Public Skepticism about College Costs

Six in 10 Americans now say colleges mainly care about their bottom line instead of making sure students have a good educational experience.  And that feeling has been rising, jumping eight points in just two years, according to the latest survey.

Squeeze Play 2010,is a new report from Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education tracking public views on college costs and access.

Americans remain skeptical that colleges are doing all they can to keep costs down. Six in 10 say colleges could take in more students without raising prices or reducing quality, and more than half say colleges could spend less and still provide a quality education. Two-thirds believe colleges should use federal stimulus money to hold down tuition, even if it means cutbacks in programs and services.

This public skepticism comes as two other trends collide in the Squeeze Play research: Americans believe that higher education is necessary, even as they worry that it’s becoming less available. The number of Americans who believe college is essential for success remains high, at some 55 percent (a 24 point increase from 10 years ago). Yet majorities believe college is out of reach for many students (69 percent say many qualified students don’t have the opportunity to go to college).

This could not happen at a worse time for colleges.  The recession has cut donations from alumni and foundations.  See a previous posting from this website of whether the cost of college is worth it.  The question is whether colleges will look into their purses and see if cuts in cost can be achieved.  California attempted to raise the cost of public colleges by 1/3, in order to raise funding in a near-bankrupt state, and had to deal with student protests.