The Cost of Public Four-Year Colleges

I realize student debt is so last week, but here’s the cost of a public, four-year college education, including tuition, fees, room and board, adjusted to 2020 dollars (data from here):

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It’s increased three-fold since 1980–and, yes, despite the historical revisionism, this is one more thing that went to shit during the Reagan ‘Revolution’ (he wasn’t a kind old man). There are a lot of reasons why this happened, including the decline of state subsidies, administrative bloat, and competition with private institutions, but this obviously isn’t sustainable.

And, by the way, both Sanders and Warrren had plans for that–and they were pretty good.

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3 Responses to The Cost of Public Four-Year Colleges

  1. Dave Dell says:

    Administrative bloat. Witnessed it first hand with my wife at a red state large land-grant U. So many admin positions that it’s impossible to say if there were five times as many admin types – deans, associate deans, special program assistant deans, etc.- in her college from her first hire to her retirement 35 years later. Might be as high as 20 times more admin type positions. All with a staff of two to five for a wide variety of support duties.

    Combine the need to cover that bloat with text books that are as much to purchase for a semester as I paid for a semesters full tuition in the 1970’s.

    Student fees – not counting some optional fees for labs, distance learning, etc – have gone up at least five times what I paid in the 1970’s.

    The third largest item in the state budget is higher education. About a billion or so. About half as much is received in tuition and fees. I don’t have figures for the 1970’s but I’d hazard a guess that only 10% of higher ed in the state was provided by tuition and fees. Not the present day 1/3.

    Red state. Deep Red. Don’t like immigrants here but their cheap labor is exploited. Side note: Two generations removed from the old country myself. We do love full price foreign students, however, for their tuition dollars. Personally, I like that a lot of the full price foreign students are STEM and they stay here for life if they can. Lots of STEM staff here stayed on after graduation.

    When I graduated HS in 1967 it was guaranteed admission to State U. Freshman English cut the incoming class size by a third in the first semester. By another 10 percent the second semester. It wasn’t the cost of attending the U that made ’em drop out. There is no guaranteed admission now. I’m sure high cost has the same effect as Freshman English.

  2. Dave Dell says:

    A further note. My wife was in the Business College. Extra $ per credit hour there starting about 8 years ago due to incredibly high demand for classes. Lots of full price foreign students at the B school. Some doing the STEM stuff and Business stuff as well.

    Had to laugh about s scene in OZARK on Netflix. “Two million donated and I get my name on a building.:” Ha. Might get your name on a classroom. Might be enough to endow a professorship. Would get you off a plaque on the wall. At least at a state school.

  3. adameran says:

    FYI, David Cay Johnstone reports federal subsidies for higher education have declined 55% since 1972 (so those protests in the ’60s did accomplish something!)

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