10 Reasons College Costs So Much

Administrative Bloat
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Dean of the Graduate School Barry Shur (left), Executive Vice Chancellor Lilly Marks, Chancellor Don Elliman and Police Chief Doug Abraham speak during a 2012 news conference in Aurora, Colo. Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

A 21st century college education means so much more than just taking classes and getting a degree. Today, college is a full-service "experience" backed by unprecedented levels of student support, from extensive career services to psychological counseling to heightened campus security. Students benefit greatly from all of the extra support, but it requires scores of additional paid staff positions. Schools also hire more deans and associate deans for student affairs and research, more admissions officers to recruit top applicants, and more communications and marketing staff to craft the college's public image. Back in 1987, colleges employed an equal number of tenure-track professors and administrative staff. By 2008, most colleges employed twice as many administrative staff as full-time faculty [source: Martin].

For colleges trying to keep costs down, one popular option is to cut back on full-time faculty and increase the use of adjunct or part-time professors. While part-time teachers are less expensive — usually paid by the course with no health care coverage or other benefits — some faculty and students worry about sacrificing the quality of the education. As long as students and parents expect a full-service college experience, something has to give or else tuition will keep going up and up.