The rising cost of higher education in the US has resulted in new class of administrators. The one in the article makes 1.2 million a year (she took a pay cut down to $1m because of the crisis). Much of the cost is subsidized by International students, and many of those from China.
It’s a scam. A trillion dollar scam.
As uncertainty surrounding the return to normalcy deepens amid the coronavirus crisis, colleges and universities have begun to think through what the fall might hold for higher education. Some of their proposed plans, most notably those advanced in a New York Times op-ed by Brown University President Christina Paxton, ignore a few large elephants in the room to push for a return to the status quo in September.
First, U.S. higher education is extraordinarily dependent on international students, many of whom come from China, and almost all of whom pay full tuition. The Wall Street Journal reports that the share of international students has increased dramatically in the last few decades. Most notably, China accounted for a third of the whopping $30 billion spent by international students in the U.S. on tuition, fees, and living expenses by 2015.
Needless to say, it is unclear whether it is sustainable for colleges and universities to depend on such high levels of international student enrollment. Yet international students paying full tuition to attend U.S. universities subsidize those who pay less than full tuition. Without this dependable stream of income, will universities even be able to return to business as usual? Paxton’s article in no way addresses that her own university’s incoming class is 11% international. (China is listed as one of the “most represented” countries.)
Second, U.S. higher education depends as much on money brought in by room, board, fees, and, in some cases, sports teams than from student tuition. Paxton writes, “Most colleges and universities are tuition dependent. Remaining closed in the fall means losing as much as half of our revenue.”
This is misleading, as most colleges and universities (Brown included, at the tune of $55,000 per year) continue to charge full tuition for online classes. What schools are actually losing money on is room, board, tuition, and, in some cases, canceled athletic events.
Without the return of students to campus in the fall, they know they will not be able to recoup the short-term costs of the refunds or the long-term costs of unused buildings. Yet, to say that the issue of remaining virtual is lost tuition is to ignore the fact that most of what students pay does not come back to them in the form of education.