>More for Less
>Most college students are carrying a greater
>share of the cost of their education, even as
>institutions spend less on teaching them,
>according to a
>report released today.
>The report, published by the Delta Project
>Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and
>Accountability, gives a potentially troubling
>picture of spending and revenue trends in higher
>education. Spanning from 2002 to 2006, the
>report indicates that tuition hikes have
>resulted in little if any new spending on
>classroom instruction at public research universities.
>"The public's got it exactly right," said Jane
>Wellman, head of the Delta Project. "They are
>jacking up tuition, and they're not re-investing it in quality."
>There's plenty of blame to go around, however,
>for this predicament. With state support waning
>for public colleges, rising tuition dollars are
>merely being used to make up for lost revenue
>not for hiring more faculty or taking other
>steps that would arguably improve classroom
>instruction, the report asserts. On the other
>hand, the Delta Project suggests that colleges
>haven't made the hard choices required for
>adapting to lower subsidies, as evidenced by
>relatively small changes in spending levels.
>"The data tell us that the spending patterns are
>not changing, we're just shifting revenue
>sources," Wellman said. "So what this tells us
>is we're not dealing with our cost structures, we're just shifting revenues."
>There's not much evidence to suggest that
>students at public universities are getting more
>for paying more. Between 2002 and 2006, average
>tuition at public research universities
>increased by nearly 27 percent or $1,419, but
>the spending on each student only went up by 1
>percent, or $149. In calculating "education and
>related" spending the dollars spent directly
>on students the Delta Project included
>expenses on instruction and student services.
>Also included in that figure is the per-student
>share of administrative functions tied to
>academics, academic support and operations and maintenance.
>Tuition increases outpaced per-student spending
>even more dramatically at public master's institutions and community colleges.
>Private institutions, on the other hand, are
>charging students more and putting more money
>into instruction at the same time, according to
>the report. At private research institutions,
>for instance, tuition went up by $985, but
>per-student spending actually rose by $1,453.
>Whether that spending translated into a higher
>quality education, however, remains to be seen.
>"This [report] tells us how we spend our money,
>but it doesn't tell us about effectiveness," Wellman said.
>The report does note that community colleges,
>for instance, are able to spend less money per
>student on the path toward graduation. Wellman
>concedes, however, that there's no way to
>determine whether what's gained in savings isn't lost in quality.
>Richard Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio
>University, applauded the report for shining a
>light on how universities do business. At the
>same time, Vedder lamented that no one has been
>able to demonstrate effectively whether spending
>increases are helping colleges to better educate students.
>"What they have not done [in the report],
>because it's almost impossible to do, is measure
>performance, measure outcomes," said Vedder,
>director of the Center for College Affordability
>and Productivity. "Are the students learning? We
>have very limited almost no measure of outcomes."
>So where is all the money going? At most types
>of institutions, an increasing share of
>"education and related" spending goes toward
>administrative support and student services,
>while instruction including faculty salaries
>is falling as a percentage of those expenses.
>Administrative expenses made up the most
>significant share of "education and related"
>expenses at private bachelor's institutions,
>where 44.2 percent of the cost of educating
>students was devoted to administration in 2006, according to the report.
>Data Brings Sunshine
>The greatest value of the Delta Project's report
>may yet to be realized. Leaders of the project,
>which is funded by the Lumina Foundation for
>Education, plan to create a Web-based function
>that will allow users to look at the spending
>and revenue data of individual institutions.
>While the raw data is already public through the
>federal data clearinghouse for higher education,
>known as the Integrated Postsecondary Education
>Data System (IPEDS), the Delta Project hopes to
>create a function that adds context and meaning
>to the often dizzying IPEDS numbers.
>Charles Miller, who chaired the U.S. Secretary
>of Education's Commission on the Future of
>Higher Education, said he welcomes the greater
>sunshine that the Delta Project is bringing to postsecondary education.
>"Unless you have data that's in this kind of
>form, it's very hard to make decisions and
>policy judgments that are objective," he said.
>After reviewing the report, Miller said the
>Delta Project had made a data-driven case for
>reform, without having to use the sometimes
>tough language that's found in many such
>reports, including the one Miller's own commission presented.
>"It doesn't say 'Here are the failings of the
>system,' and a lot of the report is going to
>avoid doing that, but [Wellman] implies it," he said.
>In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Wellman
>noted that the lack of transparency in higher
>education is a problem in and of itself.
>Institutions are reluctant to engage in much
>introspection about costs, because it raises
>"uncomfortable questions," she said. At a time
>when state support and private giving are sure
>to keep declining, however, it would behoove
>college leaders to closely examine exactly where
>they're getting money and spending money, Wellman said.
>"We're robbing Peter to pay Paul," she said. "We
>better find out who Peter and Paul are.
>viewed online at
Labels: college costs