Cost of College Education
There is no doubt that the cost of college education has tremendously gone up over the years. The rate at which the cost of college has increased supersedes the rate of inflation by far. This rules out inflation as a possible cause of the rise and squarely places the ball in the executives’ courts to explain to parents the logic behind the rise. The unfortunate trend has been attributed to withdrawal of federal funding to colleges, forcing them to increase tuition fees to pay their professors. Indeed, the fact that colleges have had to expand without any assistance from the federal government has put a great strain on institution management. They have to spend huge amounts of money to construct new buildings for dormitories to accommodate their new students. It should be noted that increasing the rate of admission became essential in order to raise funds to run the colleges. As a matter of fact, the cost would be much higher if college administrators not intervened by increasing the rate of admission. This paper looks at the trends as well as some of the factors causing the tremendous rise in college tuition (Dougherty 30).
States have reduced their funding to colleges at a time when overemphasis on research has significantly pushed the cost of college higher. For instance, the state used to fund over two thirds of the budget of Western Michigan University in the 1980s. However, this has reduced since to a meager 27% funding from the state. This technically forced colleges to raise fees proportionately in order to keep their organizations functional. Meanwhile, the attitude that colleges must actively carry out research and publish them has perished, thus causing a strain. According to Atlantic Journal Constitution, colleges and universities emphasize on research more than they do on teaching. The mysterious thing about this stems from the fact that these research activities are of less academic value as compared to teaching. It is instructive to note that research has been the new frontier, over which success of colleges is determined. Thus, college administrators are often forced to require professors to advice and guide their students in research. The whole system works against parents who have to bear the burden of paying fees. It goes without saying that carrying out research requires a lot of facilities and equipment that certainly cost a fortune to obtain. It is a system that will be a little too difficult to change considering that people have come to believe that quality education lies in the amount of research carried out. In this regard, it becomes technically impossible for colleges to revert to the earlier emphasis on teaching for fear of being accused of laxity. The situation has been made worse by the fact that teaching load has been sacrificed at the expense of research in almost all colleges. It is, therefore, a question of just which college will revert back to high teaching load. It is a difficult choice considering that colleges risk losing their students due to perceived low quality of education (Dougherty 30).
College administrators have previously been described as politicians locked up in political baggage. This alludes to the fact that they are forced to retain faculties that hardly serve any academic purpose for the colleges. However, the fact that they have always been there is the only reason why they cannot be sent packing in order to cut cost. Daniel Weiss of the College of Pennsylvania noted that save for their security of tenure, most administrators would be hard to re-elect into office. This is because they are always keen to stick to college traditions even if they harm students and their parents who pay fees. He describes such departments as expensive and undersubscribed units that should be done away with in order to cut cost. Introduction of new technology in colleges has also driven up the cost of tuition. While advanced technology is credited with increased efficiency and cost-saving in the corporate world, the opposite is true in colleges. For instance, adopting modern-technology laboratories would require that students are adequately trained on how to use them. In addition, it is worth noting that these equipments are themselves very expensive. It is basically a stark difference between the test-tubes of the old generation that did not cost a fortune to purchase. The increased demand for social amenities has also significantly pushed the cost of college up. For instance, colleges invest huge sums of money to improve the state of their libraries, college cafeteria, as well as huge investments are allocated to college sports. These have become part of college programs that students expect every year. It therefore becomes incumbent upon the administration to source for funds to keep these programs afloat. In this respect, the only realistic way for them to raise funds for these projects is through hiking of college fees (Floyd 12).
There have been calls to hire the best brains to work in the universities and colleges to ensure that quality of learning is enhanced. However, people forgot that the cost of hiring people with the best qualifications is not as low. For instance, college health centers are literally forced to hire the best doctors to accord students the best healthcare while they are learning. This responsibility belongs to college administrators, and they have to find a way of sorting it out. It goes without saying that even success in college sports requires that college administrators employ the best coaches. In case of lawsuits involving the learning institutions, they need to get the best lawyers to win the cases and retain their good reputation. This is essential in the sense that prospective students will easily shy away from colleges with bad reputations. This certainly reflects the economic situation in the ground, especially with regards to the increasing cost of hiring professional services. Although one may wonder why colleges have not taken cost-cutting seriously, it is clear that they have better reasons to spend than cut cost. For instance, colleges cannot cut costs in technology because it is a basic necessity for their success. There is no college that will accept using conventional chalks and test-tubes when their counterparts in the market are adopting modern technology. It is a delicate balance that college administrators have to strike in order to remain attractive to prospective students. It has been proposed that college administrators should focus on cutting costs even as they adopt modern technology. However, they are actually reluctant to do this because they believe that parents can foot these bills and, therefore, there is no need to go for cheaper technology. This carefree attitude is what continues to push the cost of tuition way too high for most citizens (Cohen and Brawer 45).
The stiff rise in the number of support staff as well as administrators has caused the cost of education to rise in the institutions of higher learning. In particular, the rise in the number of support staff stemmed from the fact that parents wanted their children to live in utmost peace so that they can concentrate on their studies. This meant that people had to be hired to clean their dormitories and do their laundry. Eventually, the overall number of support staff increased as administrators bowed to pressure from parents. It should be noted that most parents at the moment did not pay their children’s fees because there were several scholarships. However, most of these education aids have since ceased to exist, leaving parents with huge bills to pay for college tuition. On the other hand, administration has grown in size, as departments increased in number. For instance, there was need to have specialists operate various departments to ensure efficient handling of equipment as well as proper maintenance. Eventually, the overall cost of running the institutions rose significantly, forcing college administrators to raise college fees. It is worth noting that the problem has been brewing for quite some time now. For instance, the number of support staff has since shot up by 57% between 1987 and 2007. It should not be surprising that 20 years can make such a big difference (Floyd 12).
In conclusion, the fact that the rate at which the cost of college has increased supersedes the rate of inflation by far, and rules out inflation as a possible cause of the rise and squarely places the ball in the executives’ courts to explain to parents the logic behind the rise. The unfortunate trend has been attributed to withdrawal of federal funding to colleges, forcing them to increase tuition fees to pay the wages of their professors. In addition, states have reduced their funding to colleges at a time when overemphasis on research has significantly pushed the cost of college higher. For instance, the state used to fund over two thirds of the budget of Western Michigan University in the 1980s. However, this has since reduced to a meager 27% funding from the state. This has left college administrators with little choice but to raise the cost of tuition in order to foot the huge bills. Meanwhile, parents continue to decry the unfortunate economic situation that the pursuit of academic excellence has caused.