What Your School Spends All That Tuition On

It’s no secret that in 2016 the bill for a four-year college degree is higher than a skyscraper. That’s why it is integral to understand, as students, just where in that money goes. Thanks to some concise and vague percentages from an education website, we got answers. Below, we did our best to break it down and of course, make other wild speculations with no basis what so ever. In order from largest to smallest, here’s where your potentially crushing debt goes:

  • Instruction-33%
    • This one should be a given. I mean the point of you being there in the first place is for the learning. It’s only fitting, I guess, that they parcel out a whopping 33% of their funds for teaching. Thinking of it as 1/3 actually makes it seem like a lot more. Coupling that with the fact that most of my professors in school have been available nearly 24/7 via email, it’s money well spent.
  • Institutional Support-14%
    • I think the best part of institutional support is that those brightly colored pamphlets they send out asking for more money fit in as an expense. Think about whenever they ding you for printing in the library and it’s like 8 cents per black and white page. Now figure what those blindingly reflective informational things must cost. You could feed William Howard Taft for like 2 meals on that budget.
  • Research-11%
    • That guy curing cancer in the lab? Multiply 45 grand a year by 12% and there ya go. If you go to a private university. 20-25 grand if it’s public I suppose. Regardless, there’s probably good stuff going on in those labs.
  • Auxiliary Enterprises-10%
    • These basically pay for shelter and eating. This shouldn’t draw any interest, unless you went to school where we did. Our dorm blasted heat in the winter, leading those on the top floor to open windows in order to compensate. Holy inefficient. Besides making the heat man filthy rich, there was also a whole ‘lotta food going in the garbage in our dining halls. Not to mention that they charged about 10 bucks per meal swipe on average. That management made a little money off us.
  • Academic Support-9%
    • So, yea, this one’s kinda important. If tutoring wasn’t a thing I could imagine a lot athletic scholarships going down the tubes and donations would follow suit.
  • Hospital Services-8%
    • Now look, I’m not saying that 10 of that 11 percent probably ends up going to flu shots and band aids, but last I checked, the Pope is in fact Catholic. If your school doesn’t have a full-blown hospital and just a wellness center, we figure this is distantly accurate.
  • Student Services-8%
    • That pile of microwaved fried chicken out on the table in your student union? That’d be this one. Same with those sweet free t-shirts that get thrown at students left and right. Free stuff might not be free after all.
  • Independent Operations-4%
    • The definition for these is nice and foggy. Spending “unrelated to the primary missions of the institution”. So basically when it comes out that the faculty has a secretive lounge on some floor of the student center that you have to swipe a card and punch in a code to get to, bingo. It pays for all the booze, peanuts and horse race gambling they have hoarded up there. Venture if you dare.
  • Other-1.25%
    • This one takes the cake for ambiguity, but their official definition claims that it’s the estimated amount to cover expenses for students like “laundry, transportation, and entertainment.” But the funny thing is, my student card has never worked for laundry, uber, or the local movie joint down the road. What the heck school?
  • Public Service-1.25%
    • This one does a lot of good. Food, clothing, and supply drives are some of the notable things that this type of funding goes toward.
  • Net Grant Aid-.5%
    • So ya pay for your own scholarship. Unless you’re smart, then the other kids chip in for yours.




Source: National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS glossary. Data from NCES.