Analyzing Costs in Higher Education: What Institutional Researchers Need to Know

Analyzing Costs in Higher Education: What Institutional Researchers Need to Know

Analyzing Costs in Higher Education: What Institutional Researchers Need to Know

Analyzing Costs in Higher Education: What Institutional Researchers Need to Know

Synopsis

This is the 106th issue of the quarterly journal" New Directions for Institutional Research,"

Excerpt

Perspectives drawn from the economics of higher education
reveal the many dimensions of higher education costs
.

1
The Economics of Higher Education:
Focus on Cost

Paul T. Brinkman

Perhaps at no time in our history has the subject of higher education costs had a higher profile than at present. From homes to state capitols to the halls of Congress, those costs have become an issue, even a contentious one at times as the work of the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education (1998) clearly demonstrates.

For a long time, our national strategy was to find ways to help students meet the costs of attending college, whatever the magnitude of those costs might be. the gi Bill and Social Security programs that were major sources of funding for students in the 1950s and 1960s, the explosive growth of federal student aid in the 1970s and of state student aid in the 1980s, and federal tax credits in the 1990s all represent the enormous effort that has been made to help students afford higher education. Through their own student aid programs, colleges and universities have also played a major role in helping with the financial burden for some students.

Despite this very considerable effort, the perception in recent years has been that we are falling short of our goal. Accordingly, attention has shifted. We as a nation are still actively engaged in trying to find more money to support students and to find new ways to help families save for college expenses, but we are now looking intently at the other side of the equation as well, at costs incurred by colleges and universities, or supplier costs. the public is asking whether those costs are out of control and what the government's role has been and should be in this matter.

This is hardly a new pattern in our social and economic life. Arguably any significant component of our personal or collective budgets that grows faster than the average rate for other things we buy will eventually be . . .

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