Over the last 35 years or so, the cost of attending college, specifically in the United States, has skyrocketed. What once costed less than $1000 per year may now run a student tens of thousands of dollars per year. Multiple factors have played into this dramatic increase in the cost of attendance. One of these factors is the disproportionate rise in the attendance of college when compared to the state legislative appropriations for higher education. Though the total appropriations to higher education when adjusted for inflation are more than 10 times those of the 1960s, college enrollment has increased by roughly 50% since 1995. As federal student aid has increased in order to combat costly higher education, the tuition has proportionally increased as well, which effectively defeats the purpose of increasing federal student aid. In addition, a  college degree has practically come to be perceived a necessity in the current job place, which effectively enables colleges to charge any price no matter how high. The majority of universities also see student attendance as an inevitability, and therefore they focus on the needs of professors and investors by keeping student tuition prices high. Another contributing factor to increased college tuition occurs as colleges spend more and more on student acquisition, because they then proportionally increase tuition, which is explained in depth in an article titled Why is College so Expensive?.

There are three main solutions which could drastically decrease the cost of college in the United States. These solutions, which are detailed in a Washington Post article titled Three Ways to Fix College Tuition Pricing, include publishing tuition information by family bracket and academic program, releasing a four-year tuition figure, and building a new pricing model for the 21st century. Perhaps the most impactful of these solutions would be to build a new pricing model for the 21st century, which would completely uproot the current ineffective system. The current model for tuition discounting was created in the 1970s during a period when families could afford the out of pocket costs of sending their children to college. An interesting statistic presented by the article is that today 20% of families pay 100% or more of their annual income to cover the net price of college, opposed to only 10% paying 100% or more of their annual income in 1996. This drastic change in the economy, when relayed back to how much families can actually afford to pay for college, does not support the model brought about in the 1970s. Therefore, there is a dire need for a completely new college pricing model which is applicable to the 21st century US economy.

The average middle class family in the US can no longer afford the continually rising costs that come with their children attending college. There are solutions, but they will require a complete system overhaul of the current college pricing model.


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February 26, 2018 6:36 am

Reilly, I found your article very interesting. I personally believe the best solution to fixing the insane price for higher education to be increasing the federal funding for education. The US has the highest GDP of any nation in the world, by far. Yet we are spending many times the amount of money on education, or even medical research, on military maintenance and technology instead. As our economy has inflated, and as our military spending has only increased, educational funding has always been the collateral. As funding decreased, universities were required to dramatically increase their tuitions to compensate for this difference. As a result, students become trapped within a cycle of debt. Get higher education for a better life, give up part of your life to compensate for higher education.
I think you’ll find this statistic interesting: https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-room-and-board-over-time

February 20, 2018 1:09 am

Your argument is extremely compelling about tuition prices! I think the steep prices further spread the gap between the rich and the poor who may not be able to afford such opportunities(but there are obviously need-based scholarships too). The biggest point that I would like to add is that college is not the best option for everyone. Some people earn a 4-year degree(along with lots of debt) and aren’t even able to apply it. Meanwhile, people who go through trade school or the military can remain somewhat financially stable and get a decent living too.

February 19, 2018 3:51 am

Reilly, I enjoyed reading your article. I also think it is ridiculous how most colleges cost the same amount as a luxury automobile to attend. I have also done some research into the FAFSA and how there is a middle line of students who still need aid, yet do not qualify for aid. This happens in the case of someone who comes from a family who makes, lets say $200k a year in combined earnings, so in the eyes of the FAFSA, this family has the means to pay $50k a year for their child to attend to college. I do not think it is right for a family to have to dedicate 1/4 of their entire earnings for one child, not including others, to attend college. I read this interesting article about how the new GOP tax bill may impact the cost of college in the future that you may find compelling: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/11/06/the-house-gop-tax-bill-would-raise-the-cost-of-college-we-cant-let-that-happen/?utm_term=.30a31fd8164c

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