A 'NECESSARY' OF MODERN LIFE? College has always been expensive and it is unlikely to get cheaper in the near future But only since the G I Bill has it come to be a "necessary" Can this go on?

O'Brien, Dennis

A 'NECESSARY' OF MODERN LIFE? A very expensive college education Dennis O'Brien Dn 1844, Middlebury College in Vermont sued one Lyman Chandler for nonpayment of tuition. The college lost. The...

...That should peg current costs at Middlebury at $2490...
...If taxpayers and individuals combined are not willing or able to pay for all this academic elegance, inexorable economic pressure will lower the aggregate cost...
...Some of it is illusion: the really high price spread is limited to about one hundred or so of the three thousand American colleges and universities...
...The statement inhabits the realm of common law...
...It all sounds implausible...
...However...
...Then, community colleges are substantially free...
...Programmed instruction: technology has a history of replacing costly services...
...only 25 percent of UCLA's budget is state-funded...
...Saint John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, approximates a command economy: there is a fixed four-year curriculum, all faculty teach across the curriculum, all students take the same course of study...
...Anguish about "the high cost" of higher education needs to distinguish with pellucid clarity cost and price...
...This avoids long-term, costly tenure contracts and present fringe benefits...
...v. Chandler indicates the absolutely radical change in the place and price of higher education...
...The pressure in the private realm is on second-tier, often moderately priced institutions of lesser "prestige...
...Like housing, education is a life necessity to be subsidized (in public housing /public education or government grants and/or long-term loans...
...It is the tuition price that differs and startles the consumer...
...At the opposite pole is a demand, free-market curriculum...
...United States private universities already are heavily dependent on government funding...
...If the current price structure of higher education annoys tuition payers and taxpayers, what are possible scenarios for the future...
...Thus, it is reasonable to forecast: More adjunct faculty: part-time instructors employed on an as-needed basis...
...been unaffordable...
...Some equalizing between public and private price will benefit the privates, assisting them in deaing with falling applications and high financial-aid costs...
...it is the cost plus the social demand...
...Before World War II less than 5 percent of the U.S...
...Nothing so far said lowers the total cost of delivering higher education...
...It is also 100-percent efficient in theory because faculty are appointed only on an as-needed basis: no tenured redundancies...
...Middlebury circa 1844 had 1,500 books in the library, no scientific equipment, no gymnasium, and five ministerial faculty...
...Once properly imbued with the college spirit, the G.I.-Bill generation and after were determined that their children should have the same advantage...
...The cost of delivering the product instruction plus library plus sweeping is more or less the same at public and private institutions of the same scope and caliber...
...No more...
...In the minds of its patrons (and providers...
...I call Lyman Chandler as a witness, and the "mass of our citizens" who could not afford college up to the end of World War II...
...Under common law, minors could validly contract for "necessaries": food, lodging, clothing...
...Bill, vast expansion of public higher education), social perception also changed: college education came to be seen as a "necessary" for economic and social reasons...
...Chandler couldn't afford it...
...higher education seems to have become a "necessary" in the past...
...No wonder they are more expensive...
...I have reviewed a CD-rom precalculus course offered for credit in one state college system...
...When no one wanted to go or even dreamed of affording tuition the "high cost" was, in a sense, a nonissue...
...Nor is private higher education all at the Harvard price: many smaller collegiate institutions, including many Catholic colleges, are priced at one-half to two-thirds the expensive Ivies...
...In 1996-97, Middlebury's comprehensive fee which includes room, board, and fees exceeds $28,000 (sweeping thrown in...
...What changed everything was the G.I...
...Community colleges approximate this model...
...Justice Royce summed up: "A collegiate education is not ranked among the necessaries for which an infant can render himself liable for contract...
...I mention this mini-bit of history to give perspective on the issue of the high price of higher education...
...A harried public university president told me that his budget had been cut so drastically that he no longer considered his institution a state university, even a state-supported university "state-located" was the best he could suggest...
...Outsourcing: a refinement of adjunct faculty...
...Unfortunately for taxpayers and tuition-payers alike, these sorts of changes do not alter the aggregate economics...
...President Bill Clinton's tax break for college education is a Band-Aid at best and since he is also advocating higher education for everyone, I cannot imagine that either the federal or state tax resources can keep pace with that possibility...
...Recent drastic cuts in public university budgets suggest that taxpayers are as reluctant to pay for public higher education as individuals are for high-tuition private colleges...
...Harvard (or Middlebury) is not all of higher education, so it is merely titillating to think college must cost $28,000 per year and up...
...The University of Vermont gets about 16 percent of its budget from the state...
...If the state does not/will not fund, high-tuition public education is the likely result...
...Princeton is nowhere near setting a "market clearing price" (the price that is so high that it exhausts the number of potential buyers...
...Using the wholesale price index as at least a rough measure, costs have risen by a factor of about ten since the 1840s...
...Nothing could have been more implausible to Lyman Chandler than half the "common school" graduates attending colleges at one hundred times the price...
...Public universities will boost tuition...
...In the meanwhile, colleges and universities have become somewhere near one hundred times more complex and sophisticated...
...Theoretically this is 100-percent efficient, no redundancy...
...His All the Essential Half-Truths about Higher Education will be published next fall by the University of Chicago Press...
...Could Chandler can anyone afford it...
...Someone will pay (almost) anything for Ivy-ish credentials...
...If higher education is perceived as establishing a life position, not a personal adornment, one can even change the philosophy of funding...
...But if parents protest tuition at pricey private schools, taxpayers protest the cost of public education...
...Middlebury must think so, since it has announced plans to expand the size of its student body...
...It is sobering to consider that higher education has always Dennis O'Brien, president emeritus of the University of Rochester, is a frequent Commonweal contributor...
...Neither could most citizens in the nineteenth century, and most would have agreed with the Vermont justices that it was not a "necessary...
...A major research university may receive through research funding, government grants-in-aid to students, and federal loan programs more than half its aggregate income from direct or indirect government sources...
...Tuition at Middlebury in 1844 was $20 per quarter (plus $7 for room, sweeping $4, library $2, board in town $50...
...It has compelling graphics and contains everything, including the homework and final exam...
...That's unlikely for the really high-priced institutions...
...Given the closing down of the state treasury, public institutions have already and will continue to increase tuition sharply...
...Out-of-state tuition for some of the flagship state universities is already at $10,000 at a level with the modest-priced privates...
...But a Middlebury education is now over one hundred times more expensive than when Chandler could not afford tuition...
...Can that be done...
...Contemporary colleges have extensive libraries often in the millions of volumes cyclotrons, computers, football stadia, and cadres of highly trained specialist faculty...
...This cost-cutting strategy is already widely practiced, and regarded as "scandalous" by traditionalists...
...Microsoft U.: Bill Gates announces the opening of fifty colleges in the major cities all instruction on sophisticated computers and interactive television...
...Most folks go to public universities many of great distinction where the tuition price is more likely to be $2,800 and down...
...For the first time in American history, lots of people could afford higher education...
...If college became somewhat more affordable through government largess (G.I...
...Private colleges will be utterly priced out of the market...
...When discussing the extraordinarily high cost of higher education today, it is not cost alone that is an issue...
...population had college degrees...
...Bill...
...Why the current stir about unaffordable higher education...
...I am reasonably confident that these predictions will prove accurate...
...Public universities, on the other hand, often receive only modest funding from their home state...
...Programmed instruction in the past has been awkward and amateurish...
...Private and public higher education will become financially similar...
...Was higher education a "necessary...
...Except that there is no free lunch or learning...
...Chandler was an "infant" he was fifteen when he originally enrolled, and thus below the age of majority...
...Their competition is the public institution in the next county which is currently a real bargain...
...Students at public institutions will pay more in tuition, because taxpayers will pay less...
...Hhere are two opposite scenarios for greater efficiency in higher education: command economy or demand economy...
...The court noted that a "common school" education was a necessary since it was "essential to the intelligent discharge of civil, political, and religious duties," but college studies, "though they tend greatly to elevate and adorn personal character, are a source of much private enjoyment, and may justly be expected to prove of public utility..., are far from being necessary in the legal sense...
...This is a sempiternal truth for institutions of high prestige...
...As the court observed: "The mass of our citizens pass through life without [collegiate education...
...today 50 percent of the college-age population receives "postsec-ondary" instruction...
...And will Microsoft U. be a good thing or a bad thing...
...Sociologist David Riesman claimed that a college degree any college is the American passport to the middle class...
...Despite the fact that higher education has a long history of unaffordability recently tempered by government subsidy I think that the current situation is different and drastic...
...Of the two models, I expect the free-market model to prevail since a command model requires the sort of philosophical consensus that modern universities find virtually impossible to reach...
...Instead of a labor market of free-lance adjuncts, some bright soul will create the Einstein Consortium, so that colleges can outsource physics as they do food service...
...Reflection all the way back to Middlebury...
...The final verdict was rendered by the Vermont Supreme Court...

Vol. 124 • March 1997 • No. 6


 
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