Lobbyist says higher ed cheap despite cost hike

Although the cost of college is increasing, it is still much lower than commonly perceived, a speaker told faculty and staff Monday.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council of Education‘s division of government and public affairs, told an audience of about 40 in a Sid Richardson lecture hall that a private education costs about $8,000 less per year than commonly perceived. Hartle said the public estimates a private education to cost a total of $40,000 per year, but in reality the average is about $32,000, he said.

“We’re doing a lot better on the price of college than people think,” Hartle said.

Hartle said his job is to mediate between the federal government’s want to regulate universities and universities’ right to autonomy.

According to Hartle, the government invests $130 billion per year on higher education and wants to have some degree of control in how higher education operates. Government spending makes up about one-third of all higher education expenses and even goes to private schools, Hartle said.

His speech outlined key legislation recently moved through Congress and how it would affect college students and administrators.

Hartle cited an act of Congress in 2007 in which $20 billion in student loan subsidies were cut. The cut has caused many lending companies, who oversee the loans, to pull loans from schools with a high rate of default, he said.

But he said cutting the rising cost of college isn’t an easy task and would involve job cuts. Labor costs make up 60 to 70 percent of colleges’ operating costs, Hartle said.

“Making college cost less would involve cutting human capital,” Hartle said. “Classes would be larger, you would have more adjunct professors and less seminar classes.”

Chancellor Victor Boschini said he brought Hartle to campus to elaborate on pressing issues affecting TCU and other universities around the country.

“I think he has a lot of good insight on future government intervention into higher education,” Boschini said.

Boschini said Hartle presented one fact that really surprised him.

“He said that 93 percent of people in America still hold higher education in high esteem,” Boschini said. “It makes me feel like we’re doing a good job here.”

Hartle, a lobbyist, received a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University in 1982, a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in 1974 and a bachelor’s degree in history from Hiram College in 1973, according to ACE’s Web site. Prior to joining the council, Hartle spent six years as education staff director for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, according to the Web site.