Higher education in America–or at least access to it–has been on a downward slide. According to this depressing New York Times article, state and local financing for higher education has dropped 7 percent since last year, just as costs are rising and students are having to pay more. And if you want to get even gloomier, look at the trend over the past 25 years–the percentage of higher education costs coming from tuition and fees has increased to 47 percent from 23 percent in 1987. So yes, more of the cost of college is being shifted onto the family and the student. Good thing our wages have been going up over the same time period…oh, wait.
And now, the sequester–here to make things even worse. Remember, it was supposed to be dumb and arbitrary, and it is. Work-study programs and grants are going to sustain serious cuts. Also, origination fees on college loans are expected to increase. All in all, about 70,000 college students are likely to be affected, and they are low income students–the ones who can least afford it.
Until recently, some financial support for universities was provided by that evil, evil stimulus bill, but that funding has now run out. There is a Higher Education Act coming up for a vote in the future, but considering that this is the Congress which for the longest time couldn’t get its act together on violence against women, I’m starting to suspect this bill will get blocked, like everything else these days.
We are doing this to ourselves–and have been for a while–just as our international rivals such as China are looking for ways to offer their educational institutions more subsidies and support, and thus give themselves an edge in global competition.
But hey, these student moochers, right? Why are they expecting government support? Never mind that a good education gives them a better chance at being productive citizens–and not needing social services–after they graduate. On the other hand, if our education system goes down the tubes, that dreaded 47% will turn into an even larger and more impoverished underclass–is that really what we want?