5 ways to Lower the Cost of a College Education

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I am in close sympathy with anyone who is in debt due to college loans. Those of us who did not have the fortune to win a scholarship or have their parents help out, face a burden that will continue to last years. When it comes to the subject of the high cost of tuition, my position is clear, tuition rates need to come down.

Some quick facts:

  • Total student debt rose from $363 billion in 2005 to $902 billion in 2012
  • The number of Americans with student debt rose from 23 million in 2005 to 37 million in 2012

Here are five wonderful ideas presented by Ronald Trowbridge, Senior Fellow at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington, D.C., on how we can cut down the cost of higher education.

  1. Enable Dual Enrollment – Look at how Virginia saves some students $40,000 a year. Virginia codifies programs for qualified students to be simultaneously accepted by a community college and a four year public institution of higher education and, upon successful completion of an associate degree from the community college, to be automatically enrolled in the four-year institution.
  2. Establish a three-year Bachelor’s degree – Graduation rates, speed and costs would be monumentally improved under a three-year plan. In addition, a three year bachelor degree plan would improve facility utilization. A private business uses most of its space 50 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – well over 2,000 hours. A campus uses most of its space 25 hours a week, 32 weeks a year – some 800 hours. A three-year bachelor program would facilitate use of empty classrooms, especially in the summer.
  3. Eliminate Excessive Academic Research – The present system allows virtually an anarchistic, anything-goes approach to research. Higher education institutions should themselves establish an internal-screening process to approve or reject research proposals when release time from classroom teaching is also requested.
  4. Increase Teaching Loads – It is now commonplace for many professors to teach only two classes per semester, with few students. Such limited teaching and small class size come at great expense to students and taxpayers. (My two cents, Professors who only teach 2 or 3 classes a semester, and do not hold another job or career, are just plain lazy).
  5. Move more Classes Online – Online learning will become to education what the forward pass was to football. MIT, for example, has implemented an online program free of charge, and for a small fee, it will award a certificate of compliance. The first course, Circuits and Electronics, drew 120,000 registrants in the first month.Recently, 605 students at six public universities in New York and Maryland were studied on the value of online versus face-to-face instruction. Half of the students met in the classroom three times a week; the other half, once a week. The study’s authors found that “students in the online course did just as well as those who took the conventional course.” More significant, hybrid courses could cost half what conventional classes do because fewer teachers are needed.

Special thanks to Ronald Trowbridge and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity for sharing these ideas. Original article, “Texas can cut down on cost of higher education”, featured in the Houston Chronicle, Aug. 12, 2012.

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