The cost of living in the US keeps on increasing year by year. Among things that have been of the most concern for the majority of American families are the insanely increasing college tuition fees. If you are an American and your parents were privileged to go past high school, ask them to compare the college tuition fees they used to pay during their time and the amounts that colleges charge currently. You’ll be shocked to see how the fees have skyrocketed over the last few decades.
Here are some shocking statistics: A student who went through a public four-year institution in 1987 or 1988 paid average annual tuition fee of $3,190. Three decades down the line, the price has risen by about 213%. The average tuition fee for such an institution was $9,970 for the 2017-2018 academic year. For private institutions the rate is at approximately 129%; from $15,160 in 1987-1988 academic years to $34,740 in 2017-2018. It’s crazy, right?
In as much as you’d want to blame the government and the current administrators of the institutions for the problem, it’s good to understand the contributing factors. There’s definitely more to this than meets the eye. Here are some of the major reasons behind the ridiculous college price inflation:
- Increased focus on infrastructure
Unlike old days when colleges and universities were exclusive places of higher learning, the modern higher learning institutions have diversified to nurturing other non-academic talents. As such, they need more infrastructures to support the diversity, and this pushes their expenses higher. Higher expenses on the part of these colleges translate to higher tuition fees for students. However, colleges have to control their student population to keep their costs at reasonable levels. Unfortunately, the costs only seem reasonable for a small pool of top-talent students, especially those from high-income families.
- Increased demand for higher education
A few decades ago, getting a four-year degree was a big deal. A luxury. With a mere high-school diploma, a person had high chances to get into the job market and build a good career. You would be considered among the elite in society.
How about today? Which job can you easily get with a high school diploma? Maybe odd manual jobs like babysitting. Oh! Have you heard of baby care centres that require college-graduate caregivers? Sure, some do.
Therefore, anyone who wants to be competitive in the modern US job market needs to have at least a college diploma.
In the 1950s, its only 7.3% of males in the US had managed to complete at least a four-year course in a college. When it comes to their female counterparts, only 5.2% of their population had the qualification. A report released three years ago on the same indicates that the percentage has risen to 33.2% and 33.7% for males and females, respectively. The increase is attributed to the job market requirements and the perception that college education is the bare minimum for a person to be seen as an elite.
As a result, the demand for higher education has risen and this has resulted in an increase in the cost of education. Considering that there are many students who’re ready to enroll in their institutions, college administrators have the audacity to lay out whatever tuition fees they consider okay. Even with ridiculously high tuition fees, there’s still a large pool of students who are ready and willing to enroll in the institutions.
Parents are willing to go an extra mile, even to an extent of disposing their major assets, just to see their children achieve their academic dreams and become great people. For those that come from poor backgrounds, there are many ways in which they can use to earn their required tuition fees, the most prominent ways being student loans, grants and scholarships.
- Abundance of student aid
Considering that degrees and diplomas have become a requirement for one to stay ahead in the modern day’s society, many ambitious students, even from financially disadvantaged families, strive to go the furthest they can as far as the academic journey is concerned. Fortunately, student aid avenues have been on the rise to cater to help students pursue their dreams, irrespective of their backgrounds. Student loans and grants account for the largest percentage of the financial aid.
For instance, federal student financial aid increased by over 500 percent between 1973 and 2012. Due to the abundance of the aids, colleges rest assured of a good stream of income. Even if they charge high tuition fees, they are confident that even the poor will afford to pay as they have many financial aid avenues to explore to supplement the little they can afford to raise on their own.
The institutions have minimal accountability to keep the costs of their students in line. They are certain that they will get paid regardless of their tuition fees. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a huge student loan debt of over $1.5 trillion by 2019.
- Reduced college funding by the government
Several decades ago, state governments offered so much funding to public universities and colleges that they didn’t have to rely much on students’ fees. Unfortunately, major economic crises, such as the Great Recession which occurred in 2007 and 2008, have prompted many state governments to cut their funding for public institutions (including colleges and universities).
A report released in 2017 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that two- and four-year college state funding has reduced by nearly $9 billion from 2008. This reduction has made public colleges to fish for more money from students by increasing tuition fees. In order to stay ahead of the competition, most, if not all of them, are adamant of scaling down their expenses because most of the items that they spend on have a direct impact on their reputation. As such, the only way to maintain their budgets is to charge their students more fees.
Those are some of the major factors that contribute to skyrocketing tuition in the US over the last decade. We can only hope that the relevant authorities will come up with long-term solutions soon to curb the problem.