At the risk of channeling my inner Bob Somerby, it seems that, in this fairly comprehensive NY Times article about the rising costs of college, there isn’t any discussion about why these costs are spiraling. If it’s a fixed cost, such as guaranteed faculty salary increases (snort), then that implies one solution. If it’s a one-time cost (e.g., a massive spike in the cost of energy), then it’s not much of an issue (or more accurately, there isn’t much colleges can do about it). But nowhere in the article, is this discussed. Maybe I’m a wonky scientist or something, but I like to solve problems.
So I looked at the report (pdf).
It’s not the faculty salaries:
There does seem to be a significant, but small (in terms of overall budget dollars) increase in fringe benefits (e.g., healthcare and retirement) for faculty:
(Interestingly, the percentage of benefits that is spent on healthcare has skyrocketed, which means that healthcare costs have eroded faculty retirement plans. Yay!)
And faculty, despite the stories of evil researchers who hate students and teach poorly, haven’t decreased their student contact time compared to the mid-70s:
You’ll also see in the above figure that the administrative burden, while higher than in the mid-90s, isn’t that different from that in the mid-1970s. I can’t really see any of these factors leading to five to eight percent annual increases.
So where the hell is all of the tuition money going? And shouldn’t some enterprising reporter try to figure this out?