Economist looks at alternatives to Kansas tuition growth

An economist with the Sandlian Center for Entrepreneurial Government at the Kansas Policy Institute argues that more state aid isn’t helping reduce higher education tuition growth and that there is another way to make sure students pay less for their degrees.

“Instead of simply throwing more money into the fountain pool that is higher education and simply wishing for lower tuition, I think policymakers can do something in order to get tuition to at least stay constant or even to decrease,” said Michael Austin. “That’s to encourage more market discipline into schools.”

One way schools can control costs is to offer more courses online.

“Online courses are cheaper than traditional methods,” said Austin. “They can expand more educational opportunities to more students. I think this is a good reason why Fort Hays State out of the six Kansas universities is seeing slower growth in tuition than the rest. Its virtual college program is ranked number one in Kansas and is second in the nation.”

Another innovation is being tested in Indiana.

“Another option is a tool called an Income Share Agreement or an ISA,” said Austin. “This is a tool used by Purdue University in Indiana where investors pay for a student’s education and in return after the student graduates they pay a small percent of their future earnings.”

On average those using the program repay 1.5 to 1.6 times the amount of their education. Purdue is in the eighth year of a tuition freeze under President and former Indiana Republican Governor, Mitch Daniels.