The Cost of Higher Education rose Twice as Much as Health Care Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 31st, 2013

Week in Review

It’s bad enough that higher education is programming our kids to become good liberals.  But their getting rich in the process is just rubbing salt into the wound (see College Costs Surge 500% in U.S. Since 1985: Chart of the Day by Michelle Jamrisko & Ilan Kolet posted 8/26/2013 on Bloomberg).

The cost of higher education has surged more than 500 percent since 1985, illustrating why there have been renewed calls for change from both political parties.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that tuition expenses have increased 538 percent in the 28-year period, compared with a 286 percent jump in medical costs and a 121 percent gain in the consumer price index. The ballooning charges have generated swelling demand for educational loans while threatening to make college unaffordable for domestic and international students.

What expenses does a college have?  There are shelters (i.e., buildings) where students sit and learn.  But shelter costs rose nowhere near the amount going to college did.  So it’s not the buildings.  So what else do colleges have?  That tuition pays for?  Excluding books and living expenses that are above and beyond tuition expenses?  Well, the only other thing they really have are people.

College administrators and college professors.  If the high tuition costs are not due the costs of the buildings on the college campus then we must be paying the people too much.  In pay and benefits.  So let’s crunch some numbers.

The average annual cost for a 4-year public college is about $18,000 (see The Average Cost of a U.S. College Education posted 8/24/2010 in US News and World Repot).  Based on a typical enrollment of 40,000 students that comes to an annual college revenue of $720,000,000.  If the college has $1.5 billion in debt on its books for capital improvements on average at 6% that comes to an annual interest expense of $90 million.  Let’s assume they retire $50 million in debt every year.  And their operating costs (everything else but pay and benefits for administrators and professors) are, say, $25 million.  Subtracting all this from the annual tuition revenue leaves $555 million for pay and benefits each year.  Assuming a professor/administrator for each 20 students that gives us 900 professors/administrators.  Dividing this into that $555 million gives us about $617,000 per professor/administrator annually.

This is just a rough estimate but it does give you an idea about the amount of money we’re talking about here.  Not all professors are making $617,000 but if you’re tenured you’re living well.  Very well.  And administrators typically live far better than tenured professors.  This is what students are going in debt for.  To give a privileged few a life others can only dream about.  Worse, a lot of these students who graduate have an unmarketable degree.  In an economy where employers are looking for people with math and science skills people with degrees in romantic languages or gender studies will not fare well.  But the people who sold them those degrees will be doing very well.  This is why we have a student loan debt problem.  Students took on enormous debt for a degree they can’t use.

Everyone loves to complain about the high cost of health care.  And demand that government do something about it.  Well, they did.  They gave us Obamacare.  Which promises to squeeze hospitals and doctors.  To make them do more for less.  Obamacare is so bad that it is causing some doctors to retire early.  Just so they don’t have to deal with it.  Yet the cost of college has gone up at twice the rate of health care costs.  But where is the outcry over that?  Where are the people demanding that government do something?   To squeeze those universities, professors and administrators?  Why should they get rich at providing education.  If doctors shouldn’t get rich saving lives why should educators be allowed to get rich selling unmarketable degrees?  Just why is it educators can get away with being the greediest of the greedy and escape government scrutiny?

Because they teach their students to be good liberals, that’s why.  And this is so valuable to Democrats that they are willing to raise the taxes on their constituents as much as it takes.  Because without the programming higher education provides few would vote Democrat.

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