October 11, 2010

Flawed study inaccurately reflects cost of undergraduate education

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A local news story, "Dropout College Freshmen Costs Soar," based on a report with flawed methodology and misleading conclusions, inaccurately reflects the cost of educating undergraduate students at UAB, say university and higher education officials.

A local news story, "Dropout College Freshmen Costs Soar," based on a report with flawed methodology and misleading conclusions, inaccurately reflects the cost of educating undergraduate students at UAB, say university and higher education officials.
 
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities' academic vice president has written the study's author, asking that he inform "the press of these serious limitations of his study." Generally David Shulenburger contends that it is "not appropriate to use this (data) to compare schools that have differing mixtures of undergraduate, graduate and professional students," and that his "assumption that freshman-year educational costs are equal to average educational cost is also untenable."

UAB Provost Eli Capilouto says specifically that dividing UAB's 2007-08 state appropriation by its number of full-time students is not a meaningful measure of academic expenses.

Capilouto says UAB's state appropriation also helps fund its hospital ($46 million in 2008), the education of physicians, dentists, nurses and optometrists ($94 million), the support of other graduate-only programs ($24 million) and support for specific programs to recruit and retain research faculty. "Not one of these $164 million dollars is spent on undergraduate education but was nonetheless counted as part of the cost by this study," he says.

Capilouto noted other flaws in assumptions comparing UAB to all universities or even other state universities. "Almost 40 percent of the total student body is graduate and professional students, a much larger proportion of than most other universities, and providing these educational services is more expensive than general undergraduate curricula," Capilouto said.

Capilouto also pointed out the failure to account for part-time students or those who "stop out" of school and later return and the movement of undergraduate students between universities. For example, he said, 130 of the 230 freshmen who did not return to UAB that year transferred to another state school, and 300 students from other state schools transferred to UAB for their sophomore year.

 

 

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