College is unaffordable because it is necessary


When I was a college student, it was possible for a middle class family to save up enough money to pay college tuition, and it was possible to work your way through college without accumulating a burden of debt.

In that era, it also was possible for a hard-working high-school graduate to earn enough to support a family.

Now college is both unaffordable and necessary, or at least it is believed to be necessary in order to get a good job.  Education might be affordable if it wasn’t necessary, and college administrators were not in a position to charge what the traffic would bear.

As Kevin Drum of Mother Jones shows in the chart above, it does little good for the federal government to give aid to students if colleges merely raise tuition and fees accordingly.

This increased tuition and fees is not going to pay for better instruction.  More and more college teaching is being done by low-paid adjunct faculty.  Rather the revenues are going to pay administrator’s salaries and to pay for amenities intended to attract the children of the rich.

Education should be regarded as a public good, not as a article of commerce.  It should be regarded as a way to deepen knowledge and understanding, and not as a way to give certain Americans a credential that will give them a competitive advantage over other Americans.

State universities and community colleges should lower tuition so that higher education is as affordable as it once was.

And if there was a full-employment, high-wage economy, employers would hire people based on their ability to do the work rather than their credentials.  If college education was not a perceived necessity, it would be affordable.


As Federal Aid Goes Up, College Costs Rise Enough to Gobble It All Up by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Best Sixteen Years of My Life on Gin and Tacos.

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One Response to “College is unaffordable because it is necessary”

  1. Perette Barella Says:

    Absolutely. The homogenization of the economy as manufacturing jobs have moved offshore (many of them skilled trade jobs) has meant college has been the “only” option, meaning schools can charge whatever they want.

    It also helps that while attempting to provide opportunities for the poor, government backed college loans and scholarships also remove any cap on what people can pay. It was a good idea to start, but now instead of making college affordable for poor and minorities, the ubiquity of college loans makes college unaffordable for most. It is the free market at work: product affordability is not a concern, because students can always borrow more. Were that not true, I believe keeping price under control would be a higher priority of colleges.


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