The 'Most Significant Issue Facing Higher Education'?

The Saint Louis University Billiken (Photo by Matt Emerson)

On Oct. 3, 2014, Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., was inaugurated the President of Saint Louis University, the Jesuit university of St. Louis, Mo. (Full disclosure: I'm SLU, Class of 2004.)

In his inaugural address, Dr. Pestello addressed "three critical questions" relating to the success of the University. The second of these concerned affordability:

Second, we must address the most significant issue facing higher education - cost. I am calling for a campus-wide consideration of the question: "How do we keep SLU affordable, while continuously improving the quality of education in and out of the classroom?"

Data clearly demonstrate that the financial return of a college education far outweighs the price. Further, there is no doubt about the benefits of higher education for both the individual and society - it is through education that humankind advances.

Nonetheless, the economic reality is that some simply can no longer afford a college education and, if trends continue, more will be joining their ranks.

It's good to see this on Dr. Pestello's radar. The costs for Catholic education are daunting, and not just at the collegiate level. If you're a parent who believes in Catholic education, you're looking at total tuition bill just for one person -- from, say, first grade through senior year in college -- probably somewhere close to $250,000, a number that of course fluctuates depending upon the school and any scholarship or tuition assistance money. Regardless of the precise number, it's high, and for many it's cost-prohibitive. I'm not sure if it's the most significant issue facing higher education today, but it's certainly a critical issue in Catholic education -- and at all levels. 

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