Where Your Tuition Money Goes

Inside Higher Education publishes figures on expenditures in higher education, confirming what those of us on the inside have known for a long time: the far-above-inflation increases in tuition over the past twenty years have not gone to faculty or anything else involving instruction.

Median Spending Per Full-time Enrolled Student, 2005, by Sector

Sector Direct Instructional Costs Other Educational Costs Non-Educational Costs Total
Private research university $14,134 $11,214 $8,940 $34,288
Public research university $7,255 $4,416 $9,393 $21,064
Private master’s institution $6,577 $8,520 $693 $15,790
Public master’s institution $5,064 $4,620 $1,734 $11,418
Private bachelor’s institution $6,655 $10,598 $1,208 $18,461
Public community college $4,051 $3,976 $1,092 $9,119

The percentage spent on instruction has been going down; the percentage on noninstructional costs has been increasing.  The absolute amount spent on instruction, moreover, has been increasing very slowly, far below the rate of inflation:

Further, across sectors, spending on instruction has become relatively flat, and is increasing at slower rates than in the past. For example, at private research universities, the report finds that the average percentage change in median spending per full-time enrolled student on instruction was 2.2 percent in the period 1987-1996. But in the period 1998-2005, the increase was only 1 percent. (For public research universities, the figures were 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent in those two periods.)

So, where does the money go?

Some goes to student amenities.  My own university has just built an outdoor pool complex that rivals that of any resort hotel.  I’m losing my parking lot to a new student activities center.

Some goes to student services—advisors, counselors, writing centers, etc.—some of which are badly needed, and others of which are a waste of money.

Much goes to administration.  What’s the function of a vice-president? To hire assistant vice-presidents to do his/her job.

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