graduation diploma

Having attended a regional university and worked at three major land-grant universities, I wish to comment on higher education costs as discussed in "Students are bankrolling public colleges" from the June 2 Hoard's Dairyman Intel and the June 9 Reader Responses "I'm swimming in student debt" and "Focus on education, not buildings."

Funding for public education over the last three decades has shifted from most of the money coming from the state to most of the money coming from the students - moving from a public university model to a private university model. Rarely are instructional and research centers at public universities funded by student fees or tuition. Dormitory (room and board) fees pay for dorms. Student fees generally pay for student centers, often based on student vote. Public universities nationwide receive less and less of their operating budgets from state appropriations, so the funding is shifted to students through increased tuition and fees.

Two factors that affect cost are size of the university and graduation rate. Within categories, larger universities generally have lower overhead costs per student. Within category, universities with higher four- or six-year graduation rate have substantially lower cost per degree awarded. States that encourage students to complete their basic courses in two-year programs before moving to four-year campuses have lower average cost per student.

Changes in student lifestyles have significantly influenced amenities that students require, and this has raised the cost per student. Spending on athletics at universities nationwide has escalated substantially, and in most universities, the students bear an increasing burden to support athletic programs. Look at your state university budgets, mostly available online, and you can see what shifts have occurred over the last three decades.

- Jack Britt, North Carolina

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