The College Bubble: Why Tuition Costs are Exploding
- Friday, May 18, 2012
Bledsoe is not alone. Median wages for those with degrees in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities have actually dropped from the year 2000. Worse, 53.6 percent of graduates under the age of 25 are currently unemployed or, like him, underemployed — not to mention the fact that nearly 85 percent of new college grads are forced to move back in with their folks.
A college education is neither the good deal nor the sure bet that it used to be, and people are starting to notice. Mark Cuban, the mercurial but shrewd owner of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, is warning of a “coming meltdown in college education,” comparing it to the housing bubble.
“It’s just a matter of time until we see the same meltdown in traditional college education,” Cuban says. “Like the real estate industry, prices will rise until the market revolts. Then it will be too late. Students will stop taking out the loans traditional Universities expect them to. And when they do tuition will come down. And when prices come down Universities will have to cut costs beyond what they are able to [do].”
Even an optimist such as Andrew J. Rotherham of Time is forced to admit, “For now, we are most likely in the middle of a higher education bubble.” And we all know what happens when bubbles get too big.
But what about Christian higher education? Unfortunately, the trends are even more worrisome. Some schools, facing shrinking student enrollments, have already started to slash tuition rates. They hope to make up the lower rates by attracting more students. Brewton-Parker College in Georgia has cut tuition by 22 percent, to $12,290 annually. Davis College, an evangelical school in New York, has lowered rates by 22 percent also. North Park University in Chicago, meanwhile, cut tuition from $24,650 for students who matriculated in 2005 to $19,900 for students who matriculated in 2010. (Today, tuition is back up to $22,090.) Other Christian schools have simply been forced to close their doors.
Some evangelical schools, however, are holding the line. Prestigious Wheaton College in Illinois charges $28,960 for undergraduate tuition (while adding that it gives out $20 million annually in scholarships and grants, which works out to about $6,700 per student). Taylor University in Indiana, another popular evangelical destination, charges $27,850.
Neither of these figures accounts for room, board, and other fees — nor for any other grants that students might obtain. The added costs can easily bring the total annual bill to over $36,000, making a Christian education — at these institutions, at least — the province largely of the wealthy and well-connected. Indiana Wesleyan University, a less prestigious but an up-and-coming institution in Marion, estimates annual student costs at just over $32,000.
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