Tuition is Too Damn High

Washington Post: A report  by the Institute for College Access and Success that gives a detailed state-by-state look at student debt paints a “grim picture. The nonprofit analyzed federal data on private and public four-year colleges in December and found that the class of 2012 graduated with an average $29,400 in loans, a six percent jump from 2008.”

student loan debt

“The numbers also support another conclusion: Tuition is too damn high, at least that’s what lawmakers are starting to say.”

“These ideas are starting to gain traction, especially as student loan debt now tops $1.2 trillion. Yet getting any sort of legislation through Washington right now is about as likely as universities lowering tuition for the 2014-2015 academic year.”

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  • Tuition is too damn high because state and federal support to college students has stagnated while colleges spend more and more on new facilities designed to attract top students. I can’t believe the NCAA is seriously considering allowing colleges to pay athletes. They should be requiring athletes to pay back their tuition and fees if they run to the pros before they graduate.

    • IowaFalcon

      The problem is the federal aid. The schools have filled themselves with waste and cost to meet the amount of money that the government shovels at them. Without that easy money, tuition would be held in check by consumers not willing to spend so much, and going down the street to other schools.

      • embo66

        “The schools have filled themselves with waste and cost to meet the amount of money that the government shovels at them.”

        I think it’s all a little more complicated than that.

        For one thing, actual “federal aid” to colleges has been dropping significantly since 2000 — sometimes by as much as 50-60%, year over year. Same with the states. Our two most recent recessions are partly to blame; so, too, is the conservative concern over spending, federal sequestration, and other cost-cutting moves. No government in the past 10+ years has been “shoveling money to the schools” at all; it’s just the opposite.

        At the same time, colleges have seen a 32% increase in enrollments since 2001. (Clearly, every parent got the “College is critical to your child’s success” memo.) So the first, logical result of reduced public funding + increased enrollments has been major increases in tuition. Colleges also went through a period where they spent like drunken sailors, largely on high executive salaries, athletic programs and non-academic amenities — mostly to attract the biggest endowments and the wealthiest students. And they saw how much private, for-profit “colleges” like the University of Phoenix were able to charge their students (despite abysmal graduation rates, etc.). And they wanted a piece of that pie, too.

        I totally agree that something has to give . . . but we should look at all the factors and angles here. Because even the most recent studies continue to conclude that a college degree IS still worth it for both tangible and intangible reasons (though many also point out that not everyone needs a 4-year degree or higher).

        So should the government — which has been supporting students with college grants and loans since at least WWII — stop doing so? Should it insist on tuition limits for getting those loans? Should universities stop paying out multi-million dollar salaries? Should we limit the benefits of college merely to those who can already afford it?

        What is YOUR solution, Iowa?

        • IowaFalcon

          I want to split this up into parts. Part 1 is the government money side. Part 2 is the waste side. Part 3 is the solution side.

          In part 1, I will use data pulled from, which I have used for some time. In 2012-13, total federal aid to students in the form of grants, loans, work-study programs, tax credits and deductions totaled $238B. That is no small chunk of change, and is growing. I have an idea that the data you cite, such as 50% drops, are in the form of reductions in the rate of increases. You have to watch out for data on leftist sites; they twist stuff a lot. If there was a planned increase of 2%, and that increase was cut to 1%, they will often characterize it as a 50% cut.

          Not only has the federal cash continued to grow (though not as fast as previously), it has become more focused on grants as opposed to loans, tax credits, and the like. 45% of that $238B was grants in 2013. There is a lot of money being pumped in.

          Part 2 -Waste. I think you mentioned some forms of waste. I will mention the biggest, but you will not like it. The biggest waste is paying for someone to attend college who is unqualified or will go into a field that does not pay back the cost of the degree. Contrary to what you wrote, the vast majority of college degrees do not pay for themselves when you figure in the time value of the money. The student would be better off borrowing the cash and putting it into a retirement account, then paying off the loan. Nobody would loan to such a scheme, but we essentially do so with our Stafford program. Amazon has a great program where they will pay for the education costs of a student, but only if that student goes into a field that actually has earning power, such as engineering or nursing. The fact that they have to specifically limit their program says a lot for the level of wisdom that college students use in determining their major. As colleges have beefed up how many of these fat grants and loans they can handle, they also beefed up how much they charge. College costs have continued to skyrocket to match all of that money, even as technology has driven the cost of education lower. You mention the money being made by Phoenix. The thing is, they really do not have a significantly different graduation rate than most colleges, even though they get a higher concentration of non-traditional students. They do make money, and a lot of it. That should tell you how fat most of the colleges are. Liberty is growing like a weed at about $8K/yr, which is less than most in-state tuition, and they are breaking ground ona half-billion dollar expansion.

          Part 3 – Solution. Should we stop paying for kids to go to college, given the fact that we have been doing so for so long? Let me ask this another way. Should someone stop taking drugs given the fact that they have been doing them so long? Doing something stupid in the past does not make it less stupid to do in the future. Today, even with costs so high, students can get into and be successful in college no matter what their background. Here is the thing to consider. Upper middle class kids are denied the college loans and grants that you may think needed for college, yet they go to college more often than other demographics. It is not because their parents pay, as a lot of parents believe it is wrong to deny their children the early struggles that mold both work ethic and understanding of the world. I will not pay a dime for my children’s education, but they will be fine. I got a job that paid for mine. They have the same options, only more of them. They could also work, save, and do it the right way. Again, this is how the demographic with the highest success rate does it. If we took the quarter trillion dollars we throw at the colleges out of the equation and made them compete for their student’s tuition, prices will go through the floor and quality will go up. We may even have a few less socialist English majors who can’t get a job.

          • embo66

            You continue to conflate aid to students with funding for institutions. I was talking about the latter — the $$ that both federal and state governments have always provided to support public colleges across the nation. THAT is what has been dropping precipitously of late — and it ain’t some “leftist twist.” These are FACTS:



            Major declines in government funding have very directly led to major increases in tuition and fee costs at colleges and universities across the country. That in turn has — big surprise — led to higher grant and loan amounts.

            Here’s a state-level example: Since WWII, Virginia’s state legislature has had a 70-30 policy, which was established to keep the costs of higher education within reach of the average student and to prevent families from bearing too much of the financial burden. Meaning that the state funded 70% of public college costs, while attendees made up the balance. But over the last 2 decades and esp. since 2000, Virginia government’s share has dropped to as low as 41% — meaning students themselves must pay nearly 60% of the total costs for attending a Virginia school.

            If it now costs $100K to attend the University of Virginia for 4 years, that’s what the grant and loan amounts will need to add up to, no? Gee, think that could be why the federal loan program has ballooned so much in recent years?

            I won’t deny that all this is way out of control at this point. Far too much money is awash in our current processes for getting a college degree. But you make it sound as though the ONLY reason it costs so much these days is because the feds are handing out generous loans like candy, with greedy schools then hiking their costs to match what students can get. And that is simply incorrect. [BTW, if you think Liberty University is able to afford a $500 million extension via tuition and fee payments because students are flocking there due to such reasonable costs, you need to take a reality pill. That extension is being funded by bonds LU has issued. Twice. And their credit rating is only AA… ]

            I do think the feds SHOULD put a limit on what amount of tuition they will make a loan for — because that much leverage power is needed to make tuition costs start going back down across the board. We should also look to apprenticeship programs in STEM-H and other fields (including honorable professions like plumbing and carpentry) that would give students high-level skills and a good-paying career without necessarily incurring the same costs as a classic 4-year degree. More corporations like Amazon should also get into the mix.

            Believe me, if there were vibrant apprenticeship programs available, a LOT fewer kids would opt for a traditional college. But I also wouldn’t want to deny those who seek less directly career-oriented courses of study just because it wasn’t immediately obvious how that would translate into a “job.”

            I realize you think that’s “socialist” and that you’re some hard-nosed realist whose feet are firmly planted on the ground, but . . . One thing you don’t seem to have considered is how difficult it is to predict the job marketplace — even just 3-5 years out. Every time we try, we wind up with these career gluts, where suddenly we are cranking out too many MBAs or software engineers or even too many nurses. Who then can’t FIND a job.

            As for your personal “solutions” . . . Let me know how it works out for your kids, who will now try to get to a school that costs 3-4 times as much as it cost you, while working somewhere for minimum wage — since they’ll only still have a high school diploma. By the time they’ve saved the needed $32K (your beloved Liberty U for 4 years), they’ll already be in their late 20s (if not older) — and maybe it will all be too late by then.

          • IowaFalcon

            Let’s start with the twist. The reports that you cite are talking about the per student contribution as a percentage of overall cost. A big hint you are being spun is when a source does not mention the straight-up numbers. I had to do some digging to get to them. When you play around with percentages of percentages, you can make some pretty dire situations appear. Let’s walk through this. About $450B will be spent this year on higher education. The Feds are going to pay about half of that. State public universities were $141B in 2012. About $81.2B of that was paid for by the state and local government. That is down from the peak amount of $88.8B in 2008. Most of that drop came because California deciding that they did not want to go bankrupt. Now, we have half of the picture. In 2007, it was $82.7B. Ten years earlier, it was only $50.3B. In other words, there was a bit of a bubble in the funding, where funding was increased by 2/3rds over a period of 11 years. We are now funding about $1.5B less today than in 2007. The peak year, 2008, saw a YoY increase of 7.4%. The other side of the equation is what the students pay in tuition. At public universities, the total contribution from tuition was $59.9B in 2012, or about 42.5% of the total. This is before any federal grants, loans, work-study programs, tax credits, and so on. Here is the fun part. There is evidence that public universities are actually having LESS cost in providing the education that students are buying, but charging more. This supports my general assertion that the quarter trillion dollars the feds throw at the colleges each year is soaked up in waste.

            Certainly there are more students attending college today than in past. The trend has been for greater amounts of students for decades. The recession not only dropped state revenues, but it also brought more students, as people who lost jobs went back to school, and people who could not find jobs kept kids in school. Clearly, the idea of public funding of education for unlimited people has some problems.

            I wonder if you have considered the share of taxpayer income that is being devoted to paying for college as much as you have considered how much the person getting the education pays…for his own education? A total of over $300B per year is being paid by the 120MM households for post-secondary education. That is about $2500 per household, or about 25% of a single years tuition at the average public university. Ouch! What is really morbid about this is that the total each year keeps growing at a much faster rate than taxpayer’s paychecks do, and primarily because of the money the taxpayer is kicking in.

            If it costs $100K to go to the University of Virginia for 4 years, I would suggest going someplace else. Until we say no, these guys will keep up the waste and abuse of the student and taxpayer.

            The only reason that the cost of college is raising faster than inflation is because of the taxpayer dollars and the removal of market forces that is caused by them. Look at where tuition is either stable or dropping. For-profit colleges, especially on-line ones are going the right way in costs, as many of their students are mid-career and pay a substanicial portion out of pocket. As I have mentioned, Liberty is about $8K/yr, and dropping (I know that it is non-profit, but it gets grouped there by everyone else).

            Speaking of Liberty, are you serious about the bonds? Nobody drops that much cash. An AA bond rating is very good. It has one of the highest bond ratings in education. This kind of financing is the way large projects get done. I take it you were not a Finance major.

            There is a concept called crowding out. It happens when a big player uses up all of the oxygen in the room. Firms don’t want to have to pay for training programs or college costs if they can avoid to, so they are happy to let the government solve their training problem. Without the government throwing so much money at the colleges, corporations would have to spend more of their own money on developing their workforce.

            I am a realist. I grew up in a single parent welfare family, and had to scratch my way to what I have. I did not go to college until I made too much money to qualify for any aid (though I did take some tax breaks).The thing that you simply have to understand is that we have a laziness problem. Only 18% of adults read books, and 80% of them only read fiction. People are not keeping their skills current, and certainly are not preparing for tomorrow’s job market. It is not that hard. All you need to do is put a little effort in. I do not find it loving or kind to make people comfortable in their laziness. It destroys them.

            Or, my kids could go to a community college to begin, which would cost them half of a minimum wage salary at half time. I also think it unrealistic to consider minimum wage jobs appropriate for people with talent enough to be successful in college. We start kids with high school diplomas at about $12/hr with full tuition reimbursement at my firm. Sure, they have to pull their pants up and learn to act professionally, but that is the price. Oh… we also make them work for their money. That would leave their total costs at about less than zero due to tax credits. I love my kids enough to teach them to work for what they want, and find ways to achieve their goals. Funny how little debt the kids of people like me come out of college with compared to those who get all of the assistance.

  • moderatesunite

    Yes it is, and its hurting our economy big time.
    lots of us young people are delaying life decisions they would otherwise make because of concern over the debt load.
    Be that buying a house, getting married, or pursuing graduate school or other advanced degrees.

    • IowaFalcon

      Believe it or not, getting married, going to college, and buying a house have always been big decisions.
      Getting married, especially once children are involved, tends to focus a youngster on being productive. In other words, it pushes you further into life. It tends to force you into being realistic about getting a job that is right for where you are in life, which then gets you in the door. The house comes a bit further down the line.
      You can still go to college with no debt if you plan well and work hard. The easy loan you take today will haunt you for years.

      • moderatesunite

        I’m well aware that these have always been big decisions. The point is that if you have 30, or 40, or 80, or 100 k of debt, or even only 10k but one ends up having difficulty finding anything but part time or low wage work. it makes one quite nervous about making other life decisions it is proven that the current young generation is making each of these decisions substantially later in life, and at much lower rates than previous generations. the biggest factor in this is the high college debt load, of which the average student now holds 30k after completing a Bachelors.

        I am speaking from direct experience on this as well. Unless you come from an exceptionally wealthy family, and/or your family had put away money for your college fund it is virtually impossible to get out of college without debt now.

        I did well in school, got substantial scholarships,and had a nest egg from my parents and grandparents to help me pay for college, and still I needed the federal stafford loans to complete my degree. Many of my friends in college were not so fortunate and had to take on substantially more debt, a burden they will be carrying for decades. In my case the main effect has been to delay a decision about any advanced degrees until I’m absolutely sure that I have a pathway to a career I want.

        • IowaFalcon

          Getting out of college with 10s of thousands of dollars in debt is a horrible thing. I have had a lot of employees that were buried in life due to this, and I am attempting to spread the word that these kids should stop and think before doing it. There are options, such as community colleges, companies that do tuition reimbursement, and good old fashioned working. Debt really need not be part of the equation, even if imprudent government programs have inflated the cost of college.

          I am also suggesting that millennials need not suffer in silence over this, and that their challenges are nothing new. They can talk to people with experience, though I know that is like pulling teeth for them.

          You know what my first “real” job was? I mean, the first corporate gig once I had an education and was ready to take on the world? Telemarketing. It paid $8.50/hr including my commission. I did not have to work it long before I got an opportunity to go up, but I had to face the entry level job. I was working alongside people with accounting degrees, engineering degrees, and other high value degrees. We were parked until we found the right opportunities, as it can take some time. I have no idea how my young family would have made it if we had a mountain of debt on top of the regular bills. That said, we all had to start at the bottom. The road to the boardroom goes past loading docks, telephone banks, and retail stores.

          If you are delaying going after an advanced degree until you are better positioned, that is prudent.

          The biggest problem is that youngsters are not warned that the education industry is just like any other industry, and the salesmen for it are no different than other salesmen. You buy a car, you buy and education. The car salesman believes that he is doing you a favor by putting you in debt to give you a nice car, as is the educational counselor.

          • moderatesunite

            sorry to reply so late.
            I agree with most of what you said here.

            I put much less of the blame, on the federal programs, however, and much more on reductions on funding reductions from state and local governments, recent priorities, occasionally reckless spending (by colleges) attempting to be all things to all people, and the difficulty in establishing new lower cost colleges to compete against established names and brands.

          • IowaFalcon

            No problem with the late reply. That is what is great about Discus… the conversation is never truly over.

            Philosophically, does it matter where the free money comes from? Whether from the Feds, states, local government, or some rich guy leaving an endowment? It all gives the Universities two bad options. The first is to be wasteful. The second is to not focus on giving the customer what they desire. As a student, my focus would be the outcome as far as marketable skills and the cost in time and money to get them. That is far from what colleges are focused on.

            Now that MIT has placed their undergrad courses on line, we get a chance to have the general public kick the tires of a world class education. On YouTube, you can see videos of young folks going through course 6 in a year, and the like. Clearly technology is screaming for an overhaul of the system, and the market is itching to give it. The two largest universities in the country are now online. Accreditation, which is needed to get those govmint dollars, is slowing the overhaul.

            Khan Academy can take you through Calculus in no time, and yet, we are not using technology like it. We are still loading up classrooms, and paying people to essentially put on plays in the day of movies. We will continue to do this so long as the colleges get funding to build and man those colleges, and they don’t have to make it on what students pay when they have to pay the entire bill. That means that the majority of what is taught in college will continue to be worthless, and people will continue to get English degrees, and not learn something marketble.

            Imagine that the market was fully at work, and colleges could set up interesting pay plans, such as getting a cut of the first 10 years salary of graduating students instead of straight tuition. I would sign up for that school, as I know that it has incentive to teach me how to earn a good living. That will never happen as long as the money comes from the govmint, and not the student.

          • Daniel Matuska

            I’m having a chicken and egg problem with the education system at all levels. Are our schools bad because the level of civil discourse is in decline, or is the poor education they are getting out of our primary schools causing a decline in our culture? When I finished high school in Minnesota in 1953, rowdy students were summarily ejected. Most of my classmates had been working for several years, and we could make change without a computer. Fast forward to the present; students are required in most states to stay in school until they graduate or are 18 years old, willing or not. Most of the students need remedial courses before they can address college-level work. Disciplinary problems are frequent to the point of requiring “resource officers” on site. Point of sales devices are not just convenient, they are necessary, since most of our high-school graduates can’t cope with the required arithmetic.
            I think our population has over stressed the utility of a formal degree-certified education. Education is a good, but self-education is a valid course. In fact it may be preferable. A good that is freely given without effort or cost is usually not valued.
            There is little doubt that the conventional wisdom valuation of education and the seemingly low transaction costs are driving tuition up. I know that a large component of this is NSF and other funding that goes to graduates to keep them in school seeking advanced degrees, when they should go out and sample the real world to see what education would most benefit them. This is a perverse system that leads to more academicians than we need, because a goodly number stay in the university seeking more research grants and using their graduate students to teach their classes. The number of tenured professors in the universities is huge and few of them ever interact with the student body at large.
            I believe the harder you have to work for something, the more you value it, and the more intrinsic value it will have.

          • IowaFalcon

            Because the schools are no longer funded by people seeking advantage in the market, advantage in the market is no longer what they deliver. The very concept of “education” has morphed to mean something very different. It is no longer about giving students knowledge and wisdom needed to live happy and prosperous lives. The knowledge part has more to do with performance on tests and adherence to ideology, and wisdom is not a concern of education in today’s society. At least not anythng you or I would recognize as wisdom.
            As a thought experiment, imagine that instead of the majority of funding for education coming from the government for adhering to some sort of accreditation program, education was funded voluntarily by the student based on their wages earned for their lifetimes. How would this change our society?
            To begin with, the schools would be interested in teaching skills and trades that would increase the actual earning power of their students. Additionally, schools would be interested in teaching the life skills that lead to long, productive careers. They would be interested in students who are healthy and happy, so character, physical, emotional, and spiritual health would become important to them again. Solid marriages lead to higher lifetime earnings, so that would become important. Self-destructive behavior would hit the bottom line of the teacher’s union, so that would somehow be discouraged. One thing that is clear is that the schools would no longer happily comply with parents simply dropping their children off at the school instead of actually performing parenting duties. Disruptive children would be removed, so as to not interupt the other children.
            I am going to propose that the schools are the problem, and they are meant to be. One thing that has impressed me more and more as I get older is how we simply do not take seriously what Leftists said they wanted to do in the past. We can see that most of what we consider societal decay is exactly what they were calling for at the turn of the 20th century and beyond. Marriage was to be destroyed, as it made women and children dependent on men instead of the State. Schools were to be employed to turn the most entrepreneurial society in history into a socialist one. Faith in God was to be destroyed; the Bible was to be thrown out of the public discourse, and so on. When you read the works of people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, you will not at all be surprised at where we are today.
            I have been amazed to find how entrepreneurial home schooled kids are. Somehow, if you don’t tell them to sit down, shut up, and become part of the collective every day, they tend to become individuals who have little problem seeing the opportunities around them. Now that the first generations of those kids are adults, the rate that they are starting their own businesses is stunning to me. If the folks pushing Common Core have their way, it will be harder for these kids to get into college, or even get a job. That means that even more of them will be self-employed, and that is a good thing in the long run.

          • Daniel Matuska

            I think you are right. During WWII, we went to a series of one-room schools that were completely funded by the parents. The parents chose the teachers and the worst thing that could happen was that the parents found out we were misbehaving in school. Most of the reading to the youngest students was taught by the older students. We still have good teachers, but the bureaucratic hurdles they must jump restricts their ability to teach and forces them to meet testing criteria. The most value I got from my teachers was encouragement and a heading in the right direction. I have volunteered to help in schools, but they tell me, even though I have graduate degrees in math and science, I am not qualified because I don’t have certification. I believe the desire to teach is a human characteristic; we want to pass on the things we have learned, often the hard way, to the the younger generations. This is unacceptable except within the family (very important!) and in some private schools and home schools.

          • IowaFalcon

            I have found that children cannot be factory produced without having many defects. They need to be hand raised, and the further we get from this very personal process, the worse things get. I happen to think that the greatest attribute that the old single room school houses had was the very act of older children teaching younger ones. That instilled an understanding that there is always a responsibility to use what we know and can do to help others in society. It placed the burden for helping others squarely onto our own shoulders, instead of transferring it to some bureaucracy outside of us. As important, the child got a chance to understand that the education process was for the betterment of the student, not just something that the adults wanted. Today, children think that they are put upon to have to go to school and absorb all of our resources instead of being thankful for the opportunities. They could use a bit of the opportunity to turn the process around, with them becoming the teachers for a younger child. It would create a little perspective.
            Why would you think yourself qualified to teach? Just because you have experience in raising children, using your education to be productive, and the understanding of the world that comes with actual experience, why do you think you could offer as much to children as teachers who have done nothing other than work in the current broken system? Don’t you understand how much that teaching certificate means in protecting the members of the union from dirty competition from qualified people?
            Seriously, there used to be a time when people of industry were welcomed into the teaching profession. It is funny that I am entrusted with teaching adults how to use math and science in practice, but I could not enter a classroom to teach children to use them in theory. The good news is that home school coops are seeing kids learn biology from biologists, math from mathematicians, economics from economists, and so on. I was amazed at how many experienced professionals were willing to swap time with each other to ensure a rounded education for our youngsters. I know our kids are ready to compete.

          • anatolemaher

            U.S, according to economists, The world’s largest and most efficient economy
            There is so much “data” out there that it is difficult to decide which is reliable and which is not. So one has to use one’s judgment Here are some figures, for what they are worth, on US universities/colleges
            Enrollment (millions)
            public 13.025 (72%) private 4.405 (28%) total 17.470
            Tuition/year public $7,600 private $27,000(?)
            other economic data
            Unemployment 6.4% median wage $43,000 minimum wage $7.25
            [ for comparison
            US population 317 millions
            Switzerland population 8.06 millions
            most of the universities/colleges are public,(90%+) run by “cantons”
            Tuition Zurich University SFr 1,560 =US $ 1,760
            unemployment 3.2% median wage $54,600 minimum wage $15.00]
            It is probably more useful to observe the total education picture, including elementary education, to evaluate how we are doing
            Here are some figures from US Gov
            2014 spending (billions/% GDP)
            Defense 820/4.9
            Education :
            K through secondary 664/4.0; tertiary 306/1.8
            interest on debt 338/2.0
            World rankings scores
            country $/per child Reading Math Science
            Finland 5,542 100 548 563
            Japan 3,756 99 523 531
            Australia 5,576 99 520 527
            U K 5,834 99 495 515
            USA 7,743 99 474 489
            Other rankings for 15 year olds
            year 2012 rank
            reading 20 math 25 science 17
            For military we outspend by far any other nation(billions/year)
            US 820 China 188 Russia 88 S Arabia 67 France 61

          • moderatesunite

            Thank you for the data. I find the comparisons very interesting and suggestive of solutions. I would appreciate some sources for it though.

            That info appears to refute some of the points IowaFalcon was making earlier

          • IowaFalcon

            I don’t see how that data does not support my claims of higher costs due to higher funding from government. We dump piles of dollars at education, and get some of the most unreliable results in the world. What you have to take into account is how much the total cost is, not the end result in tuition. Public colleges are as expensive as private ones, only 2/3rds of the costs are absorbed by local and state taxpayers instead of directly by the student.

            What that means is a total cost of higher education that is highly inflated due to a quarter trillion dollars of Federal tax dollars a year and another $140B kicked in by state and local governments to put less than 18 million students through college. That is over $20K total per college student, not counting what the actual student spends. Far more than any other country. That is the point of the discussion, and that is what the data shows.

            We spend significantly more per student for primary and secondary education than anyone else as well, but are not getting better results. His data is certainly showing that. It is not really germane to the conversation, but his data more covers it than the college discussion we are having.

            What are the solutions you are seeing in the data? Spending less on education? That is the suggestion I would take away. If other countries are getting more by spending less, maybe we should consider it. Certainly it is not the spending less, in itself, that works. I would suggest that spending less forces economy, and would not allow the craziness we have today where most education dollars never see a classroom.

            My proposal is simple. Let students bear more of the burden of their own education, and let the students be attached to the dollars that are spent by the government. This will drain a lot of the waste out of the system, and make schools more on the hook to serve the students than the government, as well as force more of the dollars into the actual classrooms. The cost of college would dramatically drop, while the quality of education would increase. It would encourage us to use our huge technology advantage for education, as we do in industry. For instance, why are we paying for all of these math textbooks, when Kahn Academy has a better program with perfect transparency, and it is extremely low cost? No school system that gets paid to waste tax dollars will use it, while home-schoolers are adopting it like crazy.
            Now, let’s talk about cherry picking, shall we? Why do you think he chose Switzerland to give an impression of how other economies fair? Is it because Switzerland is suggestive of the rest of the world, or is it because Switzerland is the free-market, decentralized government dream that is full of special cases, such as being the world’s great haven for rich people?

          • moderatesunite

            the problem with that solution is that it doesn’t actually find what the problem is. All it does is make it more difficult for students from lower or middle class families to go to school at all.

            I agree that somewhere along the line the funding system of our education system is broken, and that we are overspending, but I don’t see how less government spending fixes that. It appears to me that Canada and most European countries have similar or greater government involvement in education as the US.

            Something, about the US system is broken and inefficient but I don’t think its as simple “government dollars.”

            It would be interesting to see if the RATE of spending increase for state universities compared to private ones, and compared to graduation, and job acquisition rates.

            In primary education I don’t know where the funding is going, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be to teacher salaries.

            Perhaps the solution partly involves some simple regulations. However, I’m no expert on what ones are used in other countries, or in the US which could have the greatest effect.
            Perhaps also some funding to establish some new colleges. Perhaps involving competitions to make them as low cost and efficient as possible while maintaining high standards. That could do 2 things: 1.increase available supply (since there seems to be an excess of demand for college education, and the supply crunch is partly to blame for pushing costs up).
            2. provide some competition in the long run for current colleges.

            Khan Academy is great if you want to learn Math and are Self-motivated. But even in math it lacks some variety in worksheets, tests, and story problems for examples of practical applications.
            It most subjects other than math I find Khan academy in its current form sorely lacking.

            Internet Universities that I’ve looked at often have similar problems from what I’ve seen ( good at a specific subject, often for refreshers or job training, but often lacking in variety of subjects). I think online learning has a lot of potential, but personally I’ve always done better in a more traditional school setting. Especially at early ages I think exposure to a variety of teachers, and the help of humans is Important, and even in college some element of that needs to be maintained.

            All that said I might be open to reducing education funding If it was targeted with a long term plan for producing results, but not as a blanket “We’re spending too much so lets cut.”

          • IowaFalcon

            “All it does is make it more difficult for students from lower or middle class families to go to school at all.”

            Not at all. We currently have a crazy funding model, where taxpayers are hit up no matter who the student is or how that student performs. By attaching tax dollars to students, such things as means testing can be used, and poor students will have access to good schools.

            “It appears to me that Canada and most European countries have similar or greater government involvement in education as the US.”

            We have the most highly funded, most socialized school system in the world. We are involved from pre-school to college. We test more, dictate curriculum more, provide nutritional support, extra-curricular activities out the wazzu, and so on.

            “since there seems to be an excess of demand for college education, and the supply crunch is partly to blame for pushing costs up”

            I see no sign of that. In fact, many universities are having problems getting enough students to stay open. This is how all of the private online schools are getting accredidation. They are literally buying dying schools, as it is easier than trying to get accredited in new markets. Phoenix and Liberty alone are adding something like 650K slots, and doing it for less per student than public universities. The net result of all of this private, online education is a fast increase in capacity, while lowering costs. Marginal students are gravitating to these inexpensive online universities because of their overall lower costs and ease of attending while working, and that makes it easier on the public universities to focus on higher value degrees. Most college students in the US never take a class technical enough to require a physical lab. Clearly, the online universities are the right choice for millions of students, and it will be interesting to see how they evolve over time.

            “Perhaps involving competitions to make them as low cost and efficient as possible while maintaining high standards”

            This is what the market does best, and it does it 24/7. It offers goods and services and creates a competition that constantly determines which approach is best. It rewards the best providers (both cost and quality), and forces the others to get better or die. Again, the key is to fund students, not schools. Students can impose market forces. We are looking to educate students, not build schools. Schools that do not do a good job of education at a fair price should not be funded.

            “it certainly doesn’t seem to be to teacher salaries”

            That again is where the market comes in. If high-paid teachers are a key to education, which is consistent with the Finnish model, the market will raise teacher salaries. If the process and not teachers is key, teachers will be de-emphasized. The idea is that we should not try to plan it based on assumptions, but let the market figure it out. Attaching money to students means that good teachers will likely be in demand, and parents will want to send their kids to schools with better teachers. This will increase the demand for good teachers, though it will throw bad teachers to the curb.

            “Khan Academy is great if you want to learn Math and are Self-motivated”

            And here we get to the core of it. We are trying to educate a population that is not interested in being educated. It is hard and expensive to teach people who do not want to learn.

            My argument is not that we are spending too much, so let’s cut. It is that the level of spending along with the way that we spend is causing costs to balloon out of control while lowering the quality. I would be open to a lot of solutions, but throwing more money at the problem, and simply trying more of what does not work is not really an answer. The best results are being had by societies that are spending a lot less, but focusing it very differently. I say we do with education what we do with cell phones, computers, televisions and everything that we want to increase in quality greatly while decreasing in cost. I say we hand it over to the market.

            We are already spending twice in tax dollars per student what higher education should cost. Adjusting the funding model to focus on paying for the results that we want would go a long way to recooping a lot of that cash, lowering the actual cost of education to the student, and increasing the readiness of the workforce. As long as we continue to have the belief that more funding is better, we will continue to have higher and higher costs with poorer and poorer results.

            What we are doing now is leaving us with kids in huge debt but not able to get a job.

          • anatolemaher

            Yesterday being Mother’s day my daughter called from Zurich so I asked her about education there. She confirmed the tuition of abt. S Fr 800 per semester x 2 approx. US $1,800 per year… Elementary education, totally state funded, is compulsory. terminating in “Gymnasium” after which there are several choices. You have to pass exam to be admitted to universities, which are over 90 % public funded (TAXPAYERS) All administered by the cantons So this fits the “socialist” description almost perfectly. Program paid for and run by the state

            The spending on education is comparable to that in the US but the results incomparably better. My 3 grandsons are fluent in several languages, the eldest, Swiss German, German, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, which opens up advantages of other cultures and learning, promotes understanding and peace between nations. Other subjects comparable or ahead of the US. Additionally all 3 play musical instruments, piano, cello, clarinet, gave a concert on my birthday, all part of elementary school curriculum, just as PT sports etc etc.

            Some other information on costs vs performance of elementary education from USC
            country $/pupil reading math science

            S. Korea $ 3,756 / 97.9%/ 547/ 523 (max 600)

            Mexico $ 1,975 / 86.1%/ 406/ 410

            Spending much too little unquestionably has bad effects,
            Compare with data furnished previously
            South Korea spends half of US but performs much better?

            We have the most efficient economic system in the world? Why doesn’t it apply to education? health? …..

            “…South Korea is one of the world’s most rapidly industrializing countries. Along with industrialization has come universal health insurance.

            “…Mexico’s Universal Health Care Is Work in Progress ..”

          • anatolemaher

            As I indicated some of the information is “all over the map” and there are variations in costs as much as 2 or more times. I did not note all the sources but remember some .
            You will have to judge for yourself
            1) College enrollment. Try
            Seems the nos. I posted may have been from year 2005 These are more recent
            2011 Public 15.11 private 5.88 total 20.99 millions
            2013 (marked with * unconfirmed?) public 15.69 private 6.10 total 21.79 millions
            Other data from US Gov , BLS, Treasury dept.
            2) tuition /year This is where there are large variations depending on region, college, etc
            Here is info from “Big Picture College Costs”
            Public $8,655 Private $29,056
            At the University of North Florida where I live tuition and fees runs (in state) $6,365
            ( Out of state)$20,756 3X!!!! so previous number seems to be in the ball park for in-state The one for private U appeared high which is why I appended the ? I find others much higher still.
            3)Information on Switzerland. this is from the horse’s mouth. I have 2 grandsons in Zurich University, they work and study and pay their own tuition..Son in law is director of a bank. My daughter knows how to count francs very well.
            4) K-12 enrollment see “the Center for Education Reform”
            5) Spending figures from U S Gov table
            6) Selected data from
            Comparison US Education and Spending vs the world
            7) Military spending Wikipedia
            You will have to decide for yourself, as I did, if the information is reasonable.

  • IowaFalcon

    Strange, but I live in one of the darkest states on the map, and my daughter is paying her own way with no debt. Federal student aid has made the cost of college outrageous in the US, especially if you are fortunate to come from an upper-middle class family, but you can still do it with some hard work and no debt.

  • anatolemaher

    “Reply” no longer appears after each post, only up and down arrows and a dot. How does one reply to/comment on a post now?

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