Where Does Students’ Tuition Go? Improving the College/Student Relationship

College students, for the most part, aren’t stupid.  Students understand that a college is also inherently a business in many ways simply out of necessity.  A college won’t be successful without plenty of income.  We know where a large portion of that money comes from — the students — and why that makes sense.  Students pay for their education, and they get what they pay for (or their scholarships pay for).  Yet, wouldn’t it be nice to know a bit more about where that money goes and how it is used?

According to information from CollegeBoard, the average tuition for a “private nonprofit four-year college” in 2010 was $27,293 per year.  Let’s assume a student is awarded a $10,000 per year scholarship and pays $17,293.  Over four years, the cost still comes to nearly $70,000.  It’s hard to imagine investing that sort of money in anything without knowing exactly how the money will be used.  A tour of a nice dorm really doesn’t indicate anything — in fact, it’s likely that all of the money for that dormitory came from a wealthy alumnus — in regard to your money.

Why shouldn’t students and their families expect a relatively detailed account of how students’ tuition payments are spent?  A simple pie chart depicting the percentages allotted for each main expenditure would go a long way.  This could include things like professor salaries, staff salaries, dining hall expenses, maintaining the grounds, etc.

As things are now, it’s all too easy to walk around a nicely groomed campus surrounded by well-fed and educated peers and wonder “Where the hell did my $20,000 go?” or “You’d think that for $20,000 a year they could do a better job clearing the sidewalks after a night of snow.”  In other words, after spending so much money it’s easy to feel as though you aren’t getting your money’s worth, just downright cheated or an overwhelming sense of entitlement because there isn’t anything tangible gained to point to aside from all the accumulated books and the diploma at the end.

Increased disclosure in regard to budgeting would go a long way to quell these qualms.  Granted, this outlook is largely based on my experiences, but I feel fairly certain that similar problems exist in expensive schools everywhere.

Original Image Credit: robb3d via Flickr

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