ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

The Economy Shrinks but the Tuition Bubble Keeps Expanding

October 30, 2008 by Sandra E. Czelusniak

With reports of negative economic growth, stories about imminent college tuition hikes are also appearing in our major newspapers today. But it does not have to be that way.

In a recent survey by Public Agenda, nearly half of the respondents believed that public higher education needed to be "fundamentally overhauled" and similar numbers believed that they were not getting their money's worth for investment in higher education. Study after study reveal significant knowledge gaps among college students in basic fields like literature, history, math, and science, and many employers complain that recent graduates need remedial instruction in basic writing and problem-solving. Clearly, the ever-expanding price of tuition has not brought a corresponding expansion in student learning; if anything, there seems to be an inverse relationship. In these uncertain economic times, families cannot afford to accumulate another mountain of debt to pay for what is increasingly being seen as an inferior "product."

However, there is hope that a university, with an active and engaged governing board, can re-focus its attention on student learning—without having to raise costs. In ACTA's most recent publication, Show Me, we document how state appropriations cuts can actually be a positive spur for change. The University of Missouri in 2006 identified $20 million worth of savings in administrative expenditures after the state government announced budget cuts for higher education. This streamlining puts the emphasis back on teaching and learning—where it belongs. Perhaps, starting with the trustees, other universities can follow Missouri's example.

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