The business of higher education needs a sweeping review.
During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he deplored the difficulty many graduates have with paying of their college debts, which hamper their lives and weigh down the economy.
Just after that, though, Obama had a simple, short statement for colleges and universities in the country, a statement that was so popular with the Congress members in attendance he couldn’t even finish it before they applauded.
“It’s time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs,” Obama said. “Because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.”
The president didn’t dwell on the topic, and it’s just as well – trying to cut through the morass that is college costs could take until the next State of the Union address. But it is a crucial topic, and not just during a recession. The cost of college affects everything from obvious issues like social mobility, to more indirect consequences like the numbers of graduates who go into public service.
As a major educator, employer and business in Philadelphia, Temple has many more short-term issues and problems than reining in costs. As crass as it sounds, the truth is that Temple and most other universities have passed along the higher price tag to students and their parents for years.
The long-term problem of controlling costs gets neglected, at least as a primary concern. Temple did keep its tuition increase low this past year, but college still costs too much for what it delivers.
Perhaps the biggest reason colleges have trouble keeping costs low is because administrators and educators don’t really know what a university’s primary concern should be, or if it’s possible to scale back one aspect – research, teaching, sports, medicine – without losing their stature.
The fact is that college costs are far too high for what higher education delivers. Until administrators find a way to solve the problem, graduates will struggle under the weight of enormous student loans while vying for jobs that may or may not pay enough to pay back the loans.