It's the Responsibility of Universities to Make Higher Education Affordable

As public subsidies for higher education dwindle, universities and colleges need to realize that their greed is causing a drain on the millennial generation and middle class.

We've discussed academic administrative bloat in this space before. It's one of the major reasons why higher education costs have skyrocketed in recent decades. It would be one thing if all the executives and administrators soaking up valuable funds were providing worthy services to their institutions. That they often don't is one of the greater travesties of our age.

According to macroeconomist (and alleged bowtie aficionado) Peter Morici, trimming staff is a major step toward holding down the cost of higher education. His recent Boston Herald editorial features an argument that the onus for making college affordable falls on colleges themselves. After all, these are (more often than not) non-profit institutions that operate under the assumption that they spend their vaults of contributed cash on educating the masses.

But higher education has gotten rich, fat, and greedy.

In recent years, when state and federal governments offered generous subsidies to help offset the cost of attendance, colleges raised tuition so that out-of-pocket costs remained consistent. The extra public money flooded university coffers and funded all sorts of wasteful luxuries and pursuits. Now that many of those subsidies are drying up, higher education has to take a good hard look in the mirror and assess its priorities. For example, what's more important: education or recreation?

Morici explains:

"Meanwhile, colleges and universities increasingly compete for students by shifting resources from educational purposes into athletic arenas, lavish student centers and other frivolous amenities, euphemistically justified as 'building community' and 'enhancing the student experience.'"

Universities aren't massive social clubs. They're meant to be institutions that cultivate knowledge and learning. They've also come to be expected as factories for the next generation of the American middle class. Wastefulness gets in the way of both those goals.

Morici's actionable solutions to this conundrum are as follows:

1. University presidents need to trim staff members who don't contribute to educating students

2. Scrap President Obama's foundling college ratings system, as there's no way it'll ever prove to be a useful tool (rather, it's just corruption/lobbying waiting to happen)

3. Punish universities who churn out exorbitant percentages of graduates who can't pay off their debts (because their degrees aren't worth what they're printed on). Colleges need to be incentivized to produce more capable professionals.

4. Faculty members should focus more on teaching, less on their own comfortable pursuits.

5. Majors such as Art History or Peace Studies should only be allowed to enroll as many students as they can expect to find jobs in those fields later. It does a disservice to students and society to educate more anthropology, visual/fine arts, and graphic design majors than could reasonably find jobs.

Read Morici's entire article at The Boston Herald and let us know what you think.

Photo credit: Calvste / Shutterstock

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