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College cost, enrollment decline are systemic problems

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The Appalachian Online

Recent reports confirm many colleges across the country are having difficulty enrolling a sufficient number of students.

A Sept. 18 survey done by Gallup in conjunction with Inside Higher Education found 61 percent of surveyed colleges had not met the May 1 deadline for full class enrollment. All but 5 percent of the college directors surveyed had concerns about enrollment goals.

The problem extends to some smaller schools in the UNC system, specifically several historically black universities, according to The Daily Tar Heel.

This trend of declining enrollment fits in well with other trends, particularly the rise in tuition and increased student loan debt.

In North Carolina, tuition has risen about 35 percent since 2008, and there are many other states that have seen even more dramatic increases, according to the College Board.

The barriers to access of higher education have prompted numerous negative results. Many individuals have begun to question the value of a college education, given the high cost and the perception that college graduates only fair slightly better in the job market.

One could point to a number of factors behind the cost, but it is clear the problem is systemic, and addressing it will require an examination of numerous costs.

The well-documented rise of administrators at universities has been one such contributing factor. Over the past several decades, the rate of administrative growth has been staggering, with universities collectively adding 517,636 administrative positions between 1987 and 2012, according to the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

This development has contributed not only to higher costs, but also the redefinition of higher education. Increasing the number of administrators naturally leads to an increase in costs, and therefore higher tuitions.

Administrative growth is certainly not the only cause of heightened tuition. Other contributing factors, such reduced support for education from state governments and the public also play a role. The larger point is that it is the whole higher education system that needs to be looked at and not just small, isolated parts of it.

Now it is more important than ever that this problem be taken seriously. Decisions about access to college affect the lives of so many people, from those who cannot obtain access to those struggling with student loan debt.

As difficult as things are – even for college graduates – education remains important both as an end in itself and as a means for advancement. Addressing the enormous problem of cost and access, and the effects of these factors on enrollment, needs to be treated as a much more urgent priority.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

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  • A

    AAUPOct 9, 2014 at 10:05 am

    The following is an excerpt from the report the ASU chapter of AAUP report on the expansion of administrative costs last year (this report is available on our Facebook page, AAUP Appalachian–https://www.facebook.com/aaup.appalachian — in the “notes” section):

    “In 2011, there were seventeen positions with ‘Provost’ or ‘Chancellor’ in the title (excluding the Chancellor). These included the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, three Vice Provosts, three Vice Chancellors, seven Associate Vice Chancellors, and two Assistant Vice Chancellors. Total salaries for these positions jumped more than 350% to $2,420,382 in non-inflation adjusted dollars.

    “(…) For 2012, the official data was not fully available to us. In the fall 2012 BD 119, there are eighteen positions at this level, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, three Vice Provosts, three Vice Chancellors, eight Associate Vice Chancellors, and three Assistant Vice Chancellors. Aggregate salaries are $2,643,075, an increase of 12.5% over the preceding year. In addition, three new executive positions were created to be filled for the 2013-14 year. These are the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Compliance, and the Special Assistant to the Provost. It is likely that these three positions will raise the salary base of executive administrative positions by another $500,000. The number of positions will increase to 21.

    “In short, the data suggest that from 1990 to 2013, vice chancellor positions will have increased from 7 to 21, and total salaries for them from about half a million dollars to close to three million dollars, a 500% jump. Upper administrative pay growth has outstripped teaching load growth, the number of full-time faculty, state support for the university, inflation, and almost any indicator except tuition growth, which suggests an accelerating burden on parents and students to support an increasingly costly and cumbersome upper administrative caste.”

    Reply
  • M

    Michael C. BehrentOct 9, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Excellent piece, Kevin. You’re absolutely right to raise these issues. The way that students have been asked to foot the bill of the war on higher education has gone underreported. We need more discussion about this, we need more people expressing their views about these problems. Keep up the good work.
    In addition to the issues you raise, I would also point out the (in my mind, central) problem of the ideologically-driven disinvestment from public institutions and social support. See, for instance, this recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4135.
    Again, keep up this important work. Your voice is needed!

    Reply