College spending report earns criticism from affordability advocates
- Critics say the annual Higher Education Cost Adjustment report offers misleading information about the revenue growth of colleges and universities.
- According to Insider Higher Ed, opponents say student costs, not institutional expenditures, give the real picture of inflation in higher education. Some suggest that showing expenditures, which have increased since the start of the nation’s economic recovery, masks some revenue earned by increases in student fees and tuition.
- HECA supporters say the report is designed to show the growing areas in which colleges face new or increased costs, and shows a picture of what colleges face to maintain quality and space for expansion.
Campus executives know well how discussions on student affordability often clash with the costs for institutions to operate and to grow as a business. So both sides of the argument are valid from a consumer perspective. But for college leaders making the case for philanthropy and funding from state and federal resources, the price of doing business is always going to be central to leadership priorities.
Debt servicing, insurance and legal fees are just a few of the costs most students and families do not consider when analyzing the cost of an education, but they dramatically impact the scope of institutional spending.
Campus leaders can benefit from helping students to understand the full financial picture of the business of higher education, and helping families to track where tuition and fee dollars are spent, the role of endowments, and how institutional investment priorities are set. Not doing so, especially when students are seeking alternatives to crushing student debt, puts campuses at risk of building distrust amongst stakeholders.
- Inside Higher Ed How to count higher ed costs