Hamilton: Corralling the colossal costs of college
Why does it cost so much to attend college these days? That is a question very much on the minds of parents and students.
For example, “according to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.”
When this writer was an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, tuition was $66 per semester. Freshmen were forced to pay room and board to live in university housing; however, despite the lamentable food, the overall cost of a freshman year was far, far less than what college freshmen must pay today.
Why college costs have zoomed into the stratosphere is explained rather well in Sen. Marco Rubio’s latest book: “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity (2015).” His father worked as a bartender and his mother was a cleaning lady. Marco worked at a lot of entry-level jobs and got student loans for college. During law school, he lived with his parents but still ended up with $100,000 in student-loan debt. It was only the success of his first book: “An American Son: A Memoir (2013)” that enabled Rubio to pay off his student loans.
But as Rubio and others point out, federal student loans, grants and scholarships from college endowments are key factors in driving up the cost of college tuition. Too many college administrators look at federal student loans and grants as “cash cows” that provide a virtually unlimited source of taxpayer and tax-exempt dollars to pay themselves and college professors exorbitant salaries and to fund larger and larger brick and mortar monuments to donors who want to have buildings built bearing their names.
But college costs could be reduced. Some professors are better teachers than others. Given today’s computer capabilities there are ways to amass performance data on professors from a variety of sources, to include their students. Pay the better teachers more. Pay the less deserving teachers less. Use the net savings to reduce tuition costs.
Also, scrap the tenure system. It was supposed to ensure academic freedom so that professors could say or write whatever their research told them to say or write; however, the political correctness group-think of the left has killed academic freedom and silenced those with views that are to the right of the group-think enforcers. Moreover, the tenure system ossifies faculties and forces the professors to spend more time trying to get published than doing class-room teaching.
The numbers of full-time, high-salaried, faculty could be reduced by bringing in more adjunct professors from the real world of business, science, and industry who have already made their mark in the world and will often teach for less or even just for the love of teaching.
And, other than the social-skill learning that takes place over four years of college, does it really take four full years to learn useful skills? Greater use of online courses and tutorials followed by rigorous advance-placement testing could make college less time- and cost-consuming. Or, simply enter the country illegally and the tuition cost might be zero. Go figure.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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