Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Book Explores How College Got So Expensive

I assume that most of you who are looking at the price of current US college tuitions, especially among top-tier schools, have a reaction similiar to mine, which is--This is insane!  How in the world did colleges get to be so expensive?

There is a new book out that tries to answer that question, written by an author associated with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the premier newspaper covering American colleges and universities.  It was reviewed recently by the economic columnist for the Washington Post, Michelle Singletary.  I have excerpted part of her article below.

So while I haven't read the book, it sounds like it does a good job of analyzing how things got to be so ridiculously expensive.  It also may be a good vehicle for helping your family and your potential college applicants to sift through what college benefits are worth the price tag, and which ones you might want to reconsider, no matter how attractive they may seem on the surface.  Jeffrey Selingo, the author, also has some predictions about what we can expect in the future--which, thankfully, is NOT that prices will keep rising at such a step rate.  However, future college configurations may look very different to the ones we had when we were undergraduates....

Why college has become so costly (excerpts)
By Michelle Singletary
The Washington Post
July 12, 2013

(Jeffrey J. Selingo) - Book cover \"College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students.
Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education, has written a compelling book that looks at the state of higher education: “College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students” (Amazon Publishing/New Harvest, $26)....
Part of the reason higher education is in trouble can be traced to the “Lost Decade,” as Selingo calls it. He defines it as the period from 1999 to 2009 when colleges were “chasing high-achieving students, showering them with scholarships to snatch them from competitors, and going deep into debt to build lavish residence halls, recreational facilities, and other amenities that contribute nothing to the actual learning of students.”
But the decade of more has come to an end, leaving many people in debt. In 2003, according to Selingo, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 annually for tuition, fees, room and board. By 2009, 224 had crossed the mark, and another 58 had passed the $50,000 plateau.....
Selingo’s historical tour of higher education is important in order to understand how to resolve the problems in the scholastic industry. You come away with a keener understanding of why college costs so much and how schools have been able to get families to ignore prices. His research is peppered with real-life examples of high-school students sold on colleges they couldn’t afford....
Moving forward to the future, Selingo talks about the forces that are and will continue to change higher education. Schools are in debt, state funds to colleges have been cut, and fewer families are willing to pay skyrocketing prices. Such developments will force schools to deliver their product in increasingly different ways, such as providing more online courses. He profiles a program that allows students, especially older adults returning to college, to demonstrate the mastery of a subject through a series of assessment tests, thereby reducing the time and money they need to spend to get a degree. He sees an unbundling of the traditional structured college experience.
Click here to read the original review in its entirety.

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