Skyrocketing rates of college tuition constitute a major problem which threaten to damage the American economy as well as impose an onerous financial burden on the majority of American citizens. Urgent public action is necessary to reverse this trend and to mitigate the extent of the damage it will cause.
Trends in Tuition Rates
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rise in college tuition costs greatly outstripped inflation in the economy as a whole over the past 10 years. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the general cost of living in the United States, based on the price of commonly purchased goods such as housing and groceries, and thus a rough benchmark for the income needed to support oneself. From January 2006 until July 2016, the CPI as a whole rose by 21%. In the same time period, the CPI for college tuition rose by 63%, meaning that college costs have been increasing at three times the rate as other goods within the economy.
Why It Matters
These trends are negative, and potentially ruinous, for several reasons. We will address three of these reasons below: personal finances, educational achievement, and the health of the overall economy.
According to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the U.S. rose from $46,326 in 2005 to $56,516 in 2015. In roughly the same time period as college tuition costs rose by 63%, nominal household income only increased by 22%, closely tracking the CPI as a whole. Put simply, the cost of college is growing three times as quickly as the median American household’s ability to pay for it. If this trend continues, a great number of American citizens who could have afforded an education in the past will find it to be prohibitively expensive and drop out of the system.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate enrollment increased by 37 percent between 2000 and 2010, funding the considerable and costly expansion under way at many universities. However, between 2010 and 2014, enrollment decreased by 4 percent. Many observers fear that we have a higher education “bubble” which will burst soon because of the ever increasing costs and decreasing benefits for students entering into an oversaturated higher education market. The dropping enrollment numbers could be one of the first signs for the impending collapse. The health of the nation depends on having slow, steady increases in college enrollment over time as population increases rather than a perpetual boom-bust cycle which leaves some generations well off and others jobless, skill-less, and uneducated. Preventing bubbles of rapidly increasing education costs is the primary means to achieve this goal.
Health of the Economy
Widely respected, non-partisan sources such as the Brookings Institute and U.S. Treasury Department assert that having a highly educated workforce is vital to the well-being of an economy. Not only does quality education spur economic growth as a whole but it leads to lower unemployment and greater wealth for a nation’s hard-working citizens. Out-of-control costs in the form of rapidly rising tuition and fees threaten to damage our economy by making a higher education inaccessible to a large part of the populace. An unskilled, uneducated workforce makes for a dreary economy and hard times for businesses and workers alike.
The Next Step
In order to keep our economy strong, our businesses thriving, our higher education system respected world-wide, our future workforce skilled and unencumbered by onerous levels of debt, and our citizens free to pursue any profession or occupation which suits their interests and personal strengths regardless of socioeconomic class, it is necessary to curb the soaring costs which characterize today’s higher education market. The American Solidarity Party is committed to enacting common-sense policies which will assist those already encumbered by debt to thrive in our economy as well as to keep college costs down in the future. By doing so, we can ensure a better and brighter future for all Americans.