Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cost of College

I've often wondered why the cost of college is such a major issue when the cost of everything else seems to increase far quicker than the increase in what we earn to pay for things. A loaf of bread, when not on sale, now costs just under $5. An oil change for my car is nearly $80. Both are dramatically more expensive than they were just a few years ago. Yet, by themselves, both are fairly insignificant in actual dollars when compared with the vast amounts of money that need to be invested to become an educated person. And here is the essence of why, to my mind, it is such an issue. It is because all the things that we need in order to live are wrapped up in one phrase, "the cost of college" which includes all the increases in all the things one needs in one's daily life, which, when added together, become a dramatically large increase.

Anyone who supplies a product or service to a college that increases in price is responsible for the rising cost of college. This includes insurers, builders, lawyers, medical workers, caterers, and the infamous text book suppliers. For the past ten years I have used subsequent editions of an excellent math education text that has increased in price from around $40 to $215. True, students can rent a copy of get an ebook version for less money but I've always encouraged my students to develop their own personal professional libraries. I've always allowed my students to purchase the 7th edition instead of the current 8th edition for a fraction of the cost and there is very little difference in the content.

Anyone who, while searching for a college, has looked to see the extent of the amenities at a college under consideration is also responsible for the rising costs of becoming an educated person. In order to stay competitive, colleges have to make sure that they have the latest in technological advances and support services, the most complete recreational facilities and the most up to date living accommodations.

Anyone who has considered attending one of the notorious on-line, for profit, "colleges" is also responsible for the rising cost of becoming an educated person because they have reduced the number of people available to attend authentic colleges which increases the competition for students causing the situation described above.

Just about the only people who do not contribute to the rising "cost of college" are the people who work at colleges. Salaries for professors, for example, have increased woefully over the last ten years, in some cases, less than 15 percent. Lecturers (professors)  in Scotland have been engaged in strike action because of the state of their pay structure.

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