Apr 06

New York Times: College tuition costs have skyrocketed in spite of exponential government spending on higher education


The Easter weekend 2015 New York Times published a daring opinion piece by law professor Paul Campos, “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much.” In the essay, Professor Campos demolishes the official conventional wisdom regarding government funding for higher education:

ONCE upon a time in America, baby boomers paid for college with the money they made from their summer jobs. Then, over the course of the next few decades, public funding for higher education was slashed. These radical cuts forced universities to raise tuition year after year, which in turn forced the millennial generation to take on crushing educational debt loads, . . .

This is the story college administrators like to tell when they’re asked to explain why, over the past 35 years, college tuition at public universities has nearly quadrupled, to $9,139 in 2014 dollars. It is a fairy tale in the worst sense, in that it is not merely false, but rather almost the inverse of the truth.

In fact, as Campos writes, government funding of higher education has exploded over the past 40 years.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.