Preamble: The Cost-Benefit Challenges of Higher Education Studentship
Debates about education at any level have never really been about benefits to individuals and the society at large. Intrinsically, the illumination of the mind and the general enlightenment of the personality empowers the individual (“knowledge is power”) and contributes to better health and an increase in happiness. The specific development of skills as inputs to the production and service systems of course allow a more productive use of time and the consequent increase in earnings and employment benefits that can enhance the quality of life for each person and the society. Beyond the individual benefits, there are also important external benefits for educating the population. The external social benefits include an enlightened contribution to democratic governance and institutions, political stability, human rights protection, lower state welfare costs, lower national health costs, lower public incarceration costs and the continuing contributions to social capital through the increasing generation of new ideas.
Unfortunately, the debates on how to pay for the costs of education have been less harmonious due to the differences in perceptions of national priorities by competing political parties in capitalist economies and the escalating greed in the pricing of educational programs by the colleges. Many decades ago, even in the deeply capitalist economy of the United States, students could pay for college with the money saved from summer jobs. Not anymore! College tuition has kept rising much faster than inflation and has nearly quadrupled over the last three decades. In the United States, the cost of college education has reached record highs, indebting students to the tune of more than $1.3 Trillion! Private universities charge an average of $31,000 per academic year for tuition and fees and many charge well over $50,000 with a top fee at one of the universities of $65,480!! Costs at public universities have followed an excessively inflationary trend too, with Out-of-State and International students paying an average of about $23,000 in tuition and fees for 30 credit hours over an academic year. Across the ocean in the United Kingdom, the average college tuition for international students in the sciences and engineering is about $18,000 per academic year. When combined with the other costs of living (room and board, transportation, books, health insurance, etc.) of about $15,000 to $20,000 per year, the annual financial burden on an international student is in the region of $38,000 to $85,000 per year, depending on the choice of type of college and location. The pain is multiplied when these students graduate with certificates that fail to open doors of opportunity to the job market and many graduates still search for jobs or become terribly under-employed in low wage jobs many years after they graduate.
The socio-economic injustice in the unbridled escalation of costs is obvious when the reasons for this price gouging are examined: Huge increases in public subsidies for higher education and inflated demand feed a non-value-adding expansion of university administration compared to the main faculty and nauseating seven to eight-figure salaries for high ranking university administrators. At a time when an average American University student graduates with a total debt of more than $27,000 (with some accumulating up to $100K in debt), many of the administrative heads of American educational institutions are raking in a total compensation of more than $3 Million per year. And there are reports of two Chief Executives in higher education earning $41.9 Million and $20.5 Million in just one year in total compensation. Now, what are the value streams produced by an academic administrator that got priced at $41.9 Million? What lifestyles do they want to maintain on $41.9M and $20.5M that they cannot do with $1M? And all that greed at the expense of poor working families, the tax payers and the mortgaged futures of the poor and jobless graduates carrying useless certificates of non-marketable skills price-gouged under this misinformed concept of market economy?
Students and their parents can join the fight against this level of greed in academia by avoiding wasteful institutions and taking control of their learning experience in a creative way. By learning from the German higher education system about the essential costs in value-based education, international students can appropriately distinguish between the true cost requirements for quality education and the unfortunate perception that more expensive education correlates with quality learning. In Germany, higher education of top quality is tuition-free for even international students and the overall cost of living for students is less than $10K per year.
Cost-Benefit analysis of the German higher education funding model show the long term wisdom of this policy for the economy and the society. Applying lean techniques with focus on the true educational value stream, market costs of quality tuition in German would be somewhere around $11K to $14.6K. Until the political debates in other capitalist economies are settled in favor of the German model, benevolent non-profit organizations should take up the fight for college students against the excessive greed of college administrators by offering alternative and lower-cost strategies to value-adding college education that empower the students for responsible citizenship, productive career and quality living.
This is the peaceful fight that we join on behalf of both our local prospective college students and the international students from developing economies. The hope, in the ultimate, is to have a sustainable and replicable implementation, globally, of an education and training model and platform for the illumination and enlightenment of the minds of young adults, nurtured to a heartfelt commitment to disinterested benevolence and responsible citizenship, and empowered with appropriate combinations of cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills for value-adding services to self, the immediate community, the nation and the world at large so that the world becomes progressively better than the one inherited by each generation.
With focus on the ultimate values of college education to the individual students and the society, emphasis should be placed on the learning methodologies and paths that will lead the student to their goals of gainful employment and general enlightenment. For our target audience, we de-emphasize wasteful brand names and develop procedures for efficient learning packages and delivery methods while working within the existing curriculum offerings. And our strategy is obviously replicable in other locations in the country and in the world.
In the U.S public college education system, tuition and fees at 4-year colleges are typically four to six times the costs at 2-year colleges, even for identical and transferable courses. In Texas for example, the common core package of 42 credit hours would cost international students about $7,308 in a DCCCD (2-year) college compared to $43,859 in a nearby 4-year college. This constitutes a cost saving of about 83% for the same package of courses, which the student can then later transfer to the 4-year college for a bachelor’s degree. In fact, if the student continues that strategy and transfers the maximum allowed of about 50% of the required 128 credit hours for a bachelor’s program, he will reduce his tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree by about $55,698 from about $133,667 to about $77,969; a saving of 41.7%. With our integration strategy, the student can then use a small portion of the cost savings to earn an additional vocational AAS degree and technical certifications in the chosen field while still graduating with a bachelor’s degree with better workplace skills and experience.
Now, there are a few logistics issues that may need to be resolved to adopt that strategy for a foreign student. Unlike the standard university halls of residence and apartment units available to foreign students as part of the application process, the community colleges are non-residential and foreign students with no known contacts in the locations of the colleges will be faced with the problem of access to long-term affordable accommodation. Our custodial services at the institute include the bridging of this gap by arranging accommodation for our international students in a safe environment that minimizes the culture shock and homesickness and makes the transition to American life stress-free.
We welcome our students to this land of the free, for responsible participation in the societal benefits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The sky is truly your limit!
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