In Part 1 of this blog post, I asserted that the question of whether college was worth the investment needed to be answered through the analysis of four distinct areas of concern. In this week’s post, we will examine the first of these concerns:
Higher education has become too expensive for too many families, and, as a consequence, too many prospective students are being squeezed out of the market.
This statement is widespread, and generally accepted as true. There is no shortage of “evidence,” much of it focused on the rapid escalation of the published prices for tuition—prices that, in most segments of the higher education community and at most campuses within those segments, have risen substantially more rapidly than has the rate of inflation.
There was a time, not so many years ago, when college presidents bemoaned their inability to attract much public attention to what they were doing. Ah, for the good old days! We now receive attention from every quarter, and more advice—and criticism, some of it rather hostile—than we know what to do with. We are suffering from a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.”
Consider the range of opinions expressed in the following four comments. An editorial in USA Today (June 4, 2014) includes the following quotes:
“Colleges are able to increase costs without consequence largely because easy access to federal aid assures them a steady supply of students, so debt keeps piling up, which is not just a problem for the students. Taxpayers are vulnerable as students default, for instance, and home building is stifled as debt-laden young people resist taking on mortgages.”