Who Should Pay The Bill

College Endowments and the Cost of Education

by Gary R. Carlson

If I asked you, what is a college endowment and what do they do? When there is a call for more funding for higher education, there is an equity policy between wealthy people with both physical and financial assets and those serving a student body of first-time college students in their families. When the request for funds lands on the government’s doorstep how do the consumers know the need of each institution? Over the years many college campuses have acquired large amounts of money by fundraising. How large you may ask? These are the twenty largest endowments today in America.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Table 333.90. Endowment funds of the 120 degree-granting postsecondary institutions with the largest endowments, by rank order: The fiscal year 2020 [Data table]. In Digest of education statistics. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_333.90.asp?current=yes.


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In the billions and growing. I talk with parents and students weekly about the high cost of education. There has always been a quandary with teacher and faculty salaries and the financial burdens placed on families to afford college. Government student loans have not proven to be the answer in that the balance of the tuition loans has continued to make it offensive to the starting incomes of the graduates. Education has become so expensive the low-middle class and the middle-class student will not be able to attend. Pressures on students for academic scholarships and athletics are what many parents are putting pressure on to attend college after secondary school. There seem to be a lot of promises during the election years about the importance of school. We all know the answer has been higher tuition and loans that are almost impossible to pay off. For colleges the answer is to recruit and put more bodies into the seats for their tuition dollars. I have observed this trend for over 50 years. Revealed in these statistics is that colleges in general can raise money. They could be non-profit and acquire more funds than schools that are for-profit. The mystery isn’t a mystery at all. The emphasis has been on putting the burden of obtaining an education beyond belief on the consumer. How many times have you heard any politician say the future of our country is in the education our citizens will have available to them in quality and quantity. Mainstream America is being forced out of the opportunity when all cost is rising Most Americans have felt hopeless about what they can do to change this dilemma. It has become a priority in college organizations to increase enrollments, hire adjunct faculty versus full-time, have graduate assistants teach undergraduates to save money, tenured faculty teach two classes a semester, focus on research versus the improvement of instruction, screen students who are more likely to be completers, create financial barriers to entice more influential students than those who come from families who have never had anyone attend a post-secondary school. Let’s stop there but there is obviously more. 

If you were asked as an American citizen as to the priorities of post-secondary schools. How knowledgeable would you be with the outcomes of any of these schools? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the average daily attendance by class and program?
  2. What is the ratio of success by subject with pass and failure?
  3. What is student retention by cohort class?
  4. What is student retention by the program?
  5. What is the average faculty member providing face time with students?
  6. Other than Liberal Arts what is the job placement in the field in each graduating class? 
  7. What is the ratio of students continuing to the following degree level?
  8. What are the ratios of students on a student loan program? (By program)
  9. What are the percentages of salaries for college administration, athletic coaches’ faculty, and staff?
  10. What is the average age of faculty and staff.?

The most disappointing fact is that all these questions should be measured and quantified each year. 

I am not a proponent of free school or college, but I am a proponent of equity and reasonability for all American families should have the ability and opportunity to fulfill their education dreams by persevering a sought-after education. This article is to mainly to get you thinking. No matter where you are in life, a senior citizen, or a member of any of the generations today you should be on board to improve and not bury your heads in the sand on what should be expected from our colleges. As you can see by the introduction of this article it would be hard to understand that money could be an issue in some of these schools. When it comes to priorities, we must understand that income from athletics to any great degree professionally is a very small percentage. If you were to do a graduate income from the cost of an athletic program versus a student-athlete post-graduate income, we would close that business down. NIL is now available for student-athletes. This also is an opportunity created for the few and benefits the business organization. 

It is time to look at the system and create what produces the best outcomes for all potential students based on their mission of quality, service, and compliance.

Our future is in the hands of today’s leaders. It is up to us to ask the right questions!

September 27, 2022


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