Myths about Higher Education

December 13, 2013

There is a systemic crisis in higher education, says Tom Lindsay, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Higher Education.

Rising tuition costs, heavy student-loan debt, poor student learning and administrative bloat indicate a widespread problem in higher education. Those problems will never be fully addressed until certain myths about higher education are addressed.

Among the myths identified in the study:

Myth: In Texas and nationwide, tuition had to rise to make up for state cuts in higher education.

  • From 2000-2010, Texas higher education funding fell 10 percent.
  • But average tuition collected jumped 115 percent; fees rose 61 percent.
  • In truth, there have been mild decreases in legislative funding accompanied by wild increases in university spending.

Myth: Possessing a college degree guarantees you've learned something.

  • The statistics on student learning are frightening.
  • A 2011 study sought to measure what undergraduates learned after four years of college.
  • They found that at least 45 percent of students showed no statistically significant improvement in performance during their first two years of college, and 36 percent showed no significant learning improvement over four years.

Myth: The effort to craft $10,000 college degrees is impossible.

  • Not so. Over a dozen Texas public universities offer degrees for $10,000.
  • After a challenge by Governor Rick Perry, Texas A&M-San Antonio partnered with Alamo Colleges and high schools to offer a four-year bachelor's degree for a total of $9,672, not including the cost of books.

Myth: Administrative costs have remained steady, and have not contributed to skyrocketing tuitions and student debt.

  • In reality, administrative expenses have skyrocketed.
  • Adjusting for inflation, from 1947 to 1995, university spending increased 148 percent overall, but administrative spending increased by a staggering 235 percent.
  • Instructional spending increased only 128 percent, less than the overall rate of increase.

Source: Tom Lindsay, "(Not) Cheaper by the Dozen: 12 Myths about Higher Education's Cost and Value," Texas Public Policy Foundation, December 2013.

 

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