Why is tuition so high?

According to an article by David Hogberg in Investor’s Business Daily, it’s mostly the growth in administrative costs that’s responsible for this. In the last 30 years college tuition has increased at twice the rate of inflation. But according to Hogberg:

Analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 1989-2009 the number of administrative personnel at four- and two-year institutions grew 84%, from about 543,000 to over 1 million. By contrast, the number of faculty increased 75%, from 824,000 to 1.4 million, while student enrollment grew 51%, from 13.5 million to 20.4 million.

The disparity was worse at public universities and colleges, where personnel in administration rose 71%, faculty 58% and student enrollment 40%. Private schools also saw administration and faculty growing faster than student enrollment, although faculties slightly outpaced administration increases.

College administrators, however, claim their incredible cost is appropriate given “changing needs.” According to the article:

“Students are coming in less prepared, needing more remedial assistance,” [Dan King, executive director at the American Association of University Administrators] said. “If they need help from a writing lab or math lab, that’s usually done by administrators. That’s something that universities didn’t have to provide as much even 10 years ago.”

Well interesting point, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. Universities still don’t have to provide remedial assistance. Blaming administrative costs on the need for remediation is misleading, suggesting as it does that the growth in such costs is valid. In fact, there’s no reason administrators have to manage such “help,” and there’s no indication they’re doing it well.

And let’s not talk about how remediation wasn’t necessary years ago. If students aren’t prepared for college, just don’t admit them. It’s very troublesome to suggest that somehow because high school students aren’t ready for higher education colleges will just let them in anyway and then bill all students for the costs of remediation. It’s the college’s fault they don’t run remediation programs efficiently; there’s no reason to pass the costs of that wastefulness on to students.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer