Why has college gotten so damn expensive?

IMHO It is a ability to rob the cradle encouraged by our system. The sharp increase is due mainly the revenue stream that colleges have managed to tap into, that of the future of the children, combined with the ‘children/students’ not understanding how much they are spending as they have not had experience in taking out loans.

Because the children/students don’t have enough understanding of what they are paying the supply and demand model does not apply. It is akin to the students paying with Monopoly money, or the deal that the Europeans made to buy Manhattan from the Native Americans for $21 worth of beads, because they do not see or understand the cost. Though they find out much later.

To be fair to Harvard, they were considering going tuition free for all admitted undergraduates. Then the economy went kablooey. I believe Harvard lost a bundle with Madoff as well.

Harvard (and some other elite schools) is a special case. They have a lot of financial aid to hand out, and they do so very willingly. The actual cost to attend is not that much for most people who are accepted.

This is a false analogy, since it’s a lot easier for a student to borrow the $120,000 difference to attend Harvard than borrow money to invest in the stock market. Especially when your main collateral is the student.

This is not a bug, it’s a feature. First, colleges employ people at a FAR lower cost relative to the education their employees have. PhDs are often employed at far below what one might get in the private sector.

Second, the reason why you have all these professors not teaching is because universities have become a place where a great deal of primary research and r&d is done. This is part of why college is so expensive. It’s because these universities are not just places where undergrads can go to learn, they are where most research is done. According to this site, “federal, state, and local governments, industry, and institutions devoted more than $47-billion to research in the 2006 fiscal year, including $32-billion spent at public colleges and universities and $15-billion at private ones, the state-colleges association reports.” I think colleges and universities have been admirable in stepping up to do many more things than they were tasked to do.

Harvard gives free tuition to anyone making less than 65k. Twenty percent of their students pay nothing to attend. Only 30% pay the sticker price. I think Harvard is pretty commendable on this point. Especially given the fact that the sticker price of most schools does not cover the cost of attendance.

The decision to spend lots of money to attend college is often not logic based. For example, how much money would be logical to borrow to get a low paying job in teaching or social services? Yet there are a lot of families that go massively into debt without taking into account what kind of job that the student can reasonably presume to get with their given course study and degree. If you’re going to a good Engineering school it may be a great decision.

Baumol’s disease accounts for a lot of it.

And to the extent that research is valued outside the academy, that’s great. Most hard science research probably falls under this heading.

The problem is that the humanities, social sciences and other departments do enormous, collossal amounts of research on things that nobody – not even the other scholars in their field – is reading or cares about. Pretty much every discipline has dozens of academic journals that exist for no reason other than so that authors can say they were published, and thus get tenure.

It’s especially true when you consider that the average faculty member is not at MIT or Harvard, but at Directional State U. It’s probably true that society is best served by freeing top scholars from teaching four sections of undergrads per semester. But for every Henry Louis Gates or Alan Dershowitz, there are thousands of professors who get paid $60-100k a year to teach two sections a semester, and who can’t be fired because they published five mediocre articles a decade ago.

While that is a valid concern, I am not sure I agree with your logic. Most of the research and study done in every field is unheralded and unappreciated. If your argument is that scientific research contributes more economically to society, I would tend to agree with you, but that is only part of the calculus for a university.

What do you mean they can’t be fired? That said, of course every university would love to have superstar professors, but that is not possible. I am not sure you can convince someone with a PhD to work much more, or work for much less money, than they do now. You already have a situation now where it’s hard to become a full professor at a leading university before the age of 40.

It’s because we don’t have socialism.

Economically? Does it contribute at all? Does anyone even read the 5,001st study of Melville except to create their own study?

It doesn’t contribute at much all.

From the standpoint of the larger society, the biggest difference between the umpteenth scholarly article on the lesbian subtext in Twelfth Night and a Star Trek fanboy writing a 10,000 word blog about the possible childhood traumas of Jean-Luc Picard is that we’re paying one of them. It’s nice that people have hobbies and interests, but purpose of a professor is to profess: i.e., to teach. But it’s common at most state universities for most faculty to have only one or two sections of undergrad teaching.

Tenure. Short of some sort of misconduct, tenured faculty basically have guaranteed jobs.

Right. So stop treating every PhD like they are one.

In the humanities or social sciences? Not really. And I feel pretty confident in saying this because I went through grad school in the humanities myself and I know plenty of people that have or are working on PhDs. None of them have better job prospects outside the academy.

The average PhD in, say Philosophy or Sociology or English is not worth much more on the market than a BS in Engineering.

Which is exactly the way it should be. “Full professor at a leading university” is the creme de le creme of the entire industry, the apex of a career.

What’s more of a problem is how hard it is getting any job with a PhD. We’re wildly overproducing them, in part because the current faculty prefer teaching grad students to undergrads, and in part because people see the job as “getting paid to write and think about my interests” and not “teaching Intro classes to undergraduates semester after semester.” Unfortunately, the latter, not the former, is what is needed.

The current model is fine for superstar academics and top-flight schools. Eastwestern State U, on the other hand, needs to rediscover that their central mission is undergraduate education.

This is false. Where did you get this idea?

Well I’m in the process of doing this, but it’s taking a while to save up the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars required.

But once I’m ready to open my college, why should I undercut the others? As long as I can fill most of my courses, like most colleges, joining in the price fixing (if that’s what it is) would be more profitable.

Public university eduction has become more expensive because states are cutting budgets to the bone, and higher eductaion is always the first thing on the chopping block. When there is less support from taxpayers, the cost is made up byraising tuitions.

Sorry-I got the idea from those nice shiny catalogs that colleges put out (for prospective customers). They list the schools and the faculty members-one would get the impression that that faculty members teach.
But if you are paying something like $500/course hour, and your teacher is a graduate assistant (who cannot speak English well)…you might be a tad disappointed.
Basically-colleges (the expensive ones) have a monopoly-they can charge what they do because they lack competition.

Yup. I work at a public university that is, for the moment, still a pretty good bargain: $5,000 a year for in-state students, $13,000 for out-of-state. But the state keeps cutting our budget, and we don’t have enough money to pay for the services students expect as it is. I don’t think the quality of the classes is really suffering (there are enough unemployed PhDs that you can get good people to work for very little, at least in my field, and we have small classes taught by actual professors rather than grad students), but a lot of other things do suffer. The buildings are old (and we don’t have enough money to renovate several that are just plain unusable), the library hasn’t had a budget for new books in years (it all goes toward electronic database subscriptions, which are crazy expensive), the web site is a mess, some of the student support offices are staffed by people who are borderline incompetent because we don’t have enough money to pay someone qualified. These things make it hard to recruit students, who care a lot about first impressions. And the bar for these non-academic services has gone way, way up over the last few decades, at the same time as state support is being cut. (This isn’t just about the students demanding fancier dorms and food, although there’s some of that going on; technology costs eat up a huge chunk of the budget, and so do things like the counseling center and the academic support center, because nowadays we think state universities should serve students with mental health issues or learning disabilities, when a generation ago they would have been SOL.)

Not entirely accuracte. If a tenured professor stops producing research, they find their lab space taken away. They then find that they no long have slaves/grad students assigned. Following that, they get the nice big 400 person intro classes, and not the grad student seminars.

Soon after that they retire.

This is something every prospective college student really should look into before deciding which college to attend.

Really, it’s just not true that every university puts “educating undergraduates” high on its list of priorities, or that every college professor has “educating undergraduates” prominently listed in his/her job description.

If you’re going to college because you want to be taught, by people who know both their subject matter and how to teach it, and who were hired and promoted first and foremost for their teaching of undergraduates, you really ought to look for an institution that considers that their primary mission.

Of course, not all students consider education to be their primary mission either. Some pick a university based on who has the best parties or the most successful football team or will grant a degree with the minimum amount of effort expected of them.

because Government cuts its funding to the institutions. When a budget gets cut in one place, it has to be made up in another. For secondary education, that could be with Lay Offs, increase in on campus costs for supplies, books etc, or tuition, or a combination of all of them. You will also find many employees retiring and replaced with Adjunct Factulty, or OSO or OYO positions.