On Monday you saw an article by Thomas Anderson discussing the Student Loan debate, or more precisely, the debate about the Student Loan debate. One thing, throughout all of this that seems to be ignored is that the cost of going to college has increased dramatically. In the 11 years since I graduated college, my alma mater has almost doubled tuition (around $2,300 to now $4,300+). In that time, inflation has increased only 30%. That means that tuition in 2001 costs, adjusted for today’s inflation, would be just under $3000. That is only a $700 increase…not the $2000 increase you see above. Remember, this does not even factor in the cost of student housing or books which can fluctuate for each student but DO factor into the overall amount a student takes out for a loan.
So, the question is, what can be done? Obviously the Government is looking at how the cost of college is affecting graduates. And many Colleges and Universities are trying to increase their scholarship funds. So I guess the question is, does $4300 in 2012 get you anymore more than $2300 did in 2001? That is hard to answer. The college experience seems to have broadened so much in the past dozen years. There are more student abroad programs, more community involve opportunities, and the technology on campuses has increased more than it has in the consumer market place. The reason that college costs have exploded is due to all of those reasons and more. It is due to the simply concept of supply and demand. People will pay that much because they feel they need to. At some point though, there has to be a ceiling. Costs cannot continue to increase at such a sharp rate or higher education institutions will begin to price themselves out of the market place.
We must remember though, some of the reason that collegiate costs are so high are the students themselves. Students who choose to attend schools where they pay out-of-state tuition, which can be 2-4 times higher than residents pay. Students spend 5 years at school, racking up costs when 3.5 years could have given them the same result. So, while we as a society continue to complain about the high costs of a college degree how often do we look at the consumer and blame them? Perhaps, if you are from Chicago, attending the University of Michigan to become a teacher is not the best idea. Or maybe, if you as a student are not fully committed to a future profession, you might want to get those general education courses out of the way at a Community College before you spend a ton more money at a 4 year school. Heck, maybe even try to fit one extra class in per semester so you can graduate a semester early, saving yourself the assumed increase in tuition, not to mention the extra semester of housing and the bi-annual fees.
College cost increases MUST taper off. However, it is not up to the Government to directly influence this. Our Government CAN get involved to make sure that credits can transfer easier, which will save many students time and money. They CAN allow for students to earn college credit while still in High School (some students already do this). But Government should NOT set limits on tuition – consumers must decide what is fair. If enough people become unhappy with the costs of college, then those costs will eventually change or alternatives will become available.