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Your Opinion: Costs of higher education

by Bert Dirschell, Centertown | June 18, 2015 at 12:06 p.m. | Updated June 18, 2015 at 12:06 p.m.

Dear Editor:

A News Tribune article noted that the state's budget includes about $20 million in aid for Lincoln University. Another article noted that 471 students graduated from Lincoln last year. It appears that each Lincoln grad costs Missouri taxpayers over $42,000.

A college cost web site estimated that in 2014 the annual cost for a resident to attend Lincoln to be $13,000 per year ($6,150 for tuition) and $18,000 per year for an out-of-state student. Perhaps a politician, or someone at the university, could enlighten us as to why, when each grad costs Missouri taxpayers over $10,000 per year, out-of-state students only pay $6,000 more per year.

Those politicians who are actually concerned about why the cost of a college education is rising should be forcing universities to justify why education costs have risen dramatically faster than inflation. In 1970 I graduated with a four-year bachelor's of civil engineering degree, from an Indiana private college. I did not live on campus. The total cost of my tuition, books and fees was less than $5,000, about $34,000 in today's dollars. Had I attended Michigan State University, as a Michigan resident, I could have lived on campus for the same cost. (I lived at home because I worked almost the entire time I was in college.)

The following numbers are adjusted to 2013 dollars, the latest year for which I could find comparative budget numbers. In 1970 the state of Missouri spent $16.8 billion ($3,600/capita), of which $6.6 billion ($1,400/capita) was spent on education. In 2013 Missouri spent $50.1 billion ($8,300/capita), of which $15.3 billion ($2,500/capita) was spent on education.

Don't forget, the previous numbers have been adjusted for inflation. First, how many think Missouri government is providing them with services worth 230 percent more than the services provided in 1970? Second, how is it possible that higher education tuition has increased so dramatically when state spending for education has increased 180 percent since 1970?

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