By Richard Vedder
My sidekick extraordinaire, Bryan O'Keefe, wrote a very nice blog on Princeton's decision to freeze tuition for the first time since 1967. The good news was they did it, but the bad news is that a huge room and board increase meant total fees are continuing to rise a good deal more than inflation for the typical Princeton student who pays for his/her education.
Still the move to freeze tuition rates has enormous appeal, and is feasible without discernible impact on undergraduate education at a number of wealthy schools (e.g., Harvard and Yale, and some rich liberal arts colleges, such a Grinnell College in Iowa). I think a close look historically at the finances of these schools would show that the rise in endowment income, federal grants, and private gifts alone with modest inflation-related tuition increases, would have allowed for high quality education to continue. The big increase in fees that in fact happened, however, has funded the frivolities, inefficiencies, resource reallocations, and rent payments of higher education --more administrative staff, big salary increases for senior personnel, more climbing walls and jacuzzis, lower teaching loads, and the like. When prosecutors go after white collar criminals they say "follow the money." And reducing the rate of increase in the money flow to universities and colleges, particularly the elite four year schools, would go a long way to moving colleges towards becoming more efficient. So I say, hooray for the tuition freeze movement. Okay Harvard, Yale, Williams, Amherst, Grinnell -- can you match Princeton?