Panel addresses rising tuition

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December 2, 2010

11:34 PM

The Americans for Informed Democracy at the College of William and Mary hosted a discussion on the rising cost of education in Morton Hall Wednesday.

The two panelists, economics professors Robert Archibald and David Feldman, explained their theory behind the increase in the cost of higher education. Archibald and Feldman, who have co-authored the book “Why Does College Cost So Much?,” gave their explanation to the growing costs and why other proposed solutions may not be correct. In a discussion thick with economic principles, Archibald began by explaining other views on why education is so expensive.

“These other explanations use a close-up view of a college. We believe that an aerial view of all industry is needed,” Archibald said. “Compared to other service industries, colleges follow along the same financial path.”

The other views blamed problems such as administrative bloat, administrative lattice, academic ratchet, tenure and federal student aid. By using a series of graphed data comparing other service industries, as well as looking at each proposed explanation in depth, the two found that the other industries followed a very similar path of higher costs, and that the other theories were most likely incorrect.

At that point, Feldman took over and went over their explanation for the rising cost of higher education. Known as their ‘Technological Tripod,’ the two professors’ theory blamed cost disease, income distribution and standard of care.

“Things changed after the 1970s,” Feldman said. “The cost of producing goods is decreasing, while the cost of producing services is increasing. College is a service industry, and as the economy becomes more service driven, there is more demand for a college education while the supply remains stagnant. What’s taking place here is taking place in the economy as a whole. Context is crucial, and higher education is not just Econ 101.”

Although their discussion was on the general cost of higher education, the two speakers also gave insight as to the future of tuition at the College.

“Next year is a really tough year for the William and Mary budget, the federal stimulus funds disappear, and the state ended up cutting us more than they had planned on cutting us,” Archibald said. “Exactly how much the state is going to reduce our budget is not a known thing. It’s very much up in the air. It’s going to be hard for William and Mary to maintain what we do with much less support, unless we fill it in with tuition. I would expect pretty hefty tuition increases, just because of the fact that we have no one else to get the money from.”

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