Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Charleston Daily Mail Column: Goodwin says enough with rising cost of higher education

Kay Goodwin Cabinet Secretary W.Va. Department of Education and the Arts

By Kay Goodwin

On June 22, 2015, the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission will consider a request by the Board of Governors of West Virginia University to increase tuition and fees on its in-state students by $670 a year.

The proposed hike is just a hair short of ten percent. If the hike is approved, the annual cost of attendance for in-state students would reach over $7,600. Out-of-state students would see an even larger increase – just over $1,000.

As a longstanding member of the Commission, I will vote no. I write here to express a few of my reasons.

I have voted “no” many times in the past, always in vain, yet the irrepressible entreaties for still more money come to us over and over. In-state tuition and fees at WVU have increased by 29 percent over the last five years alone. And the last five years are not atypical. Tuition and fees at our state’s public colleges and universities increased by 22 percent between 2007 and 2011. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the cost of a college education at a public institution in the United States has quadrupled since 1980. Enough is enough.

West Virginia still struggles economically as compared to most of its sister states. I am convinced that a sound, efficient, and accessible education system is essential to moving us forward into the nation’s economic mainstream, and, perhaps, some grand day, to its forefront. We disserve these goals, however, and we disserve our children and ourselves, when we exacerbate the very economic hardships that already hold so many of us back.

Ready availability of financial aid for higher education offers a way out of poverty for many. But, such borrowing is the handmaiden of both the shocking increase in costs and the staggering debt with which so many of our children turn to face in adult life

Some few students – or their parents –have the means to avoid debt. But, most students simply cannot hope to enroll in college, pay tuition and fees, buy books, and pay for the necessities of life without borrowing money. In 2013, the average WVU graduate with student loan debt owed over $38,000 – and because that is just the average, it follows that very many owe far more.

Why does this trouble me so? Debt drives our children away from us. Our home-grown best and brightest, overburdened with debt, must seek and find greener fields elsewhere. West Virginia is not an affluent state brimming with high-end jobs

Less than half of those who graduated from our public colleges and universities in the prior nine years are now employed in our state’s workforce – less than half. Our graduates simply cannot afford to stay and work here.

Moreover, the cost of education and the looming burden of repaying debt affects the fields of study that students can choose in the first place. We need talented young people who may want to be teachers or social workers to be able to choose those paths. Many simply cannot choose fields of study that are unlikely to lead to a high-paying job.

So why are higher-education costs rising at such an anomalous rate? It is not because faculty are making more money. No, the cost of administration is the culprit. According to a Department of Education study recently cited by the New York Times, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by sixty percent between 1993 and 2009, ten times the growth of tenured faculty positions. Not only is the proportion of administrators growing, but so are their salaries. Last year, the Presidents of WVU and Marshall were paid more than the President of the United States. So were the Presidents of 91 other public universities in the United States. Presidents of our smaller public universities average more than $200,000 a year. It defies reason to posit that today’s college administrators are that superior to their predecessors? These salaries are not anomalies. Most troublingly, a constantly growing list of administrative functionaries make in excess of $100,000.

I am not picking on WVU. I’m calling out all of our public colleges and universities. Stop raising tuition on our kids! Enough is enough.

When WVU’s request comes before the Commission, I will vote no. Goodwin is cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

– See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com

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