To the Editor:
The Viewpoint by Dalton of CFES was a diatribe about the cost of a college education. Dalton’s presentation gave short shrift to the factors affecting the pricing of college tuition and used statistics in a questionable fashion.
For example, he states that “over the past five years, tuition at public four-year colleges increased 27 percent beyond inflation while at private colleges that increase is 13 percent.” There are three problems here. First, private tuition has been market priced. Public colleges have tuition subsidized by the state’s tax payers.
Second, tuition is paid in dollars. The 27 percent increase in public college tuition since 2008 is about $1900, while that for a private college would be $3600 for the 13 percent increase.
Third, the states have cut their support for public higher education from around 75 percent to 20 percent or less of the colleges’ instruction budgets. Reported cuts for this year include: CA: 20, PA: 19, NH: 20-plus. Additionally, the Federal government has cut funding to colleges. As state and federal subsidizing of colleges declines, you can expect tuition at public colleges to approach market prices.
Dalton: “. . . have failed to curb spending on bricks and mortar . . . ” At state colleges it takes 4-6 years for buildings to go from proposal to completion. New construction has to be approved at the state level. Building needs recognized in 2008 would be coming on line this year, just in time to provide space for the additional students arising from the CFES programs.
Other Dalton issues include tenured professors and too much spending on technology. The tenure matter is a discussion for a separate letter. Suffice to say that tenure is not the same as seniority in a union shop. “Too much technology”? What should these colleges provide, clay tablets and a pointed sticks?
Many state universities are municipalities. Many have populations larger than any municipality in Essex or Clinton County: 20,000 or more students. Because they were established by state legislatures in rural areas, many provide water, sewer, fire, police, EMT, garbage removal, road repair, building and grounds maintenance, adjudication and other services one might find in a municipality. Those costs increase as state support decreases. As the university “owns” the land, property tax revenue is not possible. Universities have to meet state and federal codes, mandates and so on, many of which do not apply to private colleges.
Dalton applauds the proposed federal college rating system. But, one need not wait for the government to rank colleges. The U.S. News and World Report and SmartMoney periodicals are doing this. Also, there are ratings out for the best programs in many fields, compiled by the respective professional organizations, for example: engineering, architecture, etc.