Monday, October 08, 2007

Changes at my Alma Mater

I graduated from Western Oregon State College in 1987. My how things have changed...but first a little background.

My dad is moving and, in the process, is going through decades of family history. Among the items we ran across was the rate schedule for the 85-86 school year. I was curious, so I did a bit of checking things out.

First of all, it is no longer Western Oregon State College. It is Western Oregon University. The name distinction is important as it signifies that the school now offers graduate degree programs. However, not just the name has changed.

For the 1985-86 school year, yearly tuition for in-state students was $1,428. Now it is $5,763. Out-of-state fees rose at a slightly greater pace. Dorm living went from $2,307 then to $7,380 in 2007. Books rose from about $600 to around $1,125 (book prices vary due to a number of factors). Interesting, but then price increases are expected in our market economy.

What is more interesting is the rate of increase. The consumer price index from 1985 to 2007 rose by a factor of 1.92. In other words, a one dollar item in 1985 costs roughly $1.92 now. If you go back and do the math on the increases from the previous paragraph, you will see that tuition has gone up 4.04 times for in-state and 4.36 times higher for out-of-state students. The cost of living in the dorms is 3.20 times higher. Books are roughly the same as the CPI increase.

As you can see, the rate of increase for tuition is twice as much as for the American market as a whole. This puts a great deal of strain on working families who want their children to do better than their parents did financially. Indeed, some will be closed out of higher education altogether thanks to this inflation of college pricing. I know it is out of fashion in the age of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to say this, but the stark fact is that racial minorities will suffer more than the white majority from this (other than the tiny percentage who ride the athletics gravy train). However, this increase is enough to harm everyone to some degree.

In fact, according to the Oregonian, the big drive for colleges falling on tough times is to recruit from other countries; especially China. Western Oregon University is held up in this article as a model for just that reason.

The Chinese subsidize their students' American education as do many countries, which puts American students at an unfair disadvantage. However, this unfairness is self-inflicted. Our knee-jerk reactions against taxation harm our own competitiveness in a world market where other people aren't so quick to shoot themselves in the foot. However, we would rather build bridges to nowhere, expensive cold war weapons, and other pork barrel projects than invest in our own people to compete in an increasingly difficult marketplace.

Why do we do this to our own children? Out of my current group of friends, I can't think of one who hasn't benefited greatly from public money, whether through state-supported colleges or through GI pay in the National Guard or standard military and maybe other ways I am not aware of. We've received more free wampum then we are willing to admit to. However, our children will not be so lucky. They will face expensive colleges and a military where clever bean counters try to finesse them out of their benefits or make them wait for medical care which is often substandard.

These are the same children and grandchildren we hope will forgive us leaving them less than we got. Not cool.


ladybug said...

Yup, my private university was $8,000+ when I started in the fall of 1984; by 1988 had grown to $13,000 per year...and that wasn't the books, or food or fees, just the tuition & room/board.

Now this same university is about $38,000 but what with "extra costs" they "recommend" planning on $45,000 PER YEAR.

Americans are now looking to the Canada, the UK, Australia even, to combat this blatent price-gouging.

Funny, the professor's pay hasn't quite kept up with that price index...

The Moody Minstrel said...

Blame the Californians. Californian real estate developers that relocated to Oregon to take advantage of lower real estate costs were the ones that were chiefly responsible for importing California's property tax limitation law verbatim without regard for said lower real estate costs or the lack of a sales tax to make up the difference. A law that amounted to only a minor change in California translated into about an 80% loss of public service funding in Oregon.

You can also blame the rich, old farts that make up the Oregon Taxpayer's Union.

I still remember all the cries of "we can't afford to make ends meet with these property taxes" coming from people that were out parading in their boats, private planes, RVs, etc..

"Let's be greedy..."
bum bum bum bum

Anonymous said...

Going to school should not cost $45,000.

Perhaps we should look at what the budget is for these colleges really is and how much they pay for speaking engagements.

Pandabonium said...

Adjusted for inflation the private university I went to (class of '72) costs about 23% more today.

Small school, generous donors. Tuition covers only a fraction of the costs of most schools.

In the public arena, a country is stupid not to subsidize higher education. But then maybe they figure it is cheaper to outsource all the jobs, so there won't be demand for highly educated Americans. Ouch.

Anonymous said...

Eltigris : yes ... and that lovely Corporate Kicker which goes to large corporations out of state... its akin to opening your front door in the middle of winter and just letting the heat go straight to the outside, without even the vain hope it will do any good.

right now over $400 million will have to be returned - 1/5th of that goes to richest.

addtionally over 260 million goes to corporates only 14% of that will go to oregon companies.... Walmart Im sure is giving the Tax Unoin fols many thanks for the money ...and Oh ....leave the door open too ...PGE will love yah ..