Today’s employment market increasingly demands that young professionals acquire graduate degrees to be competitive job applicants. But the costs of graduate degrees are rising, and with the average amount of student loan debt after undergraduate studies reaching an astonishing $30,000 as of 2014, according to U.S. News. It is becoming increasingly difficult for young professionals to rationalize the expense of graduate school. Thus arises the catch-22 of higher education: one needs a graduate degree to earn more money, but one needs more money to pay for a graduate degree. An increasing number of students have found a solution to this conundrum: graduate degree programs at universities outside of the United States.

The Bologna Declaration of 1999 created a European Higher Education Area, which standardized multiple important aspects of higher education across the 50 member countries. The implementation of a system of three “cycles” of higher education – bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees – that closely matched the American education system majorly affected American students’ ability to study in Europe. Since this change, an increasing number of American students have sought graduate degrees overseas, and foreign universities have responded in kind by increasing their supply of programs instructed in English: between 2007 and 2011, the total number of English-instruction master’s programs in European countries where English is not the primary language more than quadrupled, according to the Center for Academic Mobility Research.

That said, attending English-instruction graduate programs outside of the United States has several consequences. Graduate school can be an important time for students to establish networks and search for employment. Completing a graduate degree abroad means that the majority of a student’s graduate network and contacts will be in the region of their chosen university. In addition, American students are usually charged significantly higher tuition than citizens of that country or of countries in the European Union. An influx of American graduate students therefore provides a corresponding increase in income that far surpasses what citizen students would provide. This can lead to a beneficial cycle of using American tuition to improve programs to attract more Americans and thus more tuition money, which can improve the university’s ranking in that country and in the world.

A university’s ranking can be an important factor in American students’ decisions regarding graduate programs, as employers’ perception of the quality of the degree can affect employment options. But American universities are by no means universally and decisively the best in the world. In US News and World Report’s 2016 list of the best universities in the world, 15 of the top 50 academic institutions were located outside the United States, according to U.S. News. Furthermore, as documented in the QS World University Rankings, overseas universities often rank above American universities in specific academic fields. Cambridge and Oxford are ranked above American schools for graduate studies in English language and literature, and seven of the top ten universities for graduate studies in civil and structural engineering are located in countries other than the United States. Depending on the area of study, a foreign university can offer a higher quality education than an American counterpart – for a fraction of the price.

Universities outside the United States ranked among the top 50 universities in the world in 2016 (US News and World Report)

  • Cambridge University England
  • Oxford University England
  • Imperial College London England
  • University College London England
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland
  • University of Tokyo Japan
  • University of British Columbia Canada
  • Heidelberg University Germany
  • University of Edinburgh Scotland
  • University of Melbourne Australia
  • Peking University China
  • KU Leuven Germany
  • National University of Singapore Singapore
  • Pierre and Marie Curie University France

In the United States, tuition fees for graduate degrees vary widely depending on a number of factors. A basic master of arts at a public university can cost as little as $10,000 per year, while medical degrees and Ph.D.’s at private institutions can cost more than $60,000 or more each year. Considering that American master’s degrees require two to three years of study, and Ph.D.’s four to five, graduate school is a sizeable investment that can match or exceed the costs involved in the prerequisite undergraduate degree. In contrast, European and Australian master’s degrees generally only require one or two years of study, and Ph.D.’s only three or four. Annual foreign tuitions vary among countries depending on the degree and the amount of government subsidization, but fees can range from $286 for a master’s in France to $54,000 for a medical degree in Singapore (using October 2016 conversion rates; see below). These reduced tuition rates, in conjunction with the reduced amount of time required for foreign degrees, make graduate degrees much more financially reasonable for many Americans.

Tuition Costs at Universities Outside of the United States

Name Location Tuition Range (USD)
Freie Universitat Berlin Germany $290
Université Paris-Sud 11 France $290 – $440
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid Spain $1,500 – $4,500
University of Copenhagen Denmark $10,000 – $20,000
University of Amsterdam Netherlands $11,300 – $28,200
University of Melbourne Australia $28,000
St. Andrews University Scotland $24,400 – $30,500
University College London England $27,500 – $39,000
National University of Singapore Singapore

$12,000 – $54,000

An important aspect of this story that often goes unconsidered is that higher education is an industry. Universities and are businesses, professors are employees, students are clients, and standardized tests and classes are a product. A student who leaves the United States for graduate studies spends anywhere between one and six years in that country for studies alone, and is more likely than an American-educated counterpart to continue working and living abroad simply because they are more familiar with the process. During that time, those American students are active clients of foreign university businesses – which equates to a direct loss of business for American university businesses. For those one to six years, Americans fuel foreign businesses and a foreign economy, and increase their likelihood of staying abroad and becoming an active participant in that foreign workforce. An increase in students seeking educational opportunities outside of their home country should give governments a reason for concern, and indicates that a change in the industry may be necessary to increase retention rates within that country.

A recent survey revealed that 35 percent of American-born residents and 55 percent of residents between the ages of 18 and 34 would leave the United States to live and work in another country (Whitten). More concretely, data from the United States Treasury Department reveals that while between 1998 and 2009 the annual number of published expatriates (Americans who chose to officially renounce their citizenship) remained well below 1,000 and often below 500, in 2010 the number rose to over 1,500 and continued on a mostly steady climb to over 3,400 in 2014 (Whitten). Most recently, in the first three months of 2015 a record 1,335 Americans renounced citizenship (Yan). This number is more than 40 percent of the total number of Americans who expatriated in 2014, indicating that by the end of the year, the trend of increased expatriation from the United States will likely continue.

Recent upward trends in the number of Americans expatriating and pursuing graduate degrees abroad are not necessarily directly linked; any number of factors could, independently or in combination, drive individuals to make such choices. However, further research into the reasons why people choose to expatriate and students choose to obtain graduate degrees outside the United States could better inform possible connections between the two phenomena and help the United States find ways to keep its young professionals from taking their resources, academic work, and potentially their careers overseas.

Since the Industrial Revolution, innovation and new technology have increased the efficiency of many different fields, promoting society’s overall growth. However, the introduction of these technologies has also induced much controversy, manifested in the outcry over diminishing job numbers and big-screen science fiction catastrophes.

It is no secret that robots are ever encroaching on our jobs. A recent study from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology showed that 45% of jobs today will be computerized in the next few decades. The most vulnerable fields, according to the report, are “transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support… services, sale, and construction.” Further, the report suggests that advances in artificial intelligence could put traditionally secure jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk of automation.

These advances in technology, in turn, will require specialized skill sets, bringing higher education into the equation. Advanced schooling will be required in order to understand the concepts needed to keep up with changing standards. Employers will gravitate toward potential employees who have the education required to operate, and even create, new innovations. In short, as the basis for technology changes, the base requirements will change as well.

With total student debt reaching more than 1 trillion dollars, it’s not hard to see why there is much debate today about the value of a college education. Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett recently published a book, Is College Worth It, advocating for families to reconsider their reasoning for sending their kids off to get a BA and to consider alternatives such as community college.

On the other hand, in MIT Economics professor Dr. Autour’s study on the wage gap between college graduates and everyone else, “not going to college will cost you about a half a million dollars.” Other than wages, there are more difficult to measure benefits of going to school as well, including networking, prestige, and experience. David Leonhardt of the New York Times contends, “a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.”
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However, Leonhardt’s article does concede one important point: “Tellingly, though, the wage premium for people who have attended college without earning a bachelor’s degree — a group that includes community-college graduates — has not been rising.” This creates a distinction that has important implications in the struggle to adjust to automation.

Low-skill workers and skilled workers are affected differently

Tim Worstall, a contributor to Forbes and a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, explains that automation will only slightly increase the currently high job turnover rate, implying that displaced workers will be able to find new and/or newly created jobs. However, the assumption is that these workers have the capability to adapt to these new jobs. According to the Oxford Martin School report, low-skill workers, on the other hand, “will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerization—i.e., tasks that required creative and social intelligence.”

The necessity (and ambiguity) of creative and social intelligence further complicates the price tag of a college education. Families are now left to decide whether or not a four-year college is the only means to acquire such skills, and if thousands of dollars is the right price tag.

Most of the aforementioned statistics support the assertion that a college degree is worth the cost. However, Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight contends: “just because people who graduate from college are better off doesn’t necessarily mean that going to college is a good decision.”

The rationale for students and their families must include not only economic costs and benefits, but also consideration of the likelihood of obtaining a degree. As Casselman rightly points out, data from the National Center for Economic Statistics shows that less than 60% of “first-time full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students at 4-year institutions” graduate within six years. That number drops to 38.6% for those that graduate within four years. More time at school also incurs more costs.

Leonhardt writes, “As the economy becomes more technologically complex, the amount of education that people need will rise.” What seems to follow is that the income gap between four-year college graduates and all others will only continue to rise.

For jobs, automation will only continue to do what it has been: induce an uptick in turnover rate. However, the means of getting to those jobs, education, is complicated. The volatility, uncertainty and cost of a college education understandably make many prospective students balk. Attending college remains a decision unique to each individual depending on his or her circumstances. What technology will continue to do is make students think hard about alternatives. College no longer seems as sure-fire as recent trends have shown.

 

Every Dartmouth student knows that his or her college education is expensive. Families make sacrifices to pay tuition: students and parents take on debt, alumni are constantly solicited for donations, and tax-exempt money flows to colleges rather than to other non-profits. Therefore, it is important to ask if the administration uses the money efficiently. Dartmouth claims to spend $117,000 per student each year to educate us. Less than half of this is covered by tuition. Consider also that full tuition at $60,201 costs about three times more in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1980. If tuition had risen only with inflation, a Dartmouth education would today cost about $25,000 for full tuition plus room and board. One can certainly question if the education and overall experience is three times better today than it was in 1980.

High expenses are not a problem unique to Dartmouth. College tuition nationwide has increased at an average rate of 7.45 percent per year since 1978, and with it the amount of debt with which students are being saddled. The Department of Labor demonstrated that college tuition has experienced the greatest cost increase over the last 30 years, increasing two to three times the overall rate of inflation, significantly outpacing the consumer price index and even medical care.

In “Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much”, Ronald Ehrenberg, Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics at Cornell University argues that top institutions, with long lines of high quality applicants flocking to their doors, have chosen to spend more money every year. “The objective of selective academic institutions” he contends, “is to be the best in every aspect of their activities.” As a result, they seek out all possible resources and “wind up in an arms race of spending to improve facilities, faculty, students, research, and instructional technology.” In “Over Invested and Over Priced,” Richard Vedder, director for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and Professor of Economics at Ohio University, points out that this is due to the simple fact that colleges, as non-profits, have no bottom line. Under no pressure to be efficient, colleges often incur costs to buy things that improve magazine rankings, not knowing if this truly improves teaching or research. A report from the Goldwater Institute found that in 2007 it took 13.1 percent more employees to educate the same number of students than it did in 1993. Furthermore, the rate of increase of total university employees per students as greatest among private universities, which in 2007, had an average of 53.6 employees for ever 100 students, equivalent to fewer than two students per employee, an increase of 20 percent from 1993.

If the increased spending is going to enhance the quality of learning, one could argue that increased spending is well worth it. However, universities are not using their greater size and increased revenue to hire more teaching staff. In “Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All Administrative University and Why it Matters,” Benjamin Ginsberg, Professor Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, points out that the rise in college spending can be attributed almost entirely to the growth of administrations. He laments what he terms an “administrative blight” which is personified by what an army of “deanlets” and “deanlings”. Between 1975 and 2005, the growth in the ranks of administrators has far outstripped in the ranks of administrators has far outstripped the increase in faculty. The larger result of this, he contends, is that resources have been shifted to feed primarily the ever-increasing number of administrators who do little to advance the main instructional aims of a university. Indeed, between 1993 and 2007, inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased 61 percent while instructional spending per student rose only 39 percent during that same period.

Dartmouth has become the poster child for administrative bloat. In fact, Dartmouth spends more solely on administration per student that the average American university spends on everything per student. Information at The Center for COllege Affordability and Productivity shows that the large spending categories at Dartmouth are $37,000 per student for academic support, and $24,000 per student on research. Dartmouth is spending a staggering $88,000 per student before instructional costs are even considered.

Dartmouth currently has the highest tuition among the Ivies, and also has the dubious distinction of being a leader in splurging on administrative costs. Comparing Dartmouth’s 2013 Financial Report to Brown’s (the Ivy that is closest to us in size) is thought provoking. Brown and Dartmouth appear to have around the same number of total employees, despite the fact the Brown 36 percent more students! Brown pays its professors approximately 10 percent more per year than Dartmouth does, yet Brown’s total annual spending was somehow still a staggering $105,491,000 less than Dartmouth’s in 2013.

Digging into Dartmouth’s financial statements, one can discover that the university spent $326,856,000 on salaries and $112,937,000 on benefits in 2013, while Brown spent $294,674,000 on salaries and $94,185,000 on benefits. Overall Dartmouth spent a total of $86,715,000 more on compensation, or a difference of about 22 percent, despite the fact that they have about the same number of employees and that Dartmouth pays 10 percent less to Professors.

Furthermore, data from the Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), reveals a disturbing trend for salaries of Dartmouth instructional employees (professors) versus non-instructional  employees (administrative staff). The data indicate that from 2006 to 2007, salaries of Dartmouth professors actually dropped almost $40,000, while salaries for academic support employees (which includes Deans and other non-instructional functions), and salaries for institutional support (which includes employees not directly related to academics such as legal and fiscal managers) both have been increasing.

I was puzzled by this anomalous trend showing that salaries of professors had dramatically declined starting in 2007, while salaries of administrators dramatically increased at the same time. I contacted Dartmouth CFO, RIchard Mills, but he was not able to provide an explanation.

Dartmouth also appears to be more profligate with its endowment than Brown. Dartmouth’s 2013 Financial Report indicates that Dartmouth drew $183,816,000 from its endowment, giving it, on a per student basis, a little over $44,000 to work with, while Brown had about $23,000 per student. Dartmouth has been using vastly more of its endowment that Brown has. However, as these graphs indicate, Dartmouth’s spending does not seem to be going to increase the quality of the Dartmouth education, but rather seems to be mainly squandered on increased administrative salaries. In fact, further data from IPEDS indicates that Dartmouth spends a much smaller percentile of its budget on instruction than Brown does, and vastly more on academic support (a difference it shares with the rest of the Ivies as well).

While Dartmouth offers more generous financial aid than many colleges, it nonetheless still has the highest tuition cost of all the Ivies, and 50 percent of its students graduate with some amount of student debt. Nationwide, experts fear that a student debt bubble could endanger the economy. Many students have crushing levels of debt. There is a larger, more general question about how America as a society is allocating its resources. Perhaps the Ivy League colleges in particular need to take the lead in stopping the “arms race”, committing to not only containing, but actually reducing costs and tuition for the good of society as a whole.

This article is intended to be the first in a series exploring different aspects of financial management of Dartmouth and colleges in general. At an institute of higher learning where lucid and rigorous thinking is celebrated, it seems vitally important that the entire school community is concerned about how Dartmouth is managed.

iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 is now the choice that many consumers are facing these days.

On one hand you have the iPhone: a sleek, refined product of American innovation, a phone touted by enthusiastic techies and laymen as simply the most revolutionary phone product to hit the market. On the other you have Galaxy S3, which generated enough excitement in its early stages of development for many to dub it the ‘iPhone killer’. It is an amalgamation of cherry-picked features, slight alterations, and excellent execution.

After a high-profile patent case, Samsung was forced to pay over $1 billion in damages for infringing upon a number of Apple designs and patents. Nonetheless, Samsung’s business model of essentially “playing catch-up” to Apple and improving on Apple’s designs ended up paying off. In Q3 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3 beat out the iPhone 4S (an older model) to become the world’s best-selling smartphone.

At their core, the business strategies of Apple and Samsung Electronics represent fundamental differences in thinking and attitude. The anti-corporate culture of Apple, as embodied by the image of a barefoot Steve Jobs, versus the massive, South Korean conglomerate (chaebol) Samsung Electronics.

While much could be said about how individuals have shaped their separate corporate philosophies, and in turn their trajectories, perhaps we can take a look at the intellectual and academic environments in which these two corporations formed. Perhaps Samsung’s ability to copy rather than innovate is reflective of South Korea’s education system, which many say is top-notch but doesn’t nurture creative thinkers.

A recent study done by an education research firm, Pearson, places South Korea among the most well-educated countries in the world. Considering how well South Korean students have traditionally fared on standardized reading and math tests, the results of this recent study are certainly no surprise. In contrast, the U.S. is a middle-of-the-road country when it comes to education, despite its status as the leading economic power in the world.

Educational spending could be one cause of this achievement gap. According to the Center on International Education Benchmarking, South Korea spends 7.6% of its GDP on education, the second highest among OECD countries.  Intense schooling starts from the age of 6, culminating in the College Scholastic Aptitude Test, a high-stakes college admissions test that often determines one’s future financial, social, and personal success. The average Korean student attends regular schooling in addition to “cram schools,” private after-school academies that specialize in skills ranging from English and math to playing an instrument. Nearly 9% of children are forced to attend such places past 11pm.

For all the success that the South Korean system has produced, it has many flaws. Consequences of such a high pressure educational system manifest themselves in all sorts of manners including the abnormally high prevalence of youth suicides and poor social skills.

Furthermore, in such a system it is difficult to cultivate innovative and creative thinkers. Instead of valuing individualism and unconventional thinking, children are taught at a very young age that memorization and brute repetition will lead to good grades, admissions into prestigious universities, and a successful life.

Former South Korean minister of education, Byong-man Ahn, notes, “Students have no time to ponder the fundamental question of ‘What do I need to learn, and why?’ They simply need to prepare for the test by learning the most-effective methods for digesting tremendous quantities of material and committing more to memory than others do.”

The South Korean government is currently in the process of implementing reforms that it hopes will help foster creativity. Such reforms include reducing material students need to study and refining the ways teachers engage their classes. Interestingly enough, the government itself may be the cause of the educational system’s problems. The Ministry of Education develops a national curriculum that is then disseminated to nearly all of South Korea’s primary schools. The fact that educational reform is implemented from the top-down may discourage experimentation with more effective forms of learning, such as a switch to more hands-on activities and a greater degree of freedom for students to pursue their own academic interests.

Furthermore, while there is reason to be optimistic, such reforms may not be enough. In order to truly foster a nation of innovators and outside-the-box thinkers, South Korea may need an entire cultural shift. The social stigma against those unable to gain entrance into a prestigious university may be forcing creative thinkers to focus all their time on brute memorization, which in turn could push them into despair.

It may be years before South Korea can champion its own Silicon Valley. It would take nothing short of a complete revamp of education and a cultural shift that promotes individuality and iconoclastic thinking to produce an environment conducive to producing the Steve Jobs of tomorrow. But for now we all may have to make do with products like the Samsung Galaxy S3; effective but not groundbreaking.

Year after year, the U.S. spends the most money on education in the world, but comes up short in results. In 2008, U.S. spent $809.6 billion, more than 5 times the runner-up, Japan, at $160.5 billion. In spite of such ginormous spending, we are falling behind in student achievement in the world. The most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show that U.S. students barely achieved the average score in reading literacy, and scored below the average in mathematical literacy. This problem may in part be attributed to the way we spend the mammoth budget, and it’s a conflict between equality and achievement.

In 1971, John Serrano agreed for ideological reasons to be the lead plaintiff—essentially a stage dummy— for reform-minded lawyers who, in their minds, were furthering the equalizing-education legacy of Brown vs. Board of Education 1954 (Arthur Wise 1967; Peter Enrich 1995). The mastermind lawyers believed that the then-current system of funding public school districts with local property tax was unfair to students who lived in areas with low property values because their school districts received much less funding than students who lived in property-rich areas.

The California Supreme Court found in Serrano vs. Priest that reliance on local property taxes leads to significant disparities in educational opportunities, and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Though Serrano was college-educated and his son went to a well-off public school in the area, his Hispanic name mislead some reporters and even scholars to assume that he was a poor Chicano in a property-poor area, struggling for educational equality for his children. It is important to note that this case was not the result of dissatisfaction with the status quo; rather, it was a staged lawsuit for agenda-minded activists.

Using spending-per-pupil to quantitatively measure educational opportunities, the California Supreme Court tried to attain equality by decreeing that property tax must be collected by the local government and then subsequently transferred to the state government, which would then reapportion the tax revenue to districts based on a “district power equalization formula.” In essence, property taxes were divorced from public school districts and henceforth, funding for districts no longer depended on the wealth of the geographical area in which they were located.

The California Supreme Court’s decision in the Serrano case continues to reverberate in California and the rest of the nation. Although the federal equivalent of Serrano, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973), decided in a 5-4 ruling that unequal funding for public school systems due to disparities in local property values does not violate the Equal Protection Clause, the dissent strongly encouraged states to consult their own constitutions. In fact, the majority opinion explicitly asked the states to deploy their own equal protection clauses and do whatever they wanted to school financing.

That’s exactly what the states did. Approximately 16 state courts immediately followed California’s precedent. In addition, a handful of states including New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio and Kansas revised their public school financing systems in anticipation for litigation. The redistribution of local property tax to equalize public education is a growing trend in America, and it appeals to one of the fundamental founding principles of our great country: equality. In the name of equality, wars have been fought, lives have been lost, and schools have been desegregated. The next step, naturally, is removing the socioeconomic dividers in our education system.

But reform has its costs, and for the public education system in America, it may be one that we can’t afford. After the Serrano ruling in California, numerous studies have analyzed how the centralization of funding has affected student achievement in the public school systems. The conclusions are ominous: school-finance centralization has hurt average educational quality, and as opponents claim, “dumbed down” education.

Take California, the birthplace of this trend, for example. In 1995, 24 years after the reform took place, California’s spending per pupil fell below the trend-line of growth in America. The study (Silva and Sonstelie 1995) contributed half of the drop to increasing enrollment in the public school system, and the other half to the centralization of school-finance. And, utilizing the terminology of the California Supreme Court, one can say that the reapportionment of local property tax directly lowered the educational opportunities for those students involved.

The reformers had hoped that equalization would raise the tail without bringing down the top, but studies have shown otherwise. For example, centralization appears to have a large, statistically significant, negative impact on average SAT scores (Husted and Kenny 200). The reasons for these achievement reductions are not very clear, but numerous conceivable theories have emerged.
One is that competition has diminished between school districts because of centralization, as there is less incentive for schools to attain high achievement in order to attract wealthy residents who expect to receive superior schooling in exchange for paying high local property tax.

Second, lower-income students do not always live in property-poor areas, and thus the benefits of equalizing school finance have not helped them in any significant way. Third, many wealthy parents, knowing that their tax money will not go toward their children’s public schooling, decided to send their kids to private schools, to get the full bang for the buck spent on education.

While equalizing public education sounds phenomenal in theory and laudable in practice, it is impractical in reality. It’s a difficult conundrum: should equality or high educational achievement prevail? One must sacrifice one to uphold the other, and there is little room for compromise. However, with the U.S. falling behind the world in achievement tests and globalization transforming our world into an increasingly competitive platform, how can America succeed?

Investing in education for our future is a must, and if that investment isn’t fully utilized in the most effective ways, we may fall farther behind, and not only in terms of education. If there comes a day when our education fails, our economy crumbles, and our strength diminishes, who then will be the champion of equality?