College: A Price To Pay

Owen Marquez, Staff Writer

In the past decade, high school students have been noticing a dramatic increase in college prices, and many have been left with the question: “Why?”


The increase in price has to do with a plethora of factors, including growth in capital spending, the hiring of more administrative staff, and increasingly competitive marketing. All of these take a massive cut from a college’s funding, which of course, they primarily get from students’ tuition fees. As such, college spending directly impacts the rise in the price of college tuition. 


First off, capital spending is the amount of money that colleges put into improving their campus, including funding of athletic teams and facilities. According to The Hechinger Report, colleges in 2011 amassed over $205 billion in debt on new facilities, a number that has likely increased since. Next, colleges are spending more and more on trying to recruit the best students to their campus. According to John Katzman, the CEO of Noodle Partners, an online education group, colleges can spend up to 20% of their total revenue on marketing for future students. That is a massive sum that is paid almost directly through the revenue of the college. This means that they want to spend more money on marketing, which is another contributor to the increase in tuition prices. Finally, the massive growth of administrative positions has skyrocketed the amount that colleges have to spend on employment. According to the New York Times, there was a 60% increase in administrative hirings from 1993 to 2009, indicating that that number will continue to grow into the next decade. If colleges are hiring more people, they’re going to need more money, which is found in tuition fees.


So is the increase in tuition fees having a negative impact on enrollment rates? 

The answer is unclear. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, overall spring college enrollment dropped 3.5% from last year, which is the biggest decrease since 2011. This of course comes within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely impacted many schools and universities. Because of this, it’s hard to tell exactly how the steep price of college tuition has impacted enrollment, but don’t be surprised to see it decrease.


What can be done to lower the price of college tuition?

 Individually, the best a person can do is look for scholarships, apply for financial aid, and unfortunately, settle for a cheaper school. Scholarships and financial aid can help alleviate the sum of tuition. In terms of collectively dropping the price of colleges, there have been ongoing debates on what the right solution is. Some say college should be made completely free while others say that tuition is fine the way it is. In light of this argument, the Biden administration plans to fund free community college, while also working on providing funding for public universities; however, this process has struggled to get through congress. Even so, the recognition by the government is a step in the right direction for change and a continuation of advocation by students will ensure more progress.