Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Higher education costs and a personal inquiry

Aiding my continuing quest for discussion of why postsecondary costs grow so fast, former Berea dean Al Perkins has suggested that the added money buys:
  • computer networks, for dorms as well as teaching facilities.
  • laboratory equipment.
  • reduced teaching loads to allow faculty research.
  • added support staff for students, often replacing some parts of faculty advising.
  • social and athletic facilities for student use.
  • financial aid that grows not just with tuition but with the price of books and supplies, and increasingly, of gas and cell phones we now count as necessities.
(Disclosure: Dean Perkins is a natural source for me because he's also my dad.)


  1. Susan,

    You need to add another costly item – excessive freshman remediation rates that are not notably improving. The new 2006 data is now available from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and your readers can see that here: http://bluegrasspolicy-blog.blogspot.com/2009/04/more-strong-evidence-senate-bill-1-was.html.

    By the way, Dr. Ed Hughes, President of the Gateway Community and Technical College recently told me and Kentucky Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley that when Gateway started, they only needed to offer one remedial math course. Now, to dig down far enough to reach the extremely poor preparation of students, they have to offer three progressively more elementary levels of remedial math courses. That definitely drives up costs.

    Hopefully, as Senate Bill 1 refocuses us in a more coherent way from Primary to graduate studies, these expensive problems will start to come under control. It will largely depend upon how well the content standards review teams do their work.

  2. Developmental courses don't drive up tuition per term or spending per full-time equivalent student. Those are growing by leaps and bounds.

    Developmental issues also don't explain why we spend more per FTE than other states on students with ACT results very similar to other states.

    And they doesn't explain why, after enrolling similar students and spending more per student each semester, we get fewer bachelor's degrees for the effort.

    There may be good explanations of Kentucky's combination of high spending and low productivity, but they aren't out in public circulation.

    I want many more students ready for college.

    I also want our colleges to be more effective with students and more efficient with tax money and families' hard-earned tuition dollars.

    I'm surprised that you don't share my concern on that second point.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!