The College Cost Disease

The College Cost Disease

Higher Cost and Lower Quality

Robert E. Martin

College cost per student has been on the rise at a pace that matches – or exceeds – healthcare costs. Unlike healthcare, though, teaching quality has declined, and rapidly rising costs and declining quality are not trends easily forgiven by society. The College Cost Disease addresses these problems, providing a behavioral framework for the chronic cost/quality consequences with which higher education is fraught. Providing many compelling insights into the issues plaguing higher education, Robert Martin expounds upon H.R. Bowen’s revenue theory of cost by detailing experience good theory, the principal/agent problem, and non-profit status.

Chapter 6: The Gresham Effect, Lemons, and Teaching

Robert E. Martin

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of education, education, economics of education


If universities truly compete with one another, why do they neglect their teaching so? At least part of the explanation is that rewards for excellent research far exceed those available for excellent teaching. Successful scientists gain worldwide reputations. They receive abundant recognition, awards and prizes, opportunities to consult, offers from other institutions, and salary increases to counter these offers. In contrast, the successful teacher is often unknown beyond her own campus. Her rewards are limited to the satisfaction of a job well done and the gratitude and approbation of her students – all pleasures well worth having but seldom comparable to the fame and other, more tangible benefits given to the accomplished researcher. Small wonder that so many professors concentrate more on research than on teaching. Derek Bok (2003: 160) Although superb teaching can bring popularity on the campus, no one becomes a superstar because of classroom prowess; no one makes a reputation, either in a discipline or as a media sage, by introducing twenty-year-olds to Wittgenstein or Einstein. David Kirp (2005: 122) 6.1 INTRODUCTION Anecdotal evidence suggests that research productivity drives job mobility among senior faculty; mobility is, at best, only coincidently influenced by teaching.1 Indeed, an accomplished scholar who is also a poor teacher can retain considerable mobility, while an accomplished teacher who is a poor scholar has little mobility. A casual review of the employment ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education or Job Opportunities for Economists reveals that teaching institutions rarely seek to fill vacancies with anyone...

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