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New York Times on increasing tuitions

CU Boulder professor examines the cause of rising college price tags in the New York Times.

Photo of Caitlin Sikora
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In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, CU Boulder Professor of Law Paul F. Campos examined the cause of rising college tuition in the United States.  Here are some key findings:

1.  “[Government spending on higher education] has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.”

2.  The fraction of the US population that is college-aged has not increased, but:

“Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995... As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)”

3.  “State appropriations reached a record inflation-adjusted high of $86.6 billion in 2009. They declined as a consequence of the Great Recession, but have since risen to $81 billion. And these totals do not include the enormous expansion of the federal Pell Grant program, which has grown, in today’s dollars, to $34.3 billion per year from $10.3 billion in 2000.”
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4. "Salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970."

5. "...a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions."

6. " analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase."

For the full text, click here.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Administrative costs appear to be the most significant factor in increasing university expenses.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Thanks for sharing! I think this whole challenge is interesting because of some of the facts you highlighted: more people are enrolling in college, and governments are spending lots on higher ed, yet this is creating problems with student loans. Do you think there are viable ways for us to address the administrative cost problems, or should we focus more on alternative models for aid?

Photo of Hovsep Agop

Hi Gavin and Caitlin. One of the ideas our group came up with was sourcing more administrative tasks to students as work study opportunities. The trick would be finding a sweet spot that makes the job financially worth it for both the student and the school.

Photo of Caitlin Sikora

I like your suggestion, Hovsep. I think the other issue is that this means eliminating some administrative jobs for full-time employees, which is probably going to be pretty unpopular.

My sense is that a focus on alternative models for aid is placing a band-aid on a deep wound without cleaning it. (gross, sorry) I prefer to treat the cause, not just the symptom, but the cause is systemic and a reflection of our cultural values as a society (I believe).