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“State cuts push colleges to hike tuitions”

Under that headline, Page 1 of the Washington Times included the following tuition hikers:

  • California State University system, 22 percent

  • University of Washington, 20 percent
  • Arizona State University, 18 percent
  • University of California system, 18 percent
  • State University System of Florida, 15 percent
  • Virginia Tech, 9 percent
  • University of Oregon, 9 percent
  • University of Virginia, 8.9 percent
  • University of Michigan, 6.7 percent
  • University System of Wisconsin, 5.5 percent

This begs a number of questions:

  1. Are all these institutions both tax-exempt and tax-supported? Yes, they are.

  2. Do all of them require all of their faculty to work a 40-hour week like most other Americans – with at least 20 hours a week doing the teaching for which they are entitled? No, they do not.
  3. Do all of these universities require that their faculty teach either 48 or 50 weeks a year? No, they do not.
  4. Are there any other professions in which workers are given as much time off as this one, which has holiday periods for Thanksgiving, Christmas, semester break, spring – and three months off for summer? No, there are not.

Couldn’t this multi-billion dollar cost scandal be alleviated if Congress and the states were willing to require:

  1. An end to those giant summer breaks and most of those other times off, which no other profession enjoys – in favor of college education 48 weeks per year. This could enable undergraduate graduation in three years – at considerable savings.

  2. An end to any of those faculty two-classes-a-week outrages in favor of 40 hours (20-teaching-hour weeks). While this would decisively reduce the number of faculty, it would surely also reduce the huge and growing tuitions now demanded by these tax-supported and tax-exempt institutions.

The Times quotes Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, as saying:

“Legislatures are starting to rethink higher ed. If they have a choice between funding for the elderly or subsidizing the upper-middle-class kid to go to college … subsidizing the middle-class kid to go to college is a lower priority.”

The Times story continues: “Tuition increases are hardly new. Each year since 2000, the average price at a public, four-year university has risen 5.6 percent, according to the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, which tracks prices and college access.

“Despite that trajectory, many institutions find it difficult, if not impossible, to start handing out pink slips or shut down programs and classes. Facilities still get built, and tenured professors still get raises, no matter how dire the financial situation becomes, Mr. Vedder said.

“‘Universities, faced with state budget cuts, can do two things: They can actually cut back a good bit on what they do and the amount of money they spend and make some real savings,’ he said. ‘But the standard answer for everything is to raise tuition.’

“‘Colleges are loath to make real cuts. I don’t see concerted efforts to cut costs, and the reason is there’s no incentive,’ Mr. Vedder said. ‘The way to get ahead, keep your job and make people happy is to spend money.’

“A sense of competition among colleges often compounds the problem. Mr. Vedder said university leaders are reluctant to increase class sizes or cut expenses when their competitors are hiring more professors, offering new programs and building a new football stadium.”

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