The Blog

Colleges Play Monopoly, But Is There a "Get Out of Debt Free" Card?

A single question is raised when these factors culminate: Where exactly does the money for college tuition go to? Surely the dean's dog can't stomach $60,000 per student.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The increasing price of college tuition has led students and parents to bear a great financial onus.

When the price of tuition, books, room and board, application fees and sending in the multiple SAT tests to colleges and universities are racked up, student debt becomes an insurmountable outcome.

A single question is raised when these factors culminate: Where exactly does the money for college tuition go to? Surely the dean's dog can't stomach $60,000 per student.

A recent article by the New York Times noted that although college costs are on the rise, the pulpit of such costs are often from college brochures that give the "list price" sans the application of financial aid and removal of other economic factors that would reduce the price.

However, in spite of such observations, it is difficult to not comment on the financial disparity that recent prices have alighted, particularly when online articles frequently bear titles resembling "The Most Expensive Colleges in the United States."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the rising cost of college tuitions has been attributed to three main sources: athletics, administration and amenities.

According to USA Today, college athletics have become increasingly competitive in recent years. The University of Cincinnati and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, spent one to six million dollars to keep up their sports programs' reputations.

Additionally, colleges outwit and outspend rivals to bolster their prestige. A recent Los Angeles Times article aptly entitled, "Colleges: Where the money goes," totaled a $20,405 cost per player of varsity golf at Duke University, and the fact that "because there are no revenues for most sports, the deficits often have to be covered by tuition bills."

A second factor leading to rising prices in college tuition is the excess in numbers of administration employed at a given college to ironically, keep the institution running smoothly (but apparently, not financially sound).

Although some administration positions have their due place, some positions are superfluous and remain unoccupied by administrators who take off the majority of the academic year with a paid leave.

In short, more administration translates to a decline in the number of professors to instruct students at a university due to money being parceled to people occupying dormant positions.

The majority of college presidents' salaries topple over a million dollars yearly, and some such as the University of Chicago's Robert Zimmerman, earn $3,358,723 or higher.

Furthermore, the amount of tenured professors at certain universities amass more than half (usually in the range of 70 percent+) of the salary reserved for all the professors at the university. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2010 at Williams College in Massachusetts, three of the seven religion professors have taken leave during the academic year, and therefore, not actively working for this salary.

As the desire to bolster college athletics and tenured administration and professors rises, colleges have begun to operate like elite, high class country clubs rather than schools: amenities are primary, education secondary.

College listings seldom include the average room and board price of $7,500-$9,000 per year. When these prices are compounded with the luxuries offered at many colleges, it becomes clear where tuition money is siphoned: Washington State University's jacuzzi, Pennsylvania State University's movie theatre and tropical ecosystem, university's personal chefs and lavish menus featuring organic and vegan friendly options, Brown University's farmer's market, Cornell's $259 million dollar investment in residential facilities and Ohio State University's $140 million dollar venture to construct a complex equipped with kayaks, canoes, batting cages, a climbing wall and massages for students.

These amenities have successfully lured students into particular colleges, and out-of-state applicants that pay twice as much for tuition. There is only one plausible option left for prospective college students to take -- to shake the dice and begin again.