Trustees | Costs

Report finds tuition explosion in Big 12

KANSAS CITY STAR   |  December 10, 2010 by Mara Rose Williams

Schools in the Big 12 are part of a “troubling trend” where students pay much more without getting much more classroom instruction, a new report says.

A 19-page report reveals how Big 12 schools fared over a five-year period in terms of tuition cost, spending on instruction and student benefit.

“We have never done a conference-specific report like this before, but we thought that with the Big 12 in the news so much this year because of its reorganization, people would be curious about how these schools are doing off the field,” said Michael Pomeranz with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a nonprofit group promoting excellence and accountability at U.S. colleges and universities.

The report also found that the schools do better than the national average in the number of freshmen who continue after their first year and getting students to graduate, at least within six years.

The soaring cost of higher education is fairly common knowledge, but, according to the council, “it has exploded among Big 12 institutions.”

The spike averaged 21 percent nationwide, but 30 percent in the Big 12.

Some point to expensive technology and keeping salaries competitive. At the same time, spending on administration at some of the conference schools has grown faster than on instruction.

Texas Tech University, the University of Kansas and the University of Oklahoma all doubled their spending on administration in the time studied by the report.

The University of Missouri, meanwhile, reduced administrative spending more than 39 percent while increasing spending on instruction 48 percent.

“If current increases continue, Big 12 schools will expect the average family with a middle school student to spend a full quarter of its annual household income on that child’s college tuition,” the report said.

University of Missouri provost Brian Foster said: “It’s true that tuition has become a much bigger piece for supporting the core function of the institution. But I just don’t see any evidence that students are getting less for their dollars. I don’t buy that the quality of education or the student experience has gone down at all. If anything, it has improved.”

According to the report, KU, which still has the fourth-lowest tuition among conference schools, has seen a 52.5 percentage increase in tuition in the period examined, from 2004-2005 to 2009-2010.

Only the University of Colorado, which is leaving the Big 12, saw a bigger leap, 61 percent.

KU’s tuition is $8,206 this year, compared with MU’s $8,501.

Tuition at MU went up 13 percent in the period reviewed. For the last two years, MU undergrads enjoyed flat tuition as part of a deal between schools and Gov. Jay Nixon. Significant jumps in tuition are expected next year.

The Big 12 fares better than average in graduating about six to eight of every 10 students by six years, the council said.


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