Why College Costs So Much & What N.H. Schools Are Doing About It

May 5, 2014

We kick off A Matter of Degrees, a week-long series on higher education, with what's behind the rising costs of college. Critics blame sports programs, fancy cafeterias, and highly paid professors, but officials say you need to make college attractive, and what students pay now will be returned exponentially in the future. (digital post by Faith Meixell)

Credit Fast Company / Flickr/CC



Why college is so expensive:

Most reporters and analysts point at growing expenses that don’t go toward education itself, including administrative costs, athletic programs, and high-cost amenities. This 2010 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article lays out the top offenders.

Our guests also point to the effects of federal aid and less time spent by faculty on teaching (more time spent on sabbatical and researching).

And, the increase in administrative payroll cost isn’t even balanced out by the huge increase in proportion of adjunct faculty members.

What schools are doing about it: By and large, efforts to reduce costs have not been effective, especially in New Hampshire where we have the highest tuitions in the country. But – there have been some efforts:

  • Guest Tom Horgan said that the N.H. College and University Council (which represents 22 public and private schools in the state) is forming partnerships between schools to cut college expenses, and with employers to increase job readiness among graduates.
  • Recent renewal of state funding has enabled community college to reduce tuition by 5% and UNH to freeze tuition for the first time in over two decades.
  • Southern New Hampshire University just announced its online $10K 4-yr bachelor’s degree, which provides an unconventional, but much less expensive option for college.

Guest Richard Vedder’s Center on College Affordability and Productivity also put out a list of 25 ways to reduce costs, getting at many of the aforementioned expenses.

Is it worth it?  Data says yes, in most cases. Especially in comparison to only a high school diploma, a Bachelor’s degree has a reliable (if sometimes narrow) return on investment for students.  There are issues in looking at the question of college in those terms, though, as today’s guest Scott Carlson points out here.