Even schools traditionally considered to have low tuition costs are seeing their overall prices rise faster than inflation. Costs go higher and higher in the event a student takes longer than four years to finish a degree, loses a pre-existing scholarship or has any major change to their home situation. However, many internal processes are also at the heart of tuition price increases.

Here are a few reasons college costs continue to rise.



A four-year degree is anything but. Many state and federal financial programs top out on four years of financial support, but the average graduation time for undergraduates in the U.S. is five and a half years.[1] When you look just at students completing their degrees in four-year programs, only 55% of students graduate within six years.

We don’t have a good handle on graduating students on time, which immediately drives up costs significantly after the four-year window is passed.


Rent Is High Too

Universities have realized they can make some money back by charging higher rates for room and board. It actually costs students — on average — $930 more each semester to live on campus than it does to pursue their degree. Internal processes that drive up costs are going to continue to squeeze students who want to live on campus and gain the traditional college experience at least for their first year.


More People Are Going to College

College is a booming industry. It’s now the standard that students pursue a college degree at a four-year institution after graduating high school. This not only allows colleges to charge more and still receive good applicants, but it also means they have to hire more faculty and support staff, plus build more buildings to accommodate the rise in students.


The Best in Tech and Teachers

Colleges are competing for teachers more than ever. They want to retain top faculty to become research institutions because it has become a proven model for financial security among top-ranked institutions. That also requires a full-scale adoption of modern technology and consistent upgrades to the latest in-class opportunities. Unfortunately, the decision is often based on what’s new and not what’s needed.


Student Services

The news is rife with stories about student service demands and new offerings that must meet a more diverse and politically active student body. People want more dining, fitness and safe-space facilities, all of which raise costs.

Hegemony is at the heart of all of these concerns.


What Is Hegemony?

Hegemony is a predominance of one group or ideology to control others, typically because of undue or undeserved influence. This also refers to when one ideology or guiding practice establishes a dominance over others.

For education, hegemony means that a small subset of academics and influencers have determined an education model that works for their students, but then promote it as the best possible method for all students and universities. Because these thought leaders are admired and considered to be the most prominent education minds, their models are implemented regardless of the specific education system.[2]

Some community colleges that are focused on degree programs that lead to immediate employment may require some classes designed as precursors to post-graduate study. Or methods that might be best for a hands-on career are skipped in favor of abstract concepts and lessons that can provide an understanding but do not necessarily offer a practical application in the workforce.

Focusing on elite schools and their developments ignores the realty that most college students will face. It also causes smaller colleges to adopt internal processes that counter what’s in the best interest of that college and its students.


How Can Software Solve These Issues?

Enterprise content management platforms are already helping universities address the internal processes pushing the cost of education higher than inflation alone would dictate. ECMs can help tackle some of the biggest recurring themes in all of these hegemony problems: paperwork.

As more students come aboard, new services are mandated, teachers change and students stay longer, the paperwork grows exponentially. Traditional paper storage also takes up valuable real estate on campuses and moving to a digital document system can save significantly in almost every room in each administrative building.

Even though there’s a push for new tech, surprisingly we find many universities still hold on to paper documents to manage their students and student interactions. Shifting to a digital platform can keep documents secure and easily accessible, while also reducing the need for support staff to work on these problems.

Records are also less likely to be lost, mitigating costs associated with processing student requests multiple times. Paperless systems may not completely address tuition increases, but they can help cut costs when it’s possible and look at internal processes to reduce the burden on students.

It’s good to help students, especially when it coincides with efficiency improvements and monetary savings.

[1] http://www.bankrate.com/finance/college-finance/6-reasons-college-costs-are-soaring-3.aspx

[2] https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/future-liberal-education-and-hegemony-market-values-privilege