College costs continue to rise

The cost of a college education continues to go up and up, apparently with no end in sight.  Students are grappling with massive student-loan debt as a result.

Dr. Robert Gitter, professor of economics at Ohio Wesleyan University, says there are a number of factors at work.  “Probably the main driver is the fact that you have a situation where it’s very heavily dependent on the number of workers,” he points out.  “You’ve got to have a lot of faculty, and you have to have a lot of people beyond just the faculty.”  He says it’s hard for college profs to increase productivity, defined as more students per class, when everybody wants small classes.

Another factor, per Dr. Gitter:  “There has been a tremendous increase in the number of non-teaching employees.”  These include those who provide student services: counseling, operating recreation facilities, and so forth. Dr. Gitter compared intercollegiate competitiveness in these areas to an “arms race” among schools in order to attract students.

Dr. Gitter gives an example from his own school.  “Here at Ohio Wesleyan, we’re putting $8 million into turning our old gym into a new, modern fitness center, he says.  “And that won’t even put us on the cutting edge.”

In addition, he points out, “The number of people going to college has expanded dramatically.  From the time that I was in college until today, there’s been a tremendous increase.”  In state public colleges, the overall amount spent on education is up, but the amount per student is down. 

Tuition provides a fraction of college revenues, he says.  The rest comes from other sources, such as endowments, athletics, etc. Raising tuition also increases the amount of financial aid needed.  Contrary to what a lot of people may think, he says, most government spending on education is done by the states, not the federal government.

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