Monday, January 02, 2017
The Inevitable Question from Relatives
Part of the pain of inevitable questions is that they usually include a recognizable grain of truth. My relatives’ question did. And as someone who will start footing tuition bills sooner than I want to admit, they had a point.
Would they ask you how those faculty salaries and teaching loads and research value to the nation compare to your own? Are there adjuncts? Did the parents choose the place based on the student-faculty ratio? On the quality of individual, well-paid profs? (I have no idea if those places get in a bidding war for new faculty. I do know that our faculty can and do move for money and location, but the increases are not huge.)
But don't ignore sports. Even a low-cost program is quite expensive, but supposedly paid back by attracting HS athletes who want to keep playing. (I have no idea how my CC justifies its athletic program, but I can see the small college argument.)
I had this conversation with a guy on the plane the other day, and I observed that there's a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is to ask a question: Is he willing to pay for his daughter's expensive private school tuition? He said yes. That's part of the reason private schools cost so much: People are willing to pay.
Even at fairly small schools, athletics have taken on an increased importance. My first f-t teaching job was at a small school in West Virginia. When I was there, the school had a very limited set of intercollegiate athletics programs--soccer (men only), basketball (men only) and track (men & women). The soccer field had no scoreboard and no permanent seating. And virtually all the events occurred within West Virginia--travel was limited. Today, the school has 20 intercollegiate athletic programs (10 for men, 10 for women), and (according to a friend and colleague there) nearly half of the students participate in an intercollegiate sport. The football team regularly travels to fairly distant schools (9-12 hour bus trips) and has become something of a small-college football power. My guess is that, while enrollment has gone from about 800 in the year I taught there to about 1100 now, the athletic budget has increased by at least a factor of 10. And a fair amount of the school's fundraising over the years has gone to building new athletic facilities.
I don't think this is necessarily typical, but it's also almost certainly not all that unusual.
Part of the growth was driven--entirely appropriately--by Title IX; there was never much excuse for having no (or really limited) opportunities for women (relative to those available to men). But part of this is also a change in the way in which schools perceive--and market--themselves.
Dead Dad: I hope you would be counseling all your family and friends on the wisdom and benefit of a solid 2+2 plan. One of the main reasons I stay in higher ed is that I know I'll have to pay for college some day and I'd like it to be free for my son like it was for me. If I worked at a CC, you bet your sweet bippy unless he got a free ride somewhere else he'd do 2 very organized years, get his AA and then transfer.
I think I even saw a link somewhere that said that the cost of education, corrected for inflation, had NOT increased. It's just that our wages haven't increased at the rate that inflation has, so we've able to buy less (i.e., we've got declining real wages)