College costs skyrocketing since 1970s

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • cpafred SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 9:29 p.m.

    Over 410,000 foreign student visas were issued in 2010. That's enough foreign students to fill 20 medium-sized university campuses. I believe the cost of U.S. tuition would go down significantly if the number of foreign visa was drastically cut.

  • cpafred SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 8:36 p.m.

    "The Rock" said: "Government imposes a huge regulatory burden on schools".
    What regulatory burden does the government place on Stanford University and other private institutions (who, by the way, charge a lot more for tuition than public institutions)?

    "Podunk" said: It is a fact University administrators and professors are left of center.
    Interesting. Since Phd's probably have higher average IQs than non-Phd's, I wonder if there have been any studies correlating IQ and political leaning?

  • red state pride Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 8:32 p.m.

    Let's compare the costs of healthcare to college tuition costs over the last 40 or so years. What do they have in common other than both rapidly outpacing inflation? I think the obvious factor is increased involvement by the Federal Government. Why was that left out of the article? This article actually said unlimited use of a copy machine? Seriously?
    To the writer's credit they did mention increased college level bureaucracy to deal with the Federal bureaucracy which goes back to my main point.
    Onward to the abyss!

  • CRM Tempe, AZ
    Jan. 9, 2012 4:19 p.m.

    1-am-1 Strongly recommend you actually read the article then post a comment. By so doing you'll discover just how inane your comment really is.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    Jan. 9, 2012 3:06 p.m.

    1. Anytime a third party payer is involved (health insurance, car insurance, etc) costs skyrocket. Government is the third party payer for college. Government imposes a huge regulatory burden on schools and eliminates any incentive to address real issues.
    2. Public schools (K-12) sends about $10,000 per student in my state (WA). This is equal to $300,000 for a classroom of 30 kids and they still complain about education being underfunded. I think it is way over funded.
    3.Public school teachers teach 5 to 6 hours each day. University professors teach 6 to 10 hours a week in many cases. Professors should be required to work for a living.
    4. Textbooks are a racket. Many books are revised every couple of years for no purpose but to render the previous revision obsolete and force the students to purchase new books. Many professors publish their own texts and require their students to purchase them at $100 + per copy. Professors should be required to write a text as a part of their job so the state owns the intellectual property and then text books should be revised only when they can be significantly improved.

    Private industry innovates to reduce costs and deliver higher value. It is high time higher education did the same.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 2:58 p.m.

    @Foxtrot: You are getting the idea... I still don't think that's quite right though. Figure $3k per semester... two semesters per year... for 5 years (average graduating time now). That's $30,000 just for tuition. Now figure in housing, food and books for those 5 years... probably another $30,000. So you're looking at $60,000 as the up front cost of a college education.

    Still not bad if you assume a college grad may make $500,000 more over a lifetime.

    But wait... we're not factoring in compound interest on those student loans for the 10-20 years that they will take to pay back. That will easily stretch $60,000 into hundreds of thousands.

    What good is an additional $500,000 over the course of a working life (40 years)... vs $100,000 - $200,000 in college loan payments?

    Now we are looking at making maybe an extra $400,000 over a 40 year career. That's $10,000 a year.

    So really, the statement should be "A college grad will make $10,000/yr more than a non-grad."

    I'm not going to deny that $10,000/yr is great, we'd all love an extra $10k/yr. But really in the end... how much of a difference does it make? That looks a whole lot less significant than the mythical $1M.

    And those are conservative estimates.

  • I-am-I South Jordan, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 1:17 p.m.

    Yeah, this article isn't worth reading, so I didn't. Yes costs have risen since 1980. While I think Universities, particularly state run ones charge students way too much. I highly doubt that this article has taken into account, inflation, supply and demand, rise in expected future wages, rises in the cost of living and the increase in services universities provide. So the purpose of the article? To get people fired up about a rise in costs that is perfectly logical but to the non business savvy seems unfair and unreasonable. Sorry things are more expensive now. A college education today costs more than in 1980, bottom line.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 1:15 p.m.

    The article didn't mention the relationship between tuition costs and state appropriations for higher education. The legislature has a hand in this issue also. At UVU, state appropriations amounted to over 60% of the budget as recently as 2000-2001, whereas in 2010-2011 they were about 42%. This decrease tends to push tuition upward.

    Nevertheless, UVU remains a bargain at about $4600 per year (resident tuition + fees, 2011-2012).

  • podunk utah DRAPER, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 12:42 p.m.

    It is a fact University administrators and professors are left of center and trying to get these folks to understand a profit motive and run a university more like a business will be tough. I just wonder where the chief financial officers of these institution are hiding, seriously if you did not make an attempt to consolidate I.T. and purchasing accross the entire university, you..CFO should be fired for being incompetent. THAT IS BUSINESS MANAGEMENT 101.

  • XelaDave Salem, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 12:00 p.m.

    Just look at who gets hired as Presdients in Higher Ed.- all with steller credentials in management (joking)- in Utah it appears last names help alot and then we pay them substantial six figure salaries and ask for no real measure in terms of an ROI for what we pay them- as long as they tell funny stories and smile for alumni and say the right things we increase their salaries- but then again I think that is exactly what The Regents desire

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 11:58 a.m.

    Re: "No worry Procuradorfiscal, about the leftists. They are counteracted by the right-wingers . . . who've donated nearly $700,000 to USU.

    Not even close! That $700K wouldn't hire enough conservative brainpower to counteract 1% of the leftists at USU -- by comparison at least, a pretty convervative institution.

    Of 1.2 million American "higher" ed professors and instructors, 72% self-identify to the left of center, 15% to the right. 50% reported registering Democrat, 5% Republican. No figures were reported on registration as Communist-Workers, Democratic-Socialists, Libertarians, or other fringe parties.

    Other studies suggest academics substantially under-report left-leaning.

    So, suggestions there are no legitimate worries about leftist bias in Big Ed ring a little hollow.

  • Foxtrot Mountain View, CA
    Jan. 9, 2012 11:56 a.m.

    @DeltaFoxtrot - funny what your name means.

    Fine I might be willing to conceed that $1M is a bogey, but, even if it is off by an order of magnitude, whatever. $3K for $100K? Ok. $3K for $500K? ok.

    I am not sure why the costs are going up so quickly, there is undoubtedly waste to be cut, but I am always amused at everyone thinking that everyone else is corrupt or stupid, the mirror seems to never be looked at. Its obviously easier to throw stones.

    I am also amused at the seemingly irrational connections.
    Sallie Mae = bad = "skyrocketing" costs of education (whatever that means)
    Professors who are some of the most educated and talented people in the world should work for? How much? So that is the reason.

    I don't like Obama : US Government is bad: Corruption is inherent: People are stupid: Why school costs are going up.

    Anyways. I always get sucked into these conversations. I don't know why. Convincing people that education is worth it, is probably a fools errand.

  • Andy Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 11:54 a.m.

    No puzzle here. The government provides loans that artificially inflate the price of tuition. I don't know that my fellow-students or the private school ever evaluated tuition based on average annual salary, demand for degrees, or anything else. They knew Stafford loans paid 18,500 and so they charged 18,500 + X. Any effort to reign in tuition can begin with reducing subsidies by removing the government from the student loan game.

    Same with sky rocketing medical costs. If you want costs to come down then get the government out of the business of subsidizing medicine.

    In free markets, price is determined by what the market can bear. Unqualified lending to un-screened applicants, independent of their qualifications is exactly what got us into the mess we are in today.

    And, I'll point out, that thanks to BO, the government is the only game in town for student loans. That is crazy!!

  • BobP Port Alice, B.C.
    Jan. 9, 2012 11:13 a.m.

    Have friends who had 13 children. In the year or so between finishing high school an going on missions the boys in particular took courses such as heavy equipment operators. On return from their missions they attended university and had summer jobs that paid them up to 35 dollars an hour.

    Out of this comes three doctors, one dentist and one MBA/CPA.

    The medical care costs are an interesting factor. While at the Y, I broke my leg skiing. I head a snap as the leg went by my ear an can remember hoping that it was my leg (insured) and not my ski that was broken.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 11:08 a.m.

    @Foxtrot: I hate to tell you, but the income disparity studies between grads and non-grads were done 20 years ago or more. BEFORE the recession... back when highly educated workers were still in demand.

    To my knowledge there haven't been any studies of income disparity done since 2008. If there were I would wager the numbers would be very different.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 11:04 a.m.

    Why are costs up?

    One reason.

    Easy access to government money through subsidized loans and Sally Mae.

    Higher education has been turned into a bubble just like housing was not too long ago. Colleges and Universities have caught on to how easy it is for students to get loans so they just keep jacking up the price... and since everyone still thinks that you *MUST* have a college degree to get anywhere in the professional world students and parents are willing to pay these outrageous costs in order to get one.

    The colleges, text book companies and housing facilities have all gotten in on the game... to the tune of billions in profits every year. Students come out $20,000 to $50,000 in debt after 5 years at an average institution and they think it's just the normal thing. Little do they know they'll be paying on those loans for the rest of their lives. With interest rates at 10-20% financial institutions are raking in the dough.

    Thankfully some students and parents are catching on to this. They see the job market and realize that for many people college will never pay off. Last time I checked only a third of graduates were landing jobs in their field of study within two years of graduation... that's pretty dismal. So what do we end up with? College grads waiting tables or manning the register at Wal-Mart. Eventually the tide will turn and enrollment rates will begin to fall. At that point institutions of higher learning will have to lower costs or close the doors.

  • libertarian Cedar City, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:57 a.m.

    "Higher education" has become one of the biggest frauds of our time. We have set up a system in which the "degree" has become essential to all things. We push all our kids toward college, even if they don't qualify. Employers are now requiring degrees even for routine tasks. Students are steered into massive debt for many years to make the loan companies (and colleges)rich, and when they wind up dropping out and default, penalties and interest boost the debt sky high. Pretty soon you will need a "sanitary engineering" degree to get a job cleaning toilets. People with degrees are now taking menial jobs while those without are pushed to the unemployment line, where they have given up. Many with degrees pay so much on loans that they would actually pocket more at a non-degree job with no loan expenses. Thank you, Sallie Mae.

  • christoph Brigham City, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:54 a.m.

    BYU-Idaho may be the model to follow-----don't put faculty and administration at the center of the universe----let the students shine------grow the school and at the same time, do the impossible---cut costs. All other models will fail; I've heard someone say the current university as we know it today, will not exist in 2020. And that is a good thing.

  • MTerry SANDY, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:48 a.m.

    The $54/year tuition in 1970, as stated in the article, is a gross understatement. In my freshman year at the U in 1959 the tuition was $85/quarter (3 quarters in a normal school year--pre-semester times)...$255/year. In 1966 it was over $200/quarter...$600+/year. Textbook expenses exceeded tuition costs in the early '60's.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:32 a.m.

    Re: " The day that tuition isn't worth it . . . [the] FREE MARKET will compensate."

    Big Education destroyed the free market years ago.

    For 200 years, ambitions American students could and did work their way through school. During my grad-student years, a "student loan" was charging tuition on a credit card, then paying it off with student-level work during the semester.

    Try either today.

    Big Ed lobbied governments -- at all levels -- to put a fat thumb on the scale, skewing costs to the point of unsustainability. It then lobbied bloated federal entities to intervene even more heavily, through unsustainable grant and student loan programs.

    Now that foolishness has all come home to roost, and there's but one way out -- cut costs.

    Start by leaning the employee pool -- unnecessary administrators, high-priced profs that haven't recently seen the whites of a student's eyes, unnecessary platoons of TAs and post-docs, whole fluff-based departments.

    Then, cancel all unfunded research. Cancel building plans.

    Most of all, reign in accrediting "guilds."

    In other words, re-establish a genuine free market.

  • Alpine Blue Alpine, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:15 a.m.

    Foxtrot is correct. It is still an amazing bargain at twice the price for an excellent education.

    Although a college degree may not be as monetarily valuable as thirty years ago, it is still essential to get ahead in the world. Many skilled workers do very well financially without a degree. But for those who want to get ahead and enjoy a satisfactory career-a degree is essential.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    At 15, Jarvis Nelson should be in high school and even thinking about college.

    Yet Jarvis is in seventh grade, and doesnt know where hell go to high school or even where he will be living when he graduates from junior high, hopefully next year. Jarvis, like thousands of other students in Chicago Public Schools, is homeless.

    He is just one of more than 10,660 students who were homeless at the beginning of the school year. Thats 1,466 more than at the same point in the previous school year. Last school year ended with a record 15,580 students with nowhere to call home, the current surge means this school year is on pace to be another record breaker.

    Nationally, 1.6 million U.S. children lived in homeless shelters, motels, with relatives or other families or living on the street in 2010 a 38 percent increase since 2007.
    (Chicago Sun Times)

  • Still Blue after all these years Kaysville, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 10:09 a.m.

    I'm amazed that no one is willing to face the reason for the incredible tuition increases. Yes, the cost of living is higher, but these increases are so far beyond that, even far beyond the rise in healthcare costs, that it's really said. So, how do the universities get away with these sky-rocketing tuition increases? Because our federal government makes it so easy for them to do it. With loans. Take away the loans, the student enrollment goes down quickly, the universities must take drastic steps to get their houses in order so tuition can be lowered to get the students back. Every time the government intervenes, costs rise. Think post office, education and healthcare. Wait until Obamacare is really in place.

    The other, smaller but important issue is that professors are rewarded for publishing, not teaching. It's the academia way and its ridiculous. Get rid of government loans and publishing rewards and tuition will drop by 40-50% very quickly. The free market always works.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Jan. 9, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    I believe the author incorrectly reported tuition costs at the U of U. I'm certain I paid (out of my own pocket) at least $54 per semester, not per year. (those were the days!)

    Additionally, the article failed to identify the Goldwater Institute as a conservative think tank.

  • FYI Taylorsville, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    This article not only underestimates the cost of attending the U now, but unless there was a tremendous jump in tuition from 1970 to 1972, it listed those numbers incorrect as well. Tuition in 1972 was about $350 a year.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 9:11 a.m.

    "They calculate that Berkeley could save $40 million to $55 million just by simplifying organizational structure. 'This might include eliminating some administrators and having supervisors oversee more subordinates.'"


    When the institutions of academia and "higher learning" are such stellar examples of mismanagement and, let's be honest, stupidity, what hope have we that politicians (even less renowned for their intelligence and/or integrity) will do better.

    In fact, as noted in several places in the article, it is the combination of the two, with government dabbling in the finances and operations of higher education, that is the most likely culprit in this example of institutional inefficiency and ineptitude.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Jan. 9, 2012 9:08 a.m.

    No worry Procuradorfiscal, about the leftists. They are counteracted by the right-wingers such as the Koch Brothers who've donated nearly $700,000 to USU. The money has been used to hire five new faculty members, and establish a program for undergraduates to enroll and learn about Charles Kochs Science of Liberty management theory. The Koch Brothers have made similar donations to George Mason University, Florida State, Brown, and others.

    What about salaries? For example, at UC Berkley, 2 coaches are paid over $1m. At UC Davis it has been reported 19 professors and administrators are paid over $400k. UC San Diego has 45 staff making over $400k and at UCLA seven employees received paychecks exceeding $1,000,000, and 72 professors and administrators received paychecks over $400k.

    (Note however, these UC schools are in the top 10 nationally ranked public schools).

    Another factor:pensions
    The economic crash took a big chunk out of pensions. The State of CA stopped funding pensions when they were overfunded in the 1990s. Most likely tuition will be raised to make up the current and future gap.

    Demand and supply won't work. Many more US and foreign students apply than get accepted.

  • Foxtrot Mountain View, CA
    Jan. 9, 2012 8:53 a.m.

    Hmm, I am always fascinated by these types of articles.

    First, the U is extremely affordable. Stop complaining. Even BYU is a steal.

    Second, if you don't think it is worth it, don't go. What is the number? Oh yeah, a college graduate, on average earns a $1 million more than high school graduates during their lifetime. It seems as if $3000/semester is steal.

    After moving outside of the state of Utah I am probably biased because I moved for school, but Utahns DO NOT VALUE EDUCATION the way the rest of the country does. Everything from complaining how much their public schools costs to the cost of tuition at its EXTREMELY affordable colleges.

    I really appreciate my extraordinarily expensive education. Every dollar of it. My opportunities afforded was greatly opened by those degrees and experienes, not to mention my income which is considerable.

    Its a free world. If you don't like it, go somewhere else, or don't go. No one is forcing you. The day that tuition isn't worth it that is when FREE MARKET will compensate.

  • Vince the boonies, mexico
    Jan. 9, 2012 8:12 a.m.

    Just examine the sports depts of our universities and the wages they get (Whitt) as an example, then go right down the list of classroom instructors and the to the supervisorial salaries then you have the lid of from the can of worms! Politics again, don't you all just love it?

  • TOO Sanpete, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 8:00 a.m.

    It is not just Universities.
    I was at Snow College last year. Before my mission when I went and came back last year, tuition had already gone up 300 bucks in two years. It went up 700 dollars from when my brothers were there 6 years ago. It's ridiculous.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 7:44 a.m.

    Re: "College costs skyrocketing"

    The elephant lurking in the room in any discussion of wildly inflated and unsustainable education costs -- something also left unsaid in this article -- is the fact that Big Education has taken on the task of providing a posh, inviting, non-demanding home for otherwise unemployable marxists and leftist advocates.

    People like the current President, his marxist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dorn, Ward Churchill, Richard Cloward [who, interestingly, taught at ASU], Frances Fox Piven, Cornel West, Van Jones -- and well, the list is endless -- all found highly remunerative posts at Big Ed colleges to support their anti-American activism.

    Maintaining these cynical, closet capitalists in the style to which we'd all like to become accustomed is a primary cause of the deranged increase in the number of non-pedagogic positions in major universities. And that's the primary source of the bloat requiring such breathtaking increases in tuition costs.

  • MyChildrensKeeper Taylorsville, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 7:06 a.m.

    Yea, right after NCLB was created and enacted by presidential executive order as a law. Then soon after the NCLB run out of federal funds so more laws and more financial institution were created, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to help reduce education costs to students and to guarantee funding for schools and education costs. And they all did just the opposite to college and state funding of public education.

    The promise of money for schools, not ones education, was enough to create a national panic of money grabbing for federal funds. As the programs grew and terms and conditions of getting money from the feds for education, it required a lot of matching fund taxation of the people to get the "free" federal education funds.

    Schools grew fat and the more students in their schools the fatter the schools could get from federal spending and the industry of debt of student deferred borrowing created a whole new prosperity for higher education and public schools in the hands of federal lending.

    Educations new role as OJT instructors for specialized labor failed becasue the jobs have disappeared, now government spending is the new measure of economic growth.

  • SME Kearns, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 6:27 a.m.

    Very good article. When I attended the U in the 80's the excuse for tuition rising faster than inflation was "we didn't raise tuition in the 70's and we need to catch up", that excuse is a little threadbare now. The real causes are explained well in this article.

  • Pete1215 Lafayette, IN
    Jan. 9, 2012 6:08 a.m.

    Universities are also competing in meeting student's sense of entitlement (some would say students have gotten spoiled). And they are competing in the perpetual race to move up a few spots in the ranking of colleges (which is like professional sports teams competing over the top-tier players).

  • Danite Boy SANDY, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 6:06 a.m.

    The article opens by stating that a University of Utah student now spends $3000 per year on tuition. Tuition for a full-time student is actually double that. The university's tuition schedule lists tuition of $2924.99 for a student taking 15 semester hours.

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 6:03 a.m.

    Part of the problem is that the prestige of a college or university is partly driven by its perceived value -- and the price of tuition becomes a key function of that perception. High prices signal value. Consequently, you have many mid-tier universities increasing tuition partly to compete with the Ivy Leagues in terms of cost perceptions. School debt becomes a badge of honor.

    Some schools want their students to "owe" money to them in paying back loans after graduation as it creates a post-graduation relationship where the graduate can then be the target of ongoing donations and development opportunities.

    Finally, many universities are now engaged in "branding" wars to compete with the better-known schools. Thus, they have marketing and development people, whose sole purpose is to build the image of the school and procure donations for buildings, facilities, and ad campaigns.

    Lost in all this is funding for faculty... sure new incoming faculty get high market-rate pay, but loyal faculty (the backbone of many universities who have built programs, taught lots of students, established research records) see their salaries "squeezed and compressed."

    The future of academia as a career is bleak!

  • Danite Boy SANDY, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 5:45 a.m.

    Tuition at th University of Utah is approximately $3000 per semester, not $3000 per year. The article grossly understates the cost of attending the U.

  • Theeng2 Holladay, UT
    Jan. 9, 2012 12:45 a.m.

    Universities should teach courses on how to rip off students.