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by Paul Kiser
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Paul Kiser

Article first published as
Is Higher Ed Doomed (Part II): The cost of Higher Education doesn’t add up
on Technorati.com

Part II
(Click on link for Part I)

Since 1983 college tuition increases have not only significantly outpaced cost of living increases, but they have also outpaced the spiraling inflation of medical costs (Wikipedia.) Those involved in Higher Education admit that a major change is needed to address the financial factors crushing affordable education and are throwing around ideas like a ‘three-year’ degrees (Inside Higher Ed article: A Call For Change, From Within,) but these changes seem to only tweak the existing paradigm.

To find a solution to the existing crisis will require stripping higher education down to the basics: The Professor teaching the Student. Consider a hypothetical scenario for an undergraduate degree program.

If a college student paid $250 to each of his or her professors per semester, and this student took five classes (3 credits per class) for 15 credits, then the total amount paid would be $1,250.

College Student – 5 classes @ $250/class = $1,250

Assuming the college professor was paid $250 from each student, and if she or he taught five classes per semester of 20 students per class she/he would earn $25,000 per semester.

College Professor – 5 classes x 20 students @ $250/student = $25,000

Assuming two semesters per year, that makes the annual cost to the student for tuition $2,500 and the total annual salary for the professor will be $50,000.

College Student – $1,250/semester x 2 = $2,500

College Professor – $25,000/semester x 2 = $50,000

Taking this one step further, let’s assume the student pays someone (an ‘Educational Coordinator’) to create an individualized college-degree program, select qualified professors for the desired degree, and coordinate the students schedule with the professor’s availability. For this service the student will pay the Educational Coordinator $150/class.  Assuming five classes per semester and two semesters per year the student will be paying $1,500 per year for his or her Educational Coordinator. Assuming the Educational Coordinator handles 50 students per year that gives them a salary of $75,000.

College Student – Tuition of $2,500 + Educational Coordinator for $1,500 = $4,000

Educational Coordinator – 50 full-time students @ $1,500/student = $75,000

Finally, let’s assume that instead of using textbooks, each professor provides electronic versions of her or his own research/writing and selected scholarly papers and verified information available from the Internet. For this, the student pays a $25 fee per class for an electronic data transfer of documents and URL addresses of the subject matter needed for the class.

State-run universities continue to dig themselves deeper in a hole

The totals are as follows:

The student pays a total of $4,250/year for tuition, individual educational counseling, and digital versions of all required written materials.

The Educational Coordinator earns $75,000/year for giving one-on-one counseling to 50 students

The College Professor earns $55,000/year for teaching 10 classes of 20 students per year.

In 2010, the average annual cost for tuition and fees at a four-year state-run university, excluding textbooks, was $7,605 (College Board website: ‘What It Costs To Go To College.’) This is $3,355 more (almost 180% more) than the hypothetical scenario from above and the student does not need to buy any textbooks. In addition, the student is receiving one-on-one educational counseling and a program individualized to their interests.

The financial burden that is not included in this hypothetical scenario are the student activity fees, housing fees, construction, building maintenance, parking fees, athletic programs, administrative staff, grounds keepers, security, Deans, Presidents, etc. The question that reality forces us to now confront is whether or not we can afford these extra costs.

NEXT:  Is Higher Ed Doomed? (Part III): The missed opportunity – a viable alternative to the status quo

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