College costs money.
It costs tuition paying students and taxpayers alike. Taxpayers pay when the state directly
supports a school and also when the federal government subsidizes loans. Some states work hard to try and keep costs
down, but one state’s system stands out in particular as an offender against
Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Department of
Education, of the top 30 highest tuitions charged by public colleges and
universities in the United States, 22 of them are in Pennsylvania. And most of those are branch campuses of
Pennsylvania State. The Commonwealth
Foundation reported that tuition at Penn State more than doubled since 2000,
this despite “significant taxpayer subsidies.”
A student struggling to figure out how
to pay for tuition might forgive a main campus for high tuition rates. Paying top professors to stay put, supporting
advanced research, offering a wide variety of interesting, but not always
popular courses are all reasons why tuition might rise. The Pennsylvania State system, however,
charges over $12,000 to attend its branch
Is there really ground breaking research
by world renowned experts at Penn State-Altoona? Does a degree from there guarantee a job in
today’s tight market? The cost of a
degree should have some relationship to the earning potential of the student. Four years of attending a university branch
campus should not break the bank.
Comparing sample subjects, there is
little difference between the course offerings at Penn State-Altoona ($13,250)
and West Virginia University-Parkersburg ($2,076.) In either case, the student earns a useable
degree from a branch campus of a respected state university.
Tuition hikes and state subsidies in
Pennsylvania have not helped the students much. The Commonwealth Foundation
reports that Penn State administrative staff numbers jumped over 70 percent
between 1993 and 2007. Meanwhile,
institutions in Virginia and West Virginia kept costs down by sharing faculty
and increasing teaching loads.
Pennsylvania students carry
the burden for years to come. A
Demos.org study states that students from that commonwealth carry some of the
highest student debt in the nation.
Student aid struggles to keep pace with costs. Despite the backbreaking costs, contact
between undergraduate students and faculty has dropped by almost 30 percent at
Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey in CQ
Researcher last month described a strong correlation between increases in
student aid and rises in tuition. In the last 25 years, aid rose by $10,293 per
student while costs increased by $9,407. That includes both state supported and
private schools that do not depend on subsidies.
In other words, increased aid amounts
combined with easier credit for student loans may prove to be too much
temptation to public colleges and universities unaccustomed to restraining
Nearly all university systems face
spending cuts and caps in the ability of students to pay tuition. Taxpayer awareness
that student loan debt tops all other forms in the U.S. will lead to restraints
here as well.
Students, parents, taxpayers, the media,
and elected officials need to start looking much more closely at the bloated bureaucracies
and budgets of public colleges and universities.