It's Not the Cost of a College Education That's Skyrocketing, It's the Price


The one subject Goldy is right about
So if I pop out a kid now, I only need to plunk down $62,500 and they get 4 years of college in 18 years? Bargin.
Good chart, but needs one more line: the in-state discount (difference between in-state tuition and the full price charged to out-of-staters and foreigners). I think this amount is now more than the state-funding-per-in-state-student, suggesting that even if all the state funding were going to paying the in-state tuition funding, and none to anything else the university does, the state would still be getting more than it actually paid for.

Also, I didn't notice a Slog link to last weekend's New York Times story about how the UW's population is now almost 20% foreigners (apparently 10x what it was when I got my undergraduate education there), including 11% Chinese. It seems relevant.
The major research universities are ripping off undergraduate students. At UCLA, about 37% of the school's budget comes from undergraduate fees, yet only 3.5% of spending actually goes towards educating undergrads. Undergraduate students are subsidizing both university research and graduate student education. I'm sure the same is true at any major public university.

Here's the link, by a UC emeritus professor:…

What is the solution? Spend the first two or three years at a junior college (where the student is likely to get more attention anyway), then transfer over and get the desired degree. It is simply not worth spending nearly $30,000 per year (for all costs) for an undergraduate degree from ANY university, public or private.
Man, I'd like to see these numbers for private colleges, where tuition is upwards of $40,000.
I don't think a lot of the university budget goes to "subsidizing research"; I'm in university research, not yet at the level where I really have to pay a lot of attention to the budget (if I can get there; it's a terrible career path), and at least in Biology it is my very certain impression that all research professors are expected to be entirely self-funding through outside grants - and note that in addition to the part of the grant that pays for salaries (including the research professor's own salary, which typically is not a burden on the university), equipment, and reagents the university charges another "overhead fee", which iirc is on the order of 50-60%, to basically pay the rent and maintenance on the lab and the professor's office; in practice the university makes enough extra on "overhead" to pay for the construction of new buildings, as well. There is the expense to the university of hiring a new faculty member - grants take time to get and equipment is expensive, so a start-up package in the mid-six-figures is typical - and of administering the department, but I'd bet that even after accounting for these the research faculty are a net fiscal plus, not a burden.

It is my impression (from a position of considerable ignorance) that liberal-arts faculty have really poor access to outside funding, and are dependent on the university rather than on grants for their salaries and their research activities, but their staffs tend to be small and their activities inexpensive - some traveling, some books, no electron microscopes or mass spectrometers.

I don't know whether less is spent on undergraduate education than is taken in in tuition and state-funded tuition support, but if this is so you're pointing your finger in the wrong direction. Also note that the percentage of total spending that goes towards undergraduate education could potentially be wildly distorted by including the spending by large-scale undertakings under the university banner that are entirely funded by outside sources or even profit-making for the university: research activities, as I discuss above, and (for all I hate their existence) "student-athlete" football teams.
I'm pretty sure college tuition is just replicating the housing bubble. It's now easier than ever to get loan money at ridiculous government subsidized interest rates. As such, people are buying education that they cannot afford.
If you look at the starting and finishing salaries for college graduates, and the relatively low unemployment rates even during the "recession" you would actually conclude that a college degree is highly undervalued.

Yes, there are the fuckups who manage to run a $80,000 tab and quit 3.5 years into it because they have been through nine majors and still can't decide, but by and large, it still is a ticket to prosperity.

That said, there is no reason for working class people to pay for middle class people's education via sales taxes.

And there are plenty of people who can afford even the higher education price through 401ks, savings plans and whatnot.
"worst comes to worst"

worse comes to worst. now if you're talking wurst, that's a whole 'nother thing.
Yup. It's a bubble. Hate to be in the market when it pops. And it will pop.

Supreme Ruler: "That said, there is no reason for working class people to pay for middle class people's education via sales taxes."

This is very short sided. I am the son of two factory workers in Indiana and received my education at a state university. In exchange for a relatively minor subsidy, I've been working for 30+ years at a higher wage (and paying higher taxes), have never drawn unemployment or used other tax-paid social services. There is a tremendous benefit to society to an educated populus.