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Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much Hardcover – January 1, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Richard Kent Vedder is a professor in the department of economics at Ohio University. His op-ed pieces have appeared in such papers as the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Washington Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Christian Science Monitor. Vedder has written several books including The American Economy in Historical Perspective (Wadsworth, 1976) and Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America (coauthored with Lowell Gallaway) (New York University Press, updated edition 1997).

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Aei Press (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0844741973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0844741970
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,575,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Richard Vedder's collection and analysis of information regarding college costs and quality is an excellent exercise of statistical work. If, however, you're not familiar with stats, or just don't like them, you may want to find another book on the subject.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
The market for college tuition suffers from the same problems as that for healthcare - the large impact of third-party payors (eg. government, scholarship discounts makes consumers far more indifferent regarding costs than they otherwise would be. Vedder also should have mentioned that comparing quality has also been difficult in both markets, and that suppliers are rewarded for their errors ("rework" in healthcare, increasing time to graduation due to lack of course availability). Other problems include admitting those unqualified, and high drop-out rates.

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.
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2 Comments 28 of 33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Vedder's book and insights reaffirm the issue facing both our system of higher education and our state and local governments - how to pay for the growth of our post secondary education system and prepare students to become productive and qualified workers.
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.
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