This is a loaded discussion.
The increase of tuition and fees at colleges is a debate that has a few sides to it, and each of those sides have many faces and facets to them. From the debate of who is increasing it, to why. But according to US News, the facts still remain that since 1995:
- Private institutions’ fees and tuition have increased 179 percent
- Out-of-state tuition and fees at public schools have increased 226 percent
- In-state tuition and fees has seen the largest increase of 296 percent
But why is this happening? The laundry list of blame is long, from policy makers to the schools themselves, but despite who is in control of the cost, the price tag is going up. After all, it wasn’t but 40 years ago that tuition at a public school was only a little more than $2,000 (adjusted for the 2015 dollar).
During the 1950’s and 60’s, the Federal government supplied a higher percentage of subsidies to colleges. These subsidies, which are money given by the federal government in order to help particular industries maintain prices, have decreased over the years.
Naturally, in order to make up for the lost subsidies, colleges increased the price of schooling. This is one of the facets of the industry, but it is far away from the only one. The explanation through subsidies does little to explain the question of why it is rising. Because despite cost going up, the amount that the colleges are spending is not. According to Forbes, “education spending is flat or falling at many public and private institutions.”
So why does the cost going up? The answer is quite unfortunate: more people are wanting to go to college.
It seems a little counterintuitive, but the higher price we charge for college, the more people we allow to go. The concept goes hand-in-hand with financial aid. Essentially, charging this much allows colleges to pick the exact students they want. By letting certain students go for a discount, or even for free, colleges can increase in their diversity and variety of people, while still making some people pay the full price tag.
Charging higher tuition costs is where colleges get the money to allow these other students to attend. It all comes down to a price shift. When subsidies get lost, they shift it to the students to pick up the lost slack. This pool of students however, gets smaller as several students are actually getting to go at a discount.
It makes sense, but it can have devastating effects on the market down the line. There are currently over 20 million college students. While nobody will argue that a more educated populous is necessary, doing it in this manner is beginning to cause problems. In 1950, only around 5 percent of people had college degrees. Today, according to PBS, around 40 percent of working Americans have a degree of some sort. It is saturating the market, and the value of having that degree is decreasing.
It is becoming a common saying that having a college degree today is a basic essential in the market. The opportunity someone without a college degree has is decreasing by the year. This in turn forces youth into college in order to try to get a basic essential, but this increases the tuition because there are more students wanting to attend.
And it isn’t so much that subsidies are being cut to these schools, but rather the subsidies currently being given out are not getting their recipients as far as they use to. This means that the Federal government will either have to hike up subsidies and grants, or the tuition increase will have to fall into the laps of the small pool of students that are forced to pay full price.
What’s worse is the advantage of having high tuition gives colleges more room to pay out certain extracurricular things, such as new stadiums, build new facilities, pay out administrators with higher salaries (according to the Denton Record Chronical, UNT President Neal Smatresk’s salary is $505,000). It also gives them more room to tempt students with offers of discounts (someone attending a school for $40,000 can maybe have $5,000 off the price, or $20,000. It is increased variability).
This is becoming a problem, as we will have to weigh whether or not it is worth paying these outlandish prices to obtain something that we are expected to have. We are graduating in record debt. Our country as a whole has $1.2 trillion in student debt. It comes down to two realities: we either need to lower the prices or make it easier to pay for, or we need to offer everyone an opportunity to have paid tuition. Because it is not only unfair right now, but it is dangerous for the market; and it’s only getting more so.