Third Party & Independents Archives

The GOP and College Tuition

The cost of higher education is a problem, and solutions seem to be diametrically opposed. But one thing both conservatives, no make that free-marketers instead, and interventionists - rather than liberals - agree on is that the supply of higher education is price-inelastic. That means that as federal loan programs and other subsidies increase, the result is sharply higher tuition costs, rather than more institutions, over the last couple of decades. One answer is not to accept Federal loans, as some US Colleges have done. Their tuition costs have tended to be about half of those of colleges who do accept Federal funding. Another uncomfortable issue underlying exploding tuition costs is that the demand for a college degree has soared because governments and employers have deemed a BA, or the equivalent, a necessary minimum for any graduate hoping to successfully enter the workforce. Unfortunately, a degree has lost some, if not a lot, of its value in terms of the workplace and there are those who say focused apprenticeship programs rather than a college degree would be more appropriate in a noticeable number of cases. That would mean spreading the demand for higher education around a number of areas rather than just standard bricks and mortar institutions.

What is needed is most certainly flexibility in terms of how higher education, whether a university or technical college degree, is provided. Online institutions should be encouraged with enough conditions attached that their customers, students and their parents, can expect a reasonable service to be delivered. A university or college is a high fixed cost and low marginal cost business. That tends to lead to colleges to charge as much as the consumer - the student and his or her parents - are able to pay. When you add free federal money to the pot, tuition goes through the roof. So the GOP has an issue that worries many families, how to bring tuition down, that they can apply market principles to in finding solutions. A final point made by some on the left is that state appropriations for education have fallen, at least on a relative basis, since deficits began to worsen some 25 years ago. They blame lower taxes. Raising taxes at the state level nowadays will not cut it with voters. That means that the halfway-house of subsidized prestige institutions, (whose value goes up the more students they turn away), needs to be overhauled. Supply of higher education needs to be increased by allowing a greater variety of providers, and subsidies need to be controlled. A final point made by some is that more transparency on federal loan programs and their relation to wages and employment is needed. That will take overturning a federal law that currently bans sharing those two data sets. That would be a good place for the GOP to start.

Posted by AllardK at November 14, 2014 2:55 PM
Comment #385442

There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Other countries, such as Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and many others offer free college education. It makes sense. Education is a fundamental investment in society. Simply use their model. Their outcome is certainly much better than our own.

The problem with rising college costs comes from combining research at the university level with education. With universal college education, we can get away from the model of expensive professors delegating most of the teaching responsibilities to graduate students, while they do research, or publish or perish; instead, real teachers can work with college students. The research function can remain with post-graduate degree programs.

Solving this problem is simple and most other countries have already done so. Setting up a system of free college education for those who qualify, and another track of trade schools is only common sense.

Paying for this could be done a number of ways. Generally speaking, it would amount to the equivalent of a 3% income tax hike, or in other words, the same amount of money the Iraq War has cost us. The result would be a better educated population, and no more seeing students graduating with college debts of $60,000 to $250,000.

Posted by: phx8 at November 14, 2014 3:24 PM
Comment #385458

Yes, one can go back and track the ramp up of higher education cost with the federal grant/tuition support.

One would think the Univ’s would appreciate the subsidy and put more prof’s in the classroom. But no, just the opposite, fewer prof’s while ramping up the number of assoc prof’s, just out of college themselves. I mean, aren’t we all a greedy bunch of so and so’s? Everyone wants to be on the big tit of gov’t/corpocracy/free trade.

I would like a ruling that prof’s must be in the classroom 24/7. Never happen. Unions and so on - - -

I do like phx8’s proposal. The trades need folks who can read, write, with good oral expression. Every human bean needs fluency in computers and things digital. ie word, xcel, power point, and similar. Should have a BS trade degree program. A degree from Devry or ITT should be accepted on a par with a BS diploma. Interchangeable, ie, two years at a college followed by two years at a trade institute, credits xferring and so on - - -

For such REAL reform corporations would have to be pretty much guaranteed more profit/money thru the reforms.

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: roy ellis at November 14, 2014 5:34 PM
Comment #385475
The research function can remain with post-graduate degree programs.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but interaction with research faculty is very important to undergraduate education in the hard sciences. Only by actually getting my hands dirty and doing some research was I able to determine which discipline of science was right for me.

instead, real teachers can work with college students.
More adjunct professors being paid minimum wage? Honestly, I can envision an expansion of community colleges, but large numbers of non-researching professors would disrupt the culture of any major research university.

However, you are correct to point out that professor’s primary obligation research impedes the education of many students. Greater utilization of 2 year institutions would fix this problem. If we ever got around to funding a universal tertiary education system, I would found a bunch of new 2-year “teaching universities”. Make these schools residential in order to remove the commuting stigma of community college. Also, move all the collegiate athletic programs to the 2 year schools in order to enhance their prestige. Unlike community college, acceptance to these 2 year schools wouldn’t be universal, but would require decent High School grades. Now, we’ll get 20 year olds graduating with associates degrees that are ready to move onto a research institution to finish their bachelor’s degree if need be. Research universities can focus on introducing upperclassmen to research in their field.

Posted by: Warren Porter at November 14, 2014 8:44 PM
Comment #385477

Rather than concentrating on two-year community colleges, I’d like to see the stress fall on funding full time students at four-year colleges. State colleges would be the perfect candidates. If a credit was available for free education at state colleges, the amount of that credit could be made available as a kind of vouchers for private four-year colleges. That would result in a two-tier education system in which the wealthiest go to the best schools, while everyone else makes do, but since we are effectively already there, I see no reason not to go there.

For the hard sciences, perhaps classroom internships for undergraduates would work?

Posted by: phx8 at November 14, 2014 9:19 PM
Comment #385478

Some good ideas, Warren. Though, I don’t think it feasible to found a large number of 2 year schools in residential areas, however appealing.

While I’m not much on this earning a degree through Internet education, I could easily support a similar setup with two way communications. Like a standard classroom except the class exist on the Internet using Skype for visual/audio comms. That would be close enough to a classroom setting to get my vote.

But, I suggest these greedy netcoms will trash net neutrality to continue selling their bandwidth to corporations and so on - - -

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: roy ellis at November 14, 2014 9:20 PM
Comment #385480

Interesting article. I was struck by the reference in the article to the federal prohibition against linking wage and employment data to federal student loan funding. Perhaps there is a privacy issue here but the inability to evaluate federal educational loan outlays with outcome is a serious flaw in the system. Trust us, it is money well spent doesn’t cut it.

Fortunately, this deficiency might be correctable. The Obama administration is outspoken about the need to rate colleges on several criteria, including graduates’ earnings. Colleges that do well in those ratings would get more federal financial aid. Perhaps Republicans will support this effort. If the federal government and students are going to make an investment, should there not be information available on the potential return from that investment?

Posted by: Rich at November 14, 2014 10:36 PM
Comment #385483

Other countries have “solved” the problem, but the American university system is significantly better and way more diverse than any other.

Let me share one experience. We helped 30,000 Brazilians go to U.S. universities. The Brazilian government was sponsoring and wanted to do the best. When they announced the program, our German, French and others stepped forward with promises of great results. I was worried. The U.S. system is unorganized and not free. How could we compete. We competed well and got about half of the world total.

We could organize quicker because we had not central plan. As a result, students on the the program got to American universities nine months earlier than anybody else got. We were able to disperse them into a wider variety of situations. It just works in practice.

I had a discussion with my German colleague. The Brazilians in cooperation with us had agreed to 1080 English teachers to the U.S. to learn how to English each year. At about the same time they approached us, they talked to the Germans about sending to Germany to study vocational education, which the Germans do well. We had sent the first 540 and the next were ready to go. I asked the German how they were doing. “We are still consulting with Berlin.” was his answer. Great.

My experience from 30 years of international affairs is that Americans have less in theory but more in practice. Our system always seems wrong, but works. Other systems seem so right but don’t deliver.

All that said, America is slipping on this. The big expenses are administrative these days. In many colleges, admin is now more than half the total expense. There is a revolution coming in education. It is already in process. The solution will not be to increase state subsidies or loans. These things just push up prices and keep some poor performers in business. We want to keep what America does best. We would not want our universities to become more like the Germans.

Re community colleges - I got a good education on community colleges over the past couple of years. I worked with Northern Virginia, Houston, San Antonio and a consortium that included Maricopa, Miami Dade, Red Rock in Colorado and Jackson in Michigan. They are great at what they do. The stereotypes about them are out of date. Many kids, especially many boys, are not ready for four year college when they are 18. Beyond that, admission at 18 measures more what parents put in that the kids’ potential. Give them a little time to mature and find what they really want to do. Many kids will make different and better choices if they have a little more time to think about it. And community colleges can be very flexible for workforce preparation.

The future will NOT be four-year colleges like we did. Attempts will be made to save this model, but they will fail except at prestigious places where the “value” is more going there than getting educated. Rather there will be a churn, with people taking various courses in different places and with different methods and education will be episodic but continual.

Posted by: C&J at November 15, 2014 12:47 AM
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