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Why is college so expensive?
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Estelle Offline
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Post: #1
Why is college so expensive?

I was thinking about it: If a school's tuition is around 25,000 and around 7,000 kids go to the school, that adds up to 175,000,000 a year.This is before housing, food, textbooks, miscellaneous things, etc.

And if there's 7,000 students there is maybe one faculty member to twenty kids: 7,000 / 20 = 350, 175,000,000 divided by 350 is 500,000, which is wayyyyy more then professors usually get payed. More like at least five times the average.

Question is, what are they doing with all that money?
02-09-2014 04:58 AM
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brainiac3397 Offline
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Post: #2
Why is college so expensive?

In America, money generally comes before what's best.

That's why colleges squeeze us for cash, benefit the loan sharks and banks, and still claim to be "doing their best" to further higher education.

Failure to pay your debt simply ruins your entire financial record. Defaulting on your loan is nearly a death-blow to your financial records, like stuffing your credit into the sun. There are ways to work out your loan to cover the payments, but remember that because money seems to "labor", you get charged interest. Sure, they might forgive your debt...after a decade or so of being on the financial leash of your lender, paying whatever you can anytime you make money.

It's slavery. It's like providing an addictive drug that'll help you, then charging you to maintain your drug supply to avoid the awful withdrawl effect.(Then again, one can say money is a drug of sorts)

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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02-09-2014 05:42 AM
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Rusty Shackleford Offline
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RE: Why is college so expensive?

(02-09-2014 04:58 AM)Estelle Wrote:  I was thinking about it: If a school's tuition is around 25,000 and around 7,000 kids go to the school, that adds up to 175,000,000 a year.This is before housing, food, textbooks, miscellaneous things, etc.

And if there's 7,000 students there is maybe one faculty member to twenty kids: 7,000 / 20 = 350, 175,000,000 divided by 350 is 500,000, which is wayyyyy more then professors usually get payed. More like at least five times the average.

Question is, what are they doing with all that money?
The answer the colleges would give is: 'expanding learning opportunities for our future leaders!'. The real answer is: throwing all of the money into a metaphorical hole.

Only a small part of the money generated by universities and colleges goes into legitimate research. A lot of the money is spent on government pipe dreams, or expensive projects like new buildings, or 'Ipads for everyone' projects.

The government also wants it's pound of flesh, and most colleges are forced to dance to the tune of government tuition guidelines. And I think a lot of people on these forums know how great the government is at teaching new generations.

The saddest fact is that the teachers and more importantly the researchers only see a fraction of the money generated this way, even if they are doing good work for science and society.

But, alas, as long as the current model of education exists, colleges will never be able to truly teach effectively and use the money they earn.

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02-09-2014 05:47 AM
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xcriteria Offline
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RE: Why is college so expensive?

That's a great question. This is in the context of (1) tuition rates going up a lot over time, and (2) a trend of colleges changing to part-time, lower-paid "adjunct" faculty for many classes.

If you want to spend some time, this conversation provides a lot of insight: VICE: Is Going to College Worth it? (w/ Anya Kamenetz)

One set of costs colleges have is their buildings, maintenance, utilities, support staff, and all that. In some cases (many?) colleges have spent a lot of money in recent years expanding this infrastructure, including with the goal of "gaming" better US News & World Report college rankings. (This NY Times article provides some background on that: The College Rankings Racket.

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The rankings exacerbate the status anxiety that afflicts so many high school students. The single-minded goal of too many high school students — pushed by parents, guidance counselors and society itself — is to get into a “good” school. Those who don’t land a prestigious admission feel like failures. Those who do but lack the means often wind up taking on onerous debt — a burden that can last a lifetime. And U.S. News has largely become the measure by which a good school is defined. “U.S. News didn’t invent the social dynamic,” says Carey. “What it did was very accurately empiricize them.”

At some more expensive schools, they've also spent money on things to just make their campus seem more like a desirable resort to students: Colleges Likely To Gain Applicants By Spending More On Amenities Than Academics.

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Although American universities are often criticized for spending large amounts of money on elaborate residence halls, recreation centers and other amenities, the results of new research suggest this might be exactly what college-bound high school seniors want.

But, this article explains that a big issue for many state-funded colleges is that states have slashed the support they provide to colleges: Why Tuition has Skyrocketed at State Schools.

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Why? Struggling states have to prioritize other mandatory spending, like Medicaid. Higher education usually falls under the “discretionary spending” part of the budget — and in fact is often one of the biggest programs, if not the biggest, in the discretionary category.

“If you’re a state legislator, you look at all your state’s programs and you say, ‘Well, we can’t make prisoners pay, but we can make college students pay,’” said Ronald Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute and a trustee of the State University of New York System.


(It's worth noting that prisons -- which house far more people in the US than most countries and through most of its history, generally cost MORE than college:

The Vera Institute of Justice released a study in 2012 that found the aggregate cost of prisons in 2010 in the 40 states that participated was $39 billion. The annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,286 per inmate. (https://www.google.com/search?q=cost+of+prison)

Meanwhile, though, with things like MOOCs, Open Education Resources, YouTube, and the like, a lot of the content that used to be buried away in colleges is available for free (or very cheap.)

And, some people are putting together college-alternative programs that aim to provide shorter, more relevant, and more affordable options for post-secondary education. UnCollege's Gap Year program is one, Black Mountain SOLE's "MOOC Campus" is another (where you pay the equivalent of room and board at a campus, but no tuition), and Mycelium.is, which is a shorter, $1500 program, is another.

Personally, I'm interested in working with learners to develop custom college-like experiences based on all of this free and cheap content, and various networks and communities that can be found online, and in person without an enormous price tag. I've been trying to do this myself since dropping out of college at various points, but it's taken me quite a while to figure out. (And many of these resources only came about in the past few years.)

I can write at length about that, I'll return to your question. Another reason costs are going up at state schools is that there are just a lot more people going to college than in past decades. Once upon a time, college was something for a relatively small number of people... but now, there's the idea that everyone, or most people, need to go to college just to have a chance in the economy. But, even if everyone did graduate, then everyone would have the same set of degrees and employers would need another way to differentiate between people! (In reality, though, many people drop out of college, which is another factor to consider.)

In short, there are a number of reasons... but the big question comes down to, is college worth it for any given student? In my mind, many of the most important things one can get out of college should be part of the learning experience before college. Why spend all those years toiling away and wasting time, just for the privilege to pay a bunch of money to also, though to a lesser extent, toil away and waste time?

Some people do find college to be worth it, but then comes the reality that many recent graduates aren't finding jobs that require their degree. Certainly, one could benefit form learning experiences and all that beyond the degree itself, but maybe there's a better way to facilitate those.

Does that start to answer your question? Smile

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02-09-2014 05:49 AM
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Rusty Shackleford Offline
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RE: Why is college so expensive?

xcriteria, double post warning.

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02-09-2014 05:51 AM
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xcriteria Offline
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RE: Why is college so expensive?

(02-09-2014 05:51 AM)Rusty Shackleford Wrote:  xcriteria, double post warning.

Thanks, fixed. Btw, I edited the post a bit. Some of these questions just require some time to answer in depth. But, better a (well-constructed) sequence of text, than having to go read 100 articles or dozens of books! Razz

Any feedback on how to better structure or present these longer posts is always welcome.

(02-09-2014 05:47 AM)Rusty Shackleford Wrote:  Only a small part of the money generated by universities and colleges goes into legitimate research.

That raises an important point. Beyond community colleges, most colleges and universities serve two separate purposes: (1) research and publishing by their faculty, and (2) teaching students.

These might have overlap, but for the most part they're separate activities. A lot of faculty are great researchers, or their main interest and skill is in publishing, but they might not have particular passion or skill for teaching. Faculty who do want to specialize in teaching still have to "publish or perish" to help maintain their own academic reputation, and that of their school (and draw in more grant money and other funding.)

So, if your goal is to "get an education" -- and part of that process involves just "learning stuff" in the form of undergraduate classes (watch lectures, read texts, do assignments, take exams) -- why not focus your spending on people who excel at making those learning experiences good?

Beyond that, working with people who are doing research (and actually developing and marketing things) can be a great learning experience, but should those people also have to spend half their time teaching lecture-style classes, which they might not excel at, and others can do better and cheaper, for thousands of dollars per class?

Ask anyone about their experience of any level of school, and most likely they'll have a fair number of classes that just weren't that great (or really sucked!), some that were okay, and a relatively smaller number that were really good. But, school (including college) makes people buy into these huge bundles of commitments, dozens of classes at a time in many cases.

College provides a lot more choice than K-12, but you're still limited by the grid schedule, academic requirements, class availability, and faculty mix of the school you happen to commit to, at least at any given time. (Though now so much of this is online...)

(02-09-2014 05:47 AM)Rusty Shackleford Wrote:  A lot of the money is spent on government pipe dreams, or expensive projects like new buildings, or 'Ipads for everyone' projects.

I think some of these things, like computers for everyone, can have value (if the costs are low, and they're used effectively) but yeah, expensive projects and luxury dorms is a big one. (To be fair, there ARE still very cheap community colleges out there... but even if school is cheap, these days, it's worth asking what you're getting out of it.)

(02-09-2014 05:47 AM)Rusty Shackleford Wrote:  The government also wants it's pound of flesh, and most colleges are forced to dance to the tune of government tuition guidelines. And I think a lot of people on these forums know how great the government is at teaching new generations.

A couple points here: The government isn't "making money" off of colleges... and different levels of government (state vs. federal) have different roles in the process.

But, those government tuition guidelines are at the federal level, where the US government lets people get PELL grants and subsidized loans only for colleges that meet certain requirements. This makes some sense, but it also makes for a big problem if you want to get a PELL grant and borrow a few dollars to hire your own professors and tutors, get a cheap computer, rent a room while you work part time, and do college without the large institutions. Smile

(02-09-2014 05:47 AM)Rusty Shackleford Wrote:  The saddest fact is that the teachers and more importantly the researchers only see a fraction of the money generated this way, even if they are doing good work for science and society.

This is why I think for at least some people, it's better to more directly pay teachers/coaches/consultants and design more personalized learning experiences without the institutional grid structure, requirements, and the like. The disadvantage is you miss out on PELL grants and in-state resident tuition subsidies, and perhaps the accredited degree, but costs could be a lot lower, and the experience could be more relevant to your life.

As for researchers, that's a whole topic, but it's worth noting that researchers do get a lot of funding from sources other than tuition (including governments, corporations, and private donors.) It's worth distinguishing researchers who are doing good work, though, from people who are caught up in publishing irrelevant walls of text in obscure academic journals.

A lot of the "game" of being a professor is publishing within one's discipline. That's a whole topic to consider. Even if the walls of text they publish have merit, there's the question of where the funding should come from.

When it comes to things like biomedical research, there is a lot of research money available, though a lot of it comes from large pharmaceutical companies, which might limit what questions researchers ask. (For example, about psychological issues... instead of investigating the role of school, or the benefits of more learner-centric learning, they focus on new pills, even if those aren't solving the root problems.)

But that's a whole topic in itself.

(02-09-2014 05:47 AM)Rusty Shackleford Wrote:  But, alas, as long as the current model of education exists, colleges will never be able to truly teach effectively and use the money they earn.

On the bright side, alternatives can co-exist with the traditional model of college (which does work for some people.) Already, people do have a lot of choices, even if many of them aren't common knowledge.

That's one reason I think there need to be better guides to the various paths forward in life... including through the stories of people who have taken some non-standard ones. That's one thing that's often not covered in school, which is taught by people who, by the job requirement, made it through school, more school, and their degree got them a job continuing the cycle.

How familiar are they likely to be with life outside the cycle, good or bad?

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02-09-2014 06:34 AM
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Post: #7
Why is college so expensive?

Every year, traditional college is more and more a scam.

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02-10-2014 05:46 AM
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safa100 Offline
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Post: #8
Why is college so expensive?

The study of colleges is high and having a standard. So, these are expensive.
02-10-2014 05:51 PM
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Estelle Offline
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Post: #9
Why is college so expensive?

Thanks to the people who took a lot of time to answer. I guess there's a whole load of reasons why college is that expensive, but unfortunately sometimes it's not for the best of reasons...I for sure don't need luxuries such as wifi on every inch of campus or some fancy and expensive renovations. I also think the people in the administrative systems of some colleges get overpaid.
02-11-2014 07:51 AM
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brainiac3397 Offline
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Why is college so expensive?

Wifi on every inch of the campus was nice to have at my college. At least during the time I had between my first class and last classes, I could browse the web on my phone or watch some movies(or do my homework).

But wasn't exactly something I'd consider highly vital. Just nice to have.

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(06-14-2013 08:02 AM)Potato Wrote:  watch the fuq out, we've got an "intellectual" over here.

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