Stateside: Amidst growing tuition fees, education value remains stable

Nov 26, 2012

Though expensive, the lifetime return of a college education continues to be unequivocal.

On today's show, University of Michigan Vice Provost Martha Pollack and Michigan State University College of Education Dean Don Heller address the long-term value of a college education.

They both say state funding cuts continue to propel tuition increases.

“Our state funding at University of Michigan on a per student basis has declined by 50%,” said Pollack.

According to both Heller and Pollack, this is part of a broader national trend, but they say Michigan has been hit harder than many other states.

“If you look at our tuition growths over the past decade, it has been 5.09%. That is very high growth. But if you take out the amount that replaces what the state lost, you’re left with increases that are 2.3%,” said Pollack.

With no future promise of state funding, universities must now reassess their budgets.

“It’s clear that the private expenses are too much. All of us are grappling with making sure that the value of an education is preserved. I’d be wary of the people that are offering silver bullets,” said Pollack.

“After the prior recession, Michigan never did rebound in terms of funding for higher education. We simply have to accept the fact that we’re not going to be getting much more money from the state. That is the new normal we’re dealing with,” said Heller.

Pollack insisted that the long-term value of a college education be remembered and factored into one’s decision to enroll in college.

"There is a crisis. But I do think the public needs to focus on the actual cost of college and not the sticker price. We have put enough into our financial aid that in-state students have seen no increase," said Pollack.

Pollack teaches a course that informs students how colleges build their budgets. Throughout the class, students learn the value of an education and the complexity of a university budget.

Many colleges now offer 'massive open online courses.' Heller says the courses are both cheap and accessible, but they're not the perfect solution to the universities’ many problems.

“The jury is still out as to what impact these will have on higher education. There is a lot of promise in technology but if anyone thinks these will be the solution to help hold down the cost growth of higher education, I don’t think that is the reality,” said Heller.

“For students coming out of the University of Michigan, the 30 year return investment is around $600,000,” said Pollack.

-Cameron Stewart

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