Jay Ambrose has written an important column about a recent study publicizing the skyrocketing costs of higher education. Ambrose's article discussed the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education's recent report, "Mearusing Up 2008". "Measuring Up" makes it clear that the higher education business model is broken - like a lot of American institutions, it seems. These hard realities are underscored by the current economic downturn.
From 1982-2007, college costs increased 439% while median family income went up only 147%. Of course, such numbers are always subject to various adjustments and corrections, but that it is a huge disparity that reflects what we have all observed. College costs are out of control. The New York Times has also discussed the report here and here.
Ambrose notes that some leaders in the educational establishment want more government money, but he correctly points out that "government assistance and student loan programs have contributed to the inflationary spiral at these institutions already, supporting them in their bad, old ways and keeping them from needed reform." There is a great deal of truth in this observation.
Finally, Ambrose reiterates a point made by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, and with which I agree, that a major restructuring of college education may be in the offing. It may be time for us to consider training professionals - like accountants, financial advisers, software engineers, nurses - with a combination of online education and apprenticeships. A larger point is this: the universal four-year liberal arts education may have become economically untenable given the debt levels students are being forced to bear post-graduation. If the federal government would like to do something, it should construct aid programs that force colleges to compete for federal aid monies and students based on affordable tuition prices and cost containment.