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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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High tuition justified by quality

By By Zack Oakey

Attending college is difficult but rewarding. Like all things desirable, it’s no surprise that we would want it to be cheap. However, our desires must always be checked at the door whenever we have conversations about what is possible rather than what is desirable. The high cost of tuition is one reality that is here to stay, and there are economic reasons for it.

We would benefit from being realistic and seeing that higher education will always be expensive, and that no matter how much we complain about it, the fundamental realities surrounding its high cost won’t change.

First, what is education, generally speaking? On a superficial level, education is merely the processes and behaviors involved in distributing information from one person to the next. It seems, as with most behaviors, that the most effective way to encourage students to listen and teachers to speak is partly monetary. Instructors receive their payments from students who, in exchange, receive a certificate from the instructor that might guarantee a higher position in a chosen profession.

It’s no different than paying a massage therapist to rub your back, a tailor to make your suit or a lawyer to give you advice. Professionals value your dollar more than they value keeping skills to themselves.

Furthermore, when asking what is involved in the formation of higher education, we find that there is much more to the classroom experience than simply someone speaking meaningless words. Much of what professors say is valuable because it’s their original research. It costs money to know what they know.

In other words, education has implicit value that can be translated to dollars.

The Scottish economist Adam Smith describes the value of something such as education as, “The toil and trouble of acquiring it. What everything is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself.”

The efforts our professors have made to form our curricula is something we probably don’t understand, but, as Smith describes, we don’t have to. Our professors save us a whole lifetime of trying to figure out these issues on our own, and in return, they want a livelihood. This has huge consequences, especially when we ask ourselves whether we want doctors to go to a costly medical school to learn tested skills, or to practice from scratch at the beginning of their careers.

The system that best understands and translates the value of education is the market, where availability and desirability are constantly factored into the prices of goods and services. To take a random example: Everyone wants to look decent. Even though it costs clothing companies a fraction of the price to produce their garments, they know that their products are highly desirable. Furthermore, if they are in short supply, the cost will be that much higher.

If anything, we should be happy that our tuition at the U is high, for reasons listed above. Many people would love to attend the U because they might think it is doing a good job. If this is true, the price of tuition might reflect that. But we have many reasons to believe that the U’s tuition is actually not all that high, relative to national tuition.

Richard Vedder, an economist from George Mason University, reports that data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics show undegraduate in-state tuition and fees for the U is $644 less than the 2008 national average. It’s the out-of-state students who pay our bills. They have a burden that is $2,333 higher at the U compared to the national average.

Education is expensive for many good reasons. If it were cheap, it wouldn’t be worth it, and the market8212;the great, disinterested arbiter of truth8212;would tell us so in the form of prices. Instead of asking, “Why is it high?” it would be more logical, more historical and more responsible to ask, “How did it get so high?” or “What does the high price mean?” We might finally be more thankful for the chance to be part of the minority in this country who has the privilege of receiving high-class instruction.

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