Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Colleges I Admire

By Richard Vedder

I have been trashing universities a lot lately, not because I hate them, but because I love them. They serve useful functions, and I think the preservation and strengthening of the intellectual basis for Western civilization is a pretty important job.

Yet amidst all the criticism, there are some schools that do very good things, as Dan Golden points out in his great book The Price of Admission. I want to mention a couple that Dan points out, and add a third of my own.

Berea College and Cooper Union could not be more different in many respects. One is in rural Kentucky, and limits its enrollment largely to students from nearby Appalachian states. My wife Karen, a guidance counselor extraordinaire, has long been a strong advocate of sending poor Appalachian kids to Berea, and I have seen the fine results. By contrast, Cooper Union is a New York City institution that draws heavily from America's leading urban center. Both schools have one important thing in common: they are free. There are no tuition fees. Both also do not let legacy or family wealth considerations impact admission --Berea goes so far as to forbid rich kids from coming, and makes every kid work at least ten hours a week doing something for the college. Both are single minded in their goal: to provide high quality instruction to deserving kids of all types of backgrounds. Both are marvelous examples of using higher education to improve equality of condition in our nation, something our nation's leading public universities are ignoring, as my last blog and the new Gerald and Haycock Education Trust study points out.

A third school that Dan Golden does not mention is Hillsdale College. Hillsdale will take money from students and their parents, and indeed needs those funds to survive, since it does not take a penny of federal money, nor do any of its students (no student loans). Why? Hillsdale philosophically is opposed to governmental involvement in what it does, and is willing to endure some financial sacrifice in order to maintain that principle.

Sometime the nice guys don't finish last, as someone, I think Leo Durocher, once claimed. By swimming against the stream, all three institutions have prospered. Berea has a huge endowment, mostly provided by non-Berea connected folks who admire the school and its mission. Cooper Union lived for years on income from valuable real estate investments, and now is appealing for outside funds. But it still avoids tuition, and it still is a first rate school. Hillsdale has a growing reputation as a good liberal arts college, and its endowment has grown more than most schools of its size and reputation, appealing to persons who put a strong value on individual liberty.


superhiker said...

How nice. I don't know about Cooper Union, but Berea and Hillsdale each have about $30K/student from endowment and in the case of Hillsdale, tuition.

Meanwhile, I work at a not-well-endowed public university that does it for half, or one-third the cost per student. The kind of school that conservative commentators on higher education like to slam these days.

How's that for college productivity?

Anonymous said...

Hillsdale totals $25,000 per year including room/board and tuition, not $30,000. Our tuition is only $17,000. It offers 87% of students financial aid and the average incoming freshman receive $10,000 in private aid. It remains one of the least expensive private schools in the country and rivals some state school price tags--(i.e. California).

superhiker said...

Coco, you are right about the tuition at Hillsdale, I was adding in the (very roughly estimated) income from the endowment and annual giving.

The Hillsdale endowment is around $300 million, if I remember correctly; assuming a 5% return, one gets something like $12,000 per student.

If I then add in annual unrestricted income, which typically matches endowment income, one gets roughly $25,000/student.

Add in tuition of $17,000 and subtract $10,000 in financial aid, one comes up with around $32,000 per student for running the school.

That doesn't count room and board.

That's how I came up with a total expenditure per student of something like $30,000. Let me reiterate, a very rough back of the envelope calculation.

I'm not saying that's excessive, or that it's not less than a good many private schools.

What I am saying is that most public universities and colleges do it for much less per student.

In the case of the public university where I teach, by a factor of 2-3.

I say this because I am getting very tired of the recent habit of conservatives slamming public universities for being too costly, when in fact they are very low-cost compared with the schools where such people usually send their own children.

This is especially a recent sore point because I live in a state which had a ballot initiative to restrain public spending. Local and some national conservatives were licking their chops at the thought of the state universities, among other public services, having their budgets cuts. This initiative got soundly slaughtered in the recent election.

I bring all this up here given the paean to Hillsdale and other colleges.

From where I sit, Hillsdale looks like a pretty spendy little college.

One could point out that it doesn't receive government money, but that really has nothing to do with what kinds of schools are extravagant.

People who want to drive around in BMW's are fine -- and others may be able to afford even better -- but then it sits rather poorly when they criticize the ordinary folk for driving a Honda Accord instead of a used Civic.

Butter Cup said...

"I say this because I am getting very tired of the recent habit of conservatives slamming public universities for being too costly, when in fact they are very low-cost compared with the schools where such people usually send their own children." Wow! That though went through your brain like shit through a goose.

I don't think conservatives are the only people who are disgusted with high tuition costs. To say that conservatives ONLY are slamming higher ed for the rediculous tuition rates is ludicrously moronic at best. "...schools where such people usually send their own children." In fact, let's stereotype a conservative: wealthy, affluent, 2 Beamers in the garage, 6000 sq ft home, 5000 sq ft vacation home, etc. etc.

But Democrats "feel sorry for the poor" and try to socialize the economy and redistribute wealth. They all drive used Honda Civics. Most Democrats (white ones that is) "feel your pain", the rest are blacks, hispanics, muslims and left wing bomb-throwers. I guess there are no wealthy democrats. Oh, wait a minute, did I just hear the name George Soros, Ed Kennedy, John Kerry, John Rockefeller, John Corzine, Diane Feinstein, John Lautenburg, John Edwards, etc.? Shall I go on?

So why in the hell would all the *RICH* conservatives bitch about the cost of tuition if they are *RICH*?? That doesn't make a goddamned bit of sense - even if you have a one big ass brain tumor the size of a watermelon.

Personally, I don't give a GI squat about Cooper Union, Hillsdale, or Berea. They all sound like the kind of schools from old Disney movies. Hillsdale? C'mon, they're probably a bunch of goddamned sissie theatre major sons-a-bitches.

When I go to work and talk to parents who are putting their kids through college, I don't ask them their political affiliation because I don't give a bag full of bull shit. Everyone of them are making a big huge goddamned sacrifice to send their kids to college. They get a second mortgage, borrow, and try to get other financial assistance.

If you think this problem falls along political lines, which you seem to try to inject in your posts that I have read, then you are a big dumb-ass bastard. But then you are part of the system that sucks the financial life out us like a whore who could suck start a 747.

To say high tuition costs are not a problem and then write it off as just a bunch of conservatives slamming higher ed because they don't have anything better to do leads me to believe you're on a trip and haven't left the farm.

People like you, who divide the world into political groups and pidgeon hole everyone miss the message and the point because you run the message through a political filter. You sir are a divisive dumb bastard son-of-an-asshole-bitch.

Narrow minded people like you piss me off.

superhiker said...

Buttercup -- you mentioned the farm -- sounds like you need to go back to grazing -- maybe you've been away from the bull too long.

Anyhow, if you ever learn to carry on a discussion more respectfully, I might be up for one.

Butter Cup said...

Mr. Churchill,

I read a blog that complimented three schools. In turn, you come off as a sarcastic dooshbag and then somehow politicise the blog.

Where the hell is your respect?

Is there something wrong with CCAP trying to reduce the outrageous costs of tuition and hold public institutions accountable like everyone else?

For some of us, we have to ask the question: Do we want to send our kids to college or have a retirement? But you don't understand that because you are a linear thinker - you only see the world from your point of view. Easy, isn't it?

When I see people putting their homes at risk and borrowing money to pay your damn salary; and to hear you say that isn't a problem - why then, I think you're an asshole. I have no respect for you.

If your brains weren't hanging in your sack, or your boobs (whichever applies), you would possibly realize that people who have to spend a goddamned fortune to send their kid(s) to college is not a monopoly of any political party.

How you reduce the cost of tuition and other expense should be done smartly - something you are not aquainted with. For people like you, is there ANYTHING you believe is in the greater interests of Americans that should not be politicised even though it may agree or disagree with the policy of some stupid, jerk-off political party that doesn't do shit but tax us and beat each other to death with a sock full of shit?

What is more important - doing something for us American people and doing it right - or doing something because it's politically advantageous?

I know Vedder critiques democrat's policies with regard to higher ed. And when the republicans come up with a policy, if they have not, my guess is he will critique that as well. But for Christ's sake, give the man a chance.

You know, I have a butt-crack. Now I don't know about you, but I don't polticise my ass and call the left cheek a democrat and the right cheek a republican. In other words, I am so gaddamned sick and tired of EVERYTHING being politicised that doesn't need to be, that I would almost prefer to live in Lichtenstein.

"I work at a not-well-endowed public university..." If your women are all flat chested and the men all have stubby pencil dicks, that's too godamned bad. But I would like to know if you are using public money and public property to politicise and divide on this blog?

I would say "Happy Thanksgiving", but I'm afraid you'll go off on how the white, honkey, cracker mutha's, murdered all the savage ass indians and ate them for dinner.

BTW Coco - I hate that name. It makes me want to have a BM.

You're all a bunch of schmo's - I give up on you.

superhiker said...

Buttercup, since I work at a public university, it chagrins me to say this, but you are Exhibit A in the case that is being made against mass higher education.

Butter Cup said...

Wrong again you goof. You are exhibit A. I am Exhibit B - on purpose you big dummy.

You having fun spending my money?

Big Blue said...

"but you are Exhibit A in the case that is being made against mass higher education."

Could one of you two idiotic fools tell me what the case against "mass higher education" is.

I have never heard this one before.

superhiker said...

Dear Mr. blue:

I have to wonder why you would want to bother with the musings of an idiotic fool like myself.

The case being made against mass higher education is not being made by the likes of me.

I suggest that you look at sources such as National Review Online (nationalreview.com) in the "Phi Beta Cons" blog. Some of Richard Vedder's kindred-types post there.