The cost of graduate school is problematic for many aspiring students. It is even more confusing when you look at what your tuition is used for, who it benefits and the differences between public and private institutions. Academia is an ideal but it is also a business and learning how it works is an eye opening and often disturbing experience. Adjunct professors, negligible endowment spending, hiring freezes, program cuts and student debt are all palpable concerns of the college funding scheme. Students, faculty and taxpayers should all be aware of how academic institutions are funded to understand the economic pressures on higher education and suggest better policy.
Over the last decade universities have sought more diversified methods of attaining funds. This is noticeable in the increasing rates of tuition and fees imposed by many universities. These have become less homogenous, with differences in out-of-state and in-state tuition and increasing tendencies to charge different tuition for different programs. It is unclear how schools devising their tuition schemes, but they show regular increases year by year.
Even Canadian students feel the pressures of mounting tuition. While graduate school enrollment cost remained relatively stable from 1970 to the late 1990s, its dramatic rise from 1998 to present has created new problems for those pursuing a masters. Students from middle class families have seen a decrease in enrollment due to lack of financial aid and all areas that saw tuition increases also noticed a corresponding drop in rates of application. Many of these findings are seen in surveys of US graduate education as well.
On top of tuition, students pay an assortment of fees for university services. While many of these are put to good use during the year, many are less readily justifiable. This student lays out their costs for going to graduate school, including the exact price and purpose of individual fees. When you add in the cost of room and board, calculate inflation and consider differences in price for different students the costs increase very quickly.
Backlash against raising tuition rates has caused universities to reconsider their tuition hikes. Increases in tuition, percentage-wise are down this year as an encouragement to aspiring students. How are they covering the costs with less money? Larger class sizes, more assistant teachers and a push toward distance education may be on the way.
The College Board's report on pricing analyzes changes in the cost of college over the past few decades. The many charts and graphs present all types of information about the average price of many types of colleges. Many of these statistics are surprising, especially in light of recent critiques raised against college budgeting. Whatever information you need about the cost of school, you can find it in these statistics.
Ever since the late 1990s tuition for colleges in the United States has increased drastically. Many more students are seeking financial assistance and some are even turning to high interest credit cards and private loans. Mid-range and low-income students are increasingly forced to borrow to fund their education. The result is an increasing debt burden around the nation and uncertainty among graduates in their ability to pay off debt.
Students of pharmacology have committed themselves to a professional pursuit with high rates of return. That said, tuition for these programs is rising and many recent graduates take on immense debt to fund their education. In response pharmacists are seeking jobs that pay well rather than those that satisfy them personally. Even for financially rewarding pursuits, the burden of debt is a growing concern.
In a disturbing trend, almost all college students are using credit cards to finance their education. Not only does this form of funding incur more interest per dollar but can also lead to expensive financing fees charged by the credit institution. Students seem to be less knowledgeable and responsible about the facts of credit card debt. While it may save them from taking loans, the debt taken on is often more difficult for them to recover from.
Pro bono work and social responsibility has been at the heart of the law profession for years. Recent increases in tuition and fees have caused lawyers to take on more and more debt, forcing them to seek high paying jobs after graduation. This is true for other professional schools, with less doctors and businessmen able to enter the nonprofit sector. If this continues it will be difficult for nonprofits to compete with the salaries demanded by increasing debt.
Even though students at for-profit colleges make up only 12% of total university enrollment they are responsible for half the defaults on student loans and hog more than a quarter of total federal aid. Less than half of all students are able to pay back their loans within the allotted time. With the economy still reeling from the recent recession these problems will worsen before they get better. The problems of student loans need to be addressed before they cripple the education industry.
This publication by the college board illustrates the funding sources for both graduate and undergraduate students. For both federal loans make up the bulk of their funding for education. Trends over the years, different types of funding and nationwide averages are included to show where the money comes from. While graduate programs become more popular and costly the availability of student funds is dwindling.
Sure financial aid is designed to help low income students cope with the financial burden of higher education, but does it work? The most exclusive colleges in the United States enroll less than 15% of their student populations from those in need of financial assistance. While they do help these students with their fiscal difficulties much of the money goes elsewhere. Those who would normally not qualify for financial aid are allowed to apply for the remaining funds.
Imagine if the amount of financial aid you qualify for were based on your major. That is what a new law aims to accomplish by limiting aid to those institutions that incur high debt and whose students typically have low repayment rates. This may be fine to encourage colleges to produce more successful graduates, but those who depend on loans may be forced into choosing a major in a high paying career track. Colleges would be more focused on producing wealthy individuals than those interested in solving today's problems.
State funding for universities is decreasing across the board. Universities are often forced to cut programs and student funding to make up for this gap. Even application to these state schools is dropping in response to raised rates. These universities are slowly adapting to the funding atmosphere and seeking new sources for financial relief.
Calls to end taxpayer funding for public schools are unfounded. All institutions of higher education receive some aid from the government, including private schools. Students at all colleges receive financial aid from their schools and those at private schools often end up with substantial debt. Denying taxpayer support to colleges would cripple an industry necessary for our nation's success.
Federal funding for higher education is a frivolous venture. Most of the monies go toward tuition assistance, contributing to the overcrowding of our universities. Research grants are simply a way for the government to conduct unwanted experiments and have citizens foot the bill. This funding forces professors to focus on research rather than educating their students.
Students are graduating from college with more debt and less knowledge. While taxpayers foot the bill, students and their families are looking for colleges that can offer a better quality of life, not instruction. Still financial aid hovers at a staggering $9,000 per enrolled student on average, perpetuating the cycle of poorly prepared graduates. Power over college funding should be returned to the people to promote responsible decisions.
Connecticut spends extraordinary resources on higher education, but is it paying off? Despite almost double the amount of dollars given than other states, officials lack evidence of any real benefit. Lump sum grants make it difficult to see where all of the money is going, and whether it is invested wisely. Even states that spend less on education often wonder if the funds they allocate to colleges really make a difference in the quality of education.
While most critics today bemoan the rising cost of education as a justification to cut spending, Pennsylvania tells a different story. There, as elsewhere in the country, the state supports less of the cost per student than it did in the 1980s. The increase in supporting staff and part-time professors exacerbates the reduced funds. Despite what some may say, we are spending less on education and are paying the price in quality.
While private and for-profit educational institutions charge almost double their competitors, they spend much less time educating students. Those at these expensive institutions are promised high paying jobs upon exit, often with little basis in reality. Many more graduates are defaulting on their loans, contributing to the massive debt problem in the country. The government is unsure how to handle to situation but limiting student aid seems a sound decision for now.
The Delta Cost Project's analysis of college spending trends shows both the sources and uses of university funds. Most funding for universities today comes from tuition revenues instead of the traditional state funding. At the same time spending is decreasing for instruction in both public and private institutions. These can both be seen as reactions to reduction in other revenues and an adaptation to a market-based approach to education.
Masters programs are in trouble, with more funding, per student, going to undergraduate studies in both public and private institutions. In addition, public universities are falling far behind private institutions economically. Much of the spending at the college level goes to student services, rather than instruction where some think it would make a greater impact. While the public and private institutions compete for name recognition and prestige, students are left wondering where the money goes.
More and more of college budgets are going to auxiliary amenities that increase the cost of education. All of these services require supporting staff, bloating personnel budgets beyond manageable numbers. The percent of the budget universities set aside for instruction has decreased 10% or more in most cases, with much of it going to student programs and administrative departments. Schools will be responsible for finding innovative ways to cut costs as their budgets are overtaken by support personnel and benefits packages.
In private schools across the United States tuition is increasing each year, even with larger endowments providing more of a cushion. Students often question why tuition continues to rise when universities have more funds to assuage the cost of education. Endowments are meant to sustain a college through difficult times, and since the future is unknowable they tend to grow more each year. The problem is, even with a large endowment universities must prepare for bad economic times and reserve their funds to offset losses that may happen during the next year.
There are many problems in the funding of institutions of higher learning. Universities need to focus on efforts that promote degree attainment rather than marketability. Developing budgets from data on expenditures, evaluating degree requirements for efficacy and increasing fiscal accountability would help colleges align their goals with realistic figures and predictions. Only by analyzing school spending can institutions clearly define and pursue their educational goals.
Adjunct and support staff are a popular choice among universities that want to hire more educators. These lesser-paid positions are seeing staggering increases in minority professorships, while tenure track professors remain predominantly white. While this practice has developed over the last 30 years, evidence suggests that the hiring boom is receding for adjuncts. Even so, many scholarly women and minorities find themselves trapped in low paying adjunct positions or auxiliary roles.
Following the immense budget cuts of the early 1990s, many California State Universities began a trend of hiring adjunct and temporary professors over tenure track personnel. Despite recoveries in the economy, hiring tenure track professors still seems a secondary aim. The same can be said of state universities across the United States who now face budget cuts brought on by recession. Most adjunct professors are quality educators yet it is hard for a school to develop a reputation without the support of committed professors.
Can the pursuit of knowledge survive in a market driven model of education? The prevalence of adjunct professors is increasing with temporary positions in all markets. They are less well paid, equally pressed for time and are expected to do similar work. The demands on adjuncts interfere with their ability to progress in their academic careers.
Recession, budget cuts and the trends toward adjunct professors have all forced schools to cut back on faculty spending. In turn minority Ph.D. candidates are finding it harder to get a job, even part time. Even with the stock market recovering and unemployment slowly receding the future for academia looks uncertain. This is especially relevant with an increase in the minority population of college students and the desire to have teachers with relevant ideas.
While schools rush to hire more adjunct professors many scholars are wondering about the educational implications of this strategy. Students are shown to perform better when the have ample time to meet with professors, discuss problems and investigate the questions brought up in class during office hours. Part-time professors often must handle increased classroom responsibilities and are disadvantaged by their newness in the institution. With both of these tendencies pulling in opposing directions students are bound to receive less instruction and lower quality education from their universities.
Each year the American Association of University Professors publishes statistics on professor compensation in educational institutions around the nation. It divides post-secondary educators into professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors. Data showing the difference between men and women in these categories is included as well. It is the most referenced source of professorial salaries available.
Despite their for-profit status many career colleges draw much of their funding from taxpayer dollars. Due to out of touch tuition and dead end degrees, market driven schools continue to drain their students' accounts. Many must borrow exorbitantly and learn the true worthlessness of their investment only after graduation. The least we can do is ask them to actually put the citizens' dollars to good use.