Plinius

Monday, November 14, 2011

PL 68/11: The rising cost of HE

Filed under: debate, education, future — plinius @ 12:57 pm

If you plan a walking trip, you should check the terrain. Scaling cliffs and wading muddy swamps is no fun when you just wanted a friendly walk in the forest.

Since my college plans to walk towards a future university, we should check the financial landscape. Dealing with debt, overloaded teachers and discontented students is no fun.

Lloyd Armstrong, a professor at the University of Southern California, has a very clear understanding of education economics. He explains the rising costs of HE as follows:

  • Institutional aspirations are increasingly homogenized around a model set by the richest institutions
  • There is a continuing “arms race” to upgrade and increase teaching, recreational, living and dining facilities; expand student activities and student services; and broaden curricular options – all very costly “improvements”
  • Physical plants are generally are very expensive for the number of students served
  • Increased bureaucracy is needed to manage the growing fruits of the arms race and ever increasing government regulations.
  • The breadth of course offerings [lowers] the average number of students/class, thereby decreasing teaching productivity (students educated divided by teaching costs).
  • Colleges [must] remedy the educational failings of secondary education
  • This diversion to a non-core mission adds a costly overlay
  • Teaching approaches have varied little over the centuries.
  • Consequently there … is little room for increased productivity in this core function.

Many institutions try to move up the brand-value chain by increasing emphasis on faculty research. …

  • Research faculty command higher salaries than teaching faculty.
  • Those higher costs are spread over fewer students because of reduced teaching loads. Thus teaching productivity gets a double blow.
  • Research facilities and instrumentation are more expensive than teaching facilities.
  • Research sponsors and donors seldom if ever pay the complete costs of building and maintaining those facilities and purchasing this instrumentation
  • [This leaves] costs to be covered by … tuition income.
  • Government regulations and the bureaucracies needed to respond to them go up … as research comes in
  • Research funding almost never covers these costs completely.

Sounds like Norway …

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