Friday, March 19, 2010

The Exploding Cost of College

I wince in mental anguish every time my grandparents recall how much they paid for college in the early 1950’s at Colorado State University. Their yearly tuition was less than $100 per year. Yes, the 1950’s was a long time ago but the cost of college has beat in inflation by astronomical levels. According to an article in 2008 by U.S News, the average cost of attending a four year public university was $17,000 a year. $100 in 1950 adjusted for inflation equals $900 presently, how did college cost get so out of control?

Many colleges argue they offer more services to their students now than they did 60 years ago such as internet, TV, parking, computers and so on. However, does that account for the fact college is seventeen times more expensive than in 1950?

To answer that question let us look at the cost of college since 2000. Business Week released statistics on the cost of college; the average cost of college has gone up 92% since 2000. There are two main reasons for this explosion in college education.

The first reason is colleges are paying more for the retirement of their professors and faculty members coupled that with earlier retirement by most professors the costs to maintain pension plans is becoming increasingly expensive. The second main reason for college cost is the fact the federal government is giving more aid. When Washington gives out aid, colleges counter by increasing tuition and other costs and the result is a back and forth game of rising costs verses rising aid. The problem is much of the federal aid is in the form of student loans which have to be paid back and adds to the debt burden of college students.

There are several other reasons for the rise in the cost of college but it is clear these are the two main culprits. In a weakening economy many students are taking a huge gamble on going to college only to find they cannot find a job even at low paying jobs. The result is jobless grads with an enormous debt load that cannot be refinanced or defaulted on, when the students cannot pay; their credit rating suffers making the probability of getting out of debt even lower.

At some point college, even on a community college level, is going to become too expensive to justify for most middle class students. This will leave the majority of the work force without the education it needs to make the United States economy as powerful and flexible as it has been. At some point colleges need to understand they are crippling many students before they even graduate and the government needs to recognize they cannot handout aid to colleges that take advantage of government help.

I do not believe this country can take another 92% rise in the cost of education in the next decade without severe social and economic repercussions.

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