Earning a college degree remains one of the best predictors of professional and financial success. Since the end of World War II, the American dream has included the chance to earn a college education.Now, runaway tuition costs are transforming that dream into a nightmare, curtailing American competitiveness on a global scale.
During the past five years, tuition and fees for private, four-year colleges have increased by an average of 13 percent, according to The College Board. Tuition and fees for public universities have risen an average 27 percent over the past five years. This comes as the U.S. must increase its graduates in the all-important STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Yes, Washington has noticed. In fact, when President Obama visited Florida Tech and Melbourne last fall, he urged the crowds, “Help me work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years. We can meet that goal together, we can help the next generation, we can choose that future for America.”
Florida Tech is already meeting this challenge. I recommended and the Board of Trustees approved a zero tuition increase for the 2013-2014 academic year, beginning this fall. I encourage my colleagues at other colleges and universities to consider similar measures.
At Florida Tech, three factors have empowered us to hold down college costs for next year. We continually explore ways to improve efficiencies, reducing the costs of instruction; we have increased our faculty activity, as they secure more grants and contracts for their research; and we have located new sources of external funding, whether philanthropic gifts or state and federal awards.
Colleges and universities must control their spending, cut their costs and keep that entrepreneurial spirit alive. We owe it to our students.