May 22, 2012 11:10 AM EDT
Colleges Confront Costs of Rising Tuition
COLUMBUS, Ohio - At a time of diminished state funding for higher education and uncertain federal dollars, E. Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State University, says that public colleges and universities need to devise a new business model to pay for the costs of education, beyond sticking students with higher tuition and greater debt.
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"The notion that universities can do business the very same way has to stop," said Mr. Gee, who is also the chairman of a commission studying college attainment, including the impact of student debt.
College presidents across the country are confronting the same realization, trying to manage their institutions with fewer state dollars without sacrificing quality or all-important academic rankings. Tuition increases had been a relatively easy fix but now - with the balance of student debt topping $1 trillion and an increasing number of borrowers struggling to pay - some administrators acknowledge that they cannot keep putting the financial onus on students and their families.
Increasingly, they are looking for other ways to pay for education.
There is a dispute about why college costs have risen so much. Before the economic crisis, some critics argue, both public and private colleges participated in a costly "arms race" to provide better amenities to lure the best students and faculty: new dormitories with one student to a room, frequent sabbaticals for professors, upscale cafeteria food, expanded counseling services and gymnasiums that rival the fanciest health clubs in Manhattan.
Others say education is intrinsically expensive. Health care costs, for instance, have taken a toll, since colleges are labor-intensive. And the expense of keeping up with technology, like wireless Internet and new computers, is high. Here at Ohio State, where tuition has increased by nearly 60 percent since 2002, there is a gleaming new student union, climbing walls that can accommodate 50 students at a time and $2 billion in construction projects under way.
Mr. Gee said he was considering selling off Ohio State's airport and golf courses, and he might privatize campus parking, though faculty members are balking at the idea. Last year, Ohio State became the first public university to issue a 100-year bond, for $500 million.
He is also is trying to beef up Ohio State's enrollment of out-of-state and international students, who bring in more tuition revenue and higher test scores. And, he is pressing donors for more money, a task in which he is particularly skilled.
Source: The New York Times