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IPFS News Link • Education: Colleges and Universities

Blaming the Wrong Culprit for Rising College Costs

•, James Agresti

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and certain media outlets are blaming steep rises in college costs on reduced government funding for higher education. The reality is that inflation-adjusted government spending per college student has risen by about three times since the 1960s and is now at an all-time high. In spite of this, college graduation rates, academic time investment, and the learning of practical skills are all suffering.

The True Costs of College

Over the past several decades, college tuitions have ballooned, negatively impacting parents, students, and recent grads who are struggling to pay back student loans. The inflation-adjusted average sticker price for public college has doubled since 1980.

Many students pay less for college than published sticker prices because of discounts, scholarships, and financial aid. Thus, David Leonhardt of the New York Times argues that sticker prices exaggerate the cost of college. However, the truth is that society pays for all of these costs and more. Whatever students and parents don't pay, taxpayers and donors do.