Yikes!

College tuition and fees have risen by 893 percent since 1980, nearly five times the 179 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index and almost twice the increase in medical costs. Many colleges and universities plan tuition hikes for fall 2013.

Not everyone wants a cheap, no-frills degree

Some college students will choose a cheap, no-frills degree, but others will pay more for the “college experience,” which includes sports teams and student activities, writes a university provost.

But most students aren’t paying the full cost of their university education/socialization. Higher education is heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

Colleges hit tuition pushback

Nearly half of colleges and universities expect enrollment declines, according to a Moody’s survey. Tuition growth is slowing too. With years of depressed family income and “uncertain job prospects for many recent graduates,” fewer students are willing to pay high tuition at non-elite colleges.

Veterans fight for in-state tuition

Veterans are having trouble using the GI Bill to pay the full cost at state colleges and universities. New rules say vets can collect up to $17,500 a year at private colleges but only the cost of in-state tuition at public institutions.  With frequent moves required by military service, some vets can’t qualify as in-state students.

State funding cuts fuel for-profit growth

With state funding often failing to keep up with enrollment growth, many community colleges have wait-listed would-be students rather than raising tuition, concludes a U.S. Treasury report. That’s pushed students to for-profit colleges, which charge much more but provide the classes students need.

Trendy vs. truth: Can the university survive?

If universities aren’t going to teach truth, beauty, knowledge or reasoning — and they can’t guarantee liberal arts graduates will earn enough to pay their debts — something’s got to give, writes Victor Davis Hanson on PJ Media.

A fourth of liberal arts courses are trendy time wasters, writes Hanson, a classics and military history fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and an emeritus classics professor at Fresno State. Students don’t learn a body of knowledge. They don’t master inductive reasoning and empirical objectivity. They don’t learn to write clearly.

(Trendy classes) tend to foster the two most regrettable traits in a young mind — ignorance of the uninformed combined with the arrogance of the zealot. All too often students in these courses become revved up over a particular writ — solar power, gay marriage, the war on women, multiculturalism — without the skills to present their views logically and persuasively in response to criticism. Heat, not light, is the objective of these classes.

. . .  college is intended as a sort of boot camp for the progressive army, where recruits are trained and do not question their commissars.

Vocational and technical colleges “are upfront about their nuts-and-bolts, get-a-job education,” he writes. They don’t pretend to teach humanities.

 Yes, I am worried that the University of Phoenix graduate has not read Dante, but more worried that the CSU Fresno graduate has not either, and the former is far more intellectually honest about that lapse than the latter.

Federal aid allows colleges to keep hiking tuition, leaving students deeper in debt. Professors complain that “grade-grubbing” students won’t take their esoteric courses. Why should they? Hanson asks.

. . .  does the computer programming major at DeVry take an elective like the Poetics of Masculinity to enrich his approach to programing? Does the two-year JC course on nursing include an enhanced class like “Constructing the Doctor: the hierarchies of male privilege”?

As a young professor, I used to believe in the value of a universal BA that would teach truth and beauty to the masses. I still do, but mostly as instruction apart from the university that now has very little to do with either beauty or truth.

Meanwhile, the economic value of a humanities degree is questionable. Most studies say a liberal arts bachelor’s degree is worth the investment, but how long will that be true? “I am reluctant to make the argument for the humanities on the basis of financial planning, but then the humanities are not quite the humanities of 50 years ago.”

Hansen suggests a national test in math and verbal skills and knowledge for a bachelor’s degree like the bar exams for law graduates. Someone who’d skipped college could take a longer version of the bachelor’s exam.

Most college students pick what they think are practical majors. Business administration is the most popular college major, according to the Princeton Review. Also in the top 10 are psychology, nursing, biology, education, English, economics, communications, political science and computer and information science.

4 more years: What’s ahead for higher ed?

What’s ahead for higher ed in the next four years? President Obama pledged to link federal aid to colleges’ willingness to cut the rate of tuition growth, but was that just campaign rhetoric?

California community colleges will use new tax revenue to add classes and reduce wait lists.

Florida may raise tuition for non-STEM majors

Florida wants more engineers and scientists. Would-be poets, actors and anthropologists? Not so much. A state task force has recommended lowering university tuition for STEM majors while charging more in humanities and social sciences, reports the Sun Sentinel.

It usually costs more to offer science and engineering classes, but it’s worth it, says Dale Brill, who chaired the task force for Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida used to pay 75 percent of the cost of educating students in public colleges and universities, but that’s dropped to less than 50 percent in recent years because of the weak economy, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Catholic schools learn to compete with charters

Tuition-free charter schools now enroll more students than Catholic schools, writes Sean Kennedy in City Journal. But Catholic schools are learning to compete in order to survive.

These days, expenditures on lay teacher salaries and repair of dilapidated buildings have blown up the price tag at Catholic schools to three times the rate of inflation. In nominal dollars, per-pupil costs nearly doubled between 1998 and 2010, from $5,600 to $10,800; average tuition for incoming ninth-graders at Catholic schools more than doubled, from $4,300 to $8,800.

Innovative educators and philanthropists are “developing a path forward for Catholic education . . . by borrowing ideas from the best charters, just as charters once borrowed from Catholic schools,” Kennedy writes.

In San Francisco, innovators launched Mission Dolores Academy, which uses “blended learning”— a mix of classroom and online instruction — to individualize instruction while controlling costs.

Students’ specific skills are assessed every day as they do their schoolwork on interactive computers, and lessons are tailored to fit their progress. . . .  the curriculum is mastery-based—students only move on when they master the material. Teachers spend more time in direct interaction with each student or in small group lessons. Online tools collect real-time data on student performance and allow teachers to intervene with students or accelerate the pace of instruction.

The Seattle Archdiocese’s Fulcrum Foundation has opened St. Therese Academy, an elementary with an overwhelmingly African-American student body, using the blended learning model.

Obama, Romney vie for Hispanic college students

In an appeal to Hispanic voters, President Obama’s new campaign ad says Romney would cut Pell Grants, costing Hispanic students $1,000. In an interview with Univision, a Spanish-language network, the Republican challenger called for letting the maximum grant rise with inflation, a larger increase than the president’s proposed 1.5 percent boost.

Both candidates are running Spanish-language ads attacking the rise in college costs. Obama’s ad promises to decrease the  tuition growth rate by 50 percent over 10 years.

At the Univision event at the University of Miami, Romney told students that what they need is “good jobs,” not more loans. “I don’t want to overwhelm you with debts. I want to make sure you can pay back the debts you’ve already got and that will happen with good jobs.”