January 21, 2020

Alumni Donors Are Fueling The Student Debt Spiral It Doesn't Have To Be That Way

Mike Scutari

As the student debt crisis approaches $1.6 trillion, tuition increases continue to outpace inflation and healthcare costs. The perfect storm of drivers includes misdirected federal student financial aid policies, runaway administrative expenses, an inherently costly residential model, ballooning retiree benefits and pension commitments, and a drop in state funding for public universities.

But another huge cost driver—and one that donors, knowingly or unknowingly, help to perpetuate—is administrators’ infatuation with capital projects and dubious amenities. The main reason for the sharp rise in tuition, according to James V. Koch, author of “The Impoverishment of the American College Student” and president emeritus at Old Dominion University, is that officials haven’t been able to say no to expensive stuff that they and the faculty want. The same, in many cases, can be said for donors.