published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Rising college costs harmful

Families of students enrolled in both public and private colleges and universities expect the cost of higher education to increase each year. Their reasoning is sound. The price of everything else -- food, shelter, medical care, etc. -- rises annually so it would be unreasonable to assume that the cost to attend college would remain static. What's troublesome, though, is the pace and the consistency at which the price of a year at a college or university rises. For a long time now, annual cost increases for higher education have outstripped inflation.

There's likely little relief in sight for students who will attend Tennessee's public universities and community colleges next fall. State higher education officials recommended tuition increases of as much as 3 percent for community colleges and up to 6 percent for universities at budget hearings in Nashville on Tuesday.

Those are recommendations, to be sure, and not a certainty, but it does suggest that those who attend the state's colleges and universities will pay more next year. The only uncertainty is how much more they will pay.

Whatever the increase, it is likely to outpace inflation, which is currently running at about 2 percent annually. Tuition hikes aren't the only college-related expense to rise. Higher prices for room and board inevitably accompany tuition increases. Last year, for example, with inflation at less than 3 percent, college tuition across the country on average rose about 4.8 percent -- the lowest increase in several years -- but that was accompanied by a 3.7 increase in the average price of campus meal and lodging plans. That's a pattern, unfortunately, that is likely to continue.

The rising price of higher education -- a necessity these days for a job and career that will provide salary and benefits to support a middle-class lifestyle -- is a growing burden for parents who understand the value of higher education and top-flight technical training and who strive to provide it for their offspring. The problem, of course, is that tuition hikes that outstrip inflation and wage and salary increases increasingly put the cost of higher education beyond the means of many students.

Elected and public education officials understand the pressures that rising higher education costs place on families. They know that every increase directly affects family budgets in both the short- and long-term. They know, too, that increases can add to the burden of student loans, many of which accompany students for years, even decades, after they graduate. Still, the need to raise tuition is difficult to escape.

State colleges and universities, like their private counterparts, must pay competitive salaries to attract gifted teachers. Budgeting for health care costs is sometimes an exercise in frustration. Costs to maintain and expand physical and technical infrastructure constantly increase but must be met if campus and system are to remain competitive with peer institutions and to meet the sometimes unrealistic expectations and demands of alumni.

There is, in short, no painless way to ameliorate the pernicious issue of increasing costs associated with obtaining and providing a higher education. Individuals, institutions and government obviously will have to work cooperatively to build a a sound framework that can support a system in which a reasonably priced higher education is made available to the largest possible number of the state's qualified students.

Parents will have to tighten their belts and pay a fair share of higher education costs. Some students may have to take fewer classes, work at part-time jobs and take an extra year or two to graduate. Alumni and others with deep pockets can play important roles in making a college education affordable, too. The main responsibility to provide a good education at a fair price to Tennessee students, however, remains with the state and those who oversee its higher education programs.There's little other choice.

The growing powerlessness of hard-working U.S. families to meet the continuously multiplying cost of higher education is a blot on a nation that correctly views education as a universal right. The large number of families forced to take on debt and the increasing number of students forced to work part- or full-time, to take on long-term loans or to delay or even defer going to college because of the cost are harmful both to individuals and the national interest.

Whatever the final tuition increase at Tennessee's colleges and universities next year -- remember, Tuesday's numbers were recommendations that may or may not become fact -- the state's obligation to its students is firm. If must make educational opportunity available to all who qualify at a cost that is manageable to the average family, If it does not, the state's economic growth and the civic and social growth of its residents will be irreparably harmed.

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328Kwebsite said...

Training and education are important concepts for commercial progress. In the past 20 years, we have seen Tennessee's commitment to higher education drop by 50%. In the 90s it was common for the state to pay 60% of public higher education costs. Today, it's closer to 30%.

Veterans know: the military expects constant training. It's a principle that has made our military a successful organization. Look at what training civilians get provided: one-shot, disposable certifications that some in our society have chosen not to regard or value.

Our military expects significant training at least once every five years: that is, the Soldier will go back to a career path school at least once every five years. Really, once every two and a half years, excepting time for combat, is more likely.

Meanwhile, our typical civilian goes to school once and then leaves. Many of our local business leaders who have failed us have not been in a classroom since Elvis and The Beatles were at the height of their careers.

Today's commercial world requires lifelong learners. The days of going to school once in a lifetime are over. All commercial training after high school will be expected to be provided by public higher education institutions. Meanwhile, our commitment to those organizations which provide that training and education drops every year.

Republicans are choosing to force economic failure on our community by refusing to pay basic upkeep and maintenance on the workforce. It is up to us to require them to stop being ignorant, stop stifling innovation, and start facing reality.

Tennessee needs public education that counts, that works, that fosters creativity in difficult topics. Being cheap and selfish and stupid went out with the arrival of the computer. Face reality and lead local people into doing better. That means leaders are going to need more training.

Support higher education. Immediately double our state's percentage contribution to that cause. It's what's needed just to make up the ground we've lost to ignorance in the past 20 years. Prepare our kids for a decent post-secondary education by running high schools year round, as North Carolina does in Raleigh.

Face reality. Start training our people to be successful. Tennessee is worth it.

November 15, 2012 at 7:06 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

JR, I'm curious to know how you and your ultra-right wing cronies define civilization and what you think a civilized society is supposed to be. Societies exist for the purpose of forming a buffer against the harsh elements and obstacles of nature. Through a gradual learning process we have come to know what sort of things to provide in order to make that society run as smoothly as possible, despite the many differences among people. We have come to learn that the more educated a society is, the better that society functions. Health care likewise is essential for the overall wellbeing of a society. Those are not provided simply out of compassion or altruism but because it is better for society in the long-run to have its people educated, healthy, and capable of living and performing at an optimum level. It's better for the individual, better for the family, better for the society, better for the nation as a whole.

You staunch conservatives like to keep using the term "nanny state" for a government that provides those essential things, as if it consciously strives to make everyone dependent on it. But providing those services does not make people lazy and dependent. Quite the contrary, it frees people to attain goals and to avail themselves of opportunities they otherwise would not have. And you act as if government itself is by nature some evil entity that needs to be dispensed with. But government is essential. There has never been a society that existed without some governing body to hold it together and to make the necessary decisions. While our government is certainly flawed, we still have a representative government that is supposed to represent ALL of us to the best of its abilities. In essence our government IS us. Or at least it should be and can be, if we don't allow it to serve only the interests of the few at the top, like it has been allowed to do these last few decades.

And yet you uber-conservatives constantly spit in the face of a true representative government, and by your thoughts, words, and actions encourage the continued ascension of an oligarchy - a government of, by, and for the rich and only the rich. You don't really want to do away with government, as so many of you claim. You just want a government that suits the interests of those at the top of your social-darwinian concept of society.

November 15, 2012 at 12:59 p.m.

Rickaroo, JonRoss prefers railing against imagined opponents and positions than facing the reality that others who don't agree with him have valid concerns about the attainability of both the necessities of life and the means of improvement.

November 15, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.
Brandon7 said...

Prices are ridiculously hih already, there is no where to make it even bigger. JUst crazy. I really wonder how many students ar egoing to go to colleges/universities the following year. With all this latsts news I bet a lot of young people are going to refuse from the idea of getting higher education. For those who did not know, I have to say that recenly conducted survey shows that it does not matter if you have or have no dimploma, your job hunt has the same result ( or no result of course). Brandon from: company

November 16, 2012 at 5:11 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Here's an idea, those dropping out after a year and wasting a scholarship that could go to someone more deserving have to pay back that money.

November 16, 2012 at 2:31 p.m.
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