Here we go again, dealing with a problem by ignoring the problem. College costs are out of control, we all know that just as we know health care costs are out of control. The President wants to deal with the escalating cost of a college education by increasing the support for Perkins loans by $7 billion dollars. In other words, give more money to more people to pay for ever-increasing costs. No doubt many people will see this as a good thing, spending more always results in something good happening.
Just like with health care, throwing more money at the problem, insulating people from the problem and not addressing the real problem will get us nothing in return.
What is the real problem; well let’s ask the right question. Why are college tuitions escalating at the rates they are? Why does a college education cost what it does?
As with health care there are a number of reasons including; bloated professor salaries and related compensation costs, low teaching productivity from many professors, the perception that high cost adds high value, spending too much money on buildings, stadiums, administration, etc. than is unnecessary for the primary mission of education, lack of focus on a curriculum that accomplishes a specific goal resulting in thinking, qualified, skilled graduates.
We have made it a status symbol to send our kids to a prestigious college, a badge of honor to discuss how much we spent on a college education. Those stickers on the rear windows of our cars are not there to support the school, but to tell our friends and neighbors, hey we have arrived, and hey, we kept up with the Jones’s.
In doing so we are duped. We don’t ask about the efficient use of a college’s money (our money), we don’t look at budgets or building plans. We go to colleges with our hands out and on our best behavior begging for admission and what aid we can receive. We don’t hold the college accountable for the education it provides or for much else.
Just like with health care we are incapable of acting as consumers demanding efficiency, quality and value.
There is no reason for college costs to escalate beyond general inflation, to pay professors who write books and run consulting business $100,000 or more to teach a few hours a week. There is no reason to pay a $1 million a year to a college football coach or a college president for that matter (in the absence of solid performance measures).
Aren’t we stupid, we put limits on local community school spending to keep our taxes low, and meet budgets yet we deal with college costs by adding $7 billion more to the federal deficit?
What is most scary about all this is not that we are ignoring the problem, but that so many people buy into the idea that simply throwing government money are something, money we don’t have, accomplishes anything. Hey, it’s an election year, we all know that, but if we continue to be so gullible with this type of proposal, we have no right to complain. More money to pay for exorbitant charges is very likely to encourage increasing those charges, not the reverse. This is no different from when we changed health insurance from paying physicians with a fee schedule to paying on a reasonable and customary fee basis – escalating fees simply raised the fees allowed for payment…surprise, surprise!