Does complying with federal regulations really cost $11,000 per student?
The answer is unquestionably no. Vanderbilt's figures include research costs. But regional accreditation is expensive. And all that add to the cost of higher education.
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos earlier this year testified before a U.S. Senate committee and cited a rather compelling, if somewhat surprising, fact: the cost of complying with federal regulations “equates to approximately $11,000 in additional tuition per year” for students.
The math was simple: $146 million in compliance costs in 2013 divided by some 12,800 students equals about $11,000 per student.
Yet perhaps it was too simple, as the figure snowballed into an arguably misleading message about the cost of compliance, which is being debated as lawmakers in Washington consider renewing the Higher Education Act and possibly loosening regulations to ease the perceived cost burden on colleges and universities.
Though the issue has been a hotly contested one, there is little concrete data regarding how much universities actually spend to comply with regulations. Vanderbilt's figure, derived from a 2014 study by the Boston Consulting Group, is one of the only modern accountings of an individual institution’s comprehensive compliance costs.