Higher Education: Resources and Finance

By Seymour E. Harris | Go to book overview
3. Costs of higher education vary greatly. A student can get by in a municipal or state institution while living at home at considerably less than $1,000 per year. To some extent discretion is available to a large proportion of students to keep costs at a minimum figure.
4. Prewar tuition has risen only about one-third as much as per capita income and about 40 per cent of the rise of costs, and hence a college education has become a cheap commodity. Trends of income, studies of income of parents of both scholarship and nonscholarship students, improved distribution of income--all these point to capacity to pay higher fees.28 In the late 1950s, however, tuition tended to rise more than per capita income.

In general, the conclusion drawn from this chapter is that capacity to pay higher tuition has grown much more than the tuition charge since World War II. The inference may well be that this is an argument for higher tuition. Indeed, for many it is. But insofar as financing higher education was a burden and an obstacle to entry before the war, it may still be a great burden to many. And even though half the population may not face serious problems, the other half well may. Though it is well to stress the point that a rise of tuition means a much smaller rise of total costs, it is also well to note that higher tuition may be accompanied by rising charges for the remainder of the budget. In so far as students come from families with lower relative incomes in 1960 than in 1940, as might be suggested by the rise in the proportion of college-age population at college, then to that extent the financial obstacles are greater than are so far assumed.

In the public IHL an obvious solution is to charge higher fees and use a large proportion of the additional receipts for scholarships. In this manner, the students who can afford to pay would pay more, and others of ability would get not only a tuition remission but help in meeting other expenses. On paper this seems like an ideal solution. But after discussing this problem with governors, budget officers, and college presidents, I find that in practice there are often difficulties. State legislatures tend to use additional tuition income, not to pay higher salaries or offer more scholarships, but rather to cut their own appropriations for higher education. Evidence on this point was mixed, however, and varied from state to state. The average view seemed to be that skillful college administrators could generally assure us that at least part of these gains would not be offset by reduced appropriations.29


FOOTNOTES
1
H. S. Conrad and E. V. Hollis, "Trends in Tuition Charges and Fees," The Annals, Higher Education under Stress, September, 1955, p. 149; and E. V. Hollis, "Costs of Attending College," Higher Education, April, 1957.

-143-

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