Gas station without pumps

2012 May 15

Cost of college remarkably stable

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:59
Tags: , , , ,

A popular meme right now is how the cost of college is soaring, and how universities are making out like bandits, which puzzles a lot of faculty, since they know that they aren’t getting rich and the cost of running a college is mainly in the salaries.

I recently came across a document with figures explaining the situation.  First let’s look at the state funding plus tuition for all public colleges in the US over the past 25 years.

Funding per full-time equivalent student for public colleges in all states combined, for 1986–2011 in constant dollars.
From http://www.sheeo.org/finance/shef/fy2011 tables/All States Wavechart 2011.pdf

Note that the funding (tuition+state funding) has varied from a low of $10,200 in 1993 to a high of $12,766 in 2011($11,483 ± 11%).  There is fluctuation, but not much, and no clear trend.  Public college costs have been remarkably stable over the last 25 years.  What has changed is who pays those costs.  In 1986, about 23% of the funding was from tuition, and in 2011, about 43% of the funding was from tuition.  Essentially all the change in tuition can be attributed to differences in state funding.

The situation in California is even starker:

Funding per full-time equivalent student in California public colleges, 1985–2011, in constant dollars.
From http://www.sheeo.org/finance/shef/fy2011 tables/All States Wavechart 2011.pdf

Note that California costs are much lower than in most states, largely because of the very cost-effective community college system. Costs in constant dollars vary from $8,286/FTE in 2005 to $9,970 in 1998 ($9,128±9%)—again, remarkably stable over 25 years.  The share coming from tuition has changed from 11% in 1986 to 27% in 2011 (though the low was 9% in 1989).  Once again, the story is not that colleges have gotten more expensive, but that the nearly constant cost has been transferred from the state to the students.

Advertisements

12 Comments »

  1. […] so kids were pushed to go to college.  Nowadays, the rising tuition (which at public schools is driven mainly by refusal of state legislatures to continue investing in education) has made that questionable: The total cost of attendance for in-state students living on campus […]

    Pingback by Value of college degree questionable « Gas station without pumps — 2012 May 26 @ 15:54 | Reply

  2. […] Cost of college remarkably stable « Gas station without pumps. […]

    Pingback by Cost of college remarkably stable « Gas station without pumps « Computing Education Blog — 2012 August 13 @ 04:13 | Reply

  3. This doesn”t explain the rise in tuition at private schools. There are plenty of other contributing factors such as increasingly expensive athletic facilities, lower performance on endowment investments, substantially more extensive student services, and other features and services designed to attract students. The number of employees per student has steadily continued to rise over time and employee productivity at universities is relatively stagnant, unlike the situation in many other parts of the economy. But ignoring that, I’ve always contended that education in the US was like sausage in Poland under communism or gasolene in Saudi Arabia – its true cost wasn’t appreciated because it was government subsidized and thus people became accustomed to its subsidized price and, hence, using it in a more prodigal manner than might be considered prudent. With education, perhaps now we’re having to face reality – it’s true cost is becoming more apparent.

    Comment by dennisfrailey — 2012 August 13 @ 05:12 | Reply

    • I don’t have any data for private schools. It is clear that tuition has soared, but I don’t know how much of that is from the high-price-high-aid pricing scheme (so that average net price is much lower than sticker price), how much from increased costs (if any), how much from high priced amenities, how much from large administrative costs, and so forth.

      What I found data on is that the state schools have not been getting more costly to run, and that tuition increases are almost completely tied to declining state support.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2012 August 13 @ 11:55 | Reply

  4. I’ve wondered about this for a few years now. Thanks for tracking the numbers down.

    Comment by Rob St. Amant — 2012 August 13 @ 05:20 | Reply

  5. […] so I’ve started paying closer attention to college costs. I’m not talking about the real cost of education at public schools, which has been remarkably stable, but about the share of it that parents and students are expected to pay, which has been […]

    Pingback by Student debt « Gas station without pumps — 2012 August 18 @ 11:44 | Reply

  6. […] personal and public investment thanks to the MOOC marketing (as Bogost has argued and others have provided evidence). My primary complaint with the hype is the […]

    Pingback by MOOCS & The Virtues of an Educator (not a Programmer) | Blog O'Hara — 2012 September 11 @ 20:32 | Reply

  7. […] personal and public investment thanks to the MOOC marketing (as Bogost has argued and others have provided evidence). My primary complaint with the hype is the […]

    Pingback by MOOCS & The Virtues of an Educator (not a Programmer) | Computing as a Liberal Art — 2012 September 11 @ 20:45 | Reply

  8. […] low pay, and no voice in the running of the institution).  Other studies have show that the cost of public universities has not changed much—it’s just been shifted from the state to the student. In particular, the socially desirable […]

    Pingback by We need low-cost colleges « Gas station without pumps — 2013 February 2 @ 10:37 | Reply

  9. […] reducing quality as very likely. Although the sticker price of public universities has soared, the underlying costs have been remarkably constant—the price has gone up because students are paying a much larger portion of the […]

    Pingback by MOOC roundup | Gas station without pumps — 2013 July 28 @ 10:05 | Reply

  10. […] via Cost of college remarkably stable « Gas station without pumps. […]

    Pingback by Cost of college remarkably stable « Gas station without pumps | Computing Education Blog — 2014 January 22 @ 20:49 | Reply

  11. […] problem is not inefficiency on the part of the University or spiraling costs (see Cost of college remarkably stable), but simple cost shifting from public funding to student loans.  The legislature and the […]

    Pingback by Public univerisities as mass quality | Gas station without pumps — 2014 December 28 @ 12:55 | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: