In his State of the Union address, President Obama decried skyrocketing college tuition, attempting to take advantage of public anger over the steadily-worsening college tuition bubble. This was ironic, since his own administration has done much to foster rising college tuitions.
For example, it imposed the 90-10 rule, which forced low-cost educational institutions to raise their tuition to comply with a new federal regulation requiring them to charge enough over federal financial aid so that at least 10 percent of education costs don’t come from financial aid. For example, Corinthian College had diploma programs in health care and other fields that can be completed in a year or less. Until 2011, many of those programs had a total cost of about $15,000, which meant that federal grants and loans could cover nearly 100 percent of their cost. In response to the Education Department’s rule, the college raised tuition to comply with the 90/10 rule. The net result of the Obama Education Department’s rule was to “create a perverse, no-win ‘Catch-22’ that could prevent low-income students from attending college,” by encouraging such colleges to raise tuition to outstrip rising financial aid by more than ten percent. Administration allies like Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) are now pushing a new rule, the 85-15 rule, that would require low-cost institutions to further raise tuition so that at least 15 percent of education costs aren’t covered by financial aid. (With this kind of mentality, it is no wonder that college graduation rates have actually “fallen somewhat since the 1970s” “among poor and working-class students.”)
As George Leef of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy notes, “Obama’s talk about getting tough with colleges over tuition is pure political blather. One reason costs keep going up, thus necessitating tuition increases, is that schools keep adding administrative positions like Chief Diversity Officer. College spending is responsible for the jobs of a great many of Obama’s most zealous supporters. It’s easy to demagogue college costs, but this is nothing more than theatrics.” There are now more college administrators than faculty at California State University, and colleges, partly to comply with bureaucratic mandates, are creating new positions for liberal bureaucrats even as they raise student tuition to record levels:
The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.
Other colleges raised spending on administrators as much as 600 percent in recent years.
As a result of increasing federal financial aid, colleges have been able to increase tuition faster than inflation, year after year, secure in the knowledge that they can rake in ever-rising government subsidies and skyrocketing tuition. College students are learning less and less even as higher education spending explodes.
Students have little choice but to pay inflated tuition bills into the education industrial-complex, as they vie with each other for scarce entry-level jobs by acquiring ever more degrees that show their ability to jump through hoops and master difficult (but largely useless) skills. The net result is an educational arms race in which people compete to see who can acquire the most paper credentials. There are now 8,000 waiters and 5,057 janitors with PhD’s or other advanced degrees, and millions of Americans have useless college degrees.
Obama’s State of the Union address also contained false claims about outsourcing and corporate taxes, as well as a misguided proposal that could undermine discipline and order in inner-city schools that have high drop-out rates, and another proposal that could shrink Americans’ 401(k)s and increase the cost of mortgage financing in the future.
The Education Department recently made college officials’ lives more difficult by trying to alter the burden of proof long used by many colleges in sexual harassment cases (despite the lack of any legal basis for doing so), and by seeking to discourage procedures such as cross-examination that safeguard accuracy and due process in campus disciplinary proceedings.