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President Potter said that a college education is “still a good value” in his St. Cloud Times op-ed, something people most likely agreed with him on. Generally speaking, that’s how I reacted. That doesn’t mean there isn’t tons of room for improvement.

President Potter said that a year’s worth of tuition at SCSU is $6,846. What he didn’t say is whether that figure includes all of the fees that students are bombarded with.

An SCSU student that I know told me that his/her fee load was over $400:

Activity Fee $ 103.20
MSUSA $ 6.45
Health Services $ 49.80
Technology Fee $ 73.80
Athletics $ 47.28
Student Union $ 83.52
Facilities Assessment $ 46.20

That’s $410.25 of fees per quarter in addition to tuition. That’s before factoring in the cost of books, too.

Fees are becoming a major cost for students at a most inopportune time. It’d be one thing for fees to take the place of tuition increases. It’d be easier to rationalize them if that were the case. Alas, that isn’t what’s happening. Tuition is increasing while fees are rising.

Growth in administration is a huge driver of higher education costs. The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) studied the explosion of administrators. Here’s what they found:

Exec/Admin/Managerial staff jumped from 151,000 in 1997 to 218,000 in 2007. That’s a 44% increase. During that same time, faculty increased from 990,000 in 1997 to 1,371,000 in 2007, a 38% increase.

The trends led CCAP to this conclusion:

The growth of non-instructional staff is so fast that if these job growth trends were to continue, the number of managers and support staff (administration) at 4-year not-for-profit colleges would outnumber instructors by 2014.

These figures don’t factor in the staffing for organizations like MnSCU:

Using the IPEDS Fall Staff Surveys data collected for a previously released CCAP report,136 a sample of 2,782 institutions revealed that colleges added 690,373 full-time equivalent (518,489 full-time; 515,651 part-time) jobs between 1987 and 2007, an increase of 39 percent (33% FT; 85% PT).

In other words, this study limited itself to universities and colleges. CCAP’s study doesn’t factor in other education bureaucracies like MnSCU. Some taxpayers might know about MnSCU’s Academic and Student Affairs Division. I’d bet the ranch that less than 1% of Minnesota taxpayers knows this:

There are 5 directors in the Academic and Student Affairs Division. Additionally, there are 2 associate directors of research. Three of the directors are directors of planning, one each for research, planning and collaboration.

That’s just one part of the bureaucracy at the MnSCU headquarters. Think of the money wasted throughout the MnSCU system. That must be included in the total cost of a student attending a MnSCU university.

Speaking in generalities, there’s no disputing that college diplomas are worthwhile. Speaking specifically, though, there’s several things that need fixing before higher education is a great value to students and taxpayers.

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3 Responses to “Higher Ed: Great value or great rip-off?”

  • Jethro says:

    Good article. It is well past time for an audit of higher education. Do we truly need more administrators?

  • Rex Newman says:

    The more I learn about MnSCU, much of that thanks to your extensive reporting, the more I’m convinced that its Legislative funding should be cut in half. If done correctly, by eliminating duplication of both facilities and effort, no student would pay a dime more other than possibly having to drive a little further if commuting.

    And the U could be cut some by eliminating its many needless overlaps with MnSCU – and by closing the white elephant St. Paul campus. And I haven’t even addressed all those worthless degree programs.

  • eric z says:

    What matters is the post-graduate excellence that the U.Minn. Twin Cities campus must at all costs maintain. That is where innovation and tomorrow’s commercial and high tech developments for the state will incubate and prosper. Kill that over low-priority carping about MnSCU or SCSU, and you throw baby away with bath water.

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