Going to college has become an incredibly expensive endeavor, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. Though some assume sky-high tuition prices are the result of Capitalism gone awry, it is actually the opposite. Universities are incredibly expensive because they are run in a manner resembling socialist states.
According to Forbes, some universities spend less than 50 percent of student tuition money on faculty. The rest covers administrative and other costs. A certain amount of administration is needed to run the university, and students should have fundamental services, such as library access, included in the cost of tuition. The price of college, however, far outweighs the actual cost of an education.
Universities Stifle Consumer Choice
As a freshman, you are required to pay for many services from the university including housing, a meal plan, sports tickets, gym fees, tutoring, and more. However, the university does not explicitly state you are paying for all of this. Instead, they include many of these services in the tuition cost so you do not notice them, allowing them to appear generous when they offer the services to you “for free” later.
As a consumer, you may not want these services from the university. You may prefer to live off campus, buy your food elsewhere, or use your entertainment money at the movies. Most universities, however, weave these costs into one hefty tuition bill that they know people have to pay. As a result, the university often has little incentive to provide quality products for a competitive price.
Because all freshmen are required to buy a meal plan, the university receives the same amount of money from those students regardless of whether they serve good food for a competitive price or not. In a free market, businesses have an incentive to provide a quality product for their customers. If they do not, the customers will take their business elsewhere. Because the university prevents consumer choice, they have little incentive to provide quality food for a quality price, so they often fail on both counts.
The university also stifles consumer choice with entertainment expenses. Students are forced to pay for sports tickets regardless of whether they enjoy sports or not. Many students would rather spend that money on concerts, movies, or other forms of entertainment, but they are not given a choice in the matter.
Another place universities stifle consumer choice is housing. By their own mandate, universities often have no competition for freshmen housing. This creates a situation similar to that of the meal plans, where the university often fails to deliver a great product for a competitive price because it has no incentive to do so. This fact was reflected in a recent Trulia survey which found it cheaper living off campus at 15 of the 20 colleges surveyed, with savings amounting to as much as 69 percent.
Solving the Issue
In the current model, university administration is similar to big bureaucratic government that makes the universities similar to socialist states in several ways. First, there are many administrative jobs that should not even exist. Second, the administration stifles consumer choice forcing students to buy services from the university against their will. Third, since the university stifles consumer choice, its services are often mediocre in quality and priced higher than they would be in a free market. Finally, the administration wastefully spends student dollars without consulting the students in any way as to how they would like their money to be spent.
College could easily be made cheaper if we cut back on needless administration and applied consumer choice policies across the university. If this occurred, an overwhelming majority of students would save a significant amount of money while still receiving all the university services they desire. Additionally, more children from low-income families could afford to attend a major university because of the lowered cost. If universities truly want to provide financial assistance to their students and grant less-fortunate children the ability to attend their institutions, they need to stop the wasteful spending and implement consumer choice policies that allow students to keep more of their own money.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.