Students punishing schools for low tuition

Students punishing schools for low tuition February 3, 2007

The latest proof that that great American idol, the Market, is anything but ominiscent and just.

In Tuition Game, Popularity Rises With Price – New York Times

John Strassburger, the president of Ursinus College, a small liberal arts institution here in the eastern Pennsylvania countryside, vividly remembers the day that the chairman of the board of trustees told him the college was losing applicants because of its tuition.

It was too low.

So early in 2000 the board voted to raise tuition and fees 17.6 percent, to $23,460 (and to include a laptop for every incoming student to help soften the blow). Then it waited to see what would happen.

Ursinus received nearly 200 more applications than the year before. Within four years the size of the freshman class had risen 35 percent, to 454 students. Applicants had apparently concluded that if the college cost more, it must be better.

“It’s bizarre and it’s embarrassing, but it’s probably true,” Dr. Strassburger said.

Ursinus also did something more: it raised student aid by nearly 20 percent, to just under $12.9 million, meaning that a majority of its students paid less than half price.

On a sidenote, this is a reminder of why I’m quite sceptical about the whole field of economics.

If you ask me, it’s just mislabeled hybrid of psychology, sociology and math.

One of my favorite teachers from my undergrad days was a maverick professor of economics who delighted in skewering the conventional wisdom of his stodgy and often reactionary field.  Ever since they’d been declared a science, he said, economists have been too big for their britches and fond of issuing all sorts of unproven claims.

Most importantly, I’d argue, its dominant faction (i.e., the Neoliberals) tends to pass off its class and ideological preferences for ironclad laws of nature.  You see the "laws" of its reigning orthodoxy regularly confounded by the real world (e.g., the economic development of socialist Scandinavia and Germany; India’s rise as an economic power; the meltdown of Argentina despite its dutiful observance of IMF dictates).  Then these dispassionate "scientists" scurry to tweak their self-interested assumptions and preferences-masquerading-as-laws to explain how once again a stubborn real world example of un-Neoliberal economics in action somehow proves that the world is ruled by their theories.

Those scoffing are directed to the Left Business Observer, which chronicles how disconnected from reality the psuedo-scientific predictions of much of this "science" tend to be.

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