College tuitions continue to increase at rates above inflation numbers and something must be done to regain cost containment. An interesting article in the September 5th edition of the New York Times indicates that the 4.3% projected increase this year is the smallest tuition advance in 37 years.
First of all we need to recognize the fact that everyone does not need to attend a College or University to have a fulfilling life experience. Some individuals are just not suited to attend college, or do not want to or cannot after graduation from high school. But, a high school education is at the least absolutely essential for everyone today. Sadly, the graduation rates from high schools continue to drop nationally, and that will certainly lead to increased long-term welfare cost obligations.
And, let’s not forget that we need educated, qualified tradesmen and women to contribute to building, home repair, etc. Also, a very fine living can be made as a plumber, electrician, carpenter, heavy equipment operator, etc. Do you want to have to fly someone to the US from India to fix your toilet? Or imagine them walking you through the repair on the phone?!
Over the years I have served as a Trustee or Director at five different Universities and one private secondary school. I can tell you unequivocally that two of the biggest problems confronting the leadership of many institutions is academic tenure and unwarranted staff union contracts. In virtually every school there are tenured teachers/professors who should be eliminated, replaced, or retired, but little or nothing is all too frequently done to solve this growing burden. Most institutions have union contracts stuffed with spiraling cost inefficiencies. If the halls of advanced learning operated as an efficient business, great efficiency could be achieved. They would then have strong cost controls to strive and constantly assure a thorough learning experience for students.
Unfortunately institutions of higher learning increasingly have presidents that are solely fund raisers, and/or political types who frequently have poor financial control skills. Also, support staff sizes are bloated in many cases. It is my experience that often unwarranted pressures are placed upon administrations to commit to unnecessary expenditures in brick and mortar. I know this first hand. Some presidents that I served wanted to commit their institution to huge building programs well before the appropriate funds were available or achievable.
Fiscal efficiency is not a strong suit in higher education because a run to legislative delegations at both the state and federal level has become the way to do business, begging financial support without looking at cost cutting measures or waste. Begging for financial support is easier. As an example, my community has 26 University or College institutions seeking financial support and every one of them have under-utilized facilities and classrooms, suggesting there are far too many higher institutions of learning here. Without in depth research, it is my contention that this is the case in most communities across the country.
Many schools are excellent and well endowed financially; every one of them begs for more public money and endless private financial support, while tuition increases in a seemingly uncaring manner. I suspect that many educational leaders just do not know how to prepare a realistic or appropriate budget or know how to negotiate with unions, particularly due to the past reliance on public money whenever they wave their emotionally charged “fund education banner”.
It is your Commander’s opinion that the federal government has way too much influence in public education and the individual state governments are burdened by unwarranted, unworkable Washington mandates. It is time for the leadership of our higher educational institutions to wake-up to the fact that the American taxpayer has been tapped out. We have been required to adjust our operating budget, and it is time for them to share the pain. Colleges and Universities are not immune from sound fiscal responsibility. Hopefully, we can begin to loudly convey that message to educational institutions and our federal government, as well.