Opinion: college costs

Lev Working, Contributor

A few weeks ago, I attended an informative college planning presenta- tion by a local admissions officer. More than anything else, the cost hit me square in the face. I also found more competitive colleges offer little to no merit-based aid.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) notes the annual cost of a four-year college program averaged $3,499 in 1980. By 2016, that numberwas$41,468. Themedianstartingsalaryofachemicalengineering major is about $63,000.

Due to high tuition costs, many students accumulate hundreds of thou- sands of dollars in student debt during their time in school.

Many amenities provided by colleges, like Auburn University’s $50 mil- lion fitness center, are unnecessary. Rec rooms and basic services have turned into student centers with excessive counseling services requiring paid full-time staff (who often get generous salaries and benefits). High Point University has its own movie theater, where first-run showings and refreshments are free.

Related to the staff issue is the administrative bureaucracy that now ex- ists at college campuses. For example, Chicago State University had 308 administrators and 350 faculty as of 2011.

NCES reports only 26 percent of university spending was administrative in 1980, compared to 41 percent instructional. Those numbers have changed to 24 percent administrative and 29 percent instructional.

Government loans have removed pressure on universities to implement reasonable tuition costs. A 2015 federal study found every dollar of subsidized student loans raises the cost of tuition for students by 58 cents at the typical college. This means government loans only alleviate short-term financial issues, but increases costs long-term.

Many left-wing politicians now argue college education should be government funded. They use the euphemism “free College,” otherwise known as fostering a bloated wasteful government. It completely ignores addressing the root causes of the expensive nature of college. A more logi- cal approach is to focus on the policies and trends that have led to the cost increase.

The solution is familiar to OPRF: activism. If people take to social media for enough time, universities will be forced to confront these issues. Don’t support just any college reform movement. Ensure they address the root causes of the problem instead of advocating for a budget burden on the government.