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Put Scholars Before Dollars

April 12, 1993



THE American academic community has satisfied its curiosity about which college or university would break the $100,000 barrier for the cost of a diploma.

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Yale University has reluctantly (we hope) posted a figure for tuition, room, and board for the 1993-94 academic year of $25,110. Barring further increases, that works out to $100,440 for a full four years. Yale may deserve credit for its straightforwardness in crossing the $100,000 barrier; other elite schools already within a professor's whisker of the mark will no doubt soon follow.

"So what?" some prospective students and their parents may ask. After all, Yale's high tuition might well be worth its price in prestige and job opportunities. Others might respond: "Our kid isn't trying to climb the ivy. There are a lot of small, top-notch colleges and scores of fine state universities for good scholars to choose from."

Even at these institutions, though, where annual tuition, room, and board may run only around $2,000, there are extra costs for books, other supplies, transportation, recreation, and other extras.

What of the institutions themselves? Many students and parents have come to feel that schools are being run less for the students and more for the academicians who are supposed to be teaching them. Many students complain that in some courses, they never see or hear the professor whose name and degrees are listed in the catalog. In the last 10 years or more, academic salaries have not just undergone often-needed adjustments, many have at least doubled.

Professors who may have struggled for years to earn what they consider adequate paychecks may howl to hear it said, but many institutions seem to be run for the benefit of the (often absent) faculty rather than the students.

What American higher education needs at this point is not so much an infusion of money and facilities as a rededication to the role in society of higher education. In a few words: Put teaching first.