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How To Cut The Cost Of College

American universities. The cost of college. And how to rein it in.

A protester stands outside a teleconference meeting of the Board of Regents regents of the University of California, on the campus at UCLA Monday, Nov. 28, 2011.  (AP)

A protester stands outside a teleconference meeting of the Board of Regents regents of the University of California, on the campus at UCLA Monday, Nov. 28, 2011. (AP)

Apart from health care costs, there’s almost nothing that goes up in this country like the cost of college.  Up and up and up.  Way faster than inflation.  Families struggle to pay it.  Students, graduates, struggle to pay it off.  Last week in his State of the Union address, and in Ann Arbor, the President he’s going to do something about it.

Reward colleges that bring down costs.  Punish those that don’t.  There is all kinds of reaction to that, and a lot of thinking about how to change to rein in tuition.

This hour, On Point:  Point of pain.  Getting a grip on the cost of an American college education.

-Tom Ashbrook


Henry Eyring, Advancement Vice President at BYU-Idaho, and author of The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out. You can find an excerpt from the book here.

Jeff Selingo, editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and author of the blog “The Next,” about innovation in higher education.

Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, the largest higher education system in the country. She was one of a dozen higher education leaders to meet in December with President Obama at the White House to discuss ways to bring down the cost of higher education in America.

From Tom’s Reading List

 CNN “Imitating Harvard is a problem for two reasons. One is the cost: If you don’t have a multibillion-dollar endowment and government research funding, the only alternative is to raise tuition. The other problem is that the basic elements of the Harvard model of education are roughly 100 years old. Thus, its imitators have, with the best of intentions, become expensive, exclusive and distanced from the nonacademic world.”

New York Times “Most people stressed that they, too, wanted to make college education more affordable. But when it came to the particulars of the plan — and paying for it — there was no consensus. ”

The Chronicle of Higher Education “Blending the personal with the political—and playfully responding to shouts of support from the audience—Mr. Obama made clear that the college-cost themes in this 35-minute speech would set the tone for a continuing national discussion that will be central not only in his administration’s coming budget fight with Congress but also as he campaigns around the country for re-election.”


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  • Anonymous

    Foreign student tuition at UC Berkeley (UCB) is subsidized in the guise
    of diversity while instate student tuition/fees are doubled. UCB Chancellor Robert
    J Birgeneau displaces Californians qualified for public UCB with a $50,600
    payment from foreign students.


    UC Berkeley is
    not increasing enrollment. Birgeneau accepts $50,600 foreign students and
    displaces qualified instate Californians (When depreciation of assets funded by
    Californians are in foreign and out of state tuition calculations, out of state
    and foreign tuition is more than $100,000 + 
    and does NOT subsidize instate tuition). Like
    Coaches, Chancellors Who Do Not Measure Up Must Go: remove Birgeneau.


    More recently, Chancellor
    Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting
    Birgeneau’s tuition increases. The sky will not fall when Birgeneau and his
    $450,000 salary are ousted. Opinions make a difference; email UC Board of
    Regents   marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

    • Anonymous

      Last I recall, Cal’s white student percentile including under- and graduate students was less than 40% of the total student population, and that figure may even include the 3-4% of those who did not want to say. Thus I don’t understand your position that “diversity” is being used to funnel money to international students in favor over US students. If indeed diversity is being used, they should be funding more white students given the disproportionate number of minorities, Asian Americans especially, who make up the student body. Can you elaborate on this point?

      Also, from my experience, I know of no international student who received federal or state aid to study at a US institution. But I was educated on the east coast and neither my under or grad studies were at state universities.

      I’m in full agreement about the need to reexamine chancellors’ salaries and especially the salary structure of campus cops though.

      • Anonymous

        Send your thoughtful comments to marsha.kelman@ucop.edu 

        Every qualified California student must
        get a place in University of California (UC). That’s a desirable goal for a
        public UC. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau displaces Californians
        qualified for education at Cal.
        with foreigners paying $50,600 tuition.

        Paying more is not a
        better education. UC tuition increases exceed the national average rate of
        increase. Birgeneau has doubled instate tuition/fees. Birgeneau jeopardizes
        access to Cal
        by making it the most expensive public university.

        President Mark Yudof uses tuition increases to pay for faculty &
        administrator salary increases. Payoffs like these point to higher operating
        costs and still higher tuition and taxes.
        Instate tuition consumes 14% of Cal. Median Family Income. President Yudof is
        hijacking our families’ and kids’ futures: student debt.

        I agree that Yudof and Birgeneau
        should consider the students’ welfare & put it high on their values. Deeds
        unfortunately do not bear out the students’ welfare values of Birgeneau, Regent
        Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof.

        We must act. Birgeneau’s
        campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting Birgeneau’s tuition
        increases. The sky will not fall when Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau ($450,000
        salary) ‘honorably’ retires.

        Opinions to UC Board of Regents,
        email    marsha.kelman@ucop.edu



        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the unresponsive reply.

  • Yar

    Start at the beginning, by the time a student reaches college the public has already spent over 100,000 dollars on his education.  We have to make that investment pay off.  A good preschool is more important than prestigious college.  Secondly, a person should have basic life skills by the time they reach college.  They need to know how to eat, sleep and take care of themselves.  I would use two years of public service between high school and college to grow up our kids and prepare them for college.  Any child who is prepared for college and completes public service should have the choice to attend college without debt.  

    We should pay for education through taxes.  
    Will a model like this work? 

    Berea College has taken smart kids and educated them virtually debt free for over 150 years.  They have a strong alumni association, have built a healthy endowment and use every federal grant they can find to serve their students.  Education of America’s children should not be based on a scarcity model, where only the wealthy are afforded an education, it should be a inclusive model that includes everyone to build a strong society.  Investing in our next generation is the only way to build wealth over the long term.  Use a model that works, I believe Berea College has one that does.  http://www.berea.edu/

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      I like your first paragraph, especially the public service piece as a transition.

      The only problem with Berea for me is their mission statement (in part):

      “Berea College, founded by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, continues today as an educational institution still firmly rooted in its historic purpose “to promote the cause of Christ.” Adherence to the College’s scriptural foundation, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” shapes the College’s culture and programs so that students and staff alike can work toward both personal goals and a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. This environment frees persons to be active learners, workers, and servers as members of the academic community and as citizens of the world. The Berea experience nurtures intellectual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual potentials and with those the power to make meaningful commitments and translate them into action.”

      • Yar

        You don’t have to be ‘christian’ to attend Berea College, and they won’t really try to ‘convert’ you, although some students on campus might.  Yes, the founders belief came from a religious faith, and that faith caused them to invest in the school. Berea accepts people of all beliefs and those with none.  The Dalai Lama has been a guest on campus several times.  They are more open minded than any school in my state, pubic or private.  Don’t judge the book by its cover. 
        A “world shaped by Christian values,such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice.”  
        These values should be human values, and at Berea, for the most part they are.

        • http://curiositybug.myopenid.com/ Guest

          Our founders were products of the Enlightenment (The Age of Reason), an intellectual movement in direct opposition to religion and a faith-based understanding of ourselves and our world.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Scholarship students at Berea are required to do work at the college, developing a work ethic, AND a sense of investment!

  • Anonymous

    Administrator are part of the problem. While their numbers have grown along with their salaries and marketing budgets, they have cut the numbers of tenured professors and full professors and replaced them with equally educated but poorly paid adjunct professors. Adjuncts are folks with PHDs being paid 3-4 thousand dollars per course. Do the math. That ain’t right!!!

    Like corporate America has perverted the function of our government, this is a perversion of the university system with corporate like hierarchy enriching itself and squeezing the workers who deliver the goods. Education is thus becoming less affordable and ceasing to make economic sense for many.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    Exactly as in real estate,  the availability of college financing has prompted colleges and universities to jack up their tuition many times over,  which has added to the debtor nation of the USA.  

    The result being that other countries are now establishing more universities of their own, instead of competing with debt laden US students paying outrageous tuition…an other example of a self-destructive system.

    • Yar

      Here is a video that makes your point.
      I have posted this before on On Point, I disagree with its conclusion that gold or silver should be used as a hedge against college inflation.
      They do make some valid points about how the education game is rigged against the student.  The intro is pretty slick, it clearly defines our current crisis in education.  

      An educated workforce is what really backs our fiat currency. Money is trading work over time, when we don’t educate the next generation, we devalue the work we do today.

    • twenty-niner

      Exactly correct. Cheap money = giant bubble. Too bad the geniuses at the Fed can’t figure this out.

  • Mlaw33

    Agreed with Paolo. 

    (1)  Stop subsidizing credit and monies towards applicants.

    (2)  Remove the bankruptcy protection on student loans.  Let colleges put their money where their mouth is: if you can charge $50K a year for tuition, then your diploma should be bankruptcy proof.  (I know that’s drastic)  But how can you sleep at night knowing that one of your student’s paid $150K for a diploma and he/she doesn’t have a job.

    (3)  Get rid of vice administrators, bring back teachers, and put the spotlight on public universities.  A side story to the whole Penn State scandal was how much the AD and the head of the Campus Police were making.  Schultz’s PENSION is $331K a year.  What a JOKE!!!  There needs to be legislators (state and federal) who pull back the curtain on public universities that are overloaded with bureacrats and administrators who trade one another with high paying salaries and slick pensions.

    • http://curiositybug.myopenid.com/ Guest

      Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, thanks to the Bush administration.

      I agree that sports programs (especially football and basketball) contribute to price inflation.  Universities should be about education.         

  • Adks12020

    I’m not sure how you do it but I sure hope someone figures it out. 

    I’m a grad student right now and I will be paying $35,000 this year in tuitition (the majority of it will be using student loans).  I waited 7 years after graduating with a bachelors degree because it was so expensive.  I was hoping I could get to where I wanted to be with a bachelors.  So much for that.  Plus, it turns out it that just like everythign else it just got more and more expensive the longer I waited….a lot more. 

    At least now I’ve paid my undergrad loans off and can afford to pay a little of the tuition as I go since I am working full time and going to school.  I sure hope the degree pays off though because I am really pushing the limit of hours in the day right now and piling up debt.

  • Alex

    How to cut the cost of College? Same way as to cut the cost of housing. Stop the influx of the low cost government funds into colleges. Make educational loans just like any other private loans. HThese loans should have higher interest rates and be dischargeable in bankruptcy.  The demand for colleges will drop, as will the price.  As it is, the easy government money has created an education bubble that is about to burst. Again, it is very similar to what happned with the housing.    

  • Anonymous

    Since college costs have skyrocketed since the Department of Education was founded, I would suggest eliminating the 
    Department of education and hope that its failures can be corrected quickly 

  • Anonymous

    I know a friend that wanted to get a CDL license to drive a semi.  the instructor said that the course cost $300 for as many years as he could remember but this year it costs $1000.  The only reason the instructor could think of was there was a new federal loan program to help people take classes like this that would pay up to $1000 per course.

    I suspect that many college costs are based similarly.

  • Anonymous

    Instead of subsidizing private education through grants and loans, tax money should have only been spent at public institutions.  It just allowed private schools to not be responsible to keep costs under control.  And trying to offset tuition increases with promises of more financial aid isn’t a help to the middle class student. 

  • still just cory

    I had a diverse classical education in the early 90′s.  I feel sad for all the kids who will never have the chance to have what I had.  Cost, economy, and culture are making my education a thing of the past.

  • Greyman

    Obama’s crowd-pleasing strategy of withholding Federal funding from universities whose costs continue to rise sounds to some ears like an invitation for universities to raise tuition rates, et cetera, at the next opportunity. And university administrators take issue with our President’s proposal? Do tell!

    I have two ideas which are even less likely to be implemented: 1) abolish the NCAA in order to utterly eliminate university sports programs from their dubious connections to professional sports (leave colleges/universities with intra-mural sports programs only); 2) abolish and eliminate all remedial programs for post-secondary schools. Colleges and universities need to respect their putative integrity for “higher learning”: let all college prep schools and courses be administered by outfits other than the colleges and universities themselves, so that EVERYONE arriving on any campus can more reliably be said to be ready for the academic rigors of post-secondary education.

    All kinds of curriculum reforms also could be profitably pursued, but this would need to come on a school-by-school basis.   

  • Markus

    I’m close to a number of people who teach undergrads and grads, some in the UC system. They’re paid very well and have cushy jobs. One UC tenured prof got his job through political connections (only had a bachelor’s degree) and puts in a good 20 hours per week during a busy week. Lots of vacations and an occasional sabbatical, too. The phrase, you get what you pay for is long past. With my connections, I’m considering semi-retiring to one of these gigs, though I’d have to pretend to be progressive to get in.

    I think it was Birgeneau (of Berkeley) who said a significant component of the cost at Berkeley was to have what he called “rich people” support poor people (might have been Georgetown’s president, though). So, it’s become his and the university’s job to determine who’s not paying their “fair share” and take from some to give to others. That people in this rarified and very liberal air feel they have the right to redistribute income is not surprising.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Brown/1227104716 Tim Brown

    As a 2010 graduate, having just gone through the system and seen it close up, I think a big part of the problem of rising costs is that there is little incentive to keep costs down. The willingness of the federal government, for political expedience (and cynically I would say to benefit some of the well connected 1%), to give out open ended loans is what has allowed costs to soar out of sync with any growth in American wages or the value of a college education.

    My private education at Syracuse University was valued at an astounding amount. Writing from my community college computer lab, where I am taking additional classed to boost my resume for a doctoral program in neuroscience, it strikes me that the $1400 a semester education I’m getting here is in no substantial way any different then the $20,000 a semester education I received up in Syracuse. The difference is that here there is a very strong incentive to drive down costs and not to care about ratings. Deans should be collectivized to focus on costs more than ratings. In the end I feel college standings mean very little in terms of the quality of education one receives, especially when it comes to undergraduate level education.

    For a potent example, look at CCNY with it’s many well respected doctoral programs and multiple noble laureates, this all despite it’s low price tag. I think a big factor in this equation is that CCNY does not try to boost it’s national ratings but instead follows the goal of trying to give a quality education to as many NYC residents as possible for as low a price as possible.

  • jim

    The Federal and state government should take out the label of universities, private or public, as nonprofit organization. There is absolutely no difference between a law firm and a university in term of making money. what is the difference between a tenure professor making over 100k and a law partner?

    The exemption to pay real estate taxes given to US colleges/universities is causing budget shortfall and serious financial stress on municipalities all over the country. Let’s not kid ourselves. Colleges and universities are irrefutably profitable disguised as non-profit charlatans.

    as for the tuition problem, i believe this responsibility to make higher education affordable is squarely on the federal government. I hope Pell Grants and low interest subsidized loans will continue to be available to current and future US students. A low skill workforce in America does not reflect well for the future of our country.

    • Tim

      Legally there are several limits on how university’s can spend endowments, if you want to tax them you’d have to remove these and I feel that would open up the flood gates to lots of reckless spending which would only raise the costs for students. While big endowments like Harvard’s tens of billions do seem like they should be taxed, many institutions are currently experiencing shortfalls.

      Also, there are less and less tenured professors at insitutions. The majority of professors are now temporary hires making 25-40k a year.

      • Adks12020

        I’m curious about your last comment.  I have two college professors in my family.  One has tenure, one doesn’t.  Both make much more than 25-40K/year and neither one works “full time”. 

        Granted these are only two examples and they are very experienced but I don’t think any of their professor friends work other jobs.  All they do is teach and publish the occasional book or journal article.

        Almost all of my professors in college (i graduated 7 years ago) had tenure.  Those that didn’t were still full time professors but simply hadn’t published enough material yet to earn tenure.  All that didn’t have tenure were working towards it.

        To say that “most are temporary hires making 25-40K a year” is quite a stretch.

  • Observer

    From Housing to College.

    Subsidize loans with Government Backing and Fed Funny Money, and Voila- Price Inflation!

    But it felt good for an election cycle to think we were helping students didn’t it!

    Too bad we were simply helping loan originating and interest collecting bankers again.

    Enough with the misguided good intentions please.

    No free lunch. Listen to Granny.

  • Listener

    I need a bean count check.  On the one hand, costs of college are skyrocketing, yet I hear these stories of grad students and associate professors that need to work 3 positions in order to make ends meet.

    Where is all the money going?

    • Anonymous

      marketing, landscaping, admin overhead, sports, state of the art gyms, too many obscure subjects/majors

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Public posting of pay, benefits, and perquesets of college officials, over the time of increases on college tuition increases?

  • Life Sizevision

    Bloomberg Business week has an article that highlights several tuition-free colleges:

    Admittedly there are not many, but that’s a start right?

  • Observer

    Obama wants to both subsidize and price control college.

    Isn’t that model already known to fail?

    Get Government out of backstopping private debt with taxpayer $ once and for all.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    We need options rather than college – I’m sure someone who is older paying for online classes can do at least as well as someone treating college as a 4 year party because mom & dad can afford it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    Any university/institution receiving federal and state funds should put a cap on executive pay. Universities such as Suffolk and Northeastern that receive federal grants have some of the highest paid presidents in any field while students are forced to pay tuition that increases an average of 5% a year.

  • Gisscottheron

    Take a look at the one percenter’s who run the elite colleges, and then look at tuition’s 60 thousand all in to attend Harvard or Yale Princeton etc etc all of the presidents of these places make over a million a year.
    this is for an undergrad education  forty classes for a four yer degree  60 thousand for the privilege of discussing maybe 80 books gimme a break. What are these kids really getting for the money, at Yale you dont even have access to the name profs you get 70%  adjunct faculty.

    Obama is a joke claiming that he will spend more for less at the university level when the k through twelve money has been choked off at the federal level. Local and Grammar schools are going begging funding cut 5%

    Obamas rhetoric was nonsensical pay more for less.
    The free market does not price tuition because they have guaranteed loan  no default ever loans feeding the greed.

  • Catherine

     My husband and I are in debt over $100,000 in student loans from college and graduate school.  We will still be paying back our student loans while paying for college tuition for our children.

  • Ray in VT

    A number of years ago I spoke with some of the people in the administration of my undergraduate school.  They said that their biggest outlays were in wages and benefits.  In that area of cost what was by far the fastest growing expense was the rising cost of health care.

  • Observer

    Guys, its not the laundry list of expenses making the cost go up, its the Sallie Mae, taxpayer backed loans that allow the tuition and THEN spending go up, because when it all crashes, like housing there will be a BAILOUT.

  • http://curiositybug.myopenid.com/ Guest

    Throughout most of the world higher education is about education. Not sports. Not experiences. Not comfort.  Education.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    This is just silly.
    They need high tuition.
    How else are they going to pay Lizzy Warren’s $350K salary?

    • Ray in VT

      Not to dispute your numbers or your point, but that is small potatos when compared to what some of these college coaches are making.  Have you seen what someone like Coach K makes?  Granted he may be one of the best ever at what he does, but it is just absolutly crazy.

      • Worried for the country(MA)

        Yeah, but coach K is in a clear profit center for the U.  Maybe Lizzy Warren is too but that is less clear.

        • Ray in VT

          K was the first guy that came to mind, and he and his program are certainly a benefit to Duke, in part due to the impact that it’s alumni have, but there was some discussion a few months back that threw out the number that only something like 20 of the division I football programs (100ish total) made money.  Granted being an asset and making money are not necessarily the same thing, and I like sports, but I think that my point is a valid one.

        • Anonymous

          It’s more clear to me. Though I don’t know someone who teaches at the law school per se, I do know someone who teaches at the B-school. There are many parts of the world to which he can travel and neither he nor his family would have to pay a cent due to former students and proteges who’ve now accomplished great things in their fields and feel so much gratitude to their former professor/mentor for having been so critical to their development and success. These are the same sort of people who’ll donate for annual campaign drives and establish significant endowments later in life. We’re talking about what is consider one of the most elite if not the elitest institution in the world where so much of the best and the brightest congregate. And I’m sure Elizabeth Warren has been equally imperative in the development of at least a handful of people who’ll go on to accomplish great things not only for themselves but for society at large. How much is this worth in terms of human capital? It’s also not so hard for a single person with a law degree from Harvard to later donate a sum that would equal 10 years worth Prof. Warren’s salary as stated above.

          Additionally, IMO, it’s just wrongheaded to be stuck in penny pinching mode with respect to teaching staff numbers and their pay. In so far as the institutions are first and foremost refuges of higher LEARNING, the good teachers should be given priority over all else.

          • Worried for the country(MA)

            Personally, I have no idea if Professor Warren has the qualities you ascribe to her.  However, I agree with your overall point.

            However, there is something elitist in your analysis of Harvard.  There are many $35K public school teachers who inspire their students to do great things.

          • Anonymous

            Actually she does, and the elitism you see in my anecdote is because there are many elites who go there like princes from the ME, Brahmins from India, Chebol’s from Asia, Kennedys and Bushes from the US and on and on. Why deny that and why insist on using it in some hyperpartisan, wrongheaded diatribe that doesn’t begin to address the topic of today? 

            We’re not talking about some public school teacher, now are you given you’re the one who brought up “Lizzy Warren” and her “$330K plus salary or whatever it was to state your political, class divide position on her being an elitist. Further, that $35K public teacher will not last as long as someone who’s given a worthy salary. One’s barely making ends meet in a major city like Boston and that’s without having to raise kids.

            I don’t care about the politics partisanship of it all actually. I simply want higher education to be more attainable. And I’m telling you what these people bring to the table as educators before they were ever political appointees or candidates. If you cannot accept that due to partisan rhetorics and stances, then you’re not interested in solutions at all and your stated concern for your country is nothing but frivolity.

      • Observer

        Where’s the money come from? Either pockets of people with money, fine, or tax-payer backed loans, not fine. If we flood the market with taxpayer backed money (Fed, Inflation etc) we allow for inflation and distort competitive pricing. We can have loans, but LETS NOT BACKSTOP THEM VIA THE GOVERNMENT.

        We need to have accountability at all levels of society.Its the free lunch model and we need to kick it.Wanting to give everything away is noble, but it doesn’t work in the long run.If people believe the Fed and Inflation is our social justice policy, they should say it.  Unfortunately inflation hurts the poor and fixed income folks the most.

    • Judy

      Good job trivializing the discussion.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    Maybe college can make more money doing a Freddie and investing in funds that pay off when students can’t pay off their loans?

  • Bethrjacobs

    As long as there is a “requirement” for a degree especially
    for jobs where one could learn on the job there will be a strangle hold but
    face it if Harvard can make tuition free for those making less than $35, ooo a
    year so can everyone else and it’s robbery to make people like myself who can’t
    afford to go to college pay for those who make more money than I do and I do
    pay for it thru taxes and subsidized loans.

  • SomMom

    I’ve worked as an adjunct at several private colleges, and feel the reason private colleges have raised their tuitions have been due to the massive amount of building they did in the 90s through 2001 (from fancy gyms to new dorms and academic buildings) and the top-heavy over-paid administration.

    Adjuncts are paid a pittance, but even professors’ salaries aren’t huge. So it’s not the teaching staff that raising the tuition.

    Lowering the cost or stopping the inflation WILL NOT affect the quality of education!

    • Life Sizevision

      But what is the quality of that education?  I went to a moderatly priced private college and I can’t say my education was top quality.  Mediocre at best.  That same college tuition jumped over 30% in the four years I was there.  It’s nearly double now five years after I graduated.

      The only reason I got my job currently is because I had science credits, NOT because of the college I went to.

      That’s sad.

  • Observer

    Let’s print more money and pretend we can have it all! Loan, loan, loan til bursting point, then bailout with taxpayer money when loans can’t be mathematically paid back! Yay!

    Must be nice to be a banker with Fed friends. Ultimate gravy train, as politicians pander us into oblivion like salivating dogs.

  • Greyman

    Mutatis mutandis to your first hour: just as our estimable Federal government pursued a policy of subsidizing home ownership for prospective buyers who could not afford home ownership, how much in the way of directed student loans goes to students who are not “college material”–id est: how many students (the kind who participate in remedial programs upon their arrival at college, e.g.) who never excel academically get such loans? Make qualification for student loan receipt contingent on academic performance (or: to what extent is this done already?).

  • Nancy

    If government assumes most of the risk for student loans, who majes most of the profits on student loans?

  • Mhessink

    The fashion of following the corporate model and paying college administrators six-figure  salaries is what is driving tuition way up. THESE UPPER-LEVEL ADMINISTRATORS DO NOTHING EXCEPT IMPLEMENT STUDIES AND RE-VAMPS WHICH ARE NEVER ACTED UPON.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    For corporations outsourcing overseas, why would they want students here who would work for their domestic competitors to easily get an education?



  • Jeanmd

    I have no idea why college costs so much but my recent personal experience working with three different professors on several differenct community projects was a bit shocking.  My husband is a small business owner of 25 years and I work at an non-profit.  We work hard and long hours.  What I noted in my interactions with these college professors was that they do not have a similar work ethic.  They think they are working are but they have no idea.  They are accustomed to lots of time off, including year long sabaticals.  I don’t begrudge anyone a good life, especially time but when the cost of college is so out of reach of so many and students are being burdened with debt they will not be able to repay, I think institutions should look more closely at where they are spending money and what value they are getting for their money. Saving should be passed on to the students.

    • Observer

      “I have no idea why college costs so much”

      see Zack.

  • Zack

    Colleges get their money regardless of whether or not the students pay it back or not.  If a student defaults Uncle Sam is stiff.  If colleges had to hold onto the debt they make their students take on the costs would drop like a stone.  There is no impetus for colleges to control costs since there isn’t a drop in enrollment and the government keeps handing out guaranteed loans.

  • shewill

    Lets give more PhD international students stipends and tution waivers

  • Mikehuson65

    I’ve been involved in construction of so called research facilities and other work conducted at our universitied.  I’ve never witness such a callased case of collasal wasted money. There clearly is no intent other than to spend money to make money.  This situation continues inspite of staggering contrast I see on extremely tight project expenditures in the private sector under our current economic situation.  There seems to no longer a ethical obligation to be a frugal steward of public finances.

  • Yar

    What about a venture capital firm that agrees to pay for college for a promise from the student to return 10 percent of their gross income for 10 years?  The fund gets to decide when to start collecting.  I bet it would sell in the market. It sounds like a good investment to me.

  • Ed

    It’s a no win situation. But imagine if we had many, many more students. The costs would not be so high at all. Another part of the economy destroyed by abortion.

    • Dirq

      Subsidized public schools lose more money the more students they have.  Having more students would cost more, not less.

  • Laurie

    Why not just lower the interest rates? My parent plus loans are charged a 7.5% interest. These are federal loans.

  • James

    We need to ask Nancy about not just tuition but the fees as well, that’s a big part of it.

  • Patrik

    One thing folks have underestimated in all these discussions is greed and the hyper-ambition to make as much money as possible as soon as possible. Money has been made to be the central focus of everyones life among anything else.

    Until the nature of the economic system evolves; everything that can be sold will be sold to only those who can afford it.  Even basic needs such as food, water, and proper education will be out of reach for the many.  How can other countries, like Finland, can make these basic needs affordable to everyone but America can’t! Greed.

    • Observer

      Still hope to remove self-interest from us? Things will be much worse when we all stay in bed.

    • Anonymous

      “One thing folks have underestimated in all these discussions is greed and the hyper-ambition to make as much money as possible as soon as possible.”

      In that case, I think you meant “misunderestimated.”

  • Observer

    Tom you ask what is driving it?

    Zack (below) said it simply. Guaranteed loans.  Why control costs with the promise of bailout?

    “Colleges get their money regardless of whether or not the students pay it back or not.  If a student defaults Uncle Sam is stiff.  If colleges had to hold onto the debt they make their students take on the costs would drop like a stone.  There is no impetus for colleges to control costs since there isn’t a drop in enrollment and the government keeps handing out guaranteed loans.” ZACK
    A Liked

  • Yar

    Is tuition subsidizing research cost for institutions?  People costs alone don’t show what percent of time is spent in the classroom.  

  • Julie Rohwein

    Some reports on changing faculty composition and compensation.

    From the AAUP’s annual survey of faculty salaries — distribution by rank and type of insitution (for full time faculty):


    Report on use of contingent faculty (by institution in pdf):


    Chart showing changes percentage composition of teaching staff over past 35 years:
    http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/issues/contingent/ (pdf)

  • Andrews Donald

    If the Fed Reserve can loan money at 0% to banks, why are student loans at over 6%? Student loans are no risk loans whereas I can get a car loan at 2% and those are risk loans since I can default and declare bankruptcy, not possible on a student loan.

  • Quadraticus

    The bottom line is that college has become so expensive because of a simple combination of two factors: the availability of government-subsidized loans and the willingness of students and parents to take them on. It’s that simple. Anyone trying to sell you on an explanation other than this is blowing smoke. Colleges saw a lot of cheap money and rationally said, “We’ll take that!” I can’t blame them, but the money spigot must be shut off before the trend will reverse.

    There are two ways this might happen: (1) students and parents refuse to take on such debt; (2) easily-available loans disappear. (2) is unlikely to happen in the immediate future with colleges lobbying state and federal governments for more easy money, so it’ll take a rise in interest rates or a currency or debt crisis to trigger this change. (1) is equally unlikely in the immediate future because college is still seen as a meal ticket, despite the skyrocketing unemployment rate among recent college grads. So while long-term the problem will correct itself (as the market always does…), short-term we are likely to see the continuation of 5%+ yearly increases in tuition.

  • Listener

    We need published numbers so that students can make informed choices.  What I mean is that certain stats should be known and perhaps printed in every colleges’ course catalogs.  Stats like:

    1. Average salary for graduates from college X after 5, 10, 15 years from graduating from college X.

    2. Average time it takes for college graduates to get a job with pay greater than $40k, or (some  target salary.)

    3. Average salary by major by school.

    4. Return on investment of stat 3 above.

  • Yar

    It is not direct cause and effect, high school verses college.  If you are smart you are more likely going to be successful, you are also more likely to go to college. 

  • Observer


    Economic choices to expand faculty or research would be limited to sustainable levels if GUARANTEED LOAN-BASED TUITION couldn’t keep rising.

    Its the College Tuition Bubble.

    Why can’t we talk about this?

  • Rabanks1

    Just $5,000 in tuition. That’s great, if there aren’t fees and other charges that make the true cost higher? I’ve heard of situations where fees and charges exceed “tuition.” Is that the case in the SUNY system?

  • UCBerkeleyStaff

    Hybrid programs, including online for some subjects, will allow productivity increases (students educated per faculty member) while not reducing quality but the models must be allowed to evolve and improve as technology continues to improve.   That allows us to support low student to teacher ratios in the more advanced courses.

  • Catherine

    The end of affordable education began with the privatization of student loans from being government subsidized to for-profit banking institutions in the 80s.  Banks should not be making money off people wanting to get an education. 

    • Observer

      Thats backwards.  Private loan originators DO want to increase outstanding loans, but at the end of the day if there is default, they will take the hit. So yes, the loan business supports higher prices to a point. With Government backed loans you have that incentive, AND you have the promise of BAILOUT if loans are not met, which is directly analogous to the housing bubble, inflating the whole sector more aggressively because of the bailout promise. Colleges are like the Homebuilders.

      So while debt/credit does contribute to inflation/spending beyond means, debt backed by bailout is that situation on steroids.

    • Andrews Donald

      Outstanding comment. Spot on!

      • Observer

        If you believe that, you should want to eliminate loans all together.  Whatever incentives loans in general create for inflating college spending/prices, guaranteed loans, with their ultimate promise of taxpayer bailout are even worse.

        Housing bubble?

    • http://curiositybug.myopenid.com/ Guest

      Both private student loan and federally-subsidized student loan programs have been a colossal boon doggle for private banks, especially the latter in which banks get huge returns for no risk, government-guarantied loans.

  • Glenn Koenig

    The overall problem is that America is addicted to education for the sake of education, and not focused enough on what we need it for.  We’re ending up a nation of too many thinkers without enough doers.
    People bow down to the god of big name colleges, terrorize our youth into thinking that they have to slave themselves and their childhoods in order to attend a college with a big name, then dump them out the other end with a pat on the back, a piece of paper in hand, saying “so long, suckka!”
    Until we drop the scales from our eyes and get real about this game, this problem will never be helped.  The government certainly isn’t going to fix it.  It’s a nation wide, culture wide problem.  It starts at the grade school level with the disempowerment of young people and goes from there.
    This has been known for a long time.  For instance see:  http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

    • Observer

      America is addicted to Fed-Funny Money-backed Debt. The rest is details.

      • http://curiositybug.myopenid.com/ Guest

        I thought the addiction was education for education’s sake? 

        Details, like facts, do matter – except for those blinded by ideology.

    • http://curiositybug.myopenid.com/ Guest

      The majority of undergraduates in four-year colleges are studying in professional areas, such as business administration, which strongly suggests that their focus is on job prospects not education for education’s sake.

  • guest

    I  graduated with $100.000 with loans for two years. Many homeowners can make bankruptcy  on $ 300.000 homes, students can not. As I calculate, I will be stuck with it to the rest of my life with interest at average  % 6 for most of my loans.

  • Rex

    If some of these powerhouse athletic program schools are making money, is/can any of this money go back into the university system?

  • http://twitter.com/NillocR Collin Reisdorf

    Regarding total amount of student loans, what are we doing about curbing the amount of federal aid that is going into the pockets of for-profit, private colleges? They’ve been shown to practice the same kind of predatory behavior that the mortgage industry did in the last decade.

  • Greyman

    Another question that rarely or never gets asked in this context: what is the specific role of (and what specific costs attend to) academic accrediting bodies? Who pays these (unelected) bodies to perform their work? What kind of revolving doors are part and parcel of “academic accreditation”? 

  • Terry from Franklin

    The press has had some coverage lately about the ballooning numbers of professional administrators at colleges.  More Deans that do not teach.  This is a problem that also hits public schools too. 

    The cost of textbooks has been drastically increasing.  For many areas in the humanities, history even introductory math it should be possible to use public domain books and readings from journals to cover the newer material..

    • guest

      Textbooks are a massive, massive publishing scam. Textbooktorrents and other forms of widespread electronic piracy are probably the only way to keep it in check — we just need a site that is as frequented and resilient as TPB…

  • Kay

    The problem is what Sallie Mae and banks are allowed to do with your student loans.  I refinanced for a lower interest rate and forebearance when I had a baby.  At that time I had paid my loan for more than 5 years on a 10 year loan.   Now I am paying back a 30 YEAR loan that has more than doubled from the original amount.  Last year all payments went towards interest and not a dime toward principal.  It’s like the housing scam.    

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    I was educated in the Philippines. I am a college graduate without any student loan debt. My tuition fees were paid by my parents (an Asian tradition). I don’t have to pay them back because it is their responsibility to educate and pay for my education. When I immigrated to United States I saw my cousins and friends with high student loan debts, they all look stressed out from hard work and tons of debts that they have to pay. I don’t understand why is it so hard to be educated in America while the Filipinos are poor, they can go to college without problems in paying low tuitions fees especially in vacational schools or a 2 year college degree.

    I noticed also that having a College degree in America doesn’t guarantee high paying jobs. Majority of college graduates will have to start from the bottom and those who have an Ivy League diploma can do better because of the name of their school.

    It takes a fortune to be educated in America and will take a life time to pay off those student loans.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Scholarship exist in the Philippines but are not given to the majority.

  • MarkVII88

    With the costs of college rising, doesn’t it make sense for prospective students to pursue as many merit-based and performance-based academic scholarships as possible?  My parents told me my job was to do as well as I could throughout school so as much of my college could be paid for as possible.  Is this being lost on the current generation of students?

  • Judy

    This acceleration in the rate of tuition, and other college costs has an impact on the housing crisis as well.  Parents are asked to borrow against the (shrinking) equity in their homes, and students with massive debt are significantly delayed in their ability to enter the housing market themselves.




    • Observer

      All made possible by taxpayer-backed loans.

      We’ll never learn.

      Our eyes always bigger than our stomach.

      • Observer

        Remove the loans, and prices have to stop at the point where nobody can/will pay. Wow, a normal market.

    • Kristen

      I am an academic.  Fat pensions, tiny class loads and full bennies?  Who gets those?!

    • Guest

      This sounds good but doesn’t reflect the vast majority of teachers’ experience. My wife with 25 years of teaching experience and 2 doctorates makes less than 50K. Her case is more typical than not.

  • Phil

    Allow parents who are paying off their children’s loans to refinance at a lower rate, similar to refinancing your home.  I owe much more for their education than ever owed on my home.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4YWQ4BCUEGFCIY2PGHGD6RRDJ4 ZoltanW

    This argument is nonsense.  Students should look at a college degree as more of an investment and they should diversify the opportunity offshore.  Not unlike the jobs they are looking for.

    We have individuals from India getting technical degrees in their country for what would be considered dirt cheap to us.  Then turning around and getting the high paying jobs we all wish to attain.  

    Moving abroad is not just a learning experience in the class room but also a time to diversify in culture and business strategy.  Don’t we all live in a constantly expanding world economy?

    • guest

      Americans are anything but worldly. Few seem to have a passport and fewer actually use it. A majority would be pained to travel elsewhere and be immersed in a different culture.

    • Cass

       & in fact their degrees are not always real – they can be purchased very easily there

  • George

    The interest rate for mortgages is under 4%, why students are charged close to 7%, when the lenders get the money at almost 0% ?

  • Judy

    To say that state tuition rates are extremely low is not always the full story.  Here in Massachusetts, the tuition is not too high in comparison to private schools.  But, too often, the fees that state schools charge are equal or more than the cost of tuition, and far higher than those charged at private schools.

  • Fred from Newton MA

    Tom, Your guests _did not_ answer the recent grad’s question on loan interest! 
    To me, it is simple usury to charge 7% for a loan which can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, at a time when the banks borrowing costs are approaching 0%!
    Reform Sallie Mae and let grads refinance at rates similar to home loans (which can be discharged).  3% is a LOT more affordable.

    • guest

      If, suddenly, those loans *could* be discharged in bankruptcy, wouldn’t the fear of default drive tuition down? Maybe in order for that to work, the school would have to be on the hook with the loan directly rather than some external lender, but it would send a strong message: your profits are at risk if you graduate students who can’t find a job.

      If these changes could be legislated, wouldn’t it fix the whole thing?

  • Beege

    A significant amount of money is being invested in providing students on residential campuses a multitude of creature comforts, in part to compete with other institutions that are trying to attract students from the similar recruitment populations. Perhaps focusing more on educational endeavors and less on providing luxurious campuses would help control costs. 

  • TallRed

    I don’t agree with Rick Perry, but he had a good idea months ago that never got discussed: Why don’t we have a top quality “no frills” college for $10K?
    This would allow serious students who were genuinely interested in learning (not sports) and who could live in less than luxury hotel standards housing to pursue a degree.

  • Rob

    “Why does college tuition increase faster than the consumer price index?”

    Because the CPI mainly relects the costs of 
    mass-produced goods.  If you want college
    tuition to track the CPI, you need to outsource
    it to China. 

  • Joann

    My father was a small-time farmer and we were NOT a wealthy family!  He began saving for my college education when I was about 8 years old.  He was able to send me to a small university (Valparaiso University) without any loans or grants.  This was in 1960.  I am amazed at the huge increase in tuition that has occurred!  What has happened? How could he afford to send me to a private college. Now, my son is really stressed looking ahead to the cost of sending his own children to college in about 10 years.  Certainly the situation will be even worse then.


  • Jvwalshmd

    Problem is administrators and expensive construction/
    Let’s take the U of Mich at Ann Arbor where Obama spoke.
    On that campus, there are 6305 full time faculty, 1260 part time faculty and 9652 administrators/professionals!  

    And the top administrators (they now like to call themselves “leaders” or “the leadership” all have their own retinue.  The very top see   themselves as belonging more to the business, political, Wall St culture than the academic.  In a way this segment relates to your previous one – Wall St. culture invaded the health care system and now it is doing the same to the universities.

  • Maryann_riordan

    My son goes to UMass in Amherst MA. His Spring semester cost is $11,871 of which $857 is in state Tuition. His in state Curriculum fee is $4,399.50. His Service fee is $675. His meal plan (unlimited, he’s on the track team) is $2,502, his room fee is $2746. I don’t even know what the curriculum fee is. So administrators can say tuition is low,but they make it up in fees. Still, UMass is a pretty good deal compared to many other schools.

  • Donna

    Have you all discussed the costs of insurance for staff and faculty?  And facilities for students?

  • John in Vermont

    You want to know the principle driver of tuition increases?? Look no further than the presidents, vice presidents and deans offices.  Most of the tuition is being eaten up in administrative expenses.

    Colleges and universities are cutting back on tenured staff and relying more on migrant instructors to teach classes.  Many students never contact a full professor until they get to advanced classes.  Many of these professors are also no full-time staff.

    Colleges demand degrees for many of their office staff yet won’t pay decent, professional class wages to these people.  The same people see no disconnect between this and the promise of better jobs at higher pay that they promise to prospective students.

    • Gaius Marius

       Very true. My wife, until last year an “adjunct” professor of Physics, and I both earned higher salaries as post-docs.

      I deeply suspect that the Dream Scenario for many administrators is to do away with tenured professors entirely and teach on-line, with “temps” monitoring questions from  students. Think of the savings. Why use
      temps? They could have call-centers in India & China
      answering questions.

  • Kristen

    I am very sympathetic with students and families who are struggling to pay for college.  However, I would also like to keep in focus the “people costs” and what is happening to faculty.  Hiring for tenure-track faculty is at an all time low.  More and more colleges and universities are trying to save costs by hiring adjuncts.  In my own case, this means I have a PhD, I teach 9 courses a year (one online, which has its own pros and cons) at two different universities, I commute 90 minutes to one of them, and I earn about $25,000/year.  The really sad thing is that as far as adjuncts go, I’m paid pretty well.  Community college faculty are paid particularly poorly and they provide essential remedial training.  So, yes, college costs must definitely be addressed, but not at the expense of supporting the faculty who provide it.

    • Gaius Marius

       This is 100% correct. The administrators add extra layers of administrative positions (typically salaried at 2x that of starting faculty), and save money by hiring “temps”, who burn out in 2-3 years of extreme teaching loads.

      And the highest salaries? Well, the marginally literate football coaches, of course. At our university, only the president has a higher salary (by only ~10% though).
      Check the salary scales of your local university. I’ll wager
      it’s the same.

      • Yar

        At University of Kentucky, the basketball coach gets 4,500,000 per year, while the University president only gets 500,000.  As for sports paying their own way, not if the tax deductible contributions to the athletic department and business expense for advertising on sporting events were eliminated. We pay a sports tax on most products we buy, from cars to soft drinks.  Not all taxes are called a tax.  College sports are funded through hidden taxes.

  • Tdwiz16

    I’ve put one son through college and have another halfway through and one item that really upset all of us is the course requirements. The need to take courses unrelated to the major your studying. The lost money on text books and elective courses not to mention the time spent reading and studying subjects you’ll never use and don’t care about. They just add stress to a semester and will be forgotten as soon as the final exam is passed in. Streamline the courses to the meat of the major your studying, get your degree, and go to work. If there is a basket weaving subject your interested then take a book out of the library.

    • Gaius Marius

       This is called a “liberal” education. If you want to learn a trade, go to a community college.

    • Guest

      We all need to read and write, understand college algebra, and probably take that speech class, too. There is a reason it is called liberal arts education. Another reason we take the “basics” in college is because the high school subjects are not enough training for many to succeed in the “real world”. For example, taking biology or chemistry 101 if you are a Business major is not “basket weaving”.

  • Terry from Franklin

    We have had a two or even three tiered college system for years.  The IVY league and major universities, the big state schools and some of the private schools, then the lesser state universities ( mostly ex-teachers colleges ) and the smaller private schools.  Examples can be found that don’t fit this model, but they are the exception.   

  • William Conable

    No-one so far has mentioned that the so-called state-supported universities are by now at most state-assisted universities. When I started teaching in the late 60′s state support was around 70%; now it mostly ranges between 10 and 15%.

  • Gaius Marius

    One of the guests stated that the biggest expense on campuses is faculty salaries. I had to chuckle at that. At our university in
    Georgia in 2007, administrator/managerial positions numbered 83, with 724 faculty members. Three years later the numbers
    were 194 admin/managerial vs. 736 faculty. What’s happening
    is a growing (133% over three years) blob of high paid
    administrators (typically 2x a starting faculty member’s), with
    few tenure track faculty (their load is being replaced by
    part-time “temp” faculty). This is a nation wide trend, and not
    unique to our university.

    Faculty formed 38.3% of all university employees in 2007. In 2010 it was 35%. While small, this is a big change in so short a period.

  • Genegal

    My grandmother always talked about all education be offered together, K through post-docs.

  • S.C. Listener

    To your SC callers point. I started college in SC and finished in Georgia. The entire college system in SC is a complete disjointed mess. The Regent system in Georgia was awesome, I knew where I stood as a student through the entire process. 

  • Observer

    Where does the money come from to pay for all the lavishness we are complaining about???

    Fed Funny Money.  Lets think broader.

    Until we have the courage and fortitude to truly live within our means, these bubble charades and busts will go on and on, and guess who will benefit and who will continue to waste away?

    Bye-bye middle class.  Thanks banksters and politicians.


  • Tom

    Colleges claim to “educate,” when what they do is sell credentials. As an employer and small business owner, I am appalled at what recent college graduates don’t know and can’t do.

    • Gaius Marius

       A large part of that problem originates in the poor quality of high-school education in this country (from my personal experience). This isn’t entirely due to poor high-school instruction, but from an attitude among many students that learning isn’t important.

      What we largely do in universities (I’m not talking about Harvard here) is allow them to “catch up”.

    • Cass


  • Bethrjacobs

    just make public education free again it will take care of itself
    we pay for it any way but only snotty upper middle class can attend to a real
    crime we paid for it but can’t go to it make it bare bones and free once again

  • Modavations

    Take the 200,000 you’ll blow on a worthless liberal arts college and open a business.I dropped out of B.c. after 2 and a half years.So did Gates,so did Jobs

    • Ray in VT

      Yet, but those guys went on to do great things and make vast fortunes.  They’re the exceptions.

      • Modavations

        Mean Streets.If you’re going to be a doctor,etc,. it’s worth the bucks.A 200,000.00 liberal arts degree ishows me as an employer that you and your folks are dopes.

        • Ray in VT

          I would hope that someone with a $200k education from what must surely be something at least close to an Ivy League school could do better than to work for you, unless you need someone to fly the biplane to those mines, Indy.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

          I will skip College and start my own high performance shop business and hire high performance technicians to pimp out cars for young and old people.

        • Anonymous

          Despite your overblown hyperbolic comment, the subtext of your comment seems to be you don’t’ want to hire people who can thank critically or be creative.

          My take is you are most likely intimidated by people who know more than the weeks sports scores. 

    • Cass

      there are people that will work for & people it will not.  I recently saw two great business ventures fail – leaving one with over $600k in debt.

  • Arspm

    Chancellor Meehan’s salary reported 2/23/11 as $550,000 plus benefits

    • Markus

      If you mean Marty Meehan from Umass Lowell, he’s the chancellor who’s primary qualification when he started was he was a congressman. Oh, and he was first elected with the promise that he’d drop out after two terms. Naturally, he changed his mind.

      The Umass system is a dumping ground for failed politicians and other associated hacks, like Meehan.

  • Rococozephyr

    Why aren’t you discussing the dangers of the commodification of education and academic labor??  Are your guests completely unaware of these dangers? I would write more or call to add my insights, but I am a tenured professor at a local college with an incredibly heavy workload (60-70 hours/week) and have to get back to work.  Do your research! The administrator from SUNY, with her corporate rhetoric, is appalling and offers a shamefully biased view.

  • Terry from Franklin

    @308b9d5776313d3f6d1b82f66515c1ce:disqus :
    One of the old cushions for the lower wages paid by universities was tuition discounts for the employee and their family.  Has this gone away? To your other point, I have known many people with 4 year degrees who end up in retail and other hourly jobs at just a bit over minimum wage.  Your possible earnings depend so much on what you studied and what was in demand when you got your degree.  I remember something that occurred at my old college. They got a new president.  He wanted to re-emphasize the liberal arts and fix what he thought was a trend towards the school becoming a technology school.  The placement office wrote in their annual report that they could use more chemistry, physics and math majors.  They could also use more graduates from the School of Technology.  The placement office said that they had called all the local insurance agencies and no one wanted any more English or History majors.

  • Terry from Franklin

    Add to the tuition and fees.  Several textbooks at $70 – $100 each.  Higher level and graduates texts are more, up to $200 per book.  The add in a required laptop at $500 – $1200, maybe a required iPad or other tablet.

    I bet you can find a college or two where a student might need both an iPad and a Android tablet.  Why, because one professor likes one and another likes the other.  This is not unprecedented.  I’m a little old for required calculators, more like required slide rules. I did hear some stories about friends younger siblings who had to have a particular TI calculator for one class and an HP one for another.

    I’ve also heard many stories from good sources about students being trapped into having to take an extra year.  Two proffessors would both be teach required courses in the same department.  The would only teach their course in the spring semester, or quarter, at the same time.  One course would be a prerequisite for the other.  The prerequisites for the course that needed to be taken first were such that it would be difficult to take it as a Junior.  Unless you got some good advice on the exact sequence of courses and were willing to attempt a course or two without the prequisites you would be trapped into a 5 year degree.

    • Cass

       ugh – yes textbooks are outrageously priced – altho there are ways to obtain them for half price and sometimes for free (used), and also can be rented.  The thought of having to wait an additional year before graduating is vexing to say the least

  • Liane, Worcester

     I think there is already too much choice in education. The curriculum should revolve around teaching students the canon. Of course there should be revisions to it based on new research but I think that it wouldn’t hurt to de-emphasize diversity a bit. We have to remember that we had an explosion of diversity in the past 20 years, perhaps we went to far in that direction. I think that mindset spilled over int spending on luxuries for indivdual tastes (dorms, student spaces and the like)   

    This wouldn’t mean eliminating courses that are relevant to minorities; we should be incorporating these subjects into the canon. This is important for our politics as well as our institutions of higher learning- we have diversified to such an extent that classes are tailored to student interests rather than teaching a common language.

    I know this sounds abstract but it seems to me that too much choice will inevitably lead to higher costs, regardless of whether it is a public or private university. I don’t hear this view being articulated at all, it seems like your guests were arguing for more choice- especially with regards to online classes.

    I think studying the changes in education, not just costs and labor markets, over the past 20 years or so will help us understand how to move forward.

    • Intlprofs

      Course proliferation proliferates apace while many a student and professor is challenged to put an English sentence together. This was not the case 30 years ago.

  • Randleland

    One issue not being addressed is the high interest rates
    demanded by Sallie Mae, for federally insured student loans.  They refuse to negotiate lower rates.  After making regular payments on my $67K loan
    at 8.0%, I still owe $51K after 17-years! 
    We are now refinancing our home so as to payoff Sallie Mae and avail
    ourselves of a 3.0% rate.  To me, Sallie
    Mae is nothing more than government sanctioned extortion.

    • Williamflint

      Sorry to hear that. Best of luck to you.

      One of the main points this show, and pretty much every show like it, fails to confront is why should we be giving our money to the USA Universities at all ?

      My 16 year old will be college age soon, and we are given as much, or more, thought to universities in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and maybe Australia.

      Even at a poor exchange rate, Trinity College Dublin, one of the finest schools in the world, begins their tuition for international (non EU) at about $21k for arts/humanities/social sciences; engineering/math/sciences about $28k. 
      Other universities are slightly less, some slightly more, but compare that with pretty much any top tier universities’ out of state tuition or any private university.

      It kills us to have to think like this, but we really cannot see spending $40-50k per year supporting somebody’s sports team and “remedial” education program.
      If the kids need remedial help, why are they in the university to begin with ?

      Since my daughter was born in ’95, we’ve tracked about a half dozen schools. Everyone of them has at least tripled their tuition. A couple quadrupled.

      I’m truly sorry this system has got you and others in such a mess. If it helps at all, your woes have opened at the eyes of a few parents. We’re not going to go down that road.

      This show was all about how to fix it. Sorry, I’m not interested. This wasn’t difficult to see coming, and I talked to some administrators warning of the impending implosion. Nobody listen. Now, when we search out higher education options, it will be focused on education, not sports teams and beer-pong and it certainly won’t be limited to our borders.

      Best of luck to you and all that are in this boat.

  • TomK in Boston

    The #1 problem is that, as part of the whole Reaganomic class war, states have dropped their commitment to inexpensive, high quality public education. To let the rich keep paying low taxes, states have drastically cur their funding, killing the golden goose that has provided so much of our tech innovation. Some “state” unis now have less then 10% state funding! The citizens wd be a hell of a lot better off with a big hike in state income taxes and a return to the good old system where states paid well over 50% and the unis were nearly free.

  • TimD

    College isn’t worth it if you can’t pay for it. I have a 4 year degree and I am in debt beyond means. I have well over $100,000 in student loan debt and make $14/hr in my field. One of my Sallie Mae loan payments is $764/per month. That’s just one loan! Sallie Mae loans are the problem.

    • Cass

       Thank goodness you have a degree – but oh boy that monthly payment is horrendous!

  • Mzimmerman1252

    I am an employee of a community college in NC and I think that the Community College President Associations have way too much power.  I direct an Allied Health Program which should be a regional program, so I would be happy to see one president for three or so community colleges to better serve the people who live in our region.  I grew up in the community college and have two associate degrees, two BS degrees and my Master degree in Two Year college Administration. Our state and the people who live here can not afford the cost of funding Presidents in all 58 community colleges. Many programs in community colleges should be regional programs rather than having competition from one community college to the next.  It is just too expensive to try to have ad hoc development of different programs.  That is what is happening in NC because of the CC President Association. This cost to the residents of NC is significantly and not needed.  The current philosophy of the Presidents is that of “survival of the fittest” in terms of program development.  This does not serve the needs of the resident of NC very well. Deborah Y.

  • Miles Wimbrow

    As a senior about to graduate and without having secured a job for the foreseeable future I am awfully concerned about the debt I am about to take on. 

    As to the value of the education which should justify that debt, I think I speak for most of my class when I say that the standard lecture-format is woefully inadequate for today’s internet-literate generation. When so much of your experience in school depends on the individual behind the podium and not the “caliber” of the school which you attend, when an awful lot of what you can “learn” in the classroom you can find out for yourself online, on your own time and for FREE. 

    I simply do not see the justification for such a huge price tag.

    • Casspeni

       i agree with this – esp since i have just completed two classes for my job & they were harder thn any college class (with the exception being the pharmacy tech program i took) & they kicked my butt.  But i love a challenge – so I thought bring it on – altho in the beginning of the 1st class when i realized how hard it was gonna be i had a lil panic attack.  But it also caused me to realize college classes here & there could be more challenging.  Completing those classes esp the 1st 1, provided me with a great deal of knowledge & expertise, which i am grateful for esp in this economy.

  • guest

    I earned a four year degree in six years, worked two jobs and graduated with zero debt.  It is mostly a question of your priorities in school.

  • SEC

    I graduated from SUNY Binghamton in 1994 and am glad to hear that the tuition has remained low.

    I verified via SUNY Binghamton website - $5270/year for tuition.

    I have since gone on to receive an MBA and doctorate degree.  SUNY Binghamton (AKA Binghamton University) was an amazing academic experience…far more rigorous than any other academic experience since.  It is still possible to get a fantastic education at a reasonable price.  Focus on what is important…not location or the amenities (gym, student union, etc).  When choosing a school, go where you can get a great education at a reasonable price…period.  Oh…and if you want to do something that may not be as financially rewarding but you love, go for it…but be careful about taking debt on to do so.

    Dr Zimpher – My thanks to you and all those who make an affordable higher education available to all.  It is critical not only to those students able to take advantage of the SUNY system, but to society as a whole.

  • Tim E

    Your guests had two chances to answer the question of why costs are increasing beyond the rate of inflation, and they didn’t give the correct answer.  The answer is easy credit.  Now that credit has dried up, all of a sudden they can come up with ways cut costs.

  • Dan Woodard

    Agree. My kids say the loan program caused cost to rise. It acted just like a subsidy. Colleges could charge whatever they wanted and still fill their classes. But any college that tried to control costs would lose money and look uncompetitive. Eliminate the loans. Give deserving students grants. Without the loans colleges will find few students can pay their fees and it will become profitable to lower costs, and fewer students will be bankrupted. But a word to students. The time to start looking for a job is the day you are admitted. If you lack a firm job offer do not graduate if you can possibly avoid it! It is better to be an unemployed student than an unemployed graduate.

    • Tim E

      I wouldn’t doubt that student loans were/are being collateralized just like mortgages were.  Rising student tuition is hand in finance industry glove with the housing bubble.  Real, lasting reform would need to deal with the problem at that root.  School administrators aren’t incented to deal with the problem at the revenue stream level, but only financial reform that reduces easy credit, for the long term, will significantly arrest escalating college prices.  Obama’s intentions may be good, but unless he picks up the financial reform mantle, against Republican opposition and the opposition of his own treasury, the kinds of reforms he’s touting on the campaign trail can be only bandages.

    • Cass

       tht is sound advice – altho I wonder if current students would be able to impress a perspective employer in the same way a fully educated/graduated student could.  Having a well-earned degree ‘in hand’ would cause the job-seeker to portray a higher level of confidence & self-esteem to a potential employer than a student without credentials.  Just a thought.

  • Intlprofs

    Professor’s searing comment was ducked. 

    Years ago it was rare to see an adjunct professor, but now, and for the last 25 years, they and other part timers, professors of practice, etc. teach  more  than  two-thirds  of  the  courses!!!

    The savings are enormous!!! Years ago students could read and write. Remediation today and admin salaries today, plus the growth or admin are the biggest drivers of the high tuition, or as the chancellor  bureaucratically puts it, the price of the product.The number of pedestrian pieces of research is another factor.. second, and yes, third rate colleges should learn how to teach …and stay away from research  

    • Bobsyou

      I know a professor who was gloating about how one university basically offered her a position that allowed her to teach only two course in the fall each year.  That’s it.  For that, she gets an enormous salary and the college promised to pay the tuition for her children to go wherever they wanted. 

      Little to no teaching for a whole lot of money.

      • Slipstream

        This sounds like a well-known professor who enhances the reputation of the school by his research and publications.  If not, then I have no clue why he got a deal like that.

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  • Ellen

    This discussions focuses heavily on the traditional brick and mortar college education, when in fact the vast majority of college learners no longer fall into that traditional “college kid” age group. The growth of this demographic will require adaptations by traditional colleges — hopefully in partnership with legitimate, hopefully nonprofit, institutions that can collaborate in development of high quality online programming. Excelsior College in Albany, NY, providing distance ed since 1971, has established the Educators Serving Educators initiative to support traditional colleges seeking to move into online programming. Going online is no simple task, and expertise is crucial.

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  • Skye in Idaho

    Undergraduates take on loan debt, but many do not finish their degrees.

    running out of financial aid tends to occur most often as a student
    nears the end of her program, why not make the size of her assistance
    package increase with each year she successfully completes? Why not
    tweak the financial aid system to discourage her from using up loan
    dollars on remedial courses and general education requirements taken
    early on in favor of more advanced courses taken later? Completing
    remedial coursework is accomplished far more cheaply at a Community
    College or online. If completing the degree is paramount, then every
    step a student takes towards degree completion should be rewarded with
    more financial assistance.

    Freshman = $, Sophomore = $$, Junior = $$$, Senior = $$$$

    • cass

       i really agree with skye – & i like to think that many schools already reward successful students.  a friend of mine did well with their bachelor program & their school offered to foot the bill for their masters program.

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  • Slipstream

    I work for a college and I must say I agree with the president on this.  Tuition costs have risen and risen for years now.  A lot of colleges have been building up their endowments and regularly raising tuition at the same time, regardless of what is happening in the economy.  Altho I do know that the Big Recession did have an impact on colleges, as all of a sudden people who previously did not need financial aid began wanting it, et cetera.
    I dont mean to slight my employer here – from what I have seen these tuition and fee increases have been occurring at institutions of higher ed everywhere in the USA.  

    It took me 15 years to pay off my student loans, and mine were pretty small by comparison.  I am sure many people are in far more dire straits – I have known a couple.  And it used to be a lot easier to get out from under this burden – then the laws were changed and it is now virtually impossible to remove your student loan debt.  That is my understanding, anyway.  So I think the situation does need to be addressed.

  • Slipstream

    Also wanted to comment on, since it has come up (although it is really a different topic, one that OP has covered before and should continue to cover), the issue of online learning.  There is no doubt in my mind that internet classes are inferior to real classes, and that a degree obtained in this manner is inferior to a degree obtained in the traditional manner.  Most of the research I have seen supports this.  Online learning can be a useful adjunct to other learning, but it should not be the centerpiece of any program that wants to be worthwhile.

  • Slipstream

    One more comment: the guests here talk about ways to save money in higher ed.  One thing that was not mentioned was the big boom in construction costs over the last couple of decades. I have seen all sorts of ugly modern buildings go up on college campuses, dwarfing the nice traditional buildings that everyone loves.  A lot of our most prestigious institutions are now dotted with buildings that look more like the regional headquarters of Burger King than like school buildings.  (And SUNY is one of the worst offenders in this regard.)  Apparently a lot of college presidents feel they have not done their jobs right unless they have put up at least one of these.  I think that is something that really could be looked at.  Bigger is not always better.

  • GWB07

    A lot of points were touched on in this interview and the comments. However, only the surface of this complex issue has been scraped. Check out Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell and read the chapter on academic facts and fallacies. This chapter focuses on the complex economic incentives of the educational system and ultimately how the decisions resulting from these incentives fail to be in the best interest of the students or the universities themselves.

    For taxpayers, it’s upsetting to consider that your money is being spent so inefficiently (e.g. extra classrooms so that professors can all have class at 11 am and nobody at 8 am). I think I’d rather have some bridges and roads inspected.

    For students, it’s upsetting that tuition increases with the costs of college, whether or not those costs are associated with the cost of your education or new flat screen tvs in the dorms or intense amounts of landscaping. 

    Unfortunately, the educational system is set up with no incentive to compete on cost.

    And now some numbers:

    In 2008-2009, 56% of students were enrolled in 4-year universities with tuitions less than $9000 per year. (Not including room and board and other costs, such as foregoing a job).

    ~1/3 of all college students graduate with no debt and the average debt is ~$20,000 for year (A Lifetime of Student Debt? Not Likely – Chronicle of higher education, August 28, 2009). Sowell points out that this is about the cost of a Ford focus.

    That wouldn’t seem so bad if you could get a decent job upon graduating and if it didn’t seem like the schools were making things unnecessarily expensive.

  • Joe

    hello all, jilly dilly is coming and the PACT will soon come to power!!!

    • big jig

      yes, the PACT shall rise!!!!!!!!!!

  • billy willy

    it is in the PACT ‘s best interest that college tuition goes down!

  • Joe

    the PACT is all that is needed the pact must first take a vote

  • billy willy

    billy willy votes in favor of the tuition going down!

  • Jillydilly

    jilly dilly VOTE: I!!

  • Jilly dilly

    then the PACT has spoken it shall be done!!

  • Jilly dilly

    JIlly dilly for president down with obama together jilly dilly and billy willy and joe can defeat obama!! the PACT shall rise!!

  • Billy willy

    the PACT WILL RISE! but not on the shoulders of Jilly dilly.  Vote Billy willy for president, and together we will rule the world!

    • Jilly dilly

      we will all come to power as a group for the PACT Is  a group effort the PACT shall RISE!!!

  • fooble dooble

    fooble dooble would like to join the conversation….

  • Billy willy

    What shall we do once the PACT has taken its rightful power?

  • Joey doey

    joey doey thinks he will vote for jilly dilly because he says down with obama

    • Billy willy

      billy willy says down with the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jilly dilly

    jilly dilly along with the PACT!!

  • Joey

    hilly lilly thinks he shall be the president of the PACT for he is all powerful

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Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

Aug 20, 2014
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This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 19, 2014
Lara Russo, left, Cally Guasti, center, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014.  While their roommate story of $40,800 found in a couch made the news, other, weirder stories of unusual roommates are far more common. (AP)

From college dorms and summer camps to RVs and retirement hotels, what it’s like to share a room. True stories of roommates.

Aug 19, 2014
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

“War zones” in America. Local police departments with military grade equipment – how much is too much, and what it would take to de-militarize America’s police force.

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