Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Filled Classes

The particular writing course I am scheduled to teach in the Spring 2008 semester is filled. Not merely my section, but every section of the course is filled.

This situation is appalling. The university tuition, fees, and miscellaneous costs are estimated at over $20,000/year for undergraduates. That means the education costs $80,000 or more for students — even more when you calculate how many of these students must use loans to pay for the education.
How can the price of education keep rising faster than inflation... when less and less is offered to students?
Tuition pays for approximately 67% of the cost of instruction at the University of Minnesota. The state of Minnesota pays approximately $4,277 of the average cost for full-time students." - from UMN.edu
The money is going somewhere.

Tuition, not including fees and other curious charges is $305.77 per credit for undergraduates.

I teach a 4-unit course, with 22 students. Class is held twice a week, for 70 minutes (give or take), so close to 2.5 hours. There are 14 weeks of class (spring break and other events remove two sessions of class and we don't give a final in a writing course), for a total time of 35 hours. Assuming my math is correct, a single class collects: $26,908 in tuition. That's $768 per hour of class time!

Sure, if I were a full-time, salaried instructor, I'd cost the university at least three times the tuition of a single class. But, at the early stages of a career, I'd be teaching "3-2" or even "3-3" (five or six courses a year).

Fees cover a lot thing beyond the price of tuition. Course fees per semester (http://onestop.umn.edu/)
Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (optional)2.98
Council of College Boards0.87
Graduate and Professional Student Assembly12.47
International Student Aid Fee (assessed to all students who hold nonimmigrant visas)12.00
International Student Fee (assessed to all international students for orientation and advising)75.00
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (optional)3.45
Minnesota Student Association2.56
Stadium Fee 12.50
Student Health Benefit Plan782.00
Student Health Beneft Plan/Academic Health Center Students1008.00
Transportation fee16.00

You get the idea... a lot of money is being collected from students. Add the money from the state and you get a budget that is either impressive or troubling, or both. Of course, the university is also seeking bonds to cover "shortfalls" in maintenance and construction.

Some things to ponder. For what the budget is, there is no excuse to not meet the needs of general education enrollment. If we are going to require English, math, science, and other topics, the university must offer the course space to students.

It is time to examine the budget and make some changes. (Of course, as an English instructor, I'd make a claim that writing and reading are basic skills, while some majors and courses should be left to private or specialized universities.)

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