Business & Investment

Opinion: This is where your college tuition actually goes — because the professor doesn’t teach much.

Every year, colleges don’t seem to be more and more affordable.

Published tuition, room, food, and tuition fees for state students at public four-year colleges rose to nearly $ 22,000 a year last year, rising to $ 48,380 at private four-year colleges. .. SAT exam. That’s almost $ 90,000 for four years at public universities and almost $ 200,000 at private universities. Twice the amount paid 30 years ago..Elite, branded schools are even more expensive: it costs money About $ 75,000 a year Attend Stanford in 2019-2020.

Few people pay the full amount between needs-based assistance and so-called “merit” assistance. But even if you pay half that, it will go from $ 50,000 to $ 150,000 in four years. This is not straightforward for many families, especially those with a few children.

So is your child getting the value of your money for those inflated tuition fees?

A new book on all aspects of university planning, “The price you pay for collegeRon Lieber, a Your Money columnist at The New York Times, has revealed that most of the money you pay isn’t in expensive frills such as luxury gyms, flowing pools, and climbing walls.

“Most of the money spent on undergraduate education comes from the salaries and benefits of the teachers and the staff who support them,” Lieber wrote. Salaries, benefits and health insurance make up about 60% of the college budget, he reports in the book.

Of course, some are the result of administrative bloat. An increase in marketing and admission staff, a “registration management” consultant to figure out how much help to seduce paid customers, and an army of legendary (but exaggerated) Dean of Diversity. The latest awakened dictation and assignment.

According to the American Institute for Research, managerial positions have increased across higher education, with more managers by 2012. It surpasses full-time faculty.

Support services (mainly management costs) and guidance (overwhelmingly teacher salaries) About 30% each Percentage of private four-year non-profit college spending from 2017 to 2018, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). At public four-year colleges, support services were much lower (about 20%), probably due to state spending cuts.

Therefore, about one-third of the tuition fee goes to teachers’ salaries and allowances.

“To be a professor, you have to train for a really long time,” Lieber told me. “Economics 101 states that they expect to be paid for their training. Those teachers are earning above average salaries and tend to have reasonably generous benefits. It starts from there. “

In 2019-20, on average, professors at public schools offering doctoral programs $ 145,899 / year According to an annual survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), full-time professors from private nonprofits earn more than $ 200,000. Even unemployed assistant professors average $ 86,000 a year in public schools to $ 108,000 a year in four-year private schools. If you spend about $ 20,000 a year for benefits and health insurance and multiply all of them by the number of full-time faculty members, you’ll actually get the total.

What does your child get for all that? If desired, you can get help from a career counselor or mental health counselor, but well-known professors who write books and appear on television are busy writing books and appearing on television. is. Or publish their work in academic journals for a small and rare audience of other scholars.

In his book, Lieber says that three out of four four-year college teachers are not tenure-track teachers, but are paid by their classes and often live between several schools. Reported to be an instructor, instructor, and assistant. Very many students do not take classes from teacher superstars until they are in grade 3 or 4.

And in many schools, research production, not undergraduate education skills, is driving the decision to give tenure, academia brass rings. Therefore, the incentive is to do as much research as possible and educate as little as possible.

“All the flashy professors who make all the money to make tuition fees very high often play jousts with each other to avoid undergraduates,” Lieber told me. “A significant number of these professors are excellent scholars and produce great work, but in reality they do not want to have anything to do with teenagers.”

How can I avoid this distorted incentive structure? Lieber recommends checking out a small liberal arts college (both he and I went to one-from Lever to Amherst, I’m Swarthmore), which has no graduate students and is more highly regarded for its educational ability. To do. In fact, according to AAUP, the maximum salary of 10 elite 4-year private universities is 40% higher than that of 10 famous liberal arts colleges.

However, small schools are not suitable for everyone. As a result, parents need to ask a lot of questions on their college tour.


“The question is, which of these institutions is the professor there primarily to teach? After all, how much is this institution really focused on undergraduates?” He said. Said.

Also ask questions about the time the professor spends in the classroom and the time the students spend together outside the classroom.

Before forking more money than you thought you would spend in college, it’s good to know if a student is getting what their parents are paying for.

Howard Gold is a MarketWatch columnist. No-Nonsense College appears every month. Follow him on Twitter @ howardrgold1..

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Opinion: This is where your college tuition actually goes — because the professor doesn’t teach much. Opinion: This is where your college tuition actually goes — because the professor doesn’t teach much.

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