September 12, 2003

Tuition Costs Colloquy

In light of recent discussion over rising tuition costs, some readers might be interested in the Chronicle of Higher Ed's Colloquy on tuition pricing.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at September 12, 2003 08:00 PM
Comments
1

The quality of discussion right here seems to me to be much better than that at Chronicle (which increasingly seems to pick strange topics, as well...)

Posted by: David Foster at September 12, 2003 08:20 PM
2

Dear Invisible Adjunct,
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Posted by: Haleh at September 13, 2003 01:40 AM
3

Id be surprised if there were many objections from within the academy for a measure that charges the wealthy more for tuition. To a certain extent this happens already with people getting a sliding amount of financial aid based on need. Some people have claimed that it would produce an inequity in what people pay for verses what they get, but I dont hear many people making this complaint about taxes where there is already a sliding scale of pay for the same level of services. Maybe some of those left oriented scholars would argue that wed all be benefited if lower income families had better educations. Maybe theyd even argue that these individuals have a right to such an education. Im sure were all familiar with the line of reasoning that those of us haves should provide social welfare for the have nots.

Im all in favor of lending a hand to the have nots, but I guess I part ways at the hand out point. I think of this problem much like I do universal health care. The answer isnt necessarily to make the haves pay for the have nots, but to reform the system so that the have nots can pay for themselves. Most colleges could take a lesson in budget restraint and focusing on core education needs. One question that seems to need to be sorted out is whether or not colleges are going to be places of education or vocational schools. The emphasis on information technology on most campuses has gotten out of hand. Im no Luddite having spent the last 10 years in IT, but to many schools view technology as a panacea and have no grasp of how to manage it or properly integrate it. Then they bring in a person with a Ph.D. in computer science at $80,000 to teach a piss poor class on Power Point, when they could have hired someone from New Horizons at half the cost. In the mean time the new philosophy professor is making $36,000. They claim its market demand, but the market doesnt have Ph.D.s teaching vocational classes. I could go on and on..

Posted by: Matthew at September 13, 2003 07:26 PM
4

FYI, Ronald Ehrenberg, the author of Tuition Rising (an excellent book), also has a useful web site at Cornell which includes a series of working papers discussing various factors affecting tuition and the costs of higher education:

http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/depts/cheri/

BTW, WP 39, Page 8, has the following comment re US News college rankings that might interest IA readers:

"An institution that hired full-time lecturers, at lower salaries, to do more of its undergraduate teaching and devoted the resources that it saved from doing so to increasing the average salaries of its tenure-track faculty would, other factors held constant, go up in the rankings and would suffer no penalty for this substitution."

Ehrenberg doesn't say whether or not colleges are consciously using this approach to game the rankings.

Posted by: Paul Nelson at September 13, 2003 09:57 PM
5

Very interesting. Thanks for that link.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 13, 2003 10:06 PM
6

Matthew.
I am suprise that a phd in cs knows how to use powerpoint well enough,let alone teach it. ;) To the uninformed, CS != IT; at least at phd level.More MIS~=IT.

I think the problem is that institutions require that people who teach certain subjects have a phd. Once that is a requirement, then you have to pay market salarys to attract them, regardless of what you want them to do. A phd in cs have alternative jobs outside of teaching,ie techie companies, consulting firms,financial institutions. (Its easier to teach a cs guy some consulting skills than to teach a business guy cs stuff.) Thus to hire them to teach, their salary has to keep up with what his alternatives are.

A phd in philosophy however pretty much works in academia.Not only that,they are found pretty much in philosophy departments. (some hard-core logic guys are found in math/cs, but thats uncommon). Their salary will just need to be competitive vis-a-vis other philosophy departments.

The solution is proberbly to create a market for philosophy phds outside of academia (possible?), or to relax the requirement of a phd as a requirement in teaching.

Note: I think cs is a field that actually isnt quite hung up on phds. When you move to hacking,programming or security, there are many respectable guys without phds and nobody scoffs at them. A phd more important when you are doing architecture,systems,algorithms type stuff.

Posted by: Passing_through at September 13, 2003 10:44 PM
7

well as they say, you can teach a philosopher to program, but you can't teach a computer scientist to think

Posted by: at September 14, 2003 12:07 AM
8

I thought that this was obvious, but the posters were slow to catch the point. This discrimination in pricing is exactly what is already happening in the form of financial aid.

And I have no problem with this. Many colleges have sizable resources in endowment and state grants, much of it meant to enable poorer students to attend. There's no problem with distributing this money to students based on financial need.

But it has gone too far in many cases, where the list-price tuition exceeds the actual educational cost. That is, if I take the total budget (subtracting out institutional grants), and I divide by the number of students, I would expect a number that is greater than the tuition price. Yet at many colleges, this is not the case. (This includes most middle-tier liberal arts colleges.) Any student paying the list price at such a college is paying more than the actual educational cost, and the excess is being transferred into the pockets of other students in the form of financial aid.

This fact is a little-publicized secret that needs to be addressed. (And the culprit isn't the institutions that do it: It's the fault of vast inequities in endowments and state support.)

Posted by: Matins at September 15, 2003 05:34 PM
9

[ well as they say, you can teach a philosopher to program, but you can't teach a computer scientist to think ]

You're one of the $36,000 guys, I take it.

[ They claim its market demand, but the market doesnt have Ph.D.s teaching vocational classes. ... ]

There is no market for humanities Ph.D's outside academia.

Posted by: David Davenport at September 15, 2003 05:38 PM
10


"... Yet while the independent sector recognises the value of being relatively free from state interference, it shows virtually no interest in fostering the foundation of new private schools where the teaching might be excellent even if the buildings were tatty. The great public schools do not want that kind of competition. They work very hard to maintain and even improve their standards as a fleet of Rolls-Royces, but the idea that anyone else might take to the road in some less grand conveyance, and might even prove more lively and attractive than they are, is anathema to them. ..."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fopinion%2F2003%2F09%2F16%2Fdo1601.xml&sSheet=%2Fportal%2F2003%2F09%2F16%2Fixportal.html

Public schools would benefit from some EasyJet competition
By Andrew Gimson
(Filed: 16/09/2003)


The public schools hate competition. Winchester, Eton and the rest are in the cosy habit of exchanging information about the level of their fees among themselves, so as to make themselves safe from any danger of undercutting by rival establishments. They have thereby been able, year after year, to raise their fees by far more than the rate of inflation.

This much seems to emerge without doubt from the emails that circulated between the bursars of many of our most famous schools and have now become public. These conscientious men appear to have gone about their work of comparing the proposed fee increases at their schools in a rather innocent way, with little understanding that what they were doing might be in breach of competition law.

It is true that, when Bill Organ, the bursar of Winchester, sent his governors a note giving the fee increases at 20 leading schools and suggesting, in the light of this information, that Winchester should raise its fees by nine per cent, he did include the words: "Confidential, please, so we aren't accused of being in a cartel." But the bursars believed, I am sure, that they were fulfilling their duty to their schools to maximise income while minimising the risk that parents might go elsewhere.

Parents have long been forced to pay a great deal more than they might have had to do for private schooling. Even before the latest documents came to light, it was obvious that the independent sector was failing to provide a much greater diversity of schools than the state does. This diversity should include diversity of price: there ought to be many more independent schools that are relatively cheap. I take the point that the cost of providing the kind of Rolls-Royce education offered by the most famous public schools is bound to be very high, and that their fees are therefore likely, regardless of whether their bursars communicate with each other, to be quite similar.

But it makes a nonsense of the word "independent" if these schools all huddle together like a flock of frightened sheep, with none of them prepared to do anything unless the rest immediately follow suit. I yield to no one in my admiration of our great public schools. The way in which they have transformed themselves over the past generation is a testimony to the British genius for adapting traditional institutions to new conditions. As recently as the 1970s, it seemed as if the public schools might be doomed. Their success in seeing off the political and economic threats to their survival greatly benefits our nation and our culture.

Yet great schools do not depend only upon money. Many were the creation of one outstanding head teacher, who either set up a new school or else revived an old foundation. These teachers did not succeed because they had pots of money, or because they could accommodate their pupils in buildings that are scarcely distinguishable from a five-star hotel and country club. They usually succeeded in straitened circumstances, in makeshift premises, because parents and pupils realised that they understood something about education. We need many more such men and women today.

Let me admit an interest. The fees at my old school, Uppingham, are now 20,100 a year. I have three small children, and would not contemplate sending one of them there unless there were a reasonable prospect of sending all three, but it seems very unlikely that I shall be able to afford a total outlay that could easily exceed 300,000. Uppingham is no doubt an excellent school, but I am in the market for something cheaper. Perhaps I am influenced by Jeff Abbott, the most interesting teacher I had at the Uppingham of the early 1970s, a classicist with a sovereign contempt for the sports centre and other amazingly expensive facilities with which the school was burdening itself.

Sports centres don't matter. Teachers do. A school is made or unmade by its teachers, and good teachers value the spirit in which they can teach more than sumptuous facilities. Part of the point of being an independent-minded teacher is that you can follow your own genius, if you have any, instead of being treated, as seems the fate of many teachers in state schools, like a Soviet coal miner whose only goal is to fulfil the latest five-year plan.

Yet while the independent sector recognises the value of being relatively free from state interference, it shows virtually no interest in fostering the foundation of new private schools where the teaching might be excellent even if the buildings were tatty. The great public schools do not want that kind of competition. They work very hard to maintain and even improve their standards as a fleet of Rolls-Royces, but the idea that anyone else might take to the road in some less grand conveyance, and might even prove more lively and attractive than they are, is anathema to them.

Hence the co-operation over fees that seems to have taken place, and to have been carried out as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is the behaviour of a set of institutions that are very successful, but have taken on dreadfully high fixed costs and know, in their heart of hearts, that many of the best things they provide could be provided much more cheaply by someone else.

It may be said by the public schools that parents demand glossy facilities as of right, and of some idiotic parents that is undoubtedly true, though surely any head teacher worth his salt should be able to tell such horrible, vulgar, consumerist parents to stop being so horrible, vulgar and consumerist. But it remains true that some of us still find glossiness rather off-putting.

I love my children dearly, but I would not want them to be brought up as plutocrats even if I happened, by some fluke, to become a plutocrat myself. There is an almost sickening degree of luxury in some private schools nowadays, combined with an almost sickening level of pressure on pupils who are coached to do as well as they possibly can in examinations that are of no educational value, however much they may help the poor boy to jump through the next hoop on his over-regulated progress through childhood and adolescence.

The independent sector needs to become more genuinely independent, and less frightened of competition, if it is to be worthy of its name. It should not wait for the possible introduction of education vouchers before it offers much cheaper private schools to a much wider range of parents.

Posted by: Dvid Davenport at September 15, 2003 10:39 PM
11

First. The topic is getting hotter. Tuesday's WSJ had an editorial (no URL) about tuition costs. It cited excessive spending by the colleges as the culprit and, correctly said governmental subsidies pouring money into the system, watered the ground upon which those weeds grew.

Also in yesterdays NYTimes When Books Break the Bank

#1 David: Amen.

#6 Matthew: "The solution is probably to create a market for philosophy phds outside of academia (possible?), or to relax the requirement of a phd as a requirement in teaching."

Don't hold your breath waiting for the market in philosophy phd's.

But seeing the PhD. as a prerequisite for teaching is not implicate in the natural order of things. Almost all of the teachers at law and medical schools are non phds. Most colleges in the UK have teachers have a UK MA, which is a tougher course than my MA was, but is short of an American PhD.

If we eliminate the phd as a teaching requirement, phs programs, which are extremly resource intensive, could be cut back sharply which would free a lot of faculty resources for undergraduate teaching.

#7: "well as they say, you can teach a philosopher to program, but you can't teach a computer scientist to think."

Max Palevsky proves your point.

#10 D?vid: "Winchester, Eton and the rest are in the cosy habit of exchanging information about the level of their fees among themselves, so as to make themselves safe from any danger of undercutting by rival establishments."

IIRC, the US Federal government made the Universities stop doing that, but it does not seem to have broken their stride.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 17, 2003 10:49 AM
12

We require a list of adjunct salaries for small privates in NY, NJ, PA, MN, RI,CT,MA & VA.

Does anyone know a source on the web that would have this list?

Posted by: phyllis at November 25, 2003 02:07 PM