NYS Exposed Education: College cost up 50 percent in last decade

October 06, 2016 06:41 PM

A new report from the state comptroller shows that the cost of college is up 50 percent in the last ten years. Student loan debt has more than doubled in the same time. So what are local colleges doing about this?

On one of the most beautiful fall days, we found Jenna Stogsdill studying on the lawn at St. John Fisher College.

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Jenna graduated from Fisher and now she's a first-year pharmacy student. She knows those student loans are piling up.

"I think it's adding up but a lot of it is loans so I haven't seen all of it yet, but yeah, a little bit," she says.

The numbers tell the story: In the state comptroller's report, the cost of college in New York went up 50 percent in the last decade. The amount of student loan debt doubled. We reached the deputy comptroller on Skype.

Brean: "So, what's the comptroller's plan to do something about this?"

Deputy Comptroller Bob Ward: "Well, the report is intended to inform what has been an ongoing debate nationally as well as here in New York."

Brean: "I think everybody is aware of the problem of how much colleges cost. But I haven't been able to find anybody who says they can do something about it."

Ward: "Well again, this report is an effort to give people a much clearer picture than had been available previously."

Look at the total costs, tuition, fees, room and board, for local schools: The SUNY schools hit $20,000, the University of Rochester is more than $65,000, Nazareth more than $45,000 and Saint John Fisher is more than $43,000.

Fisher President Dr. Gerard Rooney was the only college president who agreed to talk to us for this story.

Brean: "When you look at some of the numbers from the state comptroller, it's becoming unaffordable. The average costs are becoming unaffordable, to the average person. Do you agree?"

Dr. Rooney: "I don't know how you would describe the average person or unaffordable. Has it become more expensive? Certainly and do we need to focus on controlling the costs? Absolutely. Are things of value expensive? They are."

We asked Rooney: What have you done to reduce cost? He says Fisher has outsourced food service and the book store operation to save money. But Fisher won't touch one of the most expensive things, classroom operations. So that means small classes taught by full professors.

Brean: "Have you thought about increasing class sizes, having graduate assistants teach as a function of lowering costs?"

Dr. Rooney: "We haven't."

Brean: "You have not thought about that."

Dr. Rooney: "We're thought about it and we've decided not to do that. That's not consistent with what we espouse in our mission or what we believe."

The costs we showed you are retail. But because of grants and scholarships virtually no one pays retail for college. A website called College Scorecard calculates your actual cost. 

The actual cost at Fisher is a little more than $23,000.


College Scorecard


Berkeley Brean

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