How American Universities Are Ripping Off Your Education (

A profitable student loan market has fueled an arms race among colleges and universities, along with an astronomic rise in tuition that seeks to capture the student loan dollar through increasing fees.

College graduation season is here, and that means students should be celebrating their hard-earned educations. But have you seen the headlines being made by many of our nation’s campuses lately?

On Monday, you could read about a new study of public universities showing that schools with the highest presidential salaries also had the fastest-growing student debt. That same night, Senator Elizabeth Warren was on the Colbert Report to bring attention to the nation’s student loan debt, which now exceeds $1 trillion. And over the weekend, New York University was the subject of a New York Times investigation detailing inhumane working conditions at its far-flung Abu Dhabi campus, the crown jewel in president John Sexton’s octopus-like plan to grow the university throughout New York City’s Greenwich Village and across the globe.

At their core, these stories reflect a fundamental change in higher education: universities act increasingly like big businesses that treat students as customers.

This transformation is part of a larger cultural shift that can be traced back to the 1970s and ‘80s, when policymakers began to view higher education more as a private good (benefitting individual students) than as a public good (helping the nation prosper by creating better educated citizens). In previous decades, public universities enjoyed robust support from state and federal government, and tuition at some of the country’s best universities was free or nearly free. But Republican governors like Ronald Reagan argued that states should not subsidize intellectual curiosity, while economists like Milton Friedman advocated against the notion of free education, claiming that students seeking a private advantage should pay for it themselves. Just take the example of the University of California at Berkeley, in Reagan’s home state: in 1960, tuition was free for a California resident; today it costs $12,872 with an additional $14,414 for room and board.

But how did policymakers envision that students would pay for that private good? Through student loans, of course. Under the theory that student debt was “good debt,” student lending limits rose during Reagan’s presidency, and a profitable student loan market emerged. This in turn fueled the rise in college tuition, as universities sought to capture the student loan dollar through increasing fees. In fact, since 1978 the cost of college has increased in absolute dollars by 1120%. All the while, universities have worked to convince students that their institutions are the most worthy of skyrocketing fees, perpetuating a [ … ]

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1 year ago

Universities today sell students the ‘life style’ and not the education. Olympic swimming pools, spas, gyms, coffee shops, it’s all about living the good life. Look at the University catalogs and you can’t tell if they’re mission is to educate people or to run a cruise ship. 

1 year ago

As government money has flowed into covering college education, tuition has gone up dramatically. This occurred even as dissemination of information became easier and cheaper.

The influx of money has paid for expansion of the administrative layer in the colleges and improving the physical environs from pleasant to palatial. Meanwhile, the educational product delivered has gone from sometimes useful/sometimes not, to actually destructive of the students mental health and ability to think clearly.

1 year ago

Yale University got government handouts while paying little in property taxes.

1 year ago

Higher ed has turned into a huge fraudulent scam. Check out: “The College Trap: How College Became A Religious Belief” at this address for a great podcast on the topic and resources.

Derek Bell
1 year ago

I think that students in general have to start thinking about what type of college they want to go to. To many of them want to go to a fancy college instead of going to one they can afford. Try your local community college for a couple of years and get the basic work out of the way, you will also learn how to do your work quicker and see what degree you want to complete.

They are trying to say that they are smart and good on computers, so how do they get caught with high fees and degrees that do not pay them when they obtained them. It is easy to find starting salaries for any degree, and look for average salaries. We all want to think that we will be at the top, but that cannot happen for everyone. Some degrees pay very well for the top small percentage of people, but you can just as easily be in the middle.

1 year ago

Schools do treat students as customers, and unfortunately many college students have taken on the role of consumer. Many expect a product to be delivered for their cost — and that product is an A. Education is no longer seen as an opportunity in which the student takes responsibility for his or her own learning, and the professor facilitates that learning with expertise and guidance. It’s seen as a ticket to get a job that pays a lot of money. Professors are judged on criteria such as being “cool” or “easy,” and if students don’t view them as either that’s a legitimate reason for disrespect.



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