In Real Life: Increasing Pell Grants Sets Off Increases In College Costs
All college students and their families are affected by these high and escalating college costs. In order to make colleges more affordable for all students, it’s vital to analyze the reasons why colleges have become so expensive within recent years. In a Cato Institute’s published policy analysis “Making Colleges More Expensive: The Unintended Consequences of Federal Aid” Gary Wolfram states:
One result of federal government’s student aid programs is higher tuition costs at our nation colleges and universities… the empirical evidence is consistent with that- federal loans, Pell grants and other assistance programs result in higher tuition for students.
Dr. Wolfram explains that the unintended consequences of Pell Grants are hurting college students:
The federal government’s financial aid programs cause higher tuition costs, reducing the ability of some students to go to college and causing others to attend a college that is not their first choice. Basic economic theory suggests that the increase in demand for higher education brought about by the system of grants and loans will increase the price of higher education.
Judith Lee of Harvard University found that the Pell Grants are responsible for skyrocketing tuition costs:
private four year college increased listed tuition prices by more than two dollars for each dollar increase in Pell Grants, and public four-year colleges increased tuition by 97 cent for every dollar increase.
In real life, helping college students means keeping costs under control, not simply increasing aid that will not keep pace with ever increasing costs.
A simple and obvious step would be to prioritze teaching over research (often funded by government).
There was a time, back in the early 1960s, when my academic career began, when many — if not most — colleges had their faculty teaching 12 semester hours and a few had teaching loads of 15 semester hours.
Spending even 15 hours a week in a classroom may not seem like a lot to people who spend 35 or 40 hours a week on the job. However, there is also the time required to prepare lectures, grade tests and do other miscellaneous campus chores.
Even so, 12 hours a week in a classroom is not a killing pace, especially for professors who have taught a few years and have their lecture notes from previous years to help prepare for the current year’s classes.
But that was then and this is now. Today, a teaching load of more than 6 semester hours is considered sweatshop labor on many campuses.
Incidentally, since academic class hours are 50 minutes long, 6 semester hours mean actually 5 hours a week in the classroom.
Why was it considered necessary to cut the teaching load in half? Mainly because professors were expected to do more research.
Why was more research considered necessary? Because research brings in more money from the government, from foundations and from other sources.
On many campuses, a beginning faculty member cannot expect to be promoted to a tenure position unless he or she brings research money into the campus coffers.
Throwing more money at colleges may benefit administrators and professors but it does nothing to help “Julia”.