Professor Kevin Stange breaks down the cost of college education

February 15, 2019

As obtaining a college degree becomes more expensive, and student debt climbs over $1 trillion, questions often wonder as to where all the money goes. Such curiosity spikes even more as tuition increases year after year. To assuage such inquisitiveness, Ford Professor Kevin Stange and co-authors from the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina, broke down the cost to educate per major.

In Jillian Berman’s February 13, 2019 feature on MarketWatch , Professor Stange and his colleagues found “a roughly $300 gap between the most expensive subject [electrical engineering]…and the least expensive [math].”

To better understand the potentially contributing factors to the high cost of a college education, Stange et al analyzed instructor salary, average class size, average number of courses taught per instructor, and non- instructional costs. Moreover, Stange et al considers how such factors affect the cost of teaching a given subjects cost of teaching per credit hour.

One startling consequence of Stange’s work enumerates how the “gap in cost to deliver different subjects…push[es] more students towards some of the more costly subjects.” Additionally, the research indicates that through tuition spikes humanities majors may “subsidize” the educations of the more expensive majors given the higher cost to teach such programs.

With the persistence of heightened college costs, Professor Stange’s study may ultimately provide a better understanding of the causes of the continued increase. In doing so, the work of Professor Stange and his colleagues may provide an intimation on how to lower college expenses.

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Kevin Stange is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan where he teaches graduate courses in higher education policy, economics, and quantitative methods. He is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Faculty Affiliate of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education and the Education Policy Initiative, both at University of Michigan.