The Political Obsession with College Education Has Created an Unsustainable College Tuition Bubble
"For decades, American politicians have waxed passionate on the need to put college within every family's reach. To ensure that anyone who wants to go to college will be able to foot the bill, Washington has showered hundreds of billions of dollars into student aid of all kinds -- grants and loans, subsidized work-study jobs, tax credits and deductions. Today, that shower has become a monsoon.
The College Board, which tracks each type of financial assistance in a comprehensive annual report, shows total federal aid soaring by more than $100 billion in the space of a single decade -- from $64 billion in 2000 to $169 billion in 2010. And what have we gotten for this vast investment in college affordability? Colleges that are more unaffordable than ever. Year in, year out, Washington bestows tuition aid on students and their families.
Year in, year out, the cost of tuition surges, galloping well ahead of inflation (see chart above). And year in, year out, politicians vie to outdo each other in promising still more public subsidies that will keep higher education within reach of all. Does it never occur to them that there might be a cause-and-effect relationship between the skyrocketing aid and the skyrocketing price of a college education? That all those grants and loans and tax credits aren't containing the fire, but fanning it?
Directly or indirectly, government loans and grants have led to massive tuition inflation (see chart). That has been a boon for colleges and universities, where budgets, payrolls, and amenities have grown amazingly lavish. And it has been a boon for politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are happy to exploit anxiety over tuition to win votes.
But for students and their families, let alone for taxpayers who don't go to college, it has been a disaster. The more government has done to make higher education affordable, the more unaffordable it has become."
MP: The chart above shows that the rising costs of a college education (7.5% per year) have far outpaced rising medical costs (5.7%) and housing prices (4.2%), and have risen annually at twice the average inflation rate (3.8%). The graph also illustrates that the rising costs of college and the resulting college tuition bubble make rising U.S. home prices and the resulting housing bubble look relatively inconsequential by comparison.