NPR – What’s Driving College Costs Higher?

Caught this NPR program on higher education in the car on Tuesday: here.  Well worth a listen if you are interested in issues confronting the costs of college.  As many have noted before, full-time faculty aren’t the reason for the increase in the sticker price.  Here is what Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation had to say: 

“[Professors] are not the beneficiaries of large increases in college spending that has gone on,” he says. “In fact, the percentage of all students taught by non-tenure-track professors — adjuncts, teaching assistants — has gone up and up and up.”

Meanwhile, university administrations have grown — meaning colleges are now employing more provosts, deans and assistant deans than ever before.

“I’m sure that most of those people are working hard at real jobs,” he says. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea to increase spending and pass along many of those costs onto students in the form of higher tuition. … And the more the prices go up, the more that these students who are squeezed out of opportunity are middle-income students, low-income students, and the net effect over time is to make our college and university system no longer the engine of economic mobility that it once was.”

See Sven, I’m not critical of everything NPR does – just where/who it gets its money from!

3 thoughts on “NPR – What’s Driving College Costs Higher?

  1. Mr. Carey is right on point. NPR should continue with an exposé on the large percentages of law school tuition (and undoubtedly business school and medical school) are re-routed to the remainder of universities to fund other projects.

  2. I would love to see a study showing what percentage of the growth in administrative positions is related to research administration. It is interesting that at a lot of large public universities the vice president of/for research has become the second most powerful person on campus. Depending on your campus it used to be either the provost or the athletic director.

    I think a lot of this has to do with schools that have little chance of securing federal funding that covers their investment in administration pursuing these funds. There are economies of scale in this area. Another large percentage of the problem is the Lake Wobegonization of large public research universities. Funny that 70 schools want to be in the top 10 and thus are ramping up their research enterprises in the hopes of joining Berkeley and Michigan. Given that federal research funding is shrinking in real terms this is literally a zero sum game. Clemson is going to have to grab that money out of Berkeley’s cold dead hand.

  3. Prices rise when existing demand exceeds existing supply, ceteris paribus. In the last three decades, demand has been driven ever higher by the ready availability of cheap student loans. Ever higher demand has resulted in ever higher prices.

    How an institution spends that easy money, whether on buildings, on faculty, on admin, on adjuncts, is neither here nor there. Examining those expenditures does not explain why prices rise. Those expenditures are an effect not a cause. The “cause for the effect” is increased demand.

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