Colleges seek prestige and tuition rises

Colleges seek prestige and tuition rises


In your editorial about college debt getting way out of hand, as usual you blamed the GOP. However, I was reminded of several articles I have read in your paper and others. They alleged that colleges themselves are responsible for a lot of that debt because they have raised their tuition to astronomical heights because they didn’t want to appear to be on the level of a community college.

Stature — it is the same reason that places that were “colleges” 20 years ago are now “universities” — it sounds better to their marketing people. They sound bigger and more sophisticated — to themselves and gullible students. The reality is that they didn’t change much of anything. And now, with more money coming in, they can afford TV commercials.

I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in the mid-’70s and got a good two-year education in commercial art. Decades later, they decided that they should be a four-year institution, graduating students with a bachelor’s degree instead of an associate’s degree. I spent two years at Marshall University racking up prerequisites for my major in art. No hours were transferable then, so when I finished AIP, all I had was an associate’s degree in Visual Communications and 57 hours on a bachelor’s. With tuition, room and board, both schools cost about $22,000. My first job in the field paid $9,100 a year.

Now it costs in excess of $78,000 just for the tuition at four-year AIP. A “dump-site” apartment in Pittsburgh must run $500 a month (mine was $85) — then there is food, art supplies and transportation! Probably another $25,000 even if you live on peanut butter and noodles for four years.

With a bachelor’s degree, average starting artist’s wages run $25,000.

Something is wrong here. Schools looking for status are partly responsible for lowering the earning status of their graduates for decades by putting the average person in crushing debt just so they can say they graduated from a school that sees itself as fancier than it really is. AIP is privately owned. That hard-earned money is lining some stockholder’s pockets, and they aren’t all Republicans. Charging what the market will bear is one thing; gouging is another.

Mark McComas


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