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Students & Parents | Costs

Cost of higher ed upsets public

DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN   |  March 17, 2010 by Brooke Huestis

The public is increasingly displeased with colleges often being run like businesses, according to a study released earlier this month.

Still, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said Penn “can be proud that it is an institution that is really mindful of its resources and how to best use them.”

The study was run by the Public Agenda, a non-profit organization, along with the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

“A growing concern” among Americans is that not everyone can access a college education, Graduate School of Education Professor and Vice President of the National Center for Public Policy Joni Finney said.

While Finney said there probably isn’t a large difference between opinions about Penn and about colleges in general, Penn “does a really good job at reaching out to low income families.”

Jon Rochkind, Public Agenda’s director of research and one of four authors of the study, said the results reflect a very clear insight into what the public is thinking.

“Colleges need to be aware that six out of 10 in the public think about this,” he said of colleges’ increases in tuition and steep budget cuts.

Comparing education to another national concern, Rochkind said the study found that 36 percent of Americans believed college tuition prices are going up faster than healthcare costs.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni issued a statement in response to the study.

ACTA acknowledged the problems the study found and urges trustees to become more involved.

David Azerrad, ACTA’s media outreach officer, said it is “time for universities to get their act together.”

While urging universities to cut costs, Azerrad looks at others responsible for increases in tuition.

“Trustees need to do something about this,” he said since they are responsible for the well-being of the schools.

Demanding that trustees “step up to the plate,” Azerrad said the public is rightly “fed up.”

He said the problem is three-fold: the public is concerned, debate remains over how schools can cut costs and those responsible need to be pinpointed.

At Penn, administrators are confident that the University prioritizes education over business issues.

For any institution there is a business side, but colleges must always keep education in focus, Furda said.

Noting that the past two years are the smallest increases in tuition that Penn has seen, Furda explained that although the endowment’s value did drop, it did not lose as much ground as other schools’.

“As a country, we need to invest in education across the board from K-12 to college,” he said.

Despite the public’s skepticism Rochkind said, “more believe in importance in college education.”

The study also found that the belief that a college education is necessary for future success has increased five percent since 2007.

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