Between 2003 and 2013, costs for undergraduate room, board and tuition increased by almost 40 percent at public institutions, more than 27 percent at private nonprofit institutions, considering inflation adjustment. For incoming college students and their parents, these numbers are staggering. The public is asking what in the world is causing these dramatic hikes in college pricing, and in the end, is a college education even worth it?
Decrease in State Funding
Though the media pays close attention to the depletion of funds made available to colleges and universities through each state, when considering inflation, there is not much difference in what the states offered their higher learning institutes 10 years ago and today. And though any decrease in available funding may cause tuition to increase slightly, the culprits for causing the extreme tuition hikes students have witnessed in the past decade are found lurking in other areas.
Rise in Admin Costs
Though many critics blame a rise in faculty salary as part of the continuing escalation in tuition costs, on average, faculty make nearly the same or less than they did in 2000. However, funds allocated for administration positions has increased more than 28 percent in the same time frame, and university president salaries have soared up to seven figures, comparable to those of business CEOs.
Increase in Tech & Security Costs
Universities worldwide have fallen victim to modern-warfare cyber attacks. Pennsylvania State University recently discovered both its College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts were hacked and countless usernames and passwords were compromised. Through these the university’s IT department is still evaluating the damage the breach may have caused, school officials did point out that they deflect nearly 22 million cyber attacks a day, but that given the recent events would have to dedicate further resources to ensuring the safety of student and employee information.
Among the list of universities to experience such assaults in the past few years are Harvard University, cybersecurity breaches and have consequentially had to increase their cybersecurity budgets. The University of Maryland experienced a devastating breach in which nearly 300,000 student, faculty, and employee records were exposed to malicious hackers. Most recently, Cal State had an incident where cyber perpetrators compromised nearly 80,000 student records through a third-party website linked to the college. What exactly constitutes a data breach? In general, a breach is any unauthorized entry into a database, though more information is available here.
Colleges are also spending money to raise awareness of this threat. Information technology and security experts have to isolate and analyze each breach, often aided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Colleges continually upgrade firewalls and restrictions in an attempt to curb illegal access, but the individual users must also take precautions by changing passwords frequently and limiting use of personal devices to access school records. Since the college has no control over personal devices, each cell phone or tablet carries with it the potential to piggyback a slew of issues to the college’s infrastructure.
Parents and students are unable to control much of what goes on with higher education costs, but it is important to understand the factors that add up to the rising costs of education in the U.S. before making an educated decision about whether or not the cost of college is truly worth it.