by James A. Bacon
I often wonder if higher-education board members can see the forest for the trees. In my mind’s eye, I see university administrations sharing huge volumes of reports and data in thick notebooks — no one can accuse them of a lack of full disclosure. And I imagine most board members (with a handful of notable exceptions) taking the information exactly as given, focusing on the nits and lice, never quite grasping the big picture.
For example, do you think the Virginia Commonwealth University administration would ever present the following data to its Board of Visitors — or anyone on the board would ask for it to be presented this way?
Consumer Price Index (2008-2012): up 6.6%
Virginia median household income (2008-2012): down 5.5%
VCU in-state tuition and fees (2008-1202): up 32%
Average VCU student debt upon graduation: $28,889*
Here’s where the money is coming from:
Here’s where the money is going:
The solid line shows average spending per full-time-equivalent student. Hmmm. It trended slightly down. The dotted line shows average spending per athlete. Hmmm. It trended dramatically higher. Let’s summarize:
- Virginians’ median household incomes down by about 5.5%
- VCU tuition and fees up 32%
- Academic spending per full-time student down 9.2%
- Athletic spending per athlete up $40,000 up 86%
What are VCU students getting for their massive increases for tuition and fees? The privilege of rooting for a Top 25 basketball team. Anything else? Better academic quality? More prestigious, better paid professors? (Hah!) Better career prospects?
Looks to me like VCU is a prime candidate for being dismembered by Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or other variants of online- and technology-based education. At the end of the day VCU has a solid medical school and a few pockets of excellence like the advertising Brand Center and a top-tier art school. How long will students for other programs be willing to pay VCU tuition and fees for the value they’re getting in return?
* Average debt for the 63% of graduates who carried debt. Does not include the debt incurred by those who did not graduate.