A Century Long Experiment in Higher Education

14 thoughts on “A Century Long Experiment in Higher Education”

  1. I also work on a university campus and man this is a tough and complicated subject. I think most of what goes on here is beneficial but the complexity of the arrangement and the physical plant is ridiculous. Even so, I doubt that by eliminating the unnecessary complexity, mainly endless administrators, and the unnecessary buildings etc. you’d get at the heart of it.

    I don’t know even know where you’d start to make the system sustainable. First of all you have thousands of poorly paid part time instructors doing most the teaching and the system sort of rests on them and debt. I’d maybe start by slowly eliminating administrative positions and shifting this work onto educators, including governance. In the process I’d say a lot of admin work just wouldn’t get done but a lot of it seems unnecessary. Administrators are an odd lot even when they are good they seem to thrive on complexity and they just keep adding things on until the whole thing collapses people are laid off and then we start over again, but with more part timers.

  2. This blog usually avoids the cynic’s mistake of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. I hadn’t heard of Deep Springs and so I looked it up. They say their comprehensive scholarships (free tuition, room, and board) are worth $50k a year. It sounds like an exceptional institution, truly life-affirming and horizon-expanding, but as an example of how higher education can be delivered without onerous costs, alas, it fails. It costs to provide this intensive attention. In this case, the students aren’t the ones who pay.

  3. This blog usually circumvents the cynic’s error of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. I hadn’t heard of Deep Springs, so I looked it up, and see that it values its scholarships (tuition, room, and board) at $50k a year. If you take that at face value (excuse the pun), it’s hardly a cheap option.

  4. Johnny, have you accounted for the fact many states drastically reduced their own funding of higher education? The UCLA system, well before my time, when it charged ‘summer-job-attainable’ tuition fees, took more $ (inflation-adjusted) from Sacramento than it does now on a per capita basis.

  5. Great thought-provoking post, as usual. Although there are many causes for ridiculous increases in college expenses, I think one of the main culprits is the student loan industry, govt backed and otherwise. Just like with houses and cars, once you start paying with OPM, the incentives to keep costs down go out the window.

  6. My initial thought is that when there is a third-party payer, or at least a third-party backstop, costs and spending rise dramatically. This is true with roads, higher ed, medical care, mortgages on the secondary market, and any number of things.

    The other thing is that a college degree has become more and more essential to entering the “professional” workforce. If demand is pretty solid, then the cost will keep rising, ceteris paribus. I would love to see this become more balanced.

  7. I graduated from my state university in 2013. I did the math and figured the roughly $6,500 annual tuition was workable with minimal debt with the jobs I worked and living at and commuting from home instead of living near campus. What I wasn’t aware of as I was making my college commitment was the state was approving 14% annual tuition increases. My senior year costs with fees were just under double what I paid freshman year. I’ve paid it all off but that was a rude awakening to how things are. Like you I wonder what it will take to get higher education back to basics.

    My very smart mother forced me to apply to Deep Springs. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t accepted.

  8. Back in the late 90s, I racked up student loan and credit card debt while in college. Worst decision ever. Ruined my financial life for many years to come before I righted the ship. A blessing in disguise though, in the sense that I avoided things like car leases, ninja mortgages, etc. that swallowed other people.

    Nowadays, it’s a full blown higher ed bubble at 5x the amounts I was dealing with. Unbelievable. Personally, I can’t wait for the whole thing to crumble. I mean I literally want to see the football stadium abandoned like a Roman ruin. What a waste of capital.

  9. Hey, I totally agree with you w/r/t the insanity of the current large-state-university model (I work at one, so I know all about it), but I think you’re misreading the stats on expenses at Rutgers. The $31,248 figure includes room and board. In-state tuition, by itself, is $14,131. Which is crazy (for comparison: when I went to Amherst College, one of the schmanciest private schools in the country, in the mid-’90s, tuition + room and board was about $25,000) — but not quite as crazy as you’re saying. http://www.collegedata.com/cs/data/college/college_pg03_tmpl.jhtml?schoolId=1441

      1. I think what Brian was wondering was whether Gerry was paying room and board or not. If not, then it would only take 12 months of busing tables at the poconos resort! But I agree with you–the situation is absurd and unfair.

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