10 Reasons College Costs So Much

Technology Upgrades Are Expensive
Administrator Jim Greene (center) watches as a physicist monitors a Tokomak during a fusion experiment in a laboratory at the University of Texas-Austin. © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS

This reason for why college is so expensive goes hand in hand with No. 4. Even as colleges make huge investments in their technological infrastructure, the productivity of the institutions remain basically unchanged.

Let's use some examples. One of the promises of a modern college education is to give students the skills to thrive in a high-tech workforce. To learn those skills, students need access to the latest technologies at school: computer-aided drafting software, powerful workstations to run advanced calculations, videoconferencing suites for collaborating with international students and faculty and so on [source: Archibald]. Those technologies not only require investments in expensive equipment, but also the IT staff to install and maintain them.

Again, while these investments greatly enhance the student learning experience, they do not improve the efficiency of the teaching process. It simply costs more money to educate the same number of people. This inefficiency problem is driving the push toward low-cost online education, particularly the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), in which entire college courses are video recorded and uploaded for free to a worldwide audience.

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