Miller Center

National Discussion and Debate Series
Cost of Higher Education

Since the mid-1980s, the costs of higher education in America have steadily shifted from the taxpayer to the student and family. As state funding has dwindled, colleges and universities have sought to fill these gaps through a variety of avenues, including philanthropy and research support, but the area of highest growth has been tuition. The share of institutional budgets provided by tuition increased from 22% in 1985 to 36% in 2005. As state budgets slip further into structural deficit, there is no reason to think this trend will reverse itself.

[ more ]

The Cost of Higher Education

Watch Online

Windows Media MP4 MP3 PDF


Resolved: The business model of higher education is broken.

Ray Suarez
Ray Suarez has been a Senior Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour since 1999. His most recent book is The Holy Vote, examining the relationship between religion and politics in America, and his work has appeared in the New York Times,Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune. A former host of NPR's Talk of the Nation, Suarez has worked for CNN, ABC Radio Network, and CBS Radio. Suarez hosts the monthly public radio foreign affairs series America Abroad for PRI, and is narrator of RadioWorks, the documentary unit of American Public Media.

William E. Kirwan
William E. Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, is a nationally recognized authority on critical issues shaping the higher education landscape. He served as President of Ohio State University from 1998 to 2002, and President of the University of Maryland, College Park from 1988 to 1998. Prior to his presidency, he was a member of the University of Maryland faculty for 24 years. Kirwan chairs the College Board's Commission on Access, Admissions, and Success in Higher Education.

Richard C. Levin
Richard C. Levin, Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics, has been President of Yale University since 1993. Before becoming President, he chaired the Economics Department and served as Dean of Yale's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Levin is recognized as an advocate and leader of the emerging role of higher education in responding to the challenge of sustainable development locally and globally. He serves on the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.

Gail O. Mellow
Gail O. Mellow is President of LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens. She is a nationally recognized expert on the history, development and future of the American community college. She is the co-author of Minding the Dream: The Process and Practice of the American Community College (2008). Mellow serves as a commissioner on the Business Roundtable's Springboard Project, which offers recommendations to strengthen the American workforce by highlighting the important role of community colleges.

Daniel Hamburger
Daniel Hamburger is President and Chief Executive Officer of DeVry Inc., a publicly held, global provider of educational services. He joined DeVry in 2002 as Executive Vice President, responsible for DeVry's online operations and Becker Professional Review. He was named President and Chief Operating Officer in 2004 and Chief Executive Officer in 2006.

Research and Scholarship

White Paper

Is the Business Model of Higher Education Broken?

David W. Breneman

In recent years, numerous industries in the United States have struggled with failing business models. The examples are numerous: automobile manufacturers, newspapers, electronics manufacturing, textiles, clothing, shoes, and airlines, to name but a few. Recently, the business model concept has been applied to non-profit organizations as well. The topic for this debate is whether, and to what extent, the business model of higher education is indeed broken, or unsustainable, in its current form. Read more

Scripps Library and Multimedia Archive

Resources on Higher Education Policy

The Miller Center's Scripps Library and Multimedia Archive is collecting materials on U.S. Public Policy. Below are links to resources on higher education policy.

Public Conferences

Examining the National Purposes of American Higher Education: A Leadership Approach To Policy Reform

June 9, 2008, Miller Center of Public Affairs

On June 9, 2008, the Miller Center joined with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to examine the challenges facing America's higher education system. Participants included elected leaders, trustees, state higher education and college executives, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Read more


Current Debates in Higher Education

David Breneman

Do we have enough college graduates to remain a world class economic power? Is the college business model broken? David W. Breneman, a University Professor and the Newton & Rita Meyers Professor in the Economics of Education, served as Dean of the Curry School of Education from 1995 to 2007, and as Director of the Public Policy Program at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. He presented a Miller Center Forum on February 22, 2010. Click to watch