INTELLIGENCER: Who is to blame for the high cost of college?

Career College Central Summary:

  • A frequent topic of conversation, from families to politicians, is the issue of college cost.  It is undeniable that the price tag for attending college has outpaced the rate of inflation in the last few years. Conventional wisdom has it that the culprits are the institutions of higher education themselves. 
  • State legislators and boards of trustees of public institutions have complained about such costs and have even taken measures to reduce tuition and fee increases. But are the colleges and universities really the ones to blame for the problem? Not entirely.
  • Like any other societal problem, the issue is extremely complex.
  • For one thing, most people do not realize that what students pay for college is not the real price of the education that they receive. Virtually everyone pays only a fraction of the real cost because of subsidies by federal or state governments or by private donations.
  • This is what is called the discount rate: the college’s aid dollars as a percentage of tuition and fees. In other words, the bigger the discount rate the more the cost of collage is subsidized.
  • According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the average discount rate for full-time, first-year students at private colleges is about 46 percent, while for public colleges it is less than that. Another issue is that the increase in public college tuition is largely the result of less public investment in education, which is largely a consequence of tax cuts promulgated under anti-tax populism by elected officials.
  • The consequences of these policies are many, from increasing debt among college graduates and the resulting widening gap in society between the haves and have not’s, to the serious effects on the quality of higher education which deteriorates each time classes are given over to less-expensive adjunct instructors who rarely engage themselves in academic activities outside the classroom. The physical infrastructures of public university campuses are also at risk of deteriorating.

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