The Cost of Higher Education

I always enjoy @fredwilson’s blog (A VC), so I was intrigued yesterday when he deviated from his usual topics of technology startups and the venture capital industry to comment on the costs of higher education. He made some good points about technology not being the answer – I believe technology will prove to be more of a pedagogical tool than a cost saving tool – and then he quickly focused on finding creative ways to finance higher ed.

Developing new financing models for students ignores the root problem – higher education in the US has gotten way too expensive. According to a recent report by the College Board, tuition and fees at public universities increased 5.6% per year above the rate of inflation during the decade of 2001 – 2011. Private universities did a little better, outstripping the rate of inflation by a mere 2.6%. This is not a new trend – the costs of higher education increased well in excess of inflation throughout the 1980s and 1990s as well.

There are many reasons for these cost increases, and the problem won’t be resolved overnight. However, those of us in higher ed administration need to realize that this is a real problem and it’s not going away. The high cost of education is a key factor in student retention, and saddling recent graduates with crippling debt loads doesn’t help anyone. I haven’t seen stats on this, but I’m guessing healthcare is the only other industry that has racked up comparable real cost increases over the past 30 years.

One of my goals with this blog is to highlight good ideas to reform higher education. If you know of innovative new ways to contain higher ed costs, please pass them on.

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