The Rising Cost of College Education in America

December 7th, 2010

College tuition increases are rolled out each year at Colleges and Universities across the country. But what is the average cost of college tuition? And is there anything that you can do to avoid the rising cost of college tuition?

Unfortunately, Colleges and Universities across America have little sympathy (and are offering even less assistance than ever), for a population that has already maxed out its credit cards, defaulted on their home loans, and is truly struggling to survive through the Great Recession. Rising college tuition rates have put higher education out of reach for many Americans, and especially for those who need it most.

The Numbers – 2010 Average Cost of College Tuition in America

4 Year Public Colleges & Universities: $7,605 per year for in-state students, $11,990 for out of state students

4 Year Private Nonprofit Colleges & Universities: $27,293 per year

2 Year Public Colleges & Universities: $2,713 per year

With the average cost of college hitting unprecedented rates (and rising at more than three times the rate of inflation since 1978), the rising cost of college has become a major burden to future generations of Americans seeking the training that will provide them with tools and skills required to compete in the global marketplace.

Many degree programs are now becoming even more of a burden since overcrowding forces some students to spend an additional year completing required classes, bringing a 25% increase to their total educational costs. But rising college prices mean that it’s even more important than ever to get enrolled and start completing credits now, before additional college tuition hikes can be rolled out.

The Facts – Interpreting the Findings of the Goldwater Institute Study

Since 1982, the average cost of attaining a college degree has increased by 439%, while the typical family’s income increased by only 147% during hte same time period (this according to AOL News). Apparently, increasing college tuition has not necessarily led to improvements in educational opportunities either, since Universities have spent much of the added income on increasing their administrative bureaucracies.

In fact, the Goldwater Institute completed a study of 198 leading American Universities, including all flagship state public universities and elite private institutions, which showed that some colleges went so far as to decrease the number of Professors at the same time that they hired on additional bureaucrats! According to the study, administrative fees are mostly to blame for the rising college tuition costs seen between 1993 and 2007.

During that time period, student enrollment at America’s leading institutions of higher education rose by 14.5%, while the number of full time administrators employed per 100 students rose by more than 39%, and the number of employees focused on teaching, research, or student services rose by just 17.6%. Even worse, while inflation-adjusted spending on administrative costs per student increased by 66%, instructional spending per student only rose by 39%.

But What Does It Mean to You, the Student?

According to the Goldwater Institute, “Universities are suffering from administrative bloat, expanding their bureaucracies significantly faster than their numbers of instructors and researchers, which should be the core missions of any university.” In other words, university tuition increases are not providing improved educational opportunities for students.

Despite the rapidly increasing cost of college education programs, students pay only a fraction of those added expenses. In reality, while “leading public and private universities spent an average of $41,1337 per student in 2007″ they only “collected an average tuition of $10,929 per student”. The simple truth is that the majority of funding for Colleges and Universities across America comes from federal and state governments, private donations and fees for non-educational services, meaning that their actual customers (students like yourself), don’t have to pay for the entirety of those rising tuition rates. The rising cost of college textbooks, however, are another story entirely!

What Comes Next?

All signs point to continued college tuition increases for 2011, with schools across the entire country promising continued rate hikes. From the 7% tuition hike for 4 year colleges in Tennessee, to the new law allowing 9% annual increases in Colorado, it’s a sure bet that rate increases will soon be hitting home at a school near you. But, the increasing cost of college is not entirely a bad thing, as there is a silver lining to this story.

In a stagnating economy where bail-out programs and money printing on a grand scale devalue the actual worth of each dollar in circulation, the time is ripe for ponying up and taking out student loans to invest in yourself, and your future. Devalued dollars means the cost of your loan becomes “cheaper” over time, so get your documents in order, get your career goals in sight, find some scholarships, grants, or other tuition assistance programs and get started before skyrocketing costs price you out of the market!

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