In war on rising college tuition, corporate sponsorships may be a peacekeeper

April 3, 2012
3 min read

It’s no secret that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing. College and university tuition rates are up, budgets are down, and more and more students and their families are finding themselves shouldering mountains of debt just to be able to hang that prized diploma on the wall. The issue is serious enough that it warranted space in this year’s State of the Union address, with President Obama drawing a line in the proverbial sand on college and university officials’ responsibility to make tuition more affordable. Government assistance, he said, would only be given in exchange for institutions’ own efforts to cap prices. Administrators at California’s Santa Monica College appear to be taking the opposite route.

A New York Times article published on Thursday (March 29) described Santa Monica’s plan to address enrollment overages by piloting a two-tiered tuition structure this summer. It would require community college students to pay more to register for top courses–to the tune of an additional $144 per credit hour. This move–which begins to challenge the notion that community colleges are a lower-priced alternative to four-year schools– is unfair to the lower-income students that may be pushed out of the system because they won’t be able to afford the classes they need.

Legalities may end up blocking Santa Monica College’s proposed tuition hikes, but the fact that administrators came up with the idea in the first place is the bigger concern. Increasing enrollment numbers mean more people want to get an education, and that’s something institutions should encourage, not turn away. Some donors have already given scholarship funds to the school to help counter the impact of tuition hikes, but there’s more that can be done.

The corporate role in addressing rising college tuition

In the trend, No Degree, No Problem, Mintel’s Inspire tells us that increases in online course offerings, community college registration, and corporate sponsored degree programs are all emerging as a result of the higher price tag on four-year educations. If we’re now dealing with the same problem at the community colleges themselves, there’s no reason why corporate sponsorships couldn’t apply there as well.

If having enough staff to teach mandatory courses is the concern, college administrators can look to local business owners and managers to take on some of the burden. They can teach the courses that are relevant to their area of expertise and bring some practical, real life experience into the classroom with them when they do. After all, seeing the real world application of their text books’ musings may only increase students’ enthusiasm for the course work. This model of instruction may also help in addressing shortages in classroom space. In some cases, courses may be able to be held on site at the instructors’ offices, stores, or other places of work, offering hands-on learning experience–and perhaps an early foot in the door for the internship opportunities students will be hunting down later.

Another Mintel Inspire trend, Immaterial World, describes how Americans are increasingly viewing their status as a function of what they’ve done rather than what they have. Getting an education is one thing that many still want to do in their lifetime despite the road blocks, and it seems to be a rational expectation that the government, educational institutions, and local communities work together to make that happen for the aspiring students who want it. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it may take that same village to educate one.

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