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Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much Hardcover – January 1, 2004
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To simply forward Vedder's conclusion, the rising cost and dropping quality of college education is due to, ironically, alumnus donations and government subsidies, and lack of market stimuli (although higher education is protected from these for the sake of improving quality).
Although the use of tables, graphs, and other statistics is very pronounced- sometimes too easy to get lost in- there are occasions when there just isn't the specific number that would tie everything together. There is a point where Vedder is attempting to describe a regression line, and mistakenly describes a kind of logarithmic function, by using a percentage of a variable instead of a percentage of a constant (the constant, even if you notice it's missing there, doesn't appear to be anywhere else). It also seemed to illustrate a very important point, and it's regretable that the point is so hard to grasp.
This example is the worst I could find in the book. Such as it is, Vedder's book is good if you're interested or patient enough regarding the number-crunching; most of it is coherent and makes sense easily enough. His theories rest solidly on the evidence, and his perspective will resonate with those of you who believe the government is too wasteful and/or corrupt to be handling the schooling of the young.
Probably, the best use for this book will be as a source of numbers in debates concerning higher education, as Vedder goes to considerable length to crunch them for the reader.
One problem with the book is that Vedder concentrates too much on tuition costs. Tuition hikes are a result of both increased costs and shifting funding sources - since the latter is extraneous to any issues of spending, it simply confuses the issue. Vedder's efforts would be more useful if he had instead focused on trends in inflation-adjusted costs/fte.
"Research" is often cited as the reason for increased college tuition - however, Vedder points out that much of it is trivial, and those undertaking it generally receive grants to offset the costs. Regardless, at some point, for example, the additional studies of eg. King Lear garner vanishingly small returns.
Vedder's alternatives to publicly funded (high-costs universities) include private institutions (Vedder cites the University of Phoenix (UofP)- however, subsequent reports have found that the UofP has very high dropout rates and questionable marketing practices), community colleges, company-administered examinations (eg. demonstrations of Oracle or Microsoft expertise), and providing aid to students instead of schools (would hopefully better reward institutions providing better attention to student needs - eg.Read more ›
With less than 20% of college costs being covered by tutition, on average, in the U.S. and graduation rates at 4 year colleges (over a 6 year period) in the 50% range and at 2 year colleges (over a 3 year period) below 30%, it is hard to see how the public can continue to subsidize a system that fails to acknowledge its obligation to educate students, not build organizations and infrastructures that are uneconomic.
Unfortunately these issues were clearly oulined in 1998 in "Straight Talk About College Costs And Prices", Report Of The National Commission On the Cost Of Higher Education, January 21, 1998.
Where the Commission said:
"This Commission, therefore, finds itself in the discomfiting position of acknowledging that the nation's academic institutions, justly renowned for their ability to analyze practically every other major economic activity in the United States, have not devoted similar analytic attention to their own internal financial structures. Blessed, until recently, with sufficient resources that allowed questions about costs or internal cross-subsidies to be avoided, academic institutions now find themselves confronting hard questions about whether their spending patterns match their priorities and about how to communicate the choices they have made to the public"
Over the next several years this is a topic that will start to show how little our politicans understand about one our country's most prized assets, and also highlight the fact that our university professors and administrators care much more about their own quality of life than that of their proported customer, the students.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a detailed account - it might be too technical for the layman reader but it is detailed, gives great information and is well researched. Read morePublished 10 months ago by James Knight
Parents are shelling out big bucks to colleges primarily in order to secure a decent future for their children. Read morePublished 19 months ago by fifty50
This is an interesting book, one that runs counter to, e.g., Ronald Ehrenberg's book (Tuition Rising) on the growth in university costs. Read morePublished on June 22, 2010 by Richard B. Schwartz