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Everyone bemoans the increasing in tuition and increase in admin staff.. these things are intimately tied. The cost of education on a per-student basis hasn't increased very much in the US. Most of the cost burden has just shifted from taxpayers to students (for better or worse). Much of the admin staff is necessary to handle all of the financial aid, grant applications, etc.

Simply providing tuition-free education would eliminate much of the bureaucratic overhead.

Much of the increase in admin staff and university spending has come from all of that free government aid money we keep giving them. If we make tuition "free" for everyone, then universities will get a bottomless pit of money to spend on useless things. They will be almost totally divorced from the incentive to keep costs low. Right now, universities don't compete for funds on the basis of the quality of education. They compete on a political basis to collect as much money from the government as they possibly can.

We didn't have a problem paying for college in the US until everyone decided that the government should help pay for it. Throwing more money at the problem won't fix it; in fact, it's been a huge part of the problem!

This isn't supported by much.. The cost per student hasn't increased, only the proportion charged to tuition rather than taxes. It's easy to blame easy government money for the increase in admin staff, but during my grad program I GA'ed in the office and half of the staff were dealing with financial aid / loans / scholarships. They would be there regardless the source of the cash.

I've fought this battle on HN before and nobody wants to believe that college isn't any more expensive than it previously was, so I'll leave this here -- but do a bit of research and you'll be surprised.


Since everyone seems to be downvoting this point, here's the inflation-adjusted cost per student in California from 1987 - 2013:


It actually costs about $2,500 less per student today than it did in the late 80's -- yet during the same time, tuition has increased by upwards of 5x. That delta used to be carried by taxpayers but has been shifted to tuition.

> I've fought this battle on HN before and nobody wants to believe that college isn't any more expensive than it previously was

Where in the world did you get this idea? College if three (3) times more expensive than it was 40 years ago:

> but do a bit of research and you'll be surprised.

Research: http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-table...

As Unimpressive pointed out, that's the cost of tuition. The total cost (tuition + state expenditures + fees + endowments) per student has roughly paced with inflation over the same time frame -- and in some cases, dramatically decreased. You have to dig a little deeper to see those numbers, but several states have done their own analysis. Here's one for California:


Seemingly nobody understands, or wants to understand this point.. College used to be an investment made by the working class in the youth paid for via taxes (state expenditures >> tuition), it's now flipped to an investment made by 18-year olds in their own careers (tuition >> state expenditures) -- Both approaches have their own merits, but focusing on cutting the cost of education misses the forest for the trees when those costs haven't increased over time.

This is very enlightening, although very counterintuitive.

So it looks like the cost of college is yet another burden the boomers have placed on our doorstep (and even more, the doorstep of those younger than me). I'm skeptical that saddling 18-year-olds with mounds of irrevocable debt has any merits to speak of, but am curious what argument could be made in that direction.

The premise at least is that if you hold kids responsible for their own educations, they'll choose careers and topics of study that lend to paying off that debt. If you let kids mess around in college for 4 years with no financial incentive, they might all study underwater basketweaving.

I don't buy that line of thinking at all, but some surely do.

No. His argument is that the actual total costs paid by all actors to provide the service has not changed, the share of the pie paid by students has changed. Which would look exactly like the cost rising in that table.

The rate of college attendance and graduation increased dramatically with the introduction of state universities and financial aid programs - it was no longer just the province of the wealthy. This obviously had good effects on the economy, and on society.

When my daughter was attending a private university, she had an enlightening conversation with a professor who worked on pricing for her university. He told her their prices were not going up in response to increased costs, but rather to maintain a certain price relative to in-state tuition. Of course, in-state tuition has been steadily increasing because it is becoming less subsidized.

In other words, the cost increases are a response to cutting government funding, both for private and public.

>The rate of college attendance and graduation increased dramatically with the introduction of state universities

Could you clarify this statement? It seems like you could be saying the state universities are a relatively recent phenomena. If so, could you give a few examples? I suppose Alaska and Hawaii, being the newest states, have the newest "state" university system, but even the University of Alaska predates Alaska becoming a state.

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