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It would be interesting to see some study on the big picture here.  What has happened to all the factors?--tuitions, scholarships, available loans, maybe the student job market (not sure that could be measured--but maybe how much of student expenses are paid by student earnings today versus the '70's.)

My impressions on this are based on reading about some of these factors individually (like I think you are right that tuitions have gone up rapidly), and on anecdotal things--family and friends' children's experiences.

Have scholarships increased for example?--I think endowments for private universities have, but I don't know about scholarships.  

I'll look around, but I haven't seen such an all encompassing article.

by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 12:54:11 PM EST
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Gee, I haven't read about that in a while and I don't have references handy but my overall impression is that public financing of state Us has not kept up with exploding enrollments over the past 30 years, making everybody's share of the pie much smaller, hence increased dependence on tuition and private funding (donations, revenues from patents) and quite altering the organization and independence of the universities. I believe too that operating costs have gone up in many universities, public and private (more professors? better paid? bigger bureaucracies?).

No time for a google dive so I let that to you :)
by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 01:26:02 PM EST
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Well, state university funding is complex, but it's a combination of actual state funding (not a lot in the grand scheme, mainly salaries, see below), university endowments, research grants, contract revenues and income from other sources, including sports-related revenue.  Reliance on private funding doesn't necessarily mean anybody's got a smaller piece of pie.

In the 10 years since I left grad school, in fact, my school has been able to provide much more financial support for students than they could when I was there.  (In my program, it was basically no financial support at the time, which is why I took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt, now mercifully paid off.)

Successful alumni give a lot of money, some of it to the universities themselves (general funds, etc.) and some directly to the programs, schools or departments from which they graduated.

In the case of my graduate school, they've nearing the end of an eight-year general fundraising campaign that has raised more than $1.6 billion so far (the goal is $2b) and will increase the university's endowment by more than $628 million.  This fundraising campaign includes goals for each school or department.

Sports is also a big part of the puzzle, and not from ticket revenues, either.  The university has recently decided to use 100 percent of revenues from sales of trademark-licensed products on scholarships and financial aid.  Those products include T-shirts and caps bearing the school logo, which given that it's a major sports school with basketball jerseys worn around the world (I'm not exaggerating, I've seen them), that is a lot of money.

Meanwhile, in the actual program I attended within the university, an anonymous donor just endowed a professorship with a $3m gift.  The school says "private funds" (whatever those are) account for 78 percent of its budget, not including payroll, which is covered by the university (except for those endowed professorships, of which there are several).

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 02:31:27 PM EST
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both my undergrad and grad schools are private, and they have been very successful with their fund raising programs.  Same kinds of experiences where very successful peoplle graduating from certain departments have made multi-million dollar gifts.  Grants were very strong through 2000, slowed some when the bubble broke, but they are continuing to do well now.  No luck on the sports programs unfortunately--not big on the win/loss i'm afraid.  My initial cuts on the internet have shown quite a bit of information available for individual colleges, but I haven't been able to find any summary information yet.
by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 05:23:13 PM EST
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I forgot to mention that no small part of that private funding is corporate, and not without controversy.  A major pharmaceutical company endowed a professorship in my program when I was there, and we had a computer lab named after a major tobacco company.  Both prompted major complaints about professional integrity, ethics, etc., from the more earnest students (of which there were quite a few) and major snarkiness from the entire student body.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 02:07:44 AM EST
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