A few weeks ago, I remarked that the yearly cost of attending the University of Alabama rose dramatically. In looking into this further, the financial burdens assumed by students during their undergraduate years has crept up in all of the other colleges and universities I have been able to find data for.
The result of this is translated into several oh, shit! outcomes:
1. Some students assume a massive debt as a result of going to college; possibly more than $50,00 +. This will take a long time to pay off.
2. Many work part-time or nearly part-time, working at jobs with few prospects and little in the way of benefits or health insurance.
3. Those doing the part-time route typically take six or seven years to finish, particularly in technical fields.
4. Their parents assume a massive burden of costs in addition to those of their own lives.
5. Some may postpone going to college; or go the co-op route.
6. Some may not go at all.
Who's the culprit?
To some degree, it's the senior faculty of some institutions, who have been dramatically improving their economic status relative to most Alabamians.
However, higher education institutions also have spliced other means as well: the increased use of grad students in the classroom, adjunct instructors who are paid a pittiance, and other ways as well. An institution in Northern Alabama convienced several professors nearing retirement to retire but continue teaching as adjuncts; letting the collect the state pensions while continuing to teach beyond when they would have retired. The result: a money savings, because it costs less to pay adjuncts than it would to fund a full-time position! On the other hand, it slightly shifts upward the average ages of the faculty. Some of which were becoming less effective in the classroom. These strategies offer a risk of diluting the quality of instruction.
A big source of money woes is the increases in numbers of administrators and those ancillary people, like those in Student Life. What's more, those various and sundry deans and vice-presidents are paid huge salaries and have several administrative assistant staff members below them.
And there's athletics. Except for Alabama and Auburn football and basketball, I don't think any athletic program operates in the black. Now this is not just women's sports, or golf, or baseball, or goat roping -- even football in the state colleges!
Ultimately, though, the dramatic increases are due to there being noticeably less state funding; so the universities jack up the tuition to keep afloat.
It's time for the universities to accept the fact that they are pricing themselves out of the ability of the average student to go. And our legislature, by inaction is a party to this. It looks like it might be time to consider raising taxes! And scaling back on administration.
And possibly athletics.
I'll say a "War Eagle" to that.