The cost of higher education

I posted on the Michigan College Personnel Association’s Blog an article from USA Today about some institutions of higher education that offer loan assistance after graduation.  I have a thought about this, mostly around the rising cost of (public) higher education. This is going to come through a Michigan lens, so bear with me.  But first, a few prefacing facts:

First, is that the cost of higher education in Michigan (and my guess, the entire United States of America) has becoming increasingly expensive.  The State of Michigan budget cuts spending for higher education by 15%.  In response, Western Michigan University recently revealed a tuition hike of 7.4%.    I suppose it makes sense.

(and) Second, the employability of many of the recent college grads is at an all-time low.  Many college graduates that DO find jobs then struggle to pay back the loans they so easily amassed to achieve their degree, posing the question if the cost justified the means.

So here’s my thought:

Colleges and universities are not just about you (the student).  While at an individual level, a student is hoping to achieve a degree, a job, and answer their life’s calling, at the macro level a university is much more than that.  A university is a place for research, learning for the sake of learning, career preparation, employment, innovation, and in some places, Big 10 sports.

In the State of Michigan, the public universities are autonomous.  What (I think) this means is that each public higher education institution is it’s own standalone entity that receives (or hopes to) funding every year.  Other than that, the state has little/no control. Therefore, each institution can choose its own mission/vision/values and run with it.  And furthermore, the goal of many of these institutions doesn’t have to be about the undergraduate student, but rather the research.

Is that fair?  Is that acceptable, even?

Maybe.  While I strongly would advocate for that advancement of undergraduate education as the primary mission for these institutions, I dare say that it hasn’t been the focus of any R1 for a long time. Furthermore, undergraduate education at the small-to-medium institutions that value the baccalaureate degree is where learning is prime.

However, that doesn’t mean abandon hope for the B.A./B.S. of your dreams at the large Big 10 school of your choice, it just means have the perspective.  The undergraduate student is no longer the main stakeholder.  And perhaps the sign of this most is this USA Today article, demonstrating how some private liberal arts colleges are calling for attention in the value of their institution because the cost of higher education elsewhere is simply too high.


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