Sunday, September 26, 2010

College costs

I've been thinking about the ridiculous price of a college education in the U.S., and why it's so high.

Here's what you're paying for:
Other students' scholarships (ha)
College funded social events.
The only ones of these that I want to have or pay for are teachers, admins, staff, and facilities. I'm not interested in funding sports teams, social events, or other people's college. If I want to get involved in sports, I'll form a club team or go watch a pro team. If I want to go to social events, I'll host them myself or do them with friends. If I want to pay for other people's college, I'll directly fund a scholarship.

The stuff I actually want to pay for is still more than I want. That is, the administration of the college I attend is very inefficient. A lot of money is wasted, some through pure carelessness, some through overpaid employees. The president earns roughly five times as much as the average faculty member, plus benefits.

Buildings are nicer than they need to be. The college I attend recently spent millions of dollars on a new student union which performs almost exactly the same functions as the old student union, and is only substantially different in its architecture and quality.

The staff at the college I attend works inefficiently. One department is estimated to spend around three times as much money on student labor as is necessary. Shift managers and supervisors often tell workers to just go take a break on the clock if there isn't any work ready. Other employers tell workers to work slowly so that work lasts as long as possible. Inefficiency is extremely common.

The teachers are paid the market rate, so I can't say they are overpaid. However, they are often bad at teaching, which I would say qualifies their salaries as wastes of money in some cases.

I don't have access to most of the financial information about the college I attend, but I would estimate that if it was run efficiently and only spent money on minimal things (that is, no student union or a minimal one, et cetera) it would cost less than half as much as it does now. Only around $10,000,000 per year goes to faculty salaries. The rest of the $26,000,000 of tuition that comes in each year is spent on other functions, most of them peripheral.

Many students, I'm sure, think that it is worth it to spend over half of their tuition to cover things other than their learning. I would rather not spend my money that way.

Solutions for this could include more minimal, education focused colleges, and also online education, which is already growing very fast. I expect that the situation will be better in the next twenty or so years, but regret that it will be after I have already wasted tens of thousands of dollars on services and facilities that I don't want.


  1. Lucky I live in Finland, where education is free

  2. Have you considered specialised colleges which focus on one subject only?

  3. Yeah, I'm probably going to transfer to a school with an engineering college which should be somewhat cheaper.

  4. It's a sad kind of paradox.

    Generally the larger the institution, the higher the chance that it will attract very good teachers.

    The downside is that the larger the institution, the more money gets pissed away or misused. See: governments.

  5. A sucky system that drains money from those in need. Do you have any suggestions how to make things better? I'd love to hear some argumented ideas for improving it!

    Here's my blog about science, religion and their relation:
    Amidst All Human