The inflation rate of tuition in the US has been higher than the general economy's inflation rate for some time, sometimes it is twice as high What can the faculty do to stop/slow this down?

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    Call your state senators / representatives / governor.
    – JeffE
    Nov 7, 2017 at 23:32
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    The cost of running a school or university comes down to two main factors: maintenance of facilities and wages for faculty. The increase of education costs relative to inflation-adjusted salaries is due, in large part, to education not being amenable to increased efficiency and productivity as is the case broadly across the overall economy. So, figure out how to teach lots more students with fewer professors...
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 7, 2017 at 23:34
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    @JeffE and vote.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 8, 2017 at 1:20
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    From a former student perspective: Yes, there is a massive moral obligation to take student fees down. I studied both in Italy and US, in Italy (basically free university) students at top university are spread on all the income spectrum, in the US my experience was really different, richer families --> waaaay higher chance of going to top college Nov 8, 2017 at 10:16
  • @JonCuster: The majority costs at colleges these days are not faculty wages, but administrator wages. This proportion flipped a few years ago. Nov 8, 2017 at 22:56

3 Answers 3


Use OERs instead of a commercial textbook! This wouldn't affect tuition, but it means students have more money to eat, pay rent, etc.

If you have any say about which texts/materials are used in your classes, then you can be directly responsible for saving students a lot of money.

  • 2
    While as a student I would strongly support this idea, compared to the astronomical tuition fees in the US I can’t imagine it making a significant financial difference (compared to reducing tuition fees). Disclaimer: I have never attended any college in the US (nor have I ever lived there), but the numbers I have heard are much (much) higher than the tuition fees here, and even here I feel the cost for books are not in the same league as the tuition fee.
    – 11684
    Nov 8, 2017 at 10:50
  • @11684 While what you say is true, the cost of textbooks is also astronomical in the US, a lot of the time at least.
    – Jessica B
    Nov 8, 2017 at 19:13

In general, you might try bringing your concerns to the attention of higher administration.

For example, your university might have Faculty Senate meetings where all faculty members have the opportunity to speak (and where administrators are often present). You could show up, take the microphone, and say something like: "I know that tuition went up 7% this year, and my students have complained to me that they are having great difficulty meeting ends meet. Can I ask what the university is doing to make tuition as affordable as possible?"

You might not get a response, let alone a commitment, from anyone in charge -- but at least it's a way to let the right people know that you believe this is a priority. You might have still more influence if you sought out administrative roles yourself.

But, realistically, you probably can't do very much.

An alternative thing you might do instead is to bring textbook costs down for your students. Many faculty members assign expensive books ($200+) without thinking too much about the costs, when free or inexpensive options exist. One way in which you can directly save your students money is to avail yourself of such options. And even if you choose to use an expensive book, you can often arrange for a discount.

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    I think talking to university administrators is a dead end. They do know about the problem, but are hamstrung by (i) the fact that tuition rates are set by Boards of Regents that are usually political appointees, and (ii) the fact that states no longer adequately fund universities. Largely, tuition increases are the result of state politics, not local university administrative decisions. Nov 8, 2017 at 0:05

There are a number of things you can do as an individual faculty member to limit the growth of tuition:

  1. Limit your electricity usage. Don't turn on the lights in your office. Instead, purchase flashlights and batteries or candles at your own expense. Don't use a computer (or use a laptop, purchased at your own expense, that you charge at home).
  2. Volunteer to share your office with as many of your like-minded colleagues as you can pack in. Space and facilities are a huge expense for universities.
  3. Volunteer to teach more classes than you are required to do. Staffing is another major expense.
  4. Donate as much of your salary as you can (after your housing, flashlight, and laptop charging expenses) back to your employer. Note that in the US, this will generally be a tax-deductible donation, so take this into account and donate more.
  • 4
    I agree that this has an element of humor, but, still, ... many people might not realize that this "answer" sounds like it comes from the PR office of the central administration, etc. Nov 7, 2017 at 22:44
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    Whether or not it's humorous, this answer does make sense logically.
    – Dilworth
    Nov 7, 2017 at 23:14
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    @Dilworth the answer assumes that keeping costs down will keep tuition down. The growth of endowments suggests that this may not be the case.
    – StrongBad
    Nov 7, 2017 at 23:15
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    +1 for an answer that is not only 1. funny but also 2. is a correct and logically consistent answer to OP's actual question, and 3. uses humor to subtly and intelligently illustrate an absurd premise about OP's question (namely, the premise that individual faculty have any power to battle macroeconomic forces that even governments aren't able to do very much about). And a symbolic downvote to those who suggest academia.se answers should not use humor to make arguments that are pertinent to the discussion.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 8, 2017 at 1:19
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    @StrongBad basic economics tells us that costs and price are only very loosely related. Every private company charges as much as they can get away with to maximize profits. So finding a price where the number of students times the profit per student is maximized. Lowering the costs (in a single institution), by economic logic would not lead to lowered prices. The US rather has the problem that we have private companies being helped by what I would dub debt culture to keep the number of students high, even with high tuition.
    – CodeMonkey
    Nov 8, 2017 at 8:24

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