Book Monitor

The Great American College Tuition Rip-Off

Paul Streitz

Why does a college education cost so much? Tuition increases have far outpaced inflation. Graduating with massive loan debt not only has a negative impact on students and on their families, but it also harms society. Paul Streitz explains why college is a rip-off and suggests ways to solve this problem.

The U.S. News and World Report annual ranking of universities bears some blame. Streitz quotes a Cornell University professor and administrator who states: "To the extent that the rankings are based partly on how much an institution spends on each student, as is the popular USNWR ranking of undergraduate institutions, no administrator in his or her right mind would take actions to cut costs unless he or she had to."

The author suggests the flawed financial portion of the report must be changed because if a college does what's best for students, parents and society, it currently results in a decreased ranking among other universities.

Expenditures often don't benefit students in ways that matter to getting a great education. Instead, administrators build grand edifices and offer unnecessary student perks. Streitz laments that trustees tasked with guiding the college become "insiders more concerned with the institution than [with] the students." They should demonstrate stewardship of college finances by hiring outside auditors to examine how well the institution manages its money.

Using his own alma mater, Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, as an example of runaway tuition costs, Streitz says that as Hamilton College's enrollment doubled, "the administration has increased five times."

The Great American College Tuition Rip-Off examines Hamilton College's change from a liberal arts institution to one focused on multiculturalism and diversity. The result is that students can expect to spend four years being indoctrinated to believe that "all ideas and cultures are equal" except for Western civilization; heaven help students who dare speak out at American universities in favor of Christianity or Biblical morality.

Professors teach fewer and fewer classes and focus on publishing to gain tenure. Meanwhile, students are often taught by part-time adjunct professors with less expertise. Streitz says that 99% of the research and publishing that takes professors away from interaction with students "has no merit and no redeeming social value." (Exceptions should be made in the sciences, where research often benefits society.)

Streitz suggests formation of Parent-Student associations that would demand lower tuition, full financial disclosure, tuition freezes for four years of study, and apply pressure to stop "objectionable academic or social policies."

(Oxford Institute Press, 2005, 61 pp., $12.99)