New Priorities Driving Up College Tuition–How to Cope

We all know that college tuition is going up all the damned time. It’s not always clear why.

There’s pretty infuriating stuff like Cambridge’s famous $5 million each year wine budget.

The bigger impact is ultimately a much larger staff–this non-faculty staff is drawing gobs of money in lots of universities.

The staff falls into two major groups: student-facing stuff like counseling, student activities, health care on one end; and mysterious back-room bureaucracy on the other. Ultimately, the purely inefficient parts will be allowed to persist as long as demand (students) outpace supply (great schools). <10% graduation rates at some of the top universities mean they could happily jack prices even further and still maintain a large pool of very competitive candidates to choose from. So don’t expect market pressures to force these prices down.

The big takeaway, other than “you’re going to have a lot of loans” (you knew that already) is that priorities are changing. Students actually get less facetime with faculty than they used to–grad students take on more of the brunt. And, frankly, the professors’ teaching quality just plain isn’t improving.

Professors get paid more, get more prestige, power, influence, etc, by doing great research and publishing frequently. They get tenure by their publications at most universities–not by teaching well. So the incentives for them just aren’t to teach well–the incentives are to publish. Until that changes, you’re going to continue to get sub-par teaching for your dollar.

So why bother? Well, there is a way you can cope. It requires tons of initiative.

Priorities shifting away from teaching and towards a bunch of other stuff (including more research) means that a student can no longer win by sitting back and absorbing. We’re starting to see the response emerge already (at least, I am as a recruiter)–the best students are taking charge.

The good news in all this money flying around means that there’s money for you to take on research, projects, etc. Those with the initiative can hunt down labs, professors, etc, and offer help. Those with the cahones will be able to negotiate for credit or pay (or, by golly, both) for the work. The money means cooler research, cooler projects, etc, that look really good in portfolios and teach you a ton more than doing problem sets or regurgitating some reading (for once, a great resume-steroid is actually the best learning tool!).

So, intrepid college-crushers: the way to cope, to win, is to remember that all that time professors aren’t spending teaching you is spent doing research/projects (or drinking all that wine). Go to your University’s webpage, do your homework on what they’re up to. Find the projects you really like, and approach them directly or through their grad students.

There’s little more a professor loves than a competent, excited student that wants to show up and help out. So get to it.

About efogg

CEO of MidTide Media Curator and Considerate at Blogger at
This entry was posted in Balance, How to Crush College, Projects. Bookmark the permalink.

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