Author: Alex Pearce
As another semester draws to a close and “adulthood” becomes that much closer, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds. Since the earliest days of elementary school, the value of higher education has been engrained in my head as being the “right-move” after high school. During my last weeks of high school, the halls were filled with joyous members of the Class of 2015, touting their newest collegiate apparel to let everyone know where they were headed in the fall. Even those who weren’t the biggest fans of school could not hide their excitement for this new chapter of their lives.
There is no denying that education is not only a personal benefit, but a benefit for society as well. Economically speaking, it can be seen as a positive externality that presents a collective good for those associated with the college graduate. However, we are currently facing a situation in which more and more individuals are encouraged to continue their education. Government aid continues to pour in, loans become easier to get, and subsequently, tuition costs continue to rise. Since the early 1980s, the average family income has risen more than 140%. Compare that to the 500% increase in tuition rates since the same time period and we are now looking at a huge problem.
Why this dramatic rise? First, one could assume that simple rises in inflation and costs of living have attributed to this. However, using CPI Inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average 1980 tuitions cost of $2,500 [in today’s money] should be approximately $6,200. That’s a lot less than the $33,415 I pay annually for my private school education. While private schools tend to be pricier, even the SUNY school down the road from my college still averages anywhere from $9,000-$24,000, depending on where the student is coming from. Therefore, this clearly isn’t a result of inflation.
Since the 1980s, the Federal Government has removed subsidies given to private lending institutions for college loans, shifting the source of money to the always trustworthy United States Government. Moreover, their loan cap has increased from $2,500 annually to a staggering $20,500 per study per year. There is more than $1-trillion dollars in student loan debt. The government promises an education to all, declaring the benefits endless, while more than 7% of the graduating Class of 2015 are out of work. Loans aren’t being paid, graduates aren’t finding work, and tuitions are becoming more costly every semester. New York State’s solution? Free SUNY Tuition! While certain criteria must be met, this program is nothing more than an extension of federal aid, further inflating the student loan bubble. What’s better is that this “free” money comes with stipulations such as staying in New York after graduation or facing the risk of paying all of the money back.