Paying for It?

The other day, I read an interesting article in the local paper about how upset the Utah state legislature was with the Board of Regents for not keeping down tuition increases at state colleges and universities. While I wanted to strangle the writer of the article and just about every member of the legislature, or at least the Republicans, my reaction will be limited to this blog.

Why am I that upset? Because none of those involved are looking at the facts.

First, tuition for in-state students at four-year Utah state institutions isn’t that high, ranging from $4,500 to $8,000 a year, depending on the school, and the average annual tuition of $6,790 is ranked as the third lowest in the U.S., according to the College Board. Second, again depending on the Utah college or university, annual tuition increases over the past twenty years have averaged three to five percent per year. Third, because of a burgeoning college age population, all Utah colleges and universities have had to expand over that period, which requires expanding facilities. At my wife the professor’s university, enrollment has increased from 3,500 students to more than 10,000 in the past twenty years, and all state colleges and universities have significantly increased their enrollments. Two entirely new Utah universities have also been created in the same period. Fourth, at the same time, the percentage of costs of student education paid by tuition in Utah has gone from 21% to 46%. As I’ve noted previously, this isn’t confined to Utah but is a national trend.

In plain facts, all of this means that while students in Utah only paid a fifth of the actual costs of their education a generation ago, they now pay half of it, while taxpayers are paying less and less of it.

Utah has been “cost-effective” in managing higher education. That’s why faculty salaries are among the lowest in the nation, and why the percentage of full-time faculty has declined remarkably while the number of part-time adjunct instructors [without benefits] has skyrocketed.

But you can’t increase the number of students every year without adding faculty and facilities, and those cost money. And if the legislature is paying a decreasing percentage every year, then those additional costs have to come from somewhere, and the only other place it can come from is from students. So… because Utahans don’t want significantly more tax dollars going to universities, they end up paying higher tuition. You have to pay, one way or the other, and that’s something that taxpayers and the legislature – and, in this case, even the media – don’t want to face. As usual.

2 thoughts on “Paying for It?”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    I’ve got to think that there should be some administrative overhead to trim, although often that’s the sort that corresponds to goodies the politicians can hand out to their supporters, so they might not have much incentive to start there.

    1. Alan says:

      A school mate of mine is a teacher in southern Georgia and she has made a number of pointed comments to me about the proliferation of administration. Despite her angst over the growth of the admin at her school she acknowledges that it is necessary due to the demands from higher levels. She, and her peers, feel that there should be a great big cut back in administrative responsibilities and duties. By cutting back on the administrative demands from higher authorities there would be fewer admin positions required and more free time for teachers to do their real purpose; teaching. Not to mention there might be a few more dollars in the budget for all the things teachers require.

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