Examining models to determine the cost of a baccalaureate degree and building a degree level comparative cost framework for the California State University

The California State University is the largest bachelor’s degree granting level education system in the United States. Higher education in California is expensive to students, parents, and taxpayers. This research sought provide a standard methodology to answer the question of what is the most accurate method for determining the cost of producing a bachelor’s degree within the California State University system? Educational cost is not a new topic, as the California Master Plan for Higher Education (California Department of Education, 1960) dedicated an entire chapter to why cost and cost management is critical for the sustainability of the educational systems. The framers of the California higher education did not specify how costs would be measured or suggest solutions for seeking efficiencies that could be scaled to each campus. The CSU Chancellors office, through the CSU Synergy and the CSU Graduation Initiatives, continue to seek effectiveness and efficiencies while balancing the student learning and access mission on which the system is founded. This work explored previously developed degree-costing methodologies and ultimately proposed a revised costing model that can be used to determine degree cost. The work is based both on actual and theoretical student course taking behavior, direct and indirect educational cost accounting, the determination of educational cost drivers, and the impact that student success and other factors have on the cost of a degree.