A Matter of Degrees: Improving Graduation Rates In Four-Year Colleges and Universities

In Kevin Carey’s mind, a college education is key to a country’s economic advancement and success in the world. Thus, he is concerned about the lack of increase in college graduation rates. He explains that one of the reasons why college graduation is not increasing in America is lack of sufficient funds. An increase in federal and state student financial aid would enable more students to finish college, advancing them and the future of the country.

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According to Robinson, "a quick review of the facts reveals that American universities often deliver easy, biased, or useless content—at great expense to students, parents and taxpayers. While college still helps many individual students achieve their financial...

According to George Leef, one of the major reasons for the rapidly rising cost of college is administrative costs. Leef cites several statistics to back up this argument, including the fact that college administration levels grew almost 40% in the last several...

Having examined a variety of education issues through the years, Neal McCluskey offers a concise view concerning the details and effects of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA). McCluskey explains that SAFRA aims to offer more government funding to students, while also promising to save money by reduced administrative costs. Skeptical of SAFRA’s ability to increase spending...

"It is constantly reported that the price of attending college is rising. In a time when inflation has been prevalent, what does that actually mean? To put the cost of higher education in perspective, compare it to two of the other important expenses we face: medical care and housing. Between 1987 and 2008, the cost of healthcare increased by 5.0% per year on average and the cost of housing...

Critiquing a New York Times article by Bob Herbert, Thomas Firey believes that college students are not the victims of a society that makes college education difficult. Contrary to Herbert’s claims, college attendance is rising, society is paying more and more of a student’s tuition, and...

"Concordia University is pairing two words that don't often come in contact -- 'tuition' and 'cut.'

The St. Paul school will announce Wednesday that it is lowering its undergraduate tuition and fees by $10,000, or 33.7 percent, to $19,700 for the next school year. It will become the first college in Minnesota to slash its sticker price. But it joins a few others across the country who...

The staff at Forbes.com takes a unique look at reasons why people should consider not going to college. Forbes.com opines that some people would be better off getting more real life experience than sitting in a classroom, investing the money that would otherwise pay college bills, and seeking to learn on their own with the help of internet resources. This article...

In a response to a Forbes.com article suggesting that college might not be necessary, Hill, Hoffman, and Rex argue otherwise. Taking each of the five reasons offered in the Forbes article, the authors use data to demonstrate that college graduates make more than high school...

"Nobody likes unpleasant surprises, but when Allison Brooke Eastman’s fiancé found out four months ago just how high her student loan debt was, he had a particularly strong reaction: he broke off the engagement within three days."

In this article, Vedder addresses the government reduction of student loan rates, but takes the position that this reduction will only continue to add to the problem of rising college costs. In Vedder’s mind, more government aid drives up the demand for college, which in turn causes collegiate institutions to raise their costs. Consequently, the increased costs discourage lower income students...

An overview of the increase in medical student debt, the reasons for it, its effects on students and patients, and ways to reduce the debt.

Vance Fried crunched the numbers and concluded that it is possible to have them at a cost of under $8,000 per year. With many schools charging three, four, five times that amount, that’s a revolutionary idea.

Instead of looking at tuition and salaries, I have examined the debt-to-salary ratio. Student debt captures more about the true costs of college than does tuition alone.

Winters fights the notion that too many high school students are attending college and argues that the U.S. needs to be sending more of its young people into higher education. Contrary to scholars like Charles Murray, Winters believes that underachieving children can be trained to overcome their intellectual setbacks, that college trained workers are in great demand, and that a college...

This brief article explains the inflation levels behind the tuition increases over the past several decades. It also predicts what a student can expect to pay for college in the next few years. Wadsworth believes that the dramatic increases in college tuition are directly attributable to the government’s involvement in the student loan process.

Addressing the increasing debt load piled on college students these days, Bob Herbert blames the government for using federal money to fund enterprises that, he feels, are unimportant rather than using it to help kids through college. Herbert opines that America is driving young people to go to college, but then abandoning them when they try to reach for that goal. A brief rebuttal to Herbert’...

In this article, Dan Lips describes the facets of the congressional SAFRA bill. According to Lips, this bill seeks to eliminate private lenders from the higher education loan process, thus making the government the sole provider of college loan funding. Lips explains the different loans and subsidies that are currently in effect, and argues that the SAFRA bill is liable to increase government...

"The skyrocketing cost of tuition and tough economic times are forcing American families to cut back on college spending.

As families retrench, they are getting more creative in how they pay for tuition, student loan provider Sallie Mae found in a study that it's releasing today. 'Two years ago, families went into their piggy banks and took dollars out of different reserves' for college...

"Colleges and universities want your money. They shroud their avarice in flowing gowns and ivory towers, but they are not cradling knowledge so much as they are selling sheepskin."

This article briefly recounts the "Griggs v. Duke Power" Supreme Court case and the unintended repercussions it caused for the American workforce. According to Will, this case caused many employers to abandon the use of "intelligence...

In this piece about the high cost of college, Neal McCluskey argues that one of the best ways to reduce college expenses is not to increase government regulation of costs, but rather to eliminate the government aid that many students draw on every year. According to McCluskey, reducing government aid would encourage competition, eliminate extravagant spending on campuses, and only encourage...

According to Murray, the high value placed on a college education is the surface reason of why college is so expensive. However, Murray goes one step farther than most by opining that high demand is caused by an overabundance of young people attending college. In Murray’s mind, college should only be for those who have a high I.Q. rate and are able to handle rigorous and challenging academics...

Vedder briefly examines the six key reasons why college costs have increased so drastically in recent years including "rising demand," "lack of market discipline," and "price discrimination." It is his belief that exorbitant college costs can be reduced by the implementation of various overlooked practices. Vedder concludes by implying that reform is needed and coming soon.

In this piece, Robert Martin responds to the new book Why Does College Cost So Much? Martin believes...

The past few years have seen a massive investment in the federal Pell Grant Program. This has translated instead substantial increases in the maximum award, which has gone from $4,050 in the 2006-07 academic year to $5,350 in 2009-10.

Chart or Graph

In the last two decades, college textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation but have followed close behind tuition increases. Increasing at an average of 6 percent per year, textbook prices nearly tripled from December 1986 to December 2004, while tuition and fees increased by 240 percent and overall inflation was 72 percent.

"It is constantly reported that the price of attending college is rising. In a time when inflation has been prevalent, what does that actually mean?"

"Sixty-six percent of all undergraduates received some type of financial aid. For those who received any aid, the total average amount received was $9,100."

"In 2008, average debt of graduating seniors with student loans was $23,200—up 24 percent from $18,650 in 2004...."

"Chart 2 shows the average yearly amount students borrowed, adjusted for inflation."

This chart demonstrates the income difference in select states between those with a bachelor’s degree and a high school diploma. The difference between the two categories is anywhere from 47-147%.

Figure 10 plots percentage changes in combined verbal and quantitative GRE scores against percentage changes in total taxpayer-funded aid per FTE (full-time equivalent). It also plots the change in the percentage of bachelor’s degree holders taking the GRE since 1985.

"Economists predict the cost of attending state colleges will soar to $120,000 by 2015. Currently over $40 billion in student loan debt has forced many former students into financial bondage or even bankruptcy."

"Remediation: Too many students need it, and too few succeed when they get it."

Thus, it would seem that demand for college education has grown along with its cost.

"Graduation odds are especially low for students who are African American, Hispanic, older, or poor."

"Too few students graduate. For part-timers, results are tragic — even when they have twice as much time."

"Take a typical public research university that charges in-state tuition of $10,000 per student (see Table 3 for a list of such schools and their prices) and receives a state subsidy of $12,000 per student. The difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition is a good proxy for the subsidy for instate students."

"The cost of higher education has been rising at a remarkable pace over the last several decades."

"29% of college grads work in high school-level jobs, including ticket-taker, barista, and flight attendant. ..."

"By any measure, for-profit colleges account for a disproportionate share of student-loan defaults."

The dark blue line on the chart is the amount in billions of dollars spent on Pell Grants each year. And it’s clear that the large increases in the grant over the past few years have been met with near exponential growth in the overall cost.

"The most striking point here is that university spending per student is increasing in real terms, most rapidly in the area of administration."

"Chart 1 shows the percentage of all full-time undergraduates who received student loans, broken down by the type of institution...."

Despite the high cost of college, studies often demonstrate that a minority of students are truly able to attain a proficient literacy level.

As itemized in Table 1, the average private undergraduate college has net tuition revenues—sticker-price tuition and academic fees minus tuition discounts (often called institutional scholarships)—of $13,515 per student per year, plus $7,292 per student per year in donations and endowment income.

Chart graphs reasons for going to college.

Students are wasting time on excess credits and taking too much time to earn a degree. Staying in school longer doesn’t significantly increase students’ chances of graduating.

"The cost of higher education has been rising at a remarkable pace over the last several decades."

"Figure 1 shows the inflation-adjusted growth in total taxpayer funding of higher education, which rose from roughly $108 billion (measured in 2010 dollars) in 1985 to $264 billion in 2010, a 144 percent increase."

"What are the constituent parts of the total, and how did they change over time? The trend lines for all components are laid out in Figure 2."

As Figure 5 illustrates, expenditures have gone up considerably over the past 25 years, rising from $577 to $1,068. When examining what they are ultimately required to pay, taxpayers have not sloughed off the burden of financing higher education, and that burden has grown substantially for every individual who pays taxes.

"Notably, universities actually have more full-time employees devoted to administration than to instruction, research and service combined."

Analysis Report White Paper

This report explains how student eligibility is determined for various loans, grants, and work-study programs, and also gives details as to what percentage of aid those in public, private, and other higher education institutions are receiving.

"Almost everyone agrees that colleges have become increasingly costly to attend and are a growing burden on society to finance. Rising tuition costs threaten the ability and desire of students to attend college. Are there things that can be done to significantly reduce the cost of college? The answer is emphatically 'yes.'"

In Kevin Carey’s mind, a college education is key to a country’s economic advancement and success in the world. Thus, he is concerned about the lack of increase in college graduation rates. He explains that one of the reasons why college graduation is not increasing in America is lack of sufficient funds.

"A significant reason for the administrative bloat is that students pay only a small portion of administrative costs. The lion’s share of university resources comes from the federal and state governments, as well as private gifts and fees for non-educational services."

"Higher education has never been more expensive. The price of attending a public university doubled, after inflation, over the last two decades, and family income and student financial aid haven’t kept pace. As a result, students have no choice but to borrow, and more college students are borrowing more money than ever before."

"The higher-education industry is heavily subsidized by the federal government. These subsidies play a significant role in the high profitability of the industry and represent a massive transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to the industry."

"According to unpublished data obtained by The Chronicle, one in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default. The default rate is higher for loans made to students from two-year colleges, and higher still, reaching 40 percent, for those who attended for-profit institutions."

"[W]e explore the origins of federal subsidies for higher education and its rapid growth since the 1960s. Following that we focus on the harmful effects of higher education subsidies. Those effects include education cost inflation, increased regulatory control of colleges and universities, and huge fraud and waste in student aid programs."

"It is commonly asserted, especially by people within higher education, that the American Ivory Tower is strapped for cash and tightfisted taxpayers are to blame. Taxpayer support for postsecondary education has long been in decline, this narrative goes, and has forced schools to continually raise tuition to make up for the losses."

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, it should heed Friedrich Hayek’s warning that democracy is 'peculiarly liable, if not guided by accepted common principles, to produce over-all results that nobody wanted'—in this case, higher tuition costs at our nation’s colleges and universities.

For many students, the potential of a larger income is a great incentive for earning a college degree. Enrico Moretti acknowledges that many studies do demonstrate the increased earning potential that higher education brings, but he questions whether or not the wage difference between high school and college graduates is as big as it seems. Moretti’s study delves into cost of living rates and...

Addressing the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), Krista Kafer encourages Congress to make some much needed reforms in federal college tuition financing. Her article explains details behind the HEA and opines that this piece of legislation has actually driven up college costs and placed an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer.

The past year saw intensified discussion about almost everything connected with higher education, but especially the increasing cost of attending college and the worth of a college degree, graduation rates, what the impact of the massive open online course (MOOC) will be, and various takes on 'disruption.'

This study takes a look at the correlations between subsidized higher education and productivity levels. Sahin comes to the conclusion that subsidies help to increase college enrollment, but at the same time they cause students to be less motivated, a fact which subsequently results in lower academic achievement.

This piece takes a look at the benefits people (and society) stand to gain from attending college, including increased wages, better health, increased tendency to volunteerism, and a decline in unemployment. From this information the compilers conclude that greater investments in higher education would be beneficial to the United States.

Leef describes how almost all Americans have been sucked into thinking that college is necessary in order to get a decent job. Leef believes that this attitude has been fostered by the lowering of academic standards in colleges in order to increase revenue for those same institutions.

Vedder’s lecture describes his opposition to high amounts of federal aid being poured into college institutions. Altogether, Vedder believes the college industry and the public at large would be better served if the government stayed out of higher education as much as possible.

Martin believes that there is a disconnect between those who control the college and those who use the services provided by that same institution. This lack of understanding and self-advancement of ideologies on the part of college administration tends to diminish the possibility for reforms that would drive college costs down.

This report provides a comprehensive overview of current college degree completion rates. It draws from data reported by 33 states on both full-time and part-time students at public colleges and universities.

"The recession has pushed large numbers of people who would otherwise be working full-time at secure jobs into postsecondary education. Some are going to college for the first time, some are returning to complete credentials they began years ago, and some are seeking training for new careers."

Video/Podcast/Media

Neal McCluskey comments on the growing nature of online college degrees. He notes the similarities between online learning and the correspondence schools of the past, while also explaining their differences and the widening market for alternative education opportunities.

"One message is delivered relentlessly in American education: Everyone should go to college. And then there’s Charles Murray’s message: Few people either need, or are able to handle, the rigorous liberal-arts training that college is supposed to provide. But this isn’t a death sentence for those who are not academically inclined. Opportunities to enter well-paying professions and lead good...

"It's no secret more Americans are relying on food stamps, but host Michel Martin looks at why those applying for government aid with master's and Ph.D degrees have more than doubled in recent years. Martin speaks with Stacey Patton, a reporter with The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Tony Yang, who is unemployed and holds a doctorate degree."

This chart provides some dramatic figures about the various components involved in driving up the cost of college.

McCluskey explains the history behind the SAFRA legislation and describes its implications for the taxpayer. According to McCluskey, the main goal of SAFRA is to run student lending directly through the federal government and then apply the savings to Pell Grants. While the plan sounds good on the surface, McCluskey notes several hidden costs that this legislation will eventually produce.

In this podcast Murray suggests that it would be wiser for Americans to emphasize vocational certifications rather than four-year college degree as a job requirement. Murray believes that higher education is far too prominent in American life, and suggests that this mentality forces young people into a mold that many are not meant to fulfill.

In this video Charles Murray argues that too many kids attend college these days. He believes that every child has specific abilities, but not all of those abilities fit into the realm of college. Thus, in Murray’s mind, children should not be made to feel like failures if they do not attend college, and society should begin to get away from the idea that college...

"Richard Vedder, Chris Matgouranis, Michael Koslen and Jordan Shirkman discuss the likelihood of a Tuition Bubble in higher education."

Given the current economic trends and the rising cost of higher education, this 20/20 report suggests that many students would be better off finding less expensive forms of training in the vocational world. This news clip portrays the stories of several college graduates who are burdened with debt and unable to find jobs that justify the cost of obtaining a college degree.

"Everyone knows that people who graduate from college earn more than those who don't. It's also widely understood that technology drives economic growth, and university research drives technology. Finally, it seems clear that in a rapidly evolving world workers will need to transform their skills, and higher education provides the means to do so. In light of all...

"The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism presents the Fall 2010 Pope Lecture: It is often said that a process that cannot go on forever, won't. Over the past few decades, college and graduate tuitions have climbed much faster than the rate of inflation and the growth of household income, with the difference being made up by debt taken on by students who...

President Obama wants the United States to lead the world in college attainment by 2020.

"Rising at a faster rate than even health care costs, the price of college is skyrocketing into the stratosphere. In The Revenue-to-Cost Spiral in Higher Education, economist Robert E. Martin posits that the problem is rooted in the ability of most colleges to succeed by maximizing their prestige rather than their profits, resulting in their spending...

"President Barack Obama has declared that his administration aims to make college affordable to everyone by greatly expanding government aid to middle class families. The Washington Post says that Obama's higher education proposals, which include creating a brand new Pell Grant entitlement, 'could transform the financial aid landscape for millions of students while...

"This year 3.2 million students are expected to graduate from high school and of those, roughly 70 percent will go on to get a college education. But with two-thirds of college graduates carrying debt—and the average student loan debt topping $20,000 dollars—is a college degree worth it? What does it get you in today's global economy?"

"Tuition keeps rising and student loans are crippling the future of so many young Americans. What is going on here? Student loans for college are largely a creature of federal intervention. Decades ago, politicians decided that it would be good to have more people go to college, and they created a system of grants and subsidized loans to make that possible."

"President Obama has called for the United States to have 'the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020.' The goal is lofty, but is simply having more college graduates really that important? And will significantly increasing federal student aid actually make college more accessible, or will it worsen the tuition inflation that has run...

Primary Document

Gillen’s testimony before the Senate includes information concerning which Americans receive Pell Grants and how much of a student’s tuition they generally cover. Gillen encourages the government to give more money to Pell Grants and less to student loans, believing that the latter only serve to drive up tuition costs and line the pockets of higher education administrators.

"In the last two decades, college textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation but have followed close behind tuition increases. Increasing at an average of 6 percent per year, textbook prices nearly tripled from December 1986 to December 2004, while tuition and fees increased by 240 percent and overall inflation was 72 percent. The cost of textbooks as well as supplies as a...

Many students rely on federal financial aid in order to pay their way through college. Much of that financial aid has its roots in the Higher Education Act of 1965. As the amended form of the Higher Education Act of 1965, this bill portrays the legal details behind such things as Pell Grants, federal loan programs, and other elements relating to American college students.

"What will you need to succeed in the job market of tomorrow? In an increasingly competitive world, the best advice for jobseekers is to develop new skills. Education is a good way to develop skills—and it may lead to better employment prospects and higher earnings. But opportunities for secure, lucrative careers also exist for workers who prefer to acquire skills...

In his testimony before the United States Congress, Richard Vedder contends that the proposals to increase Pell Grants and bring all student loans under the authority of the government could have serious unintended consequences for both the student and the country at large. Some of these consequences include hiked tuition costs and a rising national debt. Vedder warns that while these...

According to the House Committee on Education and Labor, SAFRA:

  • "Invests the bill’s savings in making college affordable and helping more Americans graduate
  • Provides reliable, affordable, high-quality Federal student loans for all families
  • Prepares students...

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