Tuition Costs

More and more, we are being told that it is vitally important for young people coming into the work force to have a college degree if they want to be able to compete economically. However, the skyrocketing tuition costs of American colleges and universities are moving higher education farther and farther out of reach of many young Americans, and most of the young people who do graduate are saddled with crippling levels of student debt that will leave them struggling to pay it back for much of their adult lives.

We cannot be telling American students that they need to get a university degree if they want to have any hope of a well-paid career and then turn around and make them mortgage their futures with debt that will set them back years, economically. Previous generations were able to use their first years of earnings in a variety of very productive ways – buying homes, investing in their retirements, and starting families. Today’s college graduates are delaying all of these activities, activities that help the American economy as well as helping their individual quality of life, in the service of paying down their student debt.

A common response to this situation is that these young people are making poor decisions by studying subjects in college or university that will not lead to lucrative careers that will enable them to quickly pay back their debt. However, this criticism misses several important points: First of all, even many rudimentary, unskilled jobs now require applicants to have a college degree, so simply not attending college isn’t an option. Secondly, not everyone has the aptitude to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, but they are capable of performing critical jobs that our society needs, and they need to be educated to do that work. Finally, previous generations have been able to attend college without being financially crippled, so obviously something has changed in the last few decades.

Tuition has increased by a mind-boggling amount over the last generation. For example, the cost per credit hour at Texas A&M University in 1985 was $8.70, adjusted for inflation, meaning a semester’s tuition plus fees came to less than $400. At that same institution, cost per credit hour is now over $176. Tuition is nearly twenty times more expensive, in real dollars, for students in 2015 than it was for students in 1985. What has caused this unbelievable increase in cost?

While universities and colleges’ operating costs have increased, both due to increasing numbers of students and increasing administrative salaries and expenditures, state funding for American higher education has dropped significantly. When states fund education appropriately, it allows American students to better themselves, earn better jobs, and help us all by contributing to the American economy. When states continually cut their funding to education over decades, it shifts the burden of the cost of university to the students themselves – those who are least able to pay, because they have not yet started their careers. This cripples the students’ ability to invest in their lives after they graduate, and has a major negative effect on the US economy because these graduates are not able to fully participate in it.

We need to drastically increase the funding for our postsecondary institutions. One possible proposal involves states continuing to fund the first two years of university or college as an extension of the funding they already provide for public schools. This would mean that students in two year professional programs would have their education entirely paid for, and it would give a huge step up to students earning four year degrees. This reduction in student debt would add tens of billions of dollars to the US economy every year and ensure that every young American who wants it has the means to improve their lives through education.

This is a complex issue and there are many factors to consider, but something needs to be done. Whatever solution we settle on, the bottom line is that we need to massively increase funding to American colleges and universities so that they can reduce tuition. Our shortsighted interest in lower taxes is handicapping an entire generation of young Americans, and when I am elected President in 2016, one of my highest priorities will be turning this situation around. I urge you to join me by casting your write-in vote for me, Art Drew, for President.