Calculating the “Cost” of a College Student

In discussion of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, commenter Russ illustrates why public debate so often gets stuck in conflicting assertions and animus:

…dividing the total operating costs of the University of Rhode Island by the number of full-time equivalent students suggests that the university has to make $20,615 per student.

Wrong, but hey let’s pretend the university has no other sources of income and that tuition covers housing, dining services, and any number of other items not relevant to this discussion.
Wonder why that is that you folks (repeatedly) feel the need to misrepresent this?

The cost of educating a college student (which is different than the cost to the student of receiving an education) is a debatable question. Advocates for granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants assert that the amount that students pay should be considered the cost of their attendance, but this ignores the fact that state aid, other activities, and the inflated costs to out-of-state subsidize those students. By contrast, some advocates on the other side treat the out-of-state tuition as the cost, but this errs in the opposite direction. Other people might wish to look at budgetary line items and tease out those directly associated with the day-to-day experience of students, but the institution’s activities are all so integrated that there isn’t a clear line to draw.
Note that, in the text of mine that Russ quotes, I didn’t say that tuition has to be $20,615, but that the University of Rhode Island “has to make” that amount per student. My premise is that the primary mission of a college or university is education, and most of its non-educational activities serve that mission. Some of those activities — such as funding professors’ research — represent an overall cost, but are worth the expense because they enrich the knowledge of the professors, expand the opportunities for students, and bring recognition to the departments. Some of the activities — such as collegiate sports — may represent an area of profit, thereby helping to lower tuition rates from where they otherwise would be.
We could argue the point to death about whether (for example) the sports subsidize the research and therefore have no effect on tuition rates. But with education being the core mission and tuition being the main source of revenue, it seems most reasonable to use a per student measurement for questions of finance.
Thus, we can total the expenditures of the University of Rhode Island at $400,430,444 and average the number of credits purchased in the spring and fall semesters of that year to determine that, for 2010, the university had the equivalent of 19,424 full-time students.and say that, overall, the university must make $20,615 per student — regardless of the source of that revenue — to meet its expenses. Again, some of its other activities increase that cost and others decrease it, but if that’s the theoretical per-student number, a student paying in-state tuition and fees of $11,366 per year is not carrying his or her own weight.
We can go a step farther and adjust the ratios of students to take into account the amounts that different categories pay (in-state, out-of-state, and regional). Doing that suggests that the University of Rhode Island’s actual per-student income is somewhere around $16,862. I should emphasize that these are rough calculations. I lack the time and resources to divide up the student body by, for example, those who live on campus versus those who don’t or to separate graduate students from undergraduate students and so forth. In this context, though, it’s interesting to observe that the regional tuition rate (not including fees and housing) is currently $17,192, so it may be that the university sees that as “cost” in the sense that, on a small scale, it doesn’t affect the per-student rate.
Be that as it may, these numbers are why we periodically hear university officials talking about the need to attract more out-of-state students. As the ratio shifts toward them, the number that the institution actually makes per student moves toward the number that it has to make per student.
According to advocates for the illegal-immigrant giveaway, 74 illegal immigrants currently attend URI, RIC, and CCRI, and they calculate that the reduced price will attract another 24. We’re not talking huge numbers, here, by any means, but I don’t see how it’s plausible to argue that cutting the revenue from 74 students by 60% and adding another 24 at rate that must be subsidized will do anything but increase costs. (Note that, due to time constraints, I’m putting aside the possibility that the percentages differ from one institution to the next.)
A rational debate could proceed in a number of interesting and fruitful directions, from here, but it’s more difficult to accuse people of being heartless when one acknowledges that the question is whether a cost is justified, not whether there is a cost.

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Russ
Russ
11 years ago

Advocates for granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants assert that the amount that students pay should be considered the cost of their attendance…

Wrong again! You think you’d actually bother to read the report.
www2.rwu.edu/depository/lpi/lpi-report.pdf
Advocates think the proper metric to use is the “the instructional expenses needed to teach each student.” That’s the delta. The burden on those who would deny these kids the opportunity to attend college is to show that adding a couple of students a year would result in any costs for the university outside of those direct instructional expenses.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics data, the in-state tuition rate for the University of Rhode Island (URI) is $2,711 higher than the instructional expenses needed to teach each student. If in-state tuition legislation were implemented, it would result in a net gain of 12 students, totaling 50 non-citizen undergrad students. Even if these students were all paying in-state tuition rates, they would still contribute $135,550 over the instruction expenses needed for teaching.

Again, one wonders why the reactionary right feels the need to misrepresents this simple fact.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

There’s no reason in my mind why we shouldn’t be trying REALLY HARD to get AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE who are qualified or talented into college tracks that are in-demand.
nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77
Given how much better they perform in life, therefore ‘draining the system’ less by paying taxes instead of consuming services, it makes sense to offer in-state rates to these 100 or so ‘cream of the crop’ illegals, if they get their education and eventually citizenship.
Since it’s only a tiny number of people we’re talking about here, I think it’s time to turn from this hot-button issue to a broader and deeper problem: How can we maximize the value on the investment we’re making on ALL college students here. Should we be vetting students better? Only offering in-state rates if people are working towards the degrees that are actually in-demand in our local economy? Tracking high school students who aren’t college-bound into charter-based vocational programs that might give them a chance at being professionals/taxpayers later in life?

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

By injecting his emotional vitriol into the last sentence, and refusing to acknowledge analytical approaches to the cost issue other than the one he advocates, Russ has (as usual) undermined any pretense of credibility.
The arbitrary classification of “instructional expenses” cited by Russ is an entirely debatable claim. In fact, it is on the losing end of the debate.
There is a very simple solution to all of this: privatize the University by selling it to the highest bidder, end all state subsidies to it, and let the University to make its own admissions policy using its own money.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

“privatize the University by selling it to the highest bidder, end all state subsidies to it, and let the University to make its own admissions policy using its own money.”
I’m not sure what kind of solution that is. Education is one of those things where if done properly, a medium-sized investment now can produce dramatic long-term economic positives. If URI and RIC were privatized you’d save $400 a year per-capita on taxes, but you’d have 100% ‘brain drain’ between high school and college instead of 60% after college.
Instead of scrapping the whole idea of public education, I think we need to reform it with what we know from the business world.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

The arbitrary classification of “instructional expenses” cited by Russ is an entirely debatable claim.

Also wrong. Unlike the numbers Jusin admittedly calls “rough calculations”, instructional cost is a national metric used by the National Center for Education Statistics to provide a metric for comparison that is “more tied to more fixed-cost factors” than a metric such as tuition that “s tied to what competing institutions charge, i.e., marketplace conditions, and what state legislatures provide as an operating subsidy.”
nces.ed.gov/

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

It seems to me, that unless the size of the student body is increased, the children of “legals” will have to take a cut to make room for the children of “illegals”. Somehow, that doesn’t go down well with me.
It could be argued that the “illegals” will be better qualified than the “legals” in order to have won admission. That could be, but the “legals” have been paying their dues for generations. Do you think that those “legals” could claim “reparations” from the “illegals”?
Once again, I am unable to control the impetuosity of my thoughts.

Max Diesel
Max Diesel
11 years ago

If you listen to Russ you might get the impression that these colleges are turning a profit that will cover these additional in-state discounts.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Two words: opportunity cost
Two more words: bad incentives
All missing from the progressive dictionary.

chuckR
chuckR
11 years ago

There’s no reason in my mind why we shouldn’t be trying REALLY HARD to get AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE who are qualified or talented into college tracks that are in-demand.
Has the University done wage and salary surveys of graduates and categorized by current job function and educational degree? In other words, have they ever checked to see how successful their majors are for the students as opposed to for the professors?

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

“Two words: opportunity cost”
So Dan thinks there is an opportunity cost. Me, I think there is an opportunity cost to not accepting the most qualified students from RI residents in favor of less qualified students or those who live out-of-state (and are less likely to stay in RI).
What’s more telling is the second comment , which let’s slip the real reason the radical right wants to deny these children a proper education… “bad incentives.” Read, these kids deserve to be punished not for anything they’ve done but because someone else might break the law in the future.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

“done wage and salary surveys of graduates and categorized by current job function and educational degree?”
No, but that should be a core part of making sure we get the most bang-for-our-buck and build a workforce that matches demand. We shouldn’t be shelling-out loot to subsidize training of 500 English majors, but we probably SHOULD for Engineering students.
I like the idea of issuing student loans from the state itself, instead of the federal government, and then forgiving them if the graduates stay here and ‘settle down’. Maybe attaching an anchor is a way to prevent brain drain.

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“you might get the impression that these colleges are turning a profit that will cover these additional in-state discounts.”
Thank you – no, they’re not. In-state tuition at URI produces a shortfall of $12,500. Russ, why do you insist on deferring to a non-specific website over the assertion of the URI Provost in this matter?
But it’s very easy to test the hypothesis that in-state tuition is break-even and let’s just swing the gates open. We implement BobN’s suggestion, privatize state colleges and cut off all tax-payer funds.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Russ – Drop the silly progressive rhetoric. Out of state tuition rates are not a “punishment.” They are a policy choice made by the state to reflect the taxes RI residents pay and whatever other incentivization effects they feel they may have. Nobody ever intended then as a “punishment” for illegal immigration.
Mangeek – This is sounding a lot like economic protectionism, which virtually never ends well. Shouldn’t the state focus on convincing people to migrate to it on actual merits rather than bribing people into staying with public funds? Although I can see how that would be a problem in Rhode Island’s case.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

…why do you insist on deferring to a non-specific website over the assertion of the URI Provost in this matter?

I’m referring to the study that was cited in proposing the legislation. That study references the site you think of as “nonspecific”.
I must have missed the part where the provost contradicted the information in the study. All I have is Monique’s statement as to what the provost might or might not have said. I addressed in part why Monique asked the wrong question in this thread…
http://www.anchorrising.com/barnacles/013378.html

Monique, if I’m not mistaken you asked the wrong question. The question is, how is state funding allocated to URI (the Latino Policy Institute says it’s a fixed amount based on the number of full-time enrolled students). Unless there is proof that this rule will change the number of students, the taxpayers will pay the same.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

“Out of state tuition rates are not a ‘punishment.'”
I’m just going off what you said, “bad incentives.” It seemed to me a strange categorization for encouraging all RI students to excel academically with the promise of a college education for those who apply themselves to their studies.

chuckR
chuckR
11 years ago

I like the idea of issuing student loans from the state itself, instead of the federal government, and then forgiving them if the graduates stay here and ‘settle down’. Maybe attaching an anchor is a way to prevent brain drain.
For BS Nursing graduates, the state loan program will forgo four years interest if A) the grad gets a license and B works for an accredited health care facility in the state. I think that is a reasonable incentive to retain nurses, demand for whom is much greater than the supply of new grads, especially with the Boomer bulge facing more health issues from aging. I don’t think the state can forgive the loans outright. According to Instapundit, Seton Hall is discounting tuition by 70% for strong academic early admits. That probably won’t fly with our state government, which covers about 10% of URI’s costs. The big problem is that college costs more than its worth for most degrees, 18 year olds can’t see that and waiving loan interest for specific majors (or more aggressive programs) will be seen as somehow discriminatory. I am frankly amazed that they have such a program for nurses – it makes so much sense.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

“Shouldn’t the state focus on convincing people to migrate to it on actual merits”
Well I would consider a ‘free ride’ to a valuable degree in a field that’s actually in demand if I stay here a state’s ‘actual merit’. Certainly as much as any sector-specific tax cut.
Rhode Island is 2/3rd urban (by population), largely under-educated, rapidly graying, with high inner-city poverty rates and very high density. There’s NO WAY we can be a low-tax state unless we figure out some sort of crazy magic. What we can be is a state with competitive taxes (compared to our high-tax neighbors) and kick-butt services. Right now we’re the worst combination: High taxes and poor services. I’d gladly settle for high taxes with great services, which is why you see me here railing for reform of state and municipal employment/compensation practices.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

So to be clear, Justin, your point is that in a system with some 43,000+ students (2009 enrollment numbers for the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island) the inclusion of an additional 50 non-citizen undergrad students would significantly burden to the degree where we should consider more than the instructional cost for those 50 students?
It’s really quite hard to understand how a 0.1% change should cause such alarm from the anti-immigrant right.

chuckR
chuckR
11 years ago

Just to be clear, Russ, you do understand the meaning of ‘The camel’s nose through the tent flap’, don’t you?
Of course, if the Feds had done their job over the past few administrations, we wouldn’t be talking about this now.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Russ lies again – dog bites man.
“Anti-immigrant right” is a Leftist meme, an insult and accusation combined that is completely untrue. But Russ and his ilk purpose conflate illegal immigrants with legal ones in order to smear their opponents.
Russ also implies that these illegal immigrant students will be among the best-qualified. In an era of group-based admissions preferences and grievance-group quotas, there is not much chance that this will be the case.
Then he tries to trivialize the issue by claiming that nobody should be bothered about a mere 50 students in a total student body of thousands. In this tactic, Russ misses three points: there is a principle at stake, not merely a utilitarian measurement; those 50 places could go to equally-qualified citizens who do have the right to in-state tuition rates; and any taxpayer subsidy that makes RI an attractive destination for illegals increases the burden they place on our overtaxed citizens and bankrupt government.
If we could be certain that those students would study real subjects and not ridiculous gut majors like sociology, communications, or gender/race “studies” I might be more willing to be flexible, but we also don’t need more “college graduates” with garbage degrees that don’t prepare them for productive careers.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

But it’s very easy to test the hypothesis that in-state tuition is break-even and let’s just swing the gates open. We implement BobN’s suggestion, privatize state colleges and cut off all tax-payer funds.

Again, Monique, asks the wrong question. As she now surely knows, tax funds are allocated on the basis of the number of full-time enrolled students, without regard to immigration status or whether the student is in-state or out-of-state.
All smoke and mirrors, yet still these folks rail against the policy. I wonder why that is?

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

If we could be certain that those students would study real subjects and not ridiculous gut majors like sociology, communications, or gender/race “studies” I might be more willing to be flexible…

Well, at least he’s being honest: women and minorities can’t be trusted to study “real subjects” and therefore are unworthy of acceptance to any university, much less a publicly funded one. Sheesh.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

“I like the idea of issuing student loans from the state itself, instead of the federal government, and then forgiving them if the graduates stay here and ‘settle down'”
Not exactly a new idea. It seems to me that in the 60’s and 70’s, you could get a student loan eliminated by teaching in a depressed area. I am not sure “depressed” was the term used. I know a retired teacher who managed to score a job in North Attleboro, MA. That was suficient to chip away at his loan. I’m not real familiar with North Attleboro, but I don’t think of it as Appalachia.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

Russ-read 8USC 1621,particularly section(d)concerning provision of public benefits to aliens illegally in the US-i.e.in state tuition.It can be done,but only by legislation,which doesn’t mean a handpicked board of political appointees.
Read 8USC1623-it’s very brief.
Both are on Google.
What do they tell you about what’s going on in RI?
We are breaking one Federal law and are subject to sanctions under another.
Is it only laws you like that you pay attention to?

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
11 years ago

Russ,
Which study do you wish me to read more closely? The one that uses “non-citizen” instead of “illegal immigrant” and never bothers to define the term? (Leading the authors to repeated make incorrect statements such as that there are 74 “non-citizens” attending Rhode Island colleges for undergraduate degrees… when the University of Rhode Island alone has almost 70 “international” students, which doesn’t appear to include legal immigrants, much less illegal ones.)
Or the one that notes, on page 11:

However, using National Center for Education Statistics data, we know that the instructional cost of having a student attend a college is $9,014 for URI

The footnote points to URI’s tuition page.
I’ll be fair and admit that the sloppy researchers probably don’t mean what they say, here, because elsewhere they cite the FTE instructional costs as $6,303 and the in-state tuition as $9,014. It’s relevant to note, here, that I included both measures in my description of what “some people argue” should be considered the cost of educating a student.
You derive an awful lot of arrogance over petty disputes, you know that?

helen
helen
11 years ago

Warrington,why would children of illegals be more prepared for college than the children of citizens? I don’t get that unless perhaps the illegal children were in Charter Academies like on of the students who testified in front of the Board recently or got special scholarships to private schools. Hmm?
Why would illegal aliens take seats in Charter Schools above American citizens?

helen
helen
11 years ago

Mangeek,you say the population is rapidly graying and undereducated. So should we be forced to pay for what we couldn’t have? NO!

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Russ sure does love citing the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University as some kind of authority on this subject.
In elementary and middle school, you find the first source that supports your argument and cite it as an authority in your report. In high school and college, you learn why this is intellectually dishonest and how to build a proper case. For some reason, Russ never grew out of that initial state of intellectual development and blockquote spams his way through every debate with progressive sources that confirm all of his biases.

JohnG
JohnG
11 years ago

Anyone ever consider the fact that the requirements for in-state tuition rates make no mention of any specific immigration status, and therefore to deny a set of taxpayers something they are allowed to under the law based on a non-existent requirement to qualify for the allowance would violate the 14th Amendment?

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Posted by helen : “Warrington,why would children of illegals be more prepared for college than the children of citizens?” Helen, I did not mean to infer that they would be. In a fair “merit system” the cream rises. If there were no “minority quotas”, it is axiomatic that “illegals” would have to be better prepared than the “legals” they displace. Else, they would not be accepted. Since a pure merit system exists almost no where in academia, the minority status of the “Illegals” would give them “points” and they would displace equally prepared “legals”. All of this presumes that the size of the student body is not increased. A friend of mine had to sue the City of Boston because his daughter was denied admission to Boston Latin, although she was better qualified than a number of minorities admitted. If you can find it in the archives some where it is interesting reading. Not stated in the newspapers is that the judge hearing the case was the judge who ordered forced busing in Boston. Not wishing a precedent to be set,he forced a settlement which gained the daughter admission to Boston Latin without a ruling. When my daughter applied to the Ivy League, she chose to list herself as Hispanic. Although her background is entirely European, this was plausible because there is no definition of “Hispanic” and her mother’s family had lived in Cuba. It worked,except that she was forced into an Hispanic dorm. She managed to work her way into an Asian dorm, where everyone “hung out” and spoke English. I particularly remember her visit to Brown, where she was taken to the “minority admissions office”. The walls of that office were covered with posters of muscle bound Hispanic women with angry facial expressions. Great. At my alma mater,… Read more »

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

I used to list myself as Native American, but then they got wise to me and changed it to American Indian.
Affirmative action is morally wrong and counterproductive, but I don’t think two wrongs make a right by lying.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Posted by Dan
“Affirmative action is morally wrong and counterproductive, but I don’t think two wrongs make a right by lying.”
Dan if your post is in reference to my post above. I am not sure that playing their game is immoral. There is federal case law (I believe Goldberg v. California) that holds that if a person declares themselves black, the government is not entitled to challenge it. At what degree of coloration does one become white? The old corruption of the blood law held it to be 1/16th black. Which made Sally Hemmings kids one generation away from white. So, depending on who they married, her descendants would be white.
Since there is no race of “Hispanic” , and no real definition; I suppose it is self selection.
Some Cuban names do not “sound” Hispanic, i.e. Bacardi, Arostequi.
As to appearances for Hispanic designation, is Martin Sheen not Hispanic? His surname certainly indicates he is. As to my daughter, her mother’s family arrived in Cuba on the second voyage of Columbus. Isn’t that long enough to be Cuban/Hispanic? As to appearances, the separation of races and “class distinctions” in Cuba was extreme, so it is no surprise that she is light haired and light eyed. Among the early Cuban “refugees” blondes were not all that uncommon. Many early Cuban families were from Northern Spain/Basque. They tended not to intermarry with the darker “Spanish”.
Historical trivia. Roman legions were not permitted to return to Rome, many settled in areas of Spain. Most “Conquistadors” were from those areas. Of all the gold sent back to Spain, most was used to pay debts. The government profited little and Spain remained poor. The Church did all right.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

“Hispanic”is a cultural/language designator devoid of racial identity.
“Hispanics”can be of any race.

Warringtn Faust
Warringtn Faust
11 years ago

Posted by Dan
“I used to list myself as Native American, but then they got wise to me and changed it to American Indian.”
Dan, I like that. I think I’ll try it. I was once stopped outside a polling place by ahigh school student doing a survey. She insisted on knowing what kind of American I was. Under duress, I agreed to “German American”. I didn’t like this, my German ancestors are so far in the dim past that I think they were still painting themselves blue and living in caves. The girl was obviously Asian, I recall asking if she thought of herself as simply “American” yet.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

“Which study do you wish me to read more closely?”
So mock the study if you like. Nothing from a group with latino in its name could be accurate, eh? Says a lot if you ask me that you dismiss out of hand anything without fringe-right framing.
As for “deriving arrogance” (whatever that means), I always know I’m on to something when the hackneyed liberal cliches get trotted out. How dare I question Monique?! That about it?

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
11 years ago

Wow, Russ. I didn’t think you could come up with a way to disappoint, but you managed.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

Oh, no! I’ve disappointed Justin!

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

Russ-the Latinos own the immigration isssue?What an ignorant position you have.

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