Is The Cost of College Worth It?

At a time when nearly one in 10 American workers is unemployed, college professors are guaranteed jobs for life, teach only a few hours a week, take entire years off, dump grading duties onto graduate students, drop their workweek to a dozen hours or so, all while making $100,000 or more a year. The cost of a college education has risen, in real dollars, by 250 to 300 percent over the past three decades, far above the rate of inflation. Elite private colleges can frequently cost more than $200,000 over four years. Total student-loan debt, at nearly $830 billion, recently surpassed total national credit card debt. It is also foolish that graduate programs are pumping new Ph.D.’s into a world without decent jobs for them. Meanwhile, university presidents can make upward of $1 million annually.

Two new books recently were published which will merely intensive the discussion,  ­Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About It (Times Books, $26), by Andrew Hacker, a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College, and Claudia C. Dreifus, a journalist (and contributor to the science section of The New York Times  and Mark C. Taylor’s Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (Knopf, $24).

The books point out that tenured and tenure-track professors earn most of the money and benefits, but they’re a minority at the top of a pyramid. Nearly two-thirds of all college teachers are non-tenure-track adjuncts who frequently earn $1,500 to teach a single course. At Williams College, a small liberal arts college, 70 percent of employees do something other than teach.

All of this comes at a time when Columbia University reports that its endowment had dropped by “at least” 30 percent.

Simply brushing off calls for reform may no longer be an option. In this time of educational reform, now is the time to address these issues.