College: No easy fix as costs keep climbing
Prepare yourself for a $400,000 price tag for college, said Alia Wong in TheAtlantic.com. A new analysis found that the sticker price to attend the University of Chicago will pass the $100,000-per-year mark by 2025, and “at least a handful of other U.S. colleges”—Harvey Mudd College, Columbia University, and Southern Methodist University—“will follow suit soon after.” While only 42 percent of Chicago’s undergraduates paid the full tuition cost in the 2016-17 school year, those sticker prices keep growing, and colleges are becoming “more dependent than ever on tuition for revenue.” Colleges have turned to “complex financial math” to balance high tuition with discounts and financial aid, said Pete D’Amato in The Hechinger Report. Some of their calculations, though, may have backfired. One survey found that about half of families “would never consider a school with high tuition,” regardless of aid. Higher-performing students were even more likely to “rule out colleges with a high price tag.”
Out-of-control college costs have become a central issue in the Democratic campaign, said Danielle Kurtzleben in NPR.org. Last week, a rift opened up over how to fix them—and especially over “who should get to go to college for free?” Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren “have pitched plans making free public college available to all.” By contrast, Pete Buttigieg launched an ad ripping plans that make college “free even for the kids of millionaires.” Buttigieg’s own proposal would offer tuition-free college to most students at public four-year colleges, but it would taper off those benefits for people from higher-earning families.
For those who already have college debt, some Democratic candidates have urged a “fresh start,” said Annie Nova in CNBC.com. One proposal, from Warren, would wipe out up to $50,000 of college debt. There’s a bipartisan push to enact some relief even before the election. The Department of Education may soon offer income-sharing agreements that would let students delay repayment until they get a job following graduation, with the borrower “on the hook for a certain percentage of income” after that. House members also want to reduce the number of federal repayment plans from 14 to two. Currently, it is “a complicated system critics say leads to needless defaults.” Not every proposal has been well received, said Aarthi Swaminathan in Yahoo.com. Sen. Rand Paul last week unveiled “a plan to fix the student debt crisis” by letting borrowers withdraw up to $5,250 from their 401(k) or IRA account tax- and penalty-free for tuition or student loans. Critics, however, say Rand just kicks the can down the road with a plan that’s “detrimental to Americans’ future security.” ■