College students getting less than what they're paying for


College: it ain't what it used to be. A study published this week by the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability says that students are paying more of the cost for college, but are more and more going to less prestigious colleges whose budgets are going more toward administrative costs, leaving instructional spending on the decline. "Students are paying more, but getting less" is the headline everyone is going with today.

Out of about 18 million students in the U.S., only one million are attending the respectable research universities, where spending per student is the highest. On the other end of the spectrum, at community colleges, there are six million students competing for an ever-smaller instructional budget. Students' portion of the costs is high and getting higher everywhere (from 2006 data, the latest available):

  • Community colleges: students pay 30% of the cost of their education

  • Public colleges and research universities: students pay 50%

  • Private research universities: students pay 55.8%

  • Private colleges that offer bachelors degrees: students pay 63.55

  • Colleges that offer masters' degrees: students pay 83.6%

Worst of all of this data is the fact that tuitions are increasing at far greater rates than spending per student is increasing, in most cases, according to the study, while tuition has increased between 12.5% and 29.8% over the past decade, it should have only increased around 2% at public research universities and private colleges, and declined around 3% at other public universities and community colleges, were it to reflect the change in spending per student.