Monday, April 6, 2009

Salon on higher education costs (or not)

At Salon, there's a thoughtful piece about how soaring tuition is affecting college-age students and their families. For numbers, it offers these basics:
This crisis has been a long time coming, but bad times have brought it into clearer focus. In the past several decades, the cost of higher education has climbed at an astounding pace -- faster than the Consumer Price Index, faster even than the cost of medical care. Over the past 30 years, the average annual cost of college tuition, fees, and room and board has increased nearly 100 percent, from $7,857 in 1977-78 to $15,665 in 2007-08 (in constant 2006-07 dollars). Median household income, on the other hand, has risen a mere 18 percent over that same period, from about $42,500 to just over $50,000. College costs, in other words, have gone up at more than five times the rate of income.
That's clearly stated, and then the author offers three steps to make it better:
  • More federal needs-based aid.
  • More state needs-based aid.
  • Better outreach to convince political leaders of the value of college and needs-based aid.
I think all three ideas are appropriate, but kind of astonishingly incomplete.

No other part of the economy just gets to announce that its costs will go up in perpetuity. No other part of the economy can announce its price hikes and have the only debate be about how to split the bill between families, government, and charity. No other part of the economy gets that kind of acceptance without anyone even asking for an explanation of why costs are soaring.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!