OUR VIEW: Opulence is pricing some out of college$8,100 is the cost of tuition and fees for a resident student this year at South Dakota State University.
The president of the state Board of Regents, Kathryn Johnson, told state lawmakers Tuesday that because of declining state financial support and rising tuition, she’s worried the cost of college could soon be out of reach for many South Dakota students.
As an example, an Associated Press report noted that $8,100 is the cost of tuition and fees for a resident student this year at South Dakota State University.
We’re glad SDSU was cited in the report. It’ll help us make our point about why the regents themselves, the higher education establishment in general and the rest of us in society are just as much to blame for higher college costs as any other factor.
In July 2010, this editorial board visited with SDSU President David Chicoine and various other SDSU officials who were on a tour of the state. They told us $100 million had been spent on new construction projects at SDSU since Chicoine became the university’s president in 2007.
Those projects included new dorms, a Wellness Center, the Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center, the Equestrian Center, the Seed Technology Laboratory, the Innovation Center, the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building, and the Avera Health and Science Center, to name a few.
Why are college costs rising so rapidly? The answer seems readily apparent. We’ve all been sold the notion that our students must be surrounded by opulence, and higher education officials have scrambled to accommodate our newly refined tastes. They’ve gone on a building-and spending spree the likes of which has never been seen in their field, and all of that building and spending has to be paid for somehow. Tuition and fees had to rise.
Think of it: $100 million in building projects during just three years at only one of the state’s public universities. It’s no wonder state financial support is failing to keep up. How could it?
And yet, many of us are somehow surprised to learn that we’re pricing South Dakotans out of college. It shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re bringing many students to campus from modest, low- to middle-income families and treating them to the life of a young executive. Whereas at home they probably lacked many luxuries, at college they have private, posh dorm rooms; wellness centers replete with climbing walls and enough fitness equipment for a large city; student unions outfitted with fireplaces; and just about every other amenity imaginable.
It doesn’t take somebody with an advanced degree to figure out what’s going on. Low- to middle-income students cannot afford the high life, but the high life is exactly what we’re requiring them to pay for.
Last year, it was reported that South Dakota led the nation in the percentage of college students who graduate with debt. The numbers, from 2010, showed that 75 percent of South Dakota’s students graduated with student-loan debt, and the average student debt was $23,171.
We’re not against higher education. Our state and federal government should invest in higher educational facilities to incubate our future leaders. But we as a society have gotten too carried away in our expectations of college life.
Students — especially those at public universities — do not need opulence. They need technology, good teaching, quality activities and buildings that are adequately equipped and sized.
As it is, we’re pricing some students out of a college education, just because we think they need a fireplace in every study corner.