Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Or so the ABJ chant about higher ed costs in Ohio:

“For the third study in a row, though, Ohio got an ‘F’ in affordability, thanks to college costs that range from $16,000 for tuition, room and board at the tax-supported Kent State and University of Akron to $37,500 at the private College of Wooster.”
CNN, meanwhile notes the complete study: 43 States out of 50 received a “F” in affordability. 5 received ‘D’s. only 2 received a “C”. No “A”s, no “B”s. It’s not just Ohio. With a 86% failure rate, one can conclude that the only way to get a “B” would be to make college free, and the only way to an “A” would be to pay the students to attend.

There’s no mention of what colleges can do to control costs, or improve the quality of education. Indeed, given the large amounts of federal and state subsidies, there really is no incentive for colleges to control costs. The larger the price put on the students, the more political pressure for increased subsidies to transfer the burden from the students to the general population.

Let’s see – a large chunk of the industry is funded by the state, even in the “private” college sector. There’s competition for certain categories of students (smart, athletic, etc.), but most of the competition is based on reputation v affordability. Given equal educational outcomes, the “reputation” school has an incentive to keep their prices high, if only to maintain the aura of exclusiveness.*

This is also an industry that suffers from a general lack of oversight and control. Large chunks of the decision making are controlled by unionized employees with tenure. There is no effective bottom line or measure of success that serves as a comparison between institutions. Indeed, when was the last time anyone heard of an established college going out of business? Many of the output measures in the report - % of students enrolled who graduate, etc. do not say much about any actual learning that occurred.

George Leef on NRO’s Phi Beta Cons blog has more, as well as a pointer to the story: Inside Higher Ed :: Mediocre Grades for Colleges

* An obvious oversimplification. Many schools have excellent reputations as well as programs in specific areas.