School is just around the corner and for nearly every student returning to a public university in Texas something will be noticeably different – their costs have increased!  But wait, I thought the point of public universities was to provide Texans with a quality education at an affordable price; then why do costs seem to increase every year?  For instance, Texas A&M has been one of the best universities at controlling costs and even at this traditionally conservative university, costs have increased an average $100/year each year over the last decade.

When times get tough, the obvious answer – to some in academia – is to increase costs to students.  It seems easy enough, after all, most students cover the costs of education through scholarships, grants, or loans – none of it is their money anyway so who cares?  This horrible mentality is what is wrong with higher education because the sad truth is that students are not engaged.

The reality is, academia is the worst form of bureaucracy – as things are created they immediately become protected and you are labeled RADICAL if you want to cut even $1 of waste, even if everyone acknowledges that a waste does exist.  Higher education has become a system where departments are carved into fiefdoms and pitted against each other, forcing them fight for more money.  The solution: raise costs on students!  Like any student, I value the education I receive and I understand that costs fluctuate; however, I do not think this gives universities a free pass to ignore fiscal responsibility and accountability.

When I was still working for the university, I unfortunately had an incidence in which a group of professors complained that university officials would not just “increase tuition on students” to pay for their lifestyles.  Though this does not reflect the mentality of all professors and university officials, it does speak to the problem of higher education funding – students are “cash cows” who do not know what is happening or why.  Without more accountability there is not incentive for universities to responsibly use the money they receive, which is why it is time for students, parents, and taxpayers to do their homework and begin questioning the spending.

Common sense reforms are needed to protect higher education, not from state budget cuts but from universities themselves.  Universities have a severe spending problem and they have an extremely hard time facing this fact; I guess it is just easier to “drown their sorrows” in more student money.  It seems as though higher education may never be satiated; and so long as this trend continues, I fear that our future will be severely limited in who has any access to an education.