a year in order for their tuition bill to represent the same percentage of their income. Do you know of any part-time jobs which pay that much?
I agree that it's good for students to be able to work at least part-time while going to school. I worked full-time while going to school. But tuition should be at a level that working students or their families can reasonably afford. These days, the annual cost of attendance at top-tier state schools is more than 50% of the median family income. The cost of attendance at some private universities (like Dean Orsak's school) exceeds 100% of the median family income. This is totally unreasonable.
"But tuition should be at a level that working students or their families can reasonably afford."
If market forces controlled the cost of college (i.e. if government were completely out of the system), the price would be what families could afford, or it wouldn't exist.
In a normal business you are forced to price things based upon what the market will bear. When you have a new product or service that is in great demand, you can charge based upon a perceived value of the product or service. Over time, competitors recognize that the product or service you are selling has a high profit margin, and they start providing similar products or services, which over time causes price erosion because of the competition. At some point the selling price of any good or service settles at some margin that is slightly above the actual cost of providing the goods or service.
In subsidized situations, like colleges, competitive forces between providers are greatly diminished by the ability to charge prices that aren't based so much on cost as the availability of funding. If government backed funding were not available to consumers, they (the consumers) would not be able to afford the prices that are being charged, and the colleges would run out of customers. As they (the colleges) recognized that they had priced themselves out of existence, they would have two choices: 1) go out of business, or 2) get their costs in line with the competiton.
@ttemple: If federal student aid were responsible for high tuition rates, then you'd expect the colleges with the highest percentage of students receiving federal student aid to have the highest tuition rates, wouldn't you?
Actually, it's the opposite. Our country's elite public and private institutions cater to, well, elites. At Harvard, 10% of undergraduates students receive Pell Grants and 3% receive federal student loans. At Cleveland State University, 41% of students receive Pell Grants and 59% receive federal student loans. Guess which one has higher tuition?
I do not agree with the president on too many things, but on this subject he is correct. Universities around the country have been on a tuition feeding frenzy for decades. When I graduated in 1979 tuition was around $30 per credit hour (typically 3 - 4 credit hours per quarter per course). Today it is well over $200 per credit hour. In addition the cost of books and other fees have skyrocketed. This was a state university which is partially funded by the taxpayer. Private universities throw the entire cost on the students. Over the years I have noticed that the school that I attended has raised tuition costs an average of around 9% per year with no end in sight. There is absolutely no excuse for the size of these increases. I attribute the increases to government subsidies. The schools simply view this as free money. Well folks the party is over. Schools have had their way for so long that the costs of higher education has become unaffordable to many. It is about time someone stepped in to put a stop to the insanity that has pushed a decent education out of reach.
I agree with many of the comments that have been made - the cost of a college education is enormously high and rising steadily. The debate concerning the value of a college education can be argued on may levels and from a variety of viewpoints.
Having spent a very large amount of time in the academic environment, both as a student (BSME, MBA, PhD) and as an instructor, I can state with a high level of confidence that there is enormous room for institutions of higher learning to lower their costs by adopting Lean methods.
The fundamental reason that folks attend college is to obtain and education. The assumption being that the college has a staff that is qualified to provide that education. However, the pupose of the institution is to make money and they do that through research grants. To obtain the grants, they have to present the researchers' CVs and research/publishing accomplishments. Thus, the best, most knowledgeable staff are devoted to performing research and/or applying for grants. The cost of this is further amplified by having to have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment with which to perform the research.
The education is provided by teaching assistants (grad students), or recent graduates, who transitioned from learning as students to teaching without ever having had a job or any experience in the field. Let alone the fact they their ablity to speak the language was deplorable. Herding 300 students into an auditorium and presenting a lecture on an engineering topic using a PA system and a PowerPoint presentation is not an effective method of teaching. And certainly not a reflection the the cost that is being charged for the experience.
Having been a "late bloomer", I had more practical knowledge and experience that most of my professors. I found it a challenge to take what they were presenting and match it up with what I knew from experience. They kept referring to "the real world" of engineering and manufacturing. It was patently obvious to me that they had never seen "the real world".
What would the cost of a college education be if the students were truly being educated as a first priority of the institution, and all the research was being done by a separate division of the inrtitution? What if the institutions reduced/eliminated their enormous staffs as we have done "in the real world"? What would happen if they had to play by the same rules that we have to play by "in the real world"? Why not demand tha textbook publishers reduce their costs by using Lean practices, like the automobile industry does with its suppliers? Why not have the educational experience incorporate periods of "hands-on" work as interns in organizations, for which the students would earn money to fund their education and gain "real world" experience? Yes, that would make earning a degree require more time, but we would have graduates that were better prepared to enter the job market and provide value from the start, not after an extended period on the payroll.
There is a lot of discussion about "the college experience". It is a time of discovery, a time for a young person to "find themselves. It must provide a "well-rounded" educational experience, with time for social activities and recreational opportunities. I can agree with that, to a certain extent. But why can't they "find themselves" and decide what they want to do with their lived prior to entering college, so their time at college is spent preparing for their career, not "finding themselves"? How many college students change majors and wind up with a degree in :general studies"? They paid the full price for that degree, have a large student loan, and can only find a job in a fast food restaurant. Sure, they are "well rounded", had fun at all the parties, and had a great social life while at college. But now, they want someone to bail them out and provide help in paying back the student loan.
Many graduates of high school read at an eigth grade level, cannot tell time unless the watch has a digital readout, cannot make change or balance a check book. They were pushed through that educational system, which is broken, and move onto a higher education at an institution that is also broken.
Lets focus on fixing the root cause of the problem and not waste time the future of our students, and the future of our country by debating the effects.
Why not demand tha textbook publishers reduce their costs by using Lean practices, like the automobile industry does with its suppliers?
The auto industry doesn't do this, the consumer does. That is the whole point. Unless you get rid of subsidized money, there are no market forces in play. If the consumer had to pay for college (without any outside funding assistance), they could only charge what the consumer could afford. Institutions would be forced to get the cost of their product in line with what the consumer could pay, or go out of business.
Actually, the textbook publishers are one the verge of going virtual. Amazon and Apple are both pushing the Textbook world to begin offering digital-only textbooks. They're pushing first at the high school market, but that will certainly drift to higher education. The argument is that the purchase price of a Kindle Fire or iPad will quickly be recovered if there is a savings on the digital books.
However, the higher education publishers argue that their costs are not paper and shipping as much as the rigorous editorial process to produce a quality textbook. We'll see what happens.
What do you think about the Khan Academy? It is the in thing now an dis getting a lot of coverage. I really don't think that it's that innovative, but I'm not a teacher. The on-demand idea has been around a while and this is free.
I like the Khan Academy. It may not be as innovative as some people claim but the topics that I have looked at are clear and concise and do a good job of helping you understand the concepts. I advise my high school junior son to go there first before he asks me for help on math, chemistry, or physics homework. He also used the site for SAT preparation.
The only thing I don't like is that it seems to follow to the California State School System curriculum more than I would like (I don't live in CA).
I understand that some local districts in CA are using Khan Academy in innovative ways. Such as assigning students to watch the video lesson as "homework" and then doing the exercises (that would typically be assigned as homework) in class. That way they can easily discover which students understand the lesson and which students need additional one on one help from the teachers to help them understand.
@Rob Spiegel: My daughter's psychology class uses an online e-book. It was about as expensive as her books for her other classes. (Actually, it was more expensive, since buying a used copy wasn't an option).
I've always harbored a secret hope that students will start trading pirated textbooks online just like they trade pirated music and movies, and that this will bring down the price of textbooks. Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to have happened.
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.
@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.
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.
Rob: I agree that it would make sense for textbook publishers to go digital, largely because the small sales numbers wouldn't seem to justify the huge print editions of some of these textbooks. So why would the academic publishers resist this? Is it because they're getting a big mark-up on those printed editions?
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.
@LSSMaster: Great post. I might point out that we already have a working example of what you propose: community colleges. Community colleges, for the most part, don't do research; all they do is teach. As a result, tuition is 5 - 10 times lower than it is at four-year universities. Since most community colleges do not require instructors to hold a doctorate, many community college instructors come from the "real world." And community college students don't spend their time partying in dorms; most of them have full- or part-time jobs.
The idea of going to college in order to "find yourself" -- rather than to gain useful knowledge and skills in order to contribute to society -- is a holdover from the days when colleges were finishing schools for the rich. Students who were assured of a comfortable job at daddy's oil company regardless of their grades could easily afford to spend four years partying. Their college degree just confirmed their membership in an elite club which they were born into; it was not evidence of academic achievement. If we're willing to be ruled by a mediocre aristocracy, this is fine. On the other hand, if we want to live in a democratic society where success is determined by talent and determination, we can't afford this outdated version of the "college experience."
Dave: Further adding to your support of community college is the fact that they can also offer additional options and a better value for the aspiring 4-year college student through a transfer program.
Case in point, my daughter's best friend was denied admission to a highly-selective university after she graduated from high school. Instead, she attended the local community college and finished her first year with a very high GPA. She then transfered to the very same highly-selective university as a Sophmore and is doing well. In this case, community college not only gave her a savings on her first year of college expenses (living at home, lower tuition), it also gave her another route to get inside her initial first choice university. In the end, she can have the same diploma, but at a better value.
Based upon what I am seeing in my state I would vote for more government (state) involvement in colleges. Here the two flagship universities both get less than 10% of their total funding from the state. They have both argued that they could save at least 10% of their costs if they were private and didn't have to comply with state regulations for public institutions. So state government support is negligible. The other issue with the state is that although the college age population is growing rapidly, the universities are not and can not due to lack of funding. So the number of entering freshmen is static even as the population grows. This means competition for these few spots gets more intense every year even as fewer can afford tuition costs (about $12,000 per year) even if they could gain admittance. On top of that our "state" universities admit about 30% out of state students because out of state tuition is twice that of in state tuition and helps their bottom line. Similarly at our communitiy colleges there are not enough classrooms, teachers, and hence classes to even begin to satifiy demand. Many "two year" programs take over three years to complete because the classes are simply not available to all of the students who need them. So the community colleges classes meet in any old building where space can be found and students drive all over the dozen of campus locations trying to find their classes. Yes our state has a good bond rating and we have reasoanbly low taxes compared to some other states but education is suffering greatly because of it.
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.
@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?
The first ground rule is every citizen in a democracy needs college education. And if I were the president, you can't graduate even from high school until you are shown two political statements one from left and one right, and can write two essays to show how they are both false. Democracy can't operate otherwise. You won't believe the level of thinking with stuff written in a public forum. An engineering forum like this is refreshing to see actual critical thought process.Guess as an engineer, you are trained in critical thinking, and that is the value of college education.
The high cost of college is simple supply and demand. College has become a must and not optional if you want a fighting chance at middle class. The number of new college has not increased. Cost is going up simply because it can. As somebody said, the value has not gone up. Is still a good investment because there are no alternative. What else can you do. Is like medicine. If is a million a pill that cost pennies to make, is still a good investment because there are no alternatives.
What is needed is competition. No, not corporate take over that turns college into Disney channel or the Vogue magazine. Is time for a national college. There is no reason why one professor can't teach a million in hundreds of classroom across the nation with technology available. You can pick the best professor base on results and pay him a million a year. Is easy to see which professor's students gets the most A's. Text books should be digital and free. Just pay the publisher one time for the rights. Exercise problems can change, but the basic text should stay the same. All you need is just a classroom with an attendant. You can still have all the campus clubs and social activities.
A cheap university can be every bit as effective as an expensive one. It only lacks the name and the football team. I believe this is not just a dream, is starting to happen with MIT free course, Stanford course on line and Khan University.
When I've taught university classes over the last few years. I regularly asked students if they would prefer an online class over an prof in-person class. The result was regularly 80 percent for in-person classes and 20 percent or less for online classes. When I asked why, the response were consistent. The students don't feel they learn as much in an online class. They want the contact with the knowledge holder. Given that the students were usually in their late teens and early 20s, I expected they would lean toward the technology of online classes. But nope.
People will have to adjust to new concept of learning. Young people already learn a lot online like how to hop up a complex gaming computer. There are definite advantage to learning on line. Concepts can be animated. You can rewind to catch a sentence, take notes or think about the concept for a moment. Forums can be used to throw ideas around and help each other. But for sure some form of study group, social life, and campus environment where students get together will be needed.
People may actually learn better online. The real test is once they graduate, how effective they are in the industry. I believe a well designed online college course can turn out just as good engineers as the best engineering schools today for a lot less money in the long run.
When industry start to hire online college graduate, and see how effective they are, there will be a rush to online college.
Rob, I think benmlee2 is right: When companies see that online graduates are productive, things will change in a hurry. That said, I haven't found many people, even in the age groups of my early-20s kids, who are ready to make the jump yet.
I found it odd that kids didn't jump at online classes. They're proficient with technology and accustomed to communicating with devices. Seems a no-brainer. I would think they would jump at it and drag their gray-haired professors along.
It will be interesting to see how colleges respond to the "pushback" on costs. Many are starting to offer accelerated programs where students can reduce costs by finishing earlier. Online courses, especially for core courses that might not be part of the student's main academic pursuit, is another obvious area to potentially save on costs. But in the end, it will be interesting to see the quality these new programs offer, and also how many studentsand families adopt cost control strategies.
I have a certain amount of heart burn with the the idea that a 'college' degree is an essential. And I will start off with a good hard and skeptical look at the assertion that a college degree is worth (roughly) $1.3 million. The problems with that assertion:
#1: It is based on historical data - who says that this will be true in the future
#2: It is based on a relatively few college grads pursuing a relatively large number of high(er) paying jobs. More college grads + fewer (or even the same number of ) jobs = not so much happiness. Certainly the trend seems to be heading in that direction with many college grads unable to find employment at a level that justifies the costs of their degree.
#3: The higher cost of college is just the cost of tuition et al but also the financing cost of the increasing large debt that must be absorbed by the student and their families.
Now I do feel that some higher education is highly valuable - I do, however, feel that there are many, less expensive ways to get that additional education such as community colleges and employer sponsored course.
More education (in fact, a lifetime of it) - yes. But not blindly rushing off to college for a degree in whatever.
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