PR winds blowing against higher ed on tuition value issue

For years now, a core of marketing folk have encouraged colleges and universities to deal with public concern about the rising cost of a college or university education by stressing the “value” of the degree earned. And of course, everyone is urged to complete the FAFSA, apply for financial aid, and borrow money. Lots of money.

To most parents, FAFSA results have always been silly, serving only to show people how much loan debt they would need to assume in order to send a child through college. More debt at most private sector schools, usually less debt in the public sector. “Value” has less meaning as cost and debt rises.

Public Opinion at End of 2008

Now we have a new research report based on surveys done December 2008 from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The results are not nice for the higher education sector.

In a nutshell, public opinion is turning against colleges and universities. The present economic plague is destroying the belief that higher education institutions act on behalf of the public rather than their own self-interest. Comparison with the health care industry is emerging.

All of this is part of an unfortunate trend. Since 2000 (and really, since before that) higher educaton tuition has risen far faster than family incomes. And so people have increasingly come to believe that a college education, no matter the “value” proposition, is just out of their reach.

This isn’t a pretty report. Is a tuition freeze in 2009 the only way to start to combat this?

Tuition Freezes and Salary Cuts 

Some colleges and universities are moving in the right direction by announcing salary reductions for top administrators and salary freezes for just about everybody else. If that trend continues and gets serious media attention, that will help.

Just about every college and university benefits from access to public funds. Or, as banks are now learning, support from tax payers. Higher education has been remarkably free of government oversight in how those funds are spent. In today’s climate, that independence is at risk for both public and private sector institutions.

Download the Report 

Read and download a copy of the full report “Squeeze Play 2009: The Public’s View on College Costs Today” and see how public opinion is turning. 



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