The Myth of the Four-Year College Degree

Though college is typically billed as a four-year experience, most students actually need much longer to earn a bachelor's degree.

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Another graduation ceremony has come and gone, and Chauncey Woodard is still a student at the University of Alabama. He came to UA in the spring of 2008 after some time in community college, expecting to spend, at most, four years at the school. After being forced to take a semester off in 2010 to save up more money for his education, he expects to graduate in August 2013 at the earliest.

“For me to get my education, I either have to go deep in debt or drag it out like I’m doing now,” Woodard, a construction-engineering major, says. “You get to see a lot of people move on, and you’re still here. That kind of gets to you around graduation.”

Woodard’s not alone in extending his university studies beyond a typical senior year. While undergraduate education is typically billed as a four-year experience, many students, particularly at public universities, actually take five, six or even more years to attain a degree. According to the Department of Education, fewer than 40% of students who enter college each year graduate within four years, while almost 60% of students graduate in six years. At public schools, less than a third of students graduate on time.

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“It’s a huge issue for society,” says Matthew Chingos, an author of Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities. “It’s a huge issue for the individual students who are spending more money on tuition than they need to. The longer they wait to graduate and get a job, those are extra years of their careers when they’re in college and not working and not making money.” Chingos points out that delayed graduation at public schools also affects taxpayers who are subsidizing students’ education.

Reasons for delaying graduation are numerous. For students who choose to participate in co-ops or internships during the school year, it can be tough to fit in all the necessary courses. Overcrowded classes can make it impossible for students to fulfill degree requirements in a timely manner. And the common practice of changing majors midway through college can make a four-year degree impractical.

For schools themselves, there are advantages to shuttling students through efficiently. Four-year graduation rates can affect colleges’ national rankings, which are used heavily in recruiting students. A shorter time to degree also means more students receive an education from a given school, and it can potentially mean a less crowded campus.

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At Purdue University, improving the four-year graduation rate is a priority for administrators. The school hopes to improve its four-year rate from 42% to 50% by 2014 and to 70% in the coming decade. “The biggest thing we can do to lower cost is make sure that every student who wants to finish in four years has the ability do so,” says Tim Sands, acting president of Purdue. “If we can increase our graduation rate and decrease time to degree modestly … we give more students an opportunity to get a Purdue degree.”

In recent years Purdue has launched a battery of exploratory courses across disciplines to help students get a better idea of their interests before they commit to a major. An academic boot camp in the summer before freshman year is aimed at students who didn’t have access to advanced courses in high school to ensure they’ll be prepared for college coursework. The school is even considering switching to a trimester system, which would aim to shorten students’ time to degree by making more courses available during the summer months.

Other schools have also adopted inventive methods to promote graduating in four years. At the University of North Carolina, where the four-year graduation rate exceeds 80%, students must graduate in eight regular semesters to have additional majors and minors recognized on their transcripts.

“We decided that we would embrace the fact that we are a four-year university,” says Bobbi Owen, UNC’s senior associate dean for undergraduate education. “If you look at the statistics, something like 29,000 students applied to be part of the fall entering class in 2012. If there’s that many students seeking 3,900 spaces in a class, if the seniors are graduating, you actually have room to bring in those 3,900 students.”

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With schools focused on getting students through, the national four-year graduation rate has crept upward in recent years, from 34% of the 1996 starting cohort to 39% of the 2005 starting cohort. Still, schools acknowledge that there’s more they could do.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Purdue’s Sands says. He recommends that students take advantage of advisers and career counselors starting in their freshman year so that they can develop a coherent plan for their time in college, whether it be short or long. “Don’t just go semester to semester. Really think ahead. If they do that right off the bat, they’re much more likely to be successful and complete their studies in a reasonable amount of time.”

76 comments
NatalieRoseEuley
NatalieRoseEuley

Most people at my college laugh at graduating in four years. Nobody does it. In fact, if you do, people generally are surprised. When I announced that I had to "slow down" my education because 16 credit hrs/semester to graduate in four years just couldn't happen with my job and other issues, most people supported me because everyone at our college makes that choice. Its the standard to graduate in five or six years. Granted, Im not sure my financial aid can hold up that long, but thats why I have a job to save up for it. :/

KeColl
KeColl

I like how the article "At Purdue University, improving the four-year graduation rate is a priority for administrators." Yay, Purdue. Great job! Their administrators care about students. They don't want their students to be in school forever. Kudos!!


WRONG!!! There has been a HUGE push by the Indiana Commission of Higher Ed to get students out in four years-- they are tying funding to enrollment, persistence, and graduation rates. I know this is pretty much happening nationally, but I can only speak to Indiana--- we are basically being told to graduate our students in four years.

gjewel
gjewel

My son is a student at a CSU and one thing that is also delaying his degree is the addition of MORE graduation requirements like "capstone" classes. He is required to take yet even more classes to graduate and the capstone courses are basic general education class like health, which he has already completed as a basic gen ed class! There is at least a full semester or more of completing more gen ed (aka capstone) classes, which are not in any way relevant to his major. I wonder how much money the University makes from these additional "necessary" graduation requirements.

JosephJaniga
JosephJaniga

Some people, including many I personally know, work at least 20 hrs. per week on top of a full, physical/applied sciences work load. It is called busting your ass. If the average time of completion were 4 years, then the bright, aggressive students would finish in 2-3. As it stands, said students finish in 3.5-4 years. The average is the average for a reason. The driven students will come out on top not only in college, but later in life as well. I don't see completion time as being so much an issue with school as it is an issue with the drive and resilience of the person attending school. Still a good article, however.

edmakan705
edmakan705

3-4 times more money is spend to train an American soldier to go kill for Corporate America and War Street than on a student in the US.

The annual outlay for a prisoner is from $30,000 upwards depending on the state.

The priorities of America are skewed. We spend to much money on killers than students.

Sad.




EdmundSamph
EdmundSamph

What is stupid and really mind blowing is the massive debt that students are being pushed into signing up for when there is no guarantee by the institution that the degree plan they signed up for is the one they will be billed for financially. Instead the schools are milking the students for more money by taking 4 yr plans and turning them into 6 yr plans requiring the students to pay more and more money or get no degree. The schools should be forced to pay the students back for all the over charges they incurred because the schools overcharged by manipulating the courses and required study plans. If you sign up for a 4 yr plan that is all that you should have to pay not 5 or 6 yrs. I was told by Devry U. I could get my degree in Engineering with only 2 yrs worth of courses, after 1 year of courses completed, I was told that it had now changed to 2 yrs and I would not be able to graduate with the degree unless I completed 3 yrs! This "milking" or "churning" is the same thing stock brokers do to get more money out of clients. There should be a law or contract requiring schools to deliver what they promise! If you sued every college or school that does this you would have to shut down most of the colleges or universities in this country! Why has not some smart young attorney taken them to court with a class action lawsuit and forced them to pay back all the money they have extorted out of students as well as the Gov loan programs that have funded this crime? 

jeremy02
jeremy02

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KayT.Williams
KayT.Williams

I think a the 3yr vs 4yr degree debate is stupid. Of course any person in their right mind would opt for a 3 yr degree if i meant they would finish faster, graduate with less debt and have the ability to enter the workforce as equals or continue on to graduate studies. The problem is that systems have not been put into place to give 3yr degrees the recognition they deserve. Personally, I believe the 1st year of college in the US is a big fat waste of time and money. It essentially goes over the same stuff you should have learned all through high school. Bottom line is if people were given the choice with viable options post graduations a vast majority of students would undoubtedly choose to get a BA or BS in 3years. And I agree with a previous poster who stated that employers and grad schools should be far more focused on the learning out comes of a student's degree vs. whether they took 4 or 3 years to complete it.

ronni
ronni

Great points! There are a lot of options out there and not everybody is known of them.  Another question - what about less valued fields of study? Should schools offer majors in areas where there are less opportunities to get back the costs of the education? Should students pay $150,000 to get a degree in social work?

thinktank
thinktank

I worked part-time all through college, sometimes full time, had a social life, was on a couple of academic teams, and easily graduated within three years.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it was hard (at one point I was working all night and going to school during the day) but I did it and my grades didn't suffer. I don't think it's as hard as the folks in this article make it out to be; I think they'd rather stay because college is fun, fun, fun and working in the real world isn't.

straydog
straydog

It's nice to see so many people making sweeping generalizations and judging others based on their own limited experience. You had enough finances to go to school full-time and not have to worry about working at that same time? Awesome, MOST people do not. You knew precisely what career path you wanted to take and didn't take 'frivolous' credits? That's cool everything was laid out for you and you didn't get the whole 'well rounded education' speech from your college. You worked 5 jobs and walked barefoot in the snow to go to college? ...yeah, ok---show me where ANY student can get even just a single job, and you'll have my attention. Gone are the days when students could take a full course load, work PT and still have a life.

This article also doesn't cover one very common reason for taking longer on a degree. COST. Students have limited options to pay for their education. Firstly, a students' financial aid eligibility is determined by this thing called EFC--expected family contribution. It is the number, based on your parents' tax information, that the government expects your parents to contribute towards your educational expenses. This number is used to determine your financial aid eligibility until you are 26 years old (or so was the age back in the late 90s). Now that's all fine and dandy---but what about for students who aren't receiving any assistance from family? Their financial eligibility is still determined by their parents' taxable income. Sadly, this means a LOT of students are being treated as though they have someone funding their education, but in reality they are struggling with it on their own and with few resources thanks to that wonderful 'EFC' number.

So what happens when a student exhausts their options to pay for college? They're working, they've gotten scholarships, they've gotten grants (if possible) and they WANT to take a full course load, but they can't---because the cost is out of their reach. Let me elaborate.. Let's say a student comes in with a high EFC, but are receiving no help from their family, they are working FT  (to pay rent, ect.), have gotten a scholarship but no grants (because of the high EFC), and have taken out a student loan to pay the rest of tuition. That student loan amount is capped based on what year you're in and also whether you are an independent (26 yr old) student or not. When I went to college, the student loans for entering freshmen were approximately $2,500. For a full academic YEAR. Even at a community college, a full-time course load (12 credits), with books, for ONE semester exceeded that. This means that student couldn't take more classes until next year if they have no other means to pay for their education. So what would normally take 4 years, ends up taking 6 or 7.

It's really frustrating seeing so many people place blame on the students, rather than on the colleges. I feel like I keep repeating myself but...how can we expect incoming students, who we do not trust enough to even drink responsibly, to understand the terms, conditions and consequences of lifelong contracts. For that matter...how can we even expect them to know what they want to do right out of HS? Students are NOT prepared for reality with our educational system. Has anyone ever actually received any kind of guidance counseling at their HS or college? I certainly didn't when I went. The college world is very intimidating---moreso for students who come from homes where there is little to no assistance.

Want to ensure students take 4 years to do a 4 year degree? Prepare them. Give them the foundation for success by asking questions and them offering guidance based on those. REAL guidance.


joanna.rook
joanna.rook

Why not look at studying abroad, if you're concerned about how long your degree will take? In the British system, you're told up front exactly how many credits to take each year. If you don't complete the credits necessary each year, you're out. Except in exceptional cases, no one takes longer than 3 years to do their degree (four for some MSc or courses involving study abroad). 

(We're also a lot cheaper than the top US universities, and score pretty well in world league tables for a tiny little island where universities don't tend to have as much cash thrown at them by benefactors)

McGillian
McGillian

For an example of the importance of the College, simply look to America's northern neighbour, Canada. Canada has the highest amount of citizens per capita with post-secondary education (as well as the most with a 4 year college degree)... and in case y'all didn't notice, it was the country in the west that fared best during the global financial crisis and the recession that followed it. 

There were of course numerous other factors, however the fact that the majority of our citizens are more employable and do not have to rely on primary-level jobs helped most the people get through that time with much greater ease than the United States. 

indira
indira

All my friends who are currently working with high pay have done their masters. One should never question the value of education. Education will make us a better human being. I have done my Bachelors of Computer Applications in India.I always used to think what is the use of Harware,Discrete Mathematics and Binary Values in real life but today while working I'm using most of those concepts on job. One should have high goals and dreams regarding achievement of job/career in life. Please invest reasonably on education. There is meaning in spending $100k on Bachelors of Engineering Degree in a good college but spending $100k or $200k on subjects like arts,history,social sciences will never get you any returns.This Great Country needs IT Engineers,Chemical Engineers,Geologists,Doctors,Lawyers,Scientists. American Citizens have to have the best technical education.Future of this Amazing Country is in the hands of its brightest citizens. You can party after you archive your goals.

indira
indira

I really can't understand why americans are afraid of a 4 year degree. If you notice, many people working for top companies in IT,Pharma,Petroleum companies are from Asia. They have come here for Masters and let me remind you..one needs to pay $40k to do masters in USA. Our family friend did masters in Buffalo by taking loan for $40k in Indian Bank. She is currently working in IT Company and earning $80k per annum.She passed out in 2011.She has cleared the debt within 2 years.most of my friends who are on H1b in IT earn $100k-$150kperannum.Its lot of money. American students should stop partying and start taking education very seriously. Asians are very studious which I don't see in americans. Education is top priority. Today most of the high paying jobs are done by foreigners who are immigrants from Asia and Africa. When they can get,I'm sure americans get them too. Please start showing interest in Engineering and Medicine fields. College is a must. The future of America should be in the hands of its citizens.

outerlimitsurvey
outerlimitsurvey

While at first glance a 4-year degree is a poor investment consider that as bad as things are for college grads they are even worse for those without college.  The unemployment rate for college grads now is about 7% while for high school graduates is 24%.  I agree that college will have to change.  It needs to get easier to place out of unneeded core courses and coursework needs to be more flexible and streamlined.  I got my Bachelor's degree 20 years ago and would love to be able to freshen my skills with a Master's but the time and financial demands make it impossible.

zbigkid
zbigkid

The real story here is that the vast majority of 4 year colleges are a huge waste of time, and their costs are not anywhere close to representing any value for a student who wants to graduate without mind-numbing debt.

Its absolutely absurd that any college costs more than $10k per year, and even more absurd that kids come out of school with a $100k or more in debt, and 50% of them are not landing jobs. Colleges are teaching bs theory courses, and not REAL job skills, or critical thinking.  I graduated Purdue with a Mechanical Engineering degree in '85, and the costs per year were around $4000 and my starting salary was $30k. Look at that ratio $4000 vs $30,000.  Now most schools cost upwards of $30k per year, and IF you can get a job, your salary is probably around $50,000. So the ratio is $30,000 vs $50,000. Or for 4 years $120,000 vs starting salary of $50,000. 

Worse if you have anything less than an engineering degree, your starting salaries are lucky to be anywhere close to $50k.  $50k per year for a family of 3 or 4 is poverty level comp.  The typical family in America makes $46,000.  Thats gawd awful !!!!  I made more than that a few years out of college back in the 1980's !!!  Corporations have stripped American's pay and wages down, while increasing profits, and colleges have stripped Americans wanting an education, so what's left is an employee saddled with debt, and no chance to pay a mortgage, buy a car, create a family.  Is it any wonder people aren't able to save for retirement, millions of homes go into foreclosure, and our economy sputters along ????

The 4 year college system is just plain corrupt, and in particular if you consider the millions they rake in from TV and sports, and the subsidization that gos to athelete's many of which don't graduate, and end up back in some low paying grunt job after their sports days are done in school.  US Businesses could be far more competitive if they stopped treating colleges like profit makers, and learned how to work with colleges to build REAL programs that created top level students with REAL skills !!! Far too many purely wasteful 'degrees', and far too low of wages for people who graduate. If the deal was the same as what I graduated with, a $30,000 per year college cost, should net you a starting salary of $225,000.  

And folks, $225,000 puts you smack dab in what used to be a true middle class living. By far you are not rich, but you can afford a home, create a family, and not live paycheck to paycheck.  I'me above that level, and we are not 'rich.'   But the politicians, the arseholes they are, and corporations the greedy bitches they are, want you to believe that a salary of $50k is plenty.  

grammylinnie
grammylinnie

Here's the real myth in 2013:  Getting a 4-yr degree is of no benefit whatsoever in finding a job!

John
John

When I graduated from one of the Big Ten schools with a degree in engineering in 1968, it took me 5 years because of the number of credit hours a semester - the school recommended 17 credit hours a semester.  Right...... most of the people I knew in engineering took either 4 1/2 or 5 years to get their degrees.  Occasionally, you would  find someone who spent every waking moment studying but they were few and far between.  Other degree goal - usually 4 years were enough!

1styearuni
1styearuni

There's too much financial pressure on students from high tuition fees for students to be able to finish in 4 years. Governments and universities need to do more to fund and help students graduate on time.

Nowhere1111
Nowhere1111

4 years? Whatever. It's sad our society and higher education do so little to promote small business. Business classes are oriented to big business rather than owning you own. There are a few entrepreneurial classes but not many. The Vo Technical schools are not very good either. Small business is by far the biggest employer in the country yet we discourage it by our inaction. Very sad

careersatprime
careersatprime

It is really important to have a degree but I think that is just a bonus. You cannot measure the ability of a person based on his/her diploma. Many successful men today haven't finish their studies, it's just a matter of pursuing your dreams. 

TRINITYPREZ
TRINITYPREZ

We should stop talking about "four year college" and "four year degree" and emphasize degree attainment and learning outcomes.  Some students can finish earlier.  Many finish later because of legitimate personal circumstances, money, family, medical conditions.  The "four year" syndrome is an artifact of another era.  To establish benchmarks around a meaningless time yardstick makes no sense, yet everyone from the federal government to U.S. News uses time-in-school rather than learning outcomes as measures of achievement.  Low income students, in particular, and the schools that serve them are treated most unfairly by a time-in-place measure.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patricia-mcguire/low-income-students_b_2421259.html

Jennifer McKague
Jennifer McKague

Too many variables. Depends on the degree, the school, and the students financial, emotional situations and study habits. It took me 3 years to get a two year degree because I took it at a community college, had to work full time and kept having classes cancelled for low enrollment.

Aditya Raj Gupta
Aditya Raj Gupta

Some of the courses they add is totally irrelevant to the desired field or the so called extra electives other than the chosen major.

PiscesStar7
PiscesStar7

Have you talked to the students who worked AND went to school at the same time?  Serving two or more masters (supervisor, instructor, bookstores, bill collectors, landlord, love ones, etc) is a witch...  By the way, the more classes you have the more books you have to pay for.  Some students have had to choose between paying utilities and purchasing a book for class.  Thank God for the new and expanded online classes...the public transportation ride (and subsequent walk) home after the 8p-10p class can be very scary at times. 

GalacticCannibal
GalacticCannibal

The American Dream is an illusion ......In America ....Guns and Bullets have priority over Education.

NatalieRoseEuley
NatalieRoseEuley

And actually, for those of you talking three year degrees, thats crazy talk. Seriously, thats not happening. Thats like saying youll replicate the Empire State Building overnight. Its simply impossible. Im a CS major, and most of my peers are engineering majors. There are some in the sciences, but 300 level liberal arts courses contain maybe 5 people here. But about 70% of the people I talk to dont graduate in four years. Just saying

KeColl
KeColl

@JosephJaniga It is not a simple matter of the student working hard. What you are proposing is that a student can graduate in three years (I'm ignoring the two years because that's absurd). To do so, they would need to enroll in 20 hours-- and really, it's 21 because 2-hour courses are rare, for 6 semesters. There are many issues here: first, in many majors, courses are sequenced. Secondly, many courses have prerequisites attached to them. Thirdly, it would be nearly impossible to schedule these hours because they are bound to be time conflicts. On top of this, many majors require internship hours as well.

All due respect, but I hope you do not have children in college and are pushing them to finish in 3 years.

DarrenLowellScott
DarrenLowellScott

You think that people that take a long time don't have drive? Are you kidding? It takes some serious stones and drive to keep going while being constantly discouraged by the fact that all their friends are graduating on time. When the easiest thing to do is give up, these people continue by pushing themselves. Maybe they have to pay for school themselves but don't get financial aid because their parents pay too much but won't support them through school. So they work 40 hours and then squeeze in a few classes. You are unbelievably stereotyping a demographic that you clearly know nothing about.

jeffrey.zamorano.244
jeffrey.zamorano.244

@thinktank I agree with what you statement but you forgot to mention that students just want to postone their careers as far as they can they take the minimum units per semester and they don't make the most of their time college is easy if you know what your doing

iluvwyatt
iluvwyatt

@thinktank 

What exactly did you major in?

 Try working full time and majoring in a field that actually requires hard work, like science, and get back with us.  

palefloret
palefloret

@straydog  Not just that as one of the commenters above mentioned these schools that after the student has finished a necessary course all of a sudden you need this course.  Community Colleges are notorious for pulling crap like this as well.  That and not offering certain classes and students having to wait until that particular class(es) (which are required no less) is available.

I think that the occupy Wall Street should have encouraged boycotting colleges.  You want these folks to listen don't just have massive walkouts, but mass refunds.  It will light a fire under their asses real quick.

palefloret
palefloret

@McGillian  Canada also focuses on employing home first then outside.  Another factor

PrincessFazi
PrincessFazi

@indira the article isn't about americans being afraid of getting a 4 yr degree it's about the "4" yr degree becoming a 5 or 6 yr degree.

MichaelBecker
MichaelBecker

Wrong.  There's not nearly enough pressure on colleges to reduce their administrative cost, including construction of new facilities.

In the last 25 years, administrative personnel and costs have more than tripled in most university systems - in the University of California system there are more admin personnel than classroom personnel.  Tuition costs are increasing at a factor of 7 greater than the cost of living since 1980 (coincidently, the start of the US Dept of Ed) and the quality of education is going down like a rock.

In addition to administrative cost, the proliferation of useless majors - anything containing the words "studies" or "science" since those programs actually contain neither - suck up money and provide nothing but indentured students who aren't qualified for anything.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@careersatprime While your point is heart felt and understood, the reality is that with the huge numbers of applicants that employers have it is only pragmatic/economical to say we will only hire "BA", "MBA", "JD", "CPA" etc.   When you run an ad for an employee, you are flooded with a zillion resumes.  There have to be ways to sort them out.  It's sad but true.  There are great people who have not completed degrees, but they are in many ways throughout their lives hurting themselves tremendously by not getting the degree.  It is not a bonus, it is a requirement. You are not going to win the fight against city hall on this one.  An exception is the example you cite, follow your dreams, perhaps you meant someone like Steve Jobs ....but those are extremely unusual cases, and yes Jobs did not graduate but that was because he and his family did not have the money (or so I'm told on the not always reliable internet).   I don't know if sleeping on peoples sofas was following the dream or not.  I suspect Jobs would have been successful with a good college education, successful people usually over come obstacles.

John
John

@Aditya Raj Gupta As an example, I firmly believe that for those studying for engineering degrees, they should dump English Composition and substitute Technical Writing as a required elective.  I know they used to think some of the electives helped you to be "well rounded", but because of he cost of college in this day and age "useful" would be a better attribute.

MichaelBecker
MichaelBecker

Given what "educators" and politicians have done to the quality of a college education, guns and bullets have significantly more value than the typical education.  By far.

jeffrey.zamorano.244
jeffrey.zamorano.244

@iluvwyatt@thinktank I agree it can be difficult to work fulltime and major in something like biology physics, biochemistry since these majors have so many prerequistes  but lets be honest not all of the people who are graduating 6 years after they first attended college are majoring in the natural sciences, social sciences are hard to but they are not as demanding most of the 60% of these students are majoring in useless degrees like theater, or kinesiology, majors that will not make them  a lot of money.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@MichaelBecker  Correct on the facilities, not so much on salaries of the teachers.  In fact, many schools are moving their business model to rely more on adjuncts.  Adjuncts get roughly $1500-$3000 per course per semester, with no benefits in my part of the country (mid Atlantic).  Do the math.  If you can replace a full time teacher that teaches five courses each semester with adjuncts you have dumped a lot of salary and benefit costs, and tenure too ($30,000 for ten courses at most is far less than what a full time tenured professor makes).  Where I teach as an adjunct we have not had an increase in five years and they have transitioned the teaching from about 70% full time to about 25% full time.  But they have built dorms, gyms, the whole 9 yards.

Nowhere1111
Nowhere1111

@MichaelBecker WOW! Either incredibly cynical or need to get a better education or both. BTW, if you do spend time in a classroom, open up your mind. You DON'T know everything you 'think' you do.

PriyaPuliyampet
PriyaPuliyampet

@MichaelBecker@notLostInSpaceThe problem with this is that, if notLostInSpace would like to keep his job, he will have to keep handing out those As and keep his lessons easy. Poor student evaluations can kill his career. He could choose to be very honest and, thus, incur the wrath of his students. However, I'm assuming notLostInSpace has to eat at some point. I don't know the culture of his department (this hasn't really been as much of an issue where I work). Poor student evaluations is something I've seen that definitely affects the rigor of courses taught by adjuncts and even assistant/associate professors at some schools/departments. I would highly recommend "The Five Year Party" by Craig Brandon for a look at the author's experience with this phenomenon.

MichaelBecker
MichaelBecker

@notLostInSpace You have my sympathy with respect to attempting to teach students who can barely write (no snark, honest).  If they can't write, they can't think.

Question for you.  How many do you fail?  How many have you told they don't belong in college?  Just curious, not a criticism, I wouldn't last a week doing what you do.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@MichaelBecker You are correct, I made the leap to teachers salaries because most people think the instructors are making huge bucks and would associate them, incorrectly, with administrators (I meant to elaborate on that). Teachers (adjuncts) are making so little that unions are making approaches to adjuncts, talk about a group (university teachers) that historically would have been opposed!

I further agree with Michael that the run up in costs at universities is due to their own decisions that their prices are inelastic, that there is an "arms war" (except instead of missiles and tanks, it is Jacuzzis in bathrooms, fancy gyms, nice apartment living, incredible cafeterias, exotic classes including junkets overseas), and that there is no such thing as too little demand.

Michael is also categorically correct when he argues that students that are not qualified are getting in school. I teach two courses a semester and about 1/3 of them can barely write. While they can espouse ideas and sometimes express critical thoughts, a lot of them just do not belong in college.Society says they should be in college, or the parents, or they just cannot figure out what to do.It is amazing that they are paying $30000 a year to be there.

MichaelBecker
MichaelBecker

That's a total load of crap.

Administrative costs have gone up for one reason.  The availablilty of Federal Financial Aid which administrators view as "free money".  Look at the increase in admin v cost of living.  It's unconsiounable.

UC administrative cost has been out of control for over 20 years and fund raising isn't what they do.  Department after department charged with management of diversity programs, etc.  It's a wasteland and NONE of it has a damn thing to do with a quality education.

In addition, if universities would stop admitting students who require remedial work cost would drop and the overall quality would go up.  Remediation is what Community Colleges are for.

As far as endowments are concerned, most of the named buildings could be torn down and the educational quality would likely go way up.  Universities are sitting on their endowment funds and whining for more state money.

I'm personally living for the day when the state can no longer afford to give the system a nickel and federal funds are long gone as well.  Then maybe we can get back to actually educating students instead of building edifices.

KLWD1111
KLWD1111

@MichaelBecker I'm certain any business, including universities, can tighten up their business practices and reduce costs when forced. However, it's also important to note:  Since 1994 all universities have needed to increase their development and alumni engagement staff which makes up for part of this increase. As UC state funding goes down and tuition costs go up, these staff are essential to raise funds from alumni, the community, foundations and corporations for moneys to provide student scholarships, endowed faculty, student athletics and health services and many of those new buildings. It's easy to see who paid for them - their names are listed on the front. 

MichaelBecker
MichaelBecker

Please note that I said "administrative cost" NOT the cost related to classroom teaching, which would include instructors salaries.

In about 1994 UC sysstem had one administrator for each three instructors.  Today it's one plus admin for each instructor.

With respect to "fixing" the cost of higher education, to paraphrase Shakespeare in Henry VI, "First, shoot all the administrators."  They add nothing but overhead to the pie.