Sorry, No Useful Ideas Here
26 March 2012, 5:18 PM
Your Humble Blogger feels it in him to do some actual blogging, that is, off-the-cuff response to provocation. The provocation is the notorious WP op-ed column Do college professors work hard enough? by David Levy, to which Mr. Round strenuously objects. It’s a work of crap.
The problem, of course, is a serious one: the cost of attending a college without tuition remission or a non-loan grant of some kind has grown, relative to median income, to the point where our national dream of (nearly) any kid having an opportunity to graduate college with a chance at a good life in a respected profession is laughable. It may have always been laughable—certainly, it was always laughable in the aggregate—but its risibility is now difficult to ignore. We want, I think, to keep that as a national dream. I have no idea how we pay for it.
As Dean Dad points out, part of the way we pay for it is by subsidizing it at the levels we used to—part of what’s going on is that tuition has gone up as a percentage of revenue in a lot of institutions, including private ones. Part of it is that health care costs have gone up a lot, as is true everywhere, and that’s a problem we have to deal with everywhere, not just at colleges. Part of it is probably administration creep, despite Dean Dad’s denial.
I’m wondering, though, and I have no idea—I know that community colleges and other commuter colleges have also suffered tuition hikes, and that therefore the competition-by-student-villages of a couple of decades ago isn’t pushing their costs. But at the institution that employs me, it sure seems as if the costs of maintaining the campus have been increasing hugely. The new buildings need tremendous care, the aging buildings need tremendous care, the energy costs have presumably skyrocketed (think of all the classrooms to heat along with the dorms, and I’m guessing that people are less tolerant of hot or cold rooms than they were thirty years ago), the maintenance on all the food courts (that probably haven’t paid for themselves the way they were supposed to) and other amenities, etc, etc. And there’s some multipliers in there—the health care costs go up for the maintenance workers, too. And then there’s IT; I wonder how much per-student the IT budget has gone up in the last thirty years. For at least some of the new student villages, IT is an essential part of maintenance. The laundry in the dorms at the institution that employs me, for instance, is networked to a central database that counts the money they are spending by swiping an ID. The locks on the dorm doors are card-swipe as well, although I think the room doors still have metal keys.
The thing is—YHB doesn’t have an answer to any of this. I mean, yes, returning state support to twentieth-century levels. Start with that. But the rest of it? Dunno. I know David Levy’s plan won’t work. I suspect it wasn’t meant to. But it would be good to find something that does work.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,