Online comments of the week
In response to "A continuous rise in tuition decreases Rice's overall value" (Mar. 09, 2012):
Lauriello did not need a grandiose writing center to compose his thoughtful essay about mindless tuition increases. A mere undergraduate has now demonstrated more common sense than all the king's court. This is hauntingly reminiscent of H.C. Anderson's "The Emperor's New Clothes."
A perennial theme of human civilization is playing out right before our eyes. Will the truth spread through whispers among the crowd, as in Anderson's tale? Or will the plain observation "But he has nothing on" fall on deaf ears?
Bill Wilson, BCB
In response to Anonymous, the answer was "large initial endowment." Universities are facing a great increase in education costs due to:
1. Health care - Not much you can do about that.
2. The increased need for IT - Try running a university without computers. And real computing power gets quite expensive...
3. New costs for disability support services, health and safety regulations, and other compliance issues - Again, little you can do.
4. Energy costs - The income the university takes in from tuition is of a similar order of magnitude as electricity and heating costs, and these have been rising (and may continue to do so).
5. Baumol's cost disease - labor does get more expensive.
So some increases in the cost of tuition above and beyond inflation are entirely fair. With that said - Rice, I think you've been making a massively stupid mistake letting tuition balloon so uncontrollably.
I'm glad the article recognizes the effect financial aid plays in all of this; this is an important discussion that gets lost in the whole tuition debate. In a way, raising tuition while keeping financial aid levels steady ends up being a progressive tax on education, though sadly international students (and fifth-years) get hosed by all of this.
I also completely agree that the Giffen good argument is complete and utter BS, though it's one that the university has fallen for (this fact was even explicitly stated in an article in the NYT a few years back).
The point that much of this money goes towards student-life services is probably the crux of the debate; if we look at Cooper Union (which remains tuition free) or many European universities (extremely low tuition), the schools are fairly bare-bones in terms of what they offer students. Want to go biking with a bunch of fellow cyclists? That's awesome - but you either need to find a local community group or pay the start-up monies needed to start your own. I personally think that Rice's attempts to win the "student life" arms race is a stupid, stupid unsustainable thing to do and that the university should go back toward a substantially cheaper, more basic model. Rice was the only private university I was able to afford of the lot that I applied to, so the choice to come here was easy. To lose our position as "the cheap, comprehensive university that offers a really good education" strikes me as losing what makes Rice particularly worth attending.
Leebron, I really could care less about some fancy statues around campus and, if I really wanted to do some climbing, I could have made the journey to the Texas Rock Gym or play around in the tiny bouldering gym that was in Hanszen's B&P. Student life is nice, but it's not the reason for going to college.
Paul Anzel Will Rice College Class of '09
In response to "BakerShake production dissapoints" (Mar. 09, 2012):
Thanks for giving an honest review of a Rice show. I've been to a lot of shows on campus that have gotten good reviews by the Thresher, but I've ultimately been disappointed. I think it's important to give constructive criticism. After all, that's the only way anyone gets better at anything, right?! The enunciation and projection problems are definitely things that could be fixed in time for a great run next week.
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