The price to attend college is higher today than ever before. In the past decade, tuition has risen by at least 5 percent a year — a rate almost twice that of inflation. A recent decision by Harvard University helps put this into perspective. Harvard announced that families with incomes of less than $180,000 will pay no more than 10 percent of their annual income on tuition. Previously, the school instituted a policy allowing families with incomes of less than $60,000 to pay nothing to attend.
Keep in mind this is Harvard we’re talking about. Connected to many of the world’s most successful and influential people, the school is one of the most respected in the world. When a school such as Harvard is making changes like this, it seems pretty clear that there exists a problem with the affordability of college.
Many might wonder why policies such as this aren’t more common. If tuition can be reduced at a place such as Harvard, why can’t it be reduced at schools across the country? The answer is found in endowment funds. Schools such as Harvard have massive, multi-billion dollar endowment funds that can be used to significantly lower tuition costs. Unfortunately, many schools do not have this luxury, at least not to the same degree. In a recent New York Times interview, William Durden, the president of Dickinson College, was very honest about the difficulties many schools will face. Durden noted that “a lot of us are going to be under huge pressure to do things that we just can’t do.”
Assuming Durden is right, it seems wealthier schools such as Harvard will be able to offer more affordable tuition while the majority of other schools, both public and private, will lag behind.
In order for American college tuitions to become more affordable, something needs to change, and with recession looming, it doesn’t appear the economy is going to be the catalyst for that change. With that in mind, it’s up to Congress to fix the problem of rising college tuition. Congress must ensure that additional funding is allocated to higher education in order to reduce tuition costs. Standing by while only a few schools avoid the problem is not an acceptable response.
Many people in this country are negatively affected by the current college tuition situation and if things continue to progress as they have for decades, the situation will only get worse. Tough choices will have to be made with respect to budgeting in the near future but there can be no mistake: Making college more affordable needs to be a top priority in America.
J.t. Munch The Lantern Ohio State University U-Wire