Indiana is concerned about the skyrocketing cost of higher education. On top of my role as an educator, I am also a student at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. A class this semester focuses on Higher Education Law and has helped provide perspective on extinguishing the exploding cost of a college education.
The skyrocketing cost of higher education is one of the consistent themes we keep returning to in our class. In one of my assignments, I had to interview a higher education administrator and a lawyer that practices in higher education law. Between their wisdom and my own as a student paying several tuition bills, here are some suggestions to keep higher education an affordable and an attainable goal for those who want and need it to keep Indiana moving forward:
1. Get the federal government out of the business of higher education. The federal government is now a huge financier of student loans, and also one of the largest critics of the skyrocketing tuition costs. However, the federal government itself has created many of the regulations for higher education that drive up the cost of education.
FERPA, Title IX, ADA, and Affirmative Action are all laws that colleges and universities must comply with in order to be part of the federal student loan programs, which in turn creates more need for administration and bureaucracy at colleges and universities in order to oversee compliance of these federal laws. The more law, the more need for compliance, the more need for resources to pay for the compliance, and thus, higher tuition. The federal government itself in many ways has created the monster of skyrocketing tuition.
2. More eBooks. Despite the reality that Amazon’s profit is down, the cost of textbooks in higher education is still going up. The one place where prices are being reduced? Ebooks. While there’s still debate on their impact on the environment being reduced vs. paper, the other major advantage with ebooks is the ability of authors to easily update them. Furthermore, ebooks now have the ability to be interactive, by providing video and hyperlinks to other sources online. This creates a wider range of learning styles for students. So, costs can be reduced and students have a broader range of learning via eBooks—creating a win-win!
3. Provide a wider range of education options for students. While it might be utopian for everyone to go to college, not everyone has that opportunity. However, in order to be productive members of society, we should all be exposed to a wide range of educational options. We need to get back to more variety in education—such as technical training, guild programs, trades and artistic skills training on the job. We still need technical trades and craftsmen. We also need creative spirits and artisans. Not all of these skills must only be taught in college. Trade schools, guilds, associate programs, and certification training are in most cases more affordable options vs. college. The more educational options offered, a more diverse and I argue, rich society we curate.
4. Time for technology to step out of the LAS classroom? According to the attorney I interviewed about higher education, one of the biggest line items for colleges and universities now to hit their budgets that didn’t exist 40 years ago is technology. And while technology is needed to some extent in professional and technical programs, the challenge with it is that it constantly must be upgraded.
However, in a liberal arts and sciences core foundational program offered at many colleges and universities, does technology really need to be in the classroom? Some law schools have even banned laptops. Removing technology may reduce tuition costs, but it is probably the most controversial of all the suggestions I provide, as technology may be a non-negotiable in our day and age. Banning it, however, some argue provides a richer learning experience in the classroom, and lowers costs.
Former lawyer and president of Harvard University, Derek Bok said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” While he is correct—in that a society that is educated is a better society—I sincerely hope that we can keep educational attainable and affordable for future generations of Hoosiers to come. Without affordable education? We’re headed toward something even more expensive.
Dr. Albert is an assistant professor at Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, author
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