The Excessive Cost of Going to College | National Review

The Excessive Cost of Going to College | National Review

Everyone knows that the cost of college has risen much faster than inflation for the last several decades. Why is it now so high, and is the cost benefitting students?

Those questions were addressed in a recent study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), and I examine it in today’s Martin Center article. 

The authors of the study write, “Institutional spending continues to rise while contributing little to graduation rates. Moreover, investment in instructional staff—particularly tenured or tenure-track professors—has been overshadowed by increases in administrative staff, namely well-paid, professional employees.”

Aha — so top college administrators spend money unnecessarily. That is what you would expect in non-profit management, where cost-effectiveness takes a back seat to spending that the managers happen to favor. I cite a Martin Center study from 2009 where the author explained the incentives for college leaders to extract as much money as they can and spend it largely on things that might raise institutional prestige.

ACTA’s study notes that the biggest increases in college spending have been for administration and “student services” rather than for instruction. The latter might help to increase student learning and graduation, but instead schools have been adding layers of educrats, such as “chief diversity officers.”

It’s evident that the fat years for American higher education are behind us. College leaders will need to start scrutinizing their budgets, looking for ways to get more educational value out of fewer dollars.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.