Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much, With a New Preface / Edition 1

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America's colleges and universities are the best in the world. They are also the most expensive. Tuition has risen faster than the rate of inflation for the past thirty years. There is no indication that this trend will abate.

Ronald G. Ehrenberg explores the causes of this tuition inflation, drawing on his many years as a teacher and researcher of the economics of higher education and as a senior administrator at Cornell University. Using incidents and examples from his own experience, he discusses a wide range of topics including endowment policies, admissions and financial aid policies, the funding of research, tenure and the end of mandatory retirement, information technology, libraries and distance learning, student housing, and intercollegiate athletics.

He shows that colleges and universities, having multiple, relatively independent constituencies, suffer from ineffective central control of their costs. And in a fascinating analysis of their response to the ratings published by magazines such as U.S. News & World Report, he shows how they engage in a dysfunctional competition for students.

In the short run, colleges and universities have little need to worry about rising tuitions, since the number of qualified students applying for entrance is rising even faster. But in the long run, it is not at all clear that the increases can be sustained. Ehrenberg concludes by proposing a set of policies to slow the institutions' rising tuitions without damaging their quality.

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Editorial Reviews


In Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much, Ronald Ehrenberg provides a concise and compelling explanation of the influence of academic governance processes on rising university expenditures and tuition charges… His book is a rare and insightful primer on the intersection of governance and finance.
— Edward P. St. John

Frank Rhodes
Ron Ehrenberg's comprehensive and important analysis of rising college costs is based on both his professional expertise as an economist and his practical experience as a member of the central administration at one university: Cornell. With insight, candor, and rigor he examines the arms race' among selective universities, reviewing the role of each of the major participants-trustees, presidents, deans, faculty, local, state and federal governments, and, not least, tuitionpaying students-in ratcheting up the level of tuition. Pointing to the fate of hospitals and medical centers, he cautions that self-regulation and institutional restraint are needed to prevent loss of public confidence and possible federal regulation. This book deserves widespread attention, both within the academic community and beyond it.
Henry Rosovsky
Balanced, sensible, and informed, Tuition Rising is a valuable addition to the literature on higher education. Giving the reader a lot of very useful empirical analysis, Ehrenberg demonstrates the value of being an economist. Anyone about to become a college administrator will want to read this book with great care.
Michael Rothschild
Ehrenberg demonstrates in convincing detail that private universities do not easily make economically efficient choices. The culprits are variously loose budget constraints, relatively little hierarchical authority, decentralized units that do not share the universities' goals, poor institutional design, poor public policies, political vulnerability, and the pious blindness of faculty. Tuition Rising is interesting, well-argued, and provocative. It ought to he required reading for presidents, provosts, and trustees of elite private research universities.
Gordon Winston
What makes Tuition Rising so valuable and so much fun is its combination of facts, analysis, and administrative war stories. So, for instance, the importance to a college of national rankings, like US News's, is supported by careful econometric analysis (kept in the background, as are all technical jargon and argument), put under a microscope to understand the reasons for their often-quirky rankings, and then followed into Cornell's business school to see how "managing to the rankings"--the collegiate version of "teaching to the test"--can make sensible university-wide administration very difficult.
Michael McPherson
Economists are sometimes accused of possessing "an irrational passion for dispassionate rationality." This book describes what a first-rate economist learned in trying to introduce greater rationality to the decision-making of a great university, a place that emerges as passionate and ambitious, but markedly reluctant to make hard choices. The account is sobering, illuminating, and immensely entertaining. Both those who love universities and those who love rationality will enjoy this book.
Academe - Edward P. St. John
In Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much, Ronald Ehrenberg provides a concise and compelling explanation of the influence of academic governance processes on rising university expenditures and tuition charges… His book is a rare and insightful primer on the intersection of governance and finance.
In Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much, Ronald Ehrenberg provides a concise and compelling explanation of the influence of academic governance processes on rising university expenditures and tuition charges… His book is a rare and insightful primer on the intersection of governance and finance.
— Edward P. St. John
Library Journal
Unlike businesses, which strive to keep costs at a minimum, universities must spend to make themselves as attractive as possible to their constituents. Ehrenberg, a senior administrator and professor of economics at Cornell University, examines the factors influencing the spiraling tuition costs of the past decade: the need to spend money to have the best facilities, faculties, and learning tools in order to attract the best and brightest students, the need to spend for athletics and other programs to keep alumni support strong, the self-governing nature of university faculty, and the increasing pressure to spend in order to increase ratings in external publications. Observes Ehrenberg, "As long as lengthy lines of highly qualified applicants keep knocking at its door no institution has a strong incentive to unilaterally end the spending race." This highly readable examination of the American higher education system is an excellent addition to any public or academic library.--Mark Bay, Univ. of Houston Lib. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674009882
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 0.70 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald G. Ehrenberg is Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics at Cornell University and Director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.
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Table of Contents


I. Setting the Stage

1. Why Do Costs Keep Rising at Selective Private Colleges and Universities?

2. Who Is in Charge of the University?

II. Wealth and the Quest for Prestige

3. Endowment Policies, Development Policies, and the Color of Money

4. Undergraduate and Graduate Program Rankings

5. Admissions and Financial Aid Policies

III. The Primacy of Science Over Economics

6. Why Relative Prices Don't Matter

7. Staying on the Cutting Edge in Science

IV. The Faculty

8. Salaries

9. Tenure and the End of Mandatory Retirement

V. Space

10. Deferred Maintenance, Space Planning, and Imperfect Information

11. The Costs of Space

VI. Academic and Administrative Issues

12. Internal Transfer Prices

13. Enrollment Management

14. Information Technology, Libraries, and Distance Learning

VII. The Nonacademic Infrastructure

15. Parking and Transportation

16. Cooling Systems

VIII. Student Life

17. Intercollegiate Athletics and Gender Equity

18. Dining and Housing

IX. Conclusion

19. Looking to the Future

20. A Final Thought

Appendix. Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Retirement Plans




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