RSS
The cost of unaffordable college
What we should do about surging tuition
W

hat happened
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave 49 states an “F” in college affordability—California earned a “C”—in its biennial report card. The report said that median family income has risen 147 percent between 1982 and 2007 while college tuition and fees jumped 439 percent. Net costs for four-year state colleges now eat 28 percent of the median family income; private colleges consume 76 percent. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
The rising cost of higher education is hurting us all, said California’s Contra Costa Times in an editorial. Only 34 percent of U.S. 18- to 24-year-olds are in college, putting us behind countries like Greece and Poland. If we’re going to be competitive, U.S. colleges must find “where costs can be cut” and states need to step up their support.

“This woe-is-students whining is ridiculous and counterproductive,” said Neal McCluskey in the Cato Institute’s Cato@Liberty. It’s hardly unfair to make students take out highly subsidized federal loans to "go to college to vastly improve their earnings over a lifetime.” What’s unjust is “foisting the costs” on tax-paying non-college-educated workers.

Maybe, but “it’s absurd” to bail out “every major bank to get financial capital flowing again,” said Robert Reich in his blog, while we starve our meager supply of “human capital.” Our future standard of living depends on an educated, innovative workforce, “not on our ability to borrow money.”

The NCPPHE report actually revealed “some educational bargains,” said Kim Clark in U.S. News & World Report. In Tennessee, for example, families only pay 13 percent of their income, and parents in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina can “send their children to highly ranked public universities without beggaring themselves.”

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week