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Letter to Barron's

Letter to Barron's

March 07, 2002

Barron’s Mailbag
1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

To the Editor:

Most college presidents would love to live in the economic fairytale land envisioned by Jonathan Laing ("Old College Pry," March 4). In his world, private colleges could just check the Consumer Price Index or the annual increase in family incomes. Then they could set their tuition accordingly, without concern for the real-world costs they incur. Our colleagues at public universities would be equally happy to live in a world where their tuitions could be kept low, even when state governments slash funds for operating budgets. Unfortunately, college presidents have to operate in the real world, balancing tuition increases against increased operating costs, while remaining sensitive to the challenges families face in sending their children to college.

The cost of salaries and health care, library acquisitions, information technology, and facilities and equipment upkeep are running at rates significantly higher than the Consumer Price Index. Unhappily, an uptick in the rate of tuition increase is largely unavoidable--especially when other college revenue streams slow during a slumping economy. However, private college presidents remain committed to keeping student out-of-pocket costs as low as possible, without sacrificing academic quality.

In recent years, significant changes in student aid policies at private colleges have made more students eligible for institutionally provided grant aid, and increased the amount of aid they receive. At the same time, the average rate of tuition increase at our institutions is less than half of the double-digit increases that were common in the late ’80s and early ’90s. (At some colleges, tuition increases in recent years have been the lowest in decades.) Since 1990, institutionally provided grant aid has increased 188 percent—more than twice the 76 percent growth in tuition.

In many ways, colleges resemble other organizations that must deal with economic realities. Since the last recession, private institutions have improved operating efficiency while maintaining their academic quality. They have streamlined administration and outsourced more campus services. They have entered into collaborative partnerships with other colleges that allow them to jointly purchase certain goods and share services, while maintaining their distinct institutional identity and mission. These efforts, along with the prudent management of endowment earnings during the bull market of the late ’90s, have enabled most institutions to weather the latest economic downturn, without resorting to the high rates of tuition increase seen 10 years ago.

In other ways, colleges are completely different from for-profit firms. Most manufacturers price their products to cover production costs as well as to make a profit. But the price of tuition at a private college is actually less than the cost of delivering education. No student pays what the college spends on him or her.

The heated competition private colleges face from one another, and from state universities and the growing for-profit sector, will ensure that they continue to act in the most cost effective and academically responsible way possible. Their commitment to quality, personal attention, and student aid ensures that they will remain an attractive option to millions of students.

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Barron’s Mailbag
1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

To the Editor:

Most college presidents would love to live in the economic fairytale land envisioned by Jonathan Laing ("Old College Pry," March 4). In his world, private colleges could just check the Consumer Price Index or the annual increase in family incomes. Then they could set their tuition accordingly, without concern for the real-world costs they incur. Our colleagues at public universities would be equally happy to live in a world where their tuitions could be kept low, even when state governments slash funds for operating budgets. Unfortunately, college presidents have to operate in the real world, balancing tuition increases against increased operating costs, while remaining sensitive to the challenges families face in sending their children to college.

The cost of salaries and health care, library acquisitions, information technology, and facilities and equipment upkeep are running at rates significantly higher than the Consumer Price Index. Unhappily, an uptick in the rate of tuition increase is largely unavoidable--especially when other college revenue streams slow during a slumping economy. However, private college presidents remain committed to keeping student out-of-pocket costs as low as possible, without sacrificing academic quality.

In recent years, significant changes in student aid policies at private colleges have made more students eligible for institutionally provided grant aid, and increased the amount of aid they receive. At the same time, the average rate of tuition increase at our institutions is less than half of the double-digit increases that were common in the late ’80s and early ’90s. (At some colleges, tuition increases in recent years have been the lowest in decades.) Since 1990, institutionally provided grant aid has increased 188 percent—more than twice the 76 percent growth in tuition.

In many ways, colleges resemble other organizations that must deal with economic realities. Since the last recession, private institutions have improved operating efficiency while maintaining their academic quality. They have streamlined administration and outsourced more campus services. They have entered into collaborative partnerships with other colleges that allow them to jointly purchase certain goods and share services, while maintaining their distinct institutional identity and mission. These efforts, along with the prudent management of endowment earnings during the bull market of the late ’90s, have enabled most institutions to weather the latest economic downturn, without resorting to the high rates of tuition increase seen 10 years ago.

In other ways, colleges are completely different from for-profit firms. Most manufacturers price their products to cover production costs as well as to make a profit. But the price of tuition at a private college is actually less than the cost of delivering education. No student pays what the college spends on him or her.

The heated competition private colleges face from one another, and from state universities and the growing for-profit sector, will ensure that they continue to act in the most cost effective and academically responsible way possible. Their commitment to quality, personal attention, and student aid ensures that they will remain an attractive option to millions of students.

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

March 07, 2002

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Letter to the New York Times

Letter to the New York Times

February 22, 2002

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

As I mentioned in my interview with Yilu Zhao, while economic downturns often lead to an uptick in the rate of tuition increase at colleges and universities ("As College Endowments Dwindle, Big Tuition Increases Fill the Void," Feb. 2), the vast majority of students at private institutions will not see their out-of-pocket costs rise nearly as quickly. The generous student aid policies of private colleges and universities mean that few students pay the published price of tuition, and this will temper the annual increase in the costs that students actually pay. In 1999-2000, 84 percent of undergraduate students attending private colleges received some form of financial aid, with an average award of nearly $14,000. Since 1990, institutionally provided aid has grown more than twice as fast as tuition--188 percent vs. 76 percent, respectively.

Private institutions have also redoubled their efforts to control operating costs, while maintaining academic quality, since the last recession in the early 1990s. They have enhanced their operating efficiency through innovative cost-saving changes—including new administrative and academic partnerships with other institutions, and more outsourcing of campus services—to remain affordable. This, along with the wise management of endowments during the 1990s, will help keep tuition increases at the vast majority of private institutions significantly lower than the double-digit rates that were often seen at our colleges 10 years ago, and are now being announced by many public universities.

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

As I mentioned in my interview with Yilu Zhao, while economic downturns often lead to an uptick in the rate of tuition increase at colleges and universities ("As College Endowments Dwindle, Big Tuition Increases Fill the Void," Feb. 2), the vast majority of students at private institutions will not see their out-of-pocket costs rise nearly as quickly. The generous student aid policies of private colleges and universities mean that few students pay the published price of tuition, and this will temper the annual increase in the costs that students actually pay. In 1999-2000, 84 percent of undergraduate students attending private colleges received some form of financial aid, with an average award of nearly $14,000. Since 1990, institutionally provided aid has grown more than twice as fast as tuition--188 percent vs. 76 percent, respectively.

Private institutions have also redoubled their efforts to control operating costs, while maintaining academic quality, since the last recession in the early 1990s. They have enhanced their operating efficiency through innovative cost-saving changes—including new administrative and academic partnerships with other institutions, and more outsourcing of campus services—to remain affordable. This, along with the wise management of endowments during the 1990s, will help keep tuition increases at the vast majority of private institutions significantly lower than the double-digit rates that were often seen at our colleges 10 years ago, and are now being announced by many public universities.

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

February 22, 2002

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Chronicle of Higher Education Op-ed

Chronicle of Higher Education Op-ed

October 13, 2000

Getting College Students to the Polls

By David L. Warren and Constantine W. Curris

We see the headlines all too often: "Youth Tune Out Politics." "Study Shows Youth Vote Down." "College Students Not Drawn to Voting." News articles have described students’ lack of political engagement and tried to evaluate the reasons for it. But few observers have provided much insight into what colleges can do to solve the problem.

How can higher education fulfill its commitment to promote civic and political awareness among students? How do our institutions reinforce their role as incubators of political discourse and action when the society at large is increasingly disengaged? How do we encourage our nation's future leaders to participate in the most basic act of constitutional democracy?

On the face of it, students' lack of political participation is disheartening. Only 16 percent participate in a government or political organization, and only 7 percent will volunteer for a political campaign this year, according to a Harvard University survey released in the spring.

Thirty years ago, during the height of student activism -- and the groundswell that led to passage of the 26th Amendment, which allowed everyone 18 years and older to vote -- such apathy would have been unthinkable.

But decades of political scandal and upheaval, from the assassinations of the 60s to the moral lapses of later presidential administrations, have distanced many Americans from government. As a nation, which includes our campuses, we lag behind other Western democracies in our electoral participation.

A more optimistic tale has been largely untold, however: Young people who go to college are more likely to vote than are their peers who do not. According to a November 1999 study by the Panetta Institute, 57 percent of college students voted in the 1996 general election, compared with 34 percent of those who didn't attend college.

In 1998 as well, a significantly larger percentage of traditional-age college students voted than did their non-college peers or the general population as a whole. And those who cast their first ballot between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to vote throughout their lifetimes.

Although those trends are encouraging, we in higher education should do much more to inspire civic responsibility among our students. Our institutions should seize the opportunity to build on the predisposition to vote among our traditional-age students, and promote electoral discourse and participation. In the process, we can help fight the disenchantment and cynicism that increasingly mark our society.

Already, as a result of regulations in the 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, every college that participates in federal student-aid programs must now make a good-faith effort to distribute voter-registration forms to every student on the campus before the state's registration deadline. (The requirement does not apply to states with same-day registration.)

Colleges have been busy meeting this requirement, distributing 15.1 million voter registration forms, of which 8.7 million went to students 18 to 24 years old.

But the federal mandate is no panacea for encouraging students to vote. Between now and Election Day, every college should make not only student voter registration, but also civic education and electoral participation, top priorities.

For a start, institutions must go beyond the law's requirements. The National Campus Voter Registration Project, created in 1996 by the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, a coalition of 49 groups, has provided information and advice to help its 3,500 member institutions register one million new student voters in both the 1996 and 1998 elections. More than 70 percent of students are already registered; this year, as a result of the efforts of associations and institutions, registration should reach its highest level yet.

Simply passing out forms, however, won't ensure student engagement in the political process. The Harvard study found that most students still want easier ways to register. Many of them also need more information about the voting process, the candidates, and the issues to be motivated to vote.

Institutions should follow the lead of those that have increased their voter-registration activities. Some colleges saturate their students with mass mailings or e-mail messages that direct them to Web sites where they can register and request absentee ballots electronically. (One example is the site of one of our groups, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, at www.naicu.edu.) Many colleges hold campuswide voter-registration parties. Others distribute voter-registration forms in course-registration lines and at football games as well as in classrooms, dorms, and student centers.

Yet, because voter registration doesn't always translate into voter participation, even those activities are just a first step. Statistics from the Federal Election Commission indicate that, while the overall number of registered voters has grown since the "Motor Voter" act was adopted in 1993, the proportion of Americans who voted in presidential elections declined by more than 5 percent from 1992 to 1996. To truly expand voter participation, colleges should do what they do best: motivate students through education.

Many institutions have successfully adopted a comprehensive, nonpartisan, League of Women Voters-style model to help demystify candidates and issues, and make local, state, and national politics more relevant to students. For example, some institutions are holding candidates’ debates or sponsoring political fairs that bring candidates, political parties, and issue groups to the campus to distribute information and interact with students. Others have revived a version of "teach-ins," focusing on issues of student concern: education, health care, gun control, the environment, human rights, and political reforms.

The final challenge will be getting students to the polls on Election Day, or making sure that they submit their absentee ballots. Colleges can organize phone banks to call new voters on Election Day eve and on the day itself, canvass residence halls and off-campus neighborhoods to remind students to vote, create public-service announcements for the campus news media, and offer shuttle service to polling places.

The national associations will continue to provide support for such campus-based efforts. Under the theme "ServiceVote 2000," 43 organizations involved in student service and civic engagement will urge the three-fourths of all students who currently volunteer in their communities to participate in their service projects on the morning of November 7, and vote in the afternoon.

Highlighting those dual commitments will reinforce students' understanding of the relationship between volunteering in their own communities and voting for state and national candidates. In addition, the National Campus Voter Registration Project has developed a handbook to help institutions develop voter-participation activities: Your Vote, Your Voice (available online at http://www.naicu.edu/VoteVoice2002).

No matter what model each college pursues to encourage voter registration and turnout, these efforts will make a positive difference for students in their lifelong obligations as citizens. Our institutions should be committed to a dialogue on the value of civic participation. Enhancing our students' awareness of the issues, policies, and candidates will strengthen our democracy and encourage students to exercise their voice and their vote. It's an investment that will pay off for everyone.

David L. Warren is president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Constantine W. Curris is president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. They are co-chairs of the National Campus Voter Registration Project.

Reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Education, October 13, 2000.

Getting College Students to the Polls

By David L. Warren and Constantine W. Curris

We see the headlines all too often: "Youth Tune Out Politics." "Study Shows Youth Vote Down." "College Students Not Drawn to Voting." News articles have described students’ lack of political engagement and tried to evaluate the reasons for it. But few observers have provided much insight into what colleges can do to solve the problem.

How can higher education fulfill its commitment to promote civic and political awareness among students? How do our institutions reinforce their role as incubators of political discourse and action when the society at large is increasingly disengaged? How do we encourage our nation's future leaders to participate in the most basic act of constitutional democracy?

On the face of it, students' lack of political participation is disheartening. Only 16 percent participate in a government or political organization, and only 7 percent will volunteer for a political campaign this year, according to a Harvard University survey released in the spring.

Thirty years ago, during the height of student activism -- and the groundswell that led to passage of the 26th Amendment, which allowed everyone 18 years and older to vote -- such apathy would have been unthinkable.

But decades of political scandal and upheaval, from the assassinations of the 60s to the moral lapses of later presidential administrations, have distanced many Americans from government. As a nation, which includes our campuses, we lag behind other Western democracies in our electoral participation.

A more optimistic tale has been largely untold, however: Young people who go to college are more likely to vote than are their peers who do not. According to a November 1999 study by the Panetta Institute, 57 percent of college students voted in the 1996 general election, compared with 34 percent of those who didn't attend college.

In 1998 as well, a significantly larger percentage of traditional-age college students voted than did their non-college peers or the general population as a whole. And those who cast their first ballot between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to vote throughout their lifetimes.

Although those trends are encouraging, we in higher education should do much more to inspire civic responsibility among our students. Our institutions should seize the opportunity to build on the predisposition to vote among our traditional-age students, and promote electoral discourse and participation. In the process, we can help fight the disenchantment and cynicism that increasingly mark our society.

Already, as a result of regulations in the 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, every college that participates in federal student-aid programs must now make a good-faith effort to distribute voter-registration forms to every student on the campus before the state's registration deadline. (The requirement does not apply to states with same-day registration.)

Colleges have been busy meeting this requirement, distributing 15.1 million voter registration forms, of which 8.7 million went to students 18 to 24 years old.

But the federal mandate is no panacea for encouraging students to vote. Between now and Election Day, every college should make not only student voter registration, but also civic education and electoral participation, top priorities.

For a start, institutions must go beyond the law's requirements. The National Campus Voter Registration Project, created in 1996 by the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, a coalition of 49 groups, has provided information and advice to help its 3,500 member institutions register one million new student voters in both the 1996 and 1998 elections. More than 70 percent of students are already registered; this year, as a result of the efforts of associations and institutions, registration should reach its highest level yet.

Simply passing out forms, however, won't ensure student engagement in the political process. The Harvard study found that most students still want easier ways to register. Many of them also need more information about the voting process, the candidates, and the issues to be motivated to vote.

Institutions should follow the lead of those that have increased their voter-registration activities. Some colleges saturate their students with mass mailings or e-mail messages that direct them to Web sites where they can register and request absentee ballots electronically. (One example is the site of one of our groups, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, at www.naicu.edu.) Many colleges hold campuswide voter-registration parties. Others distribute voter-registration forms in course-registration lines and at football games as well as in classrooms, dorms, and student centers.

Yet, because voter registration doesn't always translate into voter participation, even those activities are just a first step. Statistics from the Federal Election Commission indicate that, while the overall number of registered voters has grown since the "Motor Voter" act was adopted in 1993, the proportion of Americans who voted in presidential elections declined by more than 5 percent from 1992 to 1996. To truly expand voter participation, colleges should do what they do best: motivate students through education.

Many institutions have successfully adopted a comprehensive, nonpartisan, League of Women Voters-style model to help demystify candidates and issues, and make local, state, and national politics more relevant to students. For example, some institutions are holding candidates’ debates or sponsoring political fairs that bring candidates, political parties, and issue groups to the campus to distribute information and interact with students. Others have revived a version of "teach-ins," focusing on issues of student concern: education, health care, gun control, the environment, human rights, and political reforms.

The final challenge will be getting students to the polls on Election Day, or making sure that they submit their absentee ballots. Colleges can organize phone banks to call new voters on Election Day eve and on the day itself, canvass residence halls and off-campus neighborhoods to remind students to vote, create public-service announcements for the campus news media, and offer shuttle service to polling places.

The national associations will continue to provide support for such campus-based efforts. Under the theme "ServiceVote 2000," 43 organizations involved in student service and civic engagement will urge the three-fourths of all students who currently volunteer in their communities to participate in their service projects on the morning of November 7, and vote in the afternoon.

Highlighting those dual commitments will reinforce students' understanding of the relationship between volunteering in their own communities and voting for state and national candidates. In addition, the National Campus Voter Registration Project has developed a handbook to help institutions develop voter-participation activities: Your Vote, Your Voice (available online at http://www.naicu.edu/VoteVoice2002).

No matter what model each college pursues to encourage voter registration and turnout, these efforts will make a positive difference for students in their lifelong obligations as citizens. Our institutions should be committed to a dialogue on the value of civic participation. Enhancing our students' awareness of the issues, policies, and candidates will strengthen our democracy and encourage students to exercise their voice and their vote. It's an investment that will pay off for everyone.

David L. Warren is president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Constantine W. Curris is president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. They are co-chairs of the National Campus Voter Registration Project.

Reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Education, October 13, 2000.

October 13, 2000

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Colleges cutting costs: America should pay attention - Opinion

Colleges cutting costs: America should pay attention - Opinion

January 01, 1900

Across the country, higher education has become a buyers' market. Colleges costing $20,000 to $40,000 a year have become out of reach for the average American. Prospective students have become reluctant to embrace a lifetime of debt when affordable education is out there with a little searching. Neighboring colleges will be forced to pay attention. More Americans will have options. Education at a more affordable price could become a reality. 
Across the country, higher education has become a buyers' market. Colleges costing $20,000 to $40,000 a year have become out of reach for the average American. Prospective students have become reluctant to embrace a lifetime of debt when affordable education is out there with a little searching. Neighboring colleges will be forced to pay attention. More Americans will have options. Education at a more affordable price could become a reality. 

January 01, 1900

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We Pretend to Teach, They Pretend to Learn

We Pretend to Teach, They Pretend to Learn

January 01, 1900

The parlous state of American higher education has been widely noted, but the view from the trenches is far more troubling than can be characterized by measured prose. With most students on winter break and colleges largely shut down, the lull presents an opportunity for damage assessment.



The parlous state of American higher education has been widely noted, but the view from the trenches is far more troubling than can be characterized by measured prose. With most students on winter break and colleges largely shut down, the lull presents an opportunity for damage assessment.



January 01, 1900

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About the items posted on the NAICU site: News items, features, and opinion pieces posted on this site from sources outside NAICU do not necessarily reflect the position of the association or its members. Rather, this content reflects the diversity of issues and views that are shaping American higher education.

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