Costs Up, Results Down in Higher Education

College tuition and federal aid have been increasing, but education productivity in higher education has dipped at the same time, an analysis from the National Center for Policy Analysis concludes.

The report, "Why is College So Expensive?" says that from the 1979-1980 school year to the 2009-2010 school year, average tuition and fees at private four-year universities rose more than 175 percent—from $9,501 to $26,273 (in 2009 dollars). Over the same period, in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose more than 220 percent—from $2,174 to $7,020.

But much of this increased spending is being allocated on noninstructional activities, the report says. The ratio of teachers to students remained relatively stable, at about seven teachers per 100 students from 1976 to 2000, while the ratio of nonteaching staff members to students doubled from three to six per 100 students.

More universities are beginning to compete on providing the best college "experience," instead of focusing on the end product by educating students to earn a degree.

Meanwhile, students are studying less and taking longer to graduate. The report says that full-time students said in 1961 that they studied 24 hours per week; in 2003, they reported studying only 14 hours a week. The share of students completing a bachelor’s degree in four years or less fell from about 45 percent in 1977 to 31 percent in the 1990s, the report says.

The report is at http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba726.

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