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Letter to the editor: No clear solution to curbing costs of higher education

Finding the right major can be hard, so follow your interests and passions while making the decision. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Finding the right major can be hard, so follow your interests and passions while making the decision. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Letter to the editor:


Recently, Harvard announced that all students in the class of 2017 from families with a yearly income of less than $60,000 will pay nothing for their education. Around the same time, the state governments of New Jersey and Oregon announced they would be exploring new income-based tuition repayment plans in an effort to curb ever-rising costs. These developments aren’t as contradictory as they might seem — while college tuition is rising at an unprecedented rate, enrollment as a percentage of the population is also increasing, and Ivy League schools like Harvard continue to expand their endowments. American post-secondary education is beginning to look hierarchical — divided into a handful of prestigious schools and a mass of struggling, largely public ones.

While enrollment will surely continue to increase as more and more jobs require a college degree, I don’t think America’s spiraling tuition costs and burgeoning student debt problem are inevitable. Many states have crippled themselves, slashing their post-secondary education budgets when they are needed most in a misguided attempt at austerity. Universities have also failed to combat an increasing dropout problem and properly educate their students on aid programs and loan forgiveness schemes. It would be foolish to assume the state is fully responsible for or able to correct these problems, but I think the public education system should be empowered to do more about them.

One way for schools to increase both revenue and access would be to adopt differentiated pricing — that is, increase the base rate of tuition but offer more need- and merit-based financial aid. Critics of this model argue that it squeezes out the middle-income students that neither qualify for need-based aid nor have the money to pay their way through college, but I think this is a problem of degree, not of principle. Colleges could expand their aid programs by charging the highest-income students more and likely see little change in enrollment — studies have shown that demand for education among high-income students is unlikely to vary with price.

Another criticism of raising the base rate of tuition is that it creates “sticker shock” for low-income students, who see the high price before aid and are immediately discouraged. Many students who could qualify for financial aid do not even apply. This is hardly irrational — the college aid system can often be complex and confusing, and it’s hard to assess how much one will actually pay. Colleges can advert this by making their aid systems more clear and informing prospective students of their options, including loan forgiveness programs in the event that they do have to depart with dept.

Finally, states could return their higher education spending to previous levels. An increase in state assistance doesn’t necessarily have to mean letting universities off the hook for reducing waste. Standards for funding could help keep universities accountable — President Barack Obama has proposed tying federal Pell Grant money to reducing tuition and improving graduation rates, and states could do something similar. Dropouts are a main source of new student loan debt and a cost burden on universities, so improving graduation rates could help in more ways than one.

None of these is a solutions is a cure-all, and it seems inevitable that colleges will have to deal with new challenges as more and more young adults enter higher education, regardless of policy choices. However, I think that states and the federal government should do whatever is possible to curb out-of-control tuition costs. Education is both a good in itself and an important instrument for economic growth, and it’s in every American’s interest to ensure the system remains sustainable.


Max Mauerman
Third-year in political science

One comment

  1. If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, right? the Democrats' great accomplishment is producing the political equivalent of a Rodney King video, clearly demonstrating the lies of the right, the right Hilary Clinton correctly identified as a vast conspiracy. Confirm by examining Central District of California Cases, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of their day to day assaults, a few month time slice indicative of a decade of assault, and, when it's completed, 9th Circuit 11-56043.
    Typically operating through puppets–including puppets in the judiciary–the right wing has for decades been committing crimes and trying to classify them to cover them up, a move explicitly forbidden by the Code of Federal Regulations. With either the approval or the willful ignorance of the judiciary the right has e killed & stolen several of my pets and routinely shoot energy weaponry at me and my pets, despite my calls to the police, the FBI, Congress, and despite my petitions in court. They've been placing dead cats in my path at a rate of one every few weeks or one a month, and shot out the eye of another stray a day after I advised a few strangers it had a particularly nice disposition. They ran over another animal last night, bloody and in the road, I suppose their defiant response that they're not going to stop trying to intimidate. There is really only one solution, and that's to disempower them politically. They are beyond sick, and belong in prison.

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