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Questions on Economics of Higher Ed
August 11, 2010 - 4:15am

Reading President Obama's higher ed speech, and the comments about his speech from all of you, has left me with a number of questions.

  • Does anyone know of a really good primer, or set of articles, on the economics of higher education?
  • Why is it exactly that the cost of tuition has risen faster than wages or inflation?
  • Who are the main payers in higher ed (government, students, parents)?
  • What components make up the main costs of higher ed? I know that labor costs are something like 80% (is that correct?), but what I don't know is how this has changed over the decades?
  • Does higher ed resemble health care, in that we see significant variations in both cost and outcomes? Are there any IHE's that have managed to drive down tuition while increasing educational quality?
  • In the technology world, how focused are we on increasing educational productivity? We talk a great deal about supporting authentic and active learning, and meeting the needs of a new generation of learners. But how much do we focus on utilizing technology as a lever to increase the number of students we can serve while maintaining educational quality?
  • Does high education match health care in terms of being a high fixed cost industry? If so, that would suggest that the only way to lower tuition is to spread the costs out over more students. Or does higher ed have high variable costs, and if so what are they?
  • If you are a CIO, and your university president came to you tomorrow and asked, "How can we use technology to serve more students, lower costs, and increase quality?", what would be your top three recommendations?

I think we all need to talk about costs. Perhaps the first step is to figure out how we can all speak the same language by working off a common understanding of the economics of higher education.

 

 

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