President Obama, back from his vacation, is scheduled to address the college affordability crisis in a campaign-style bus tour that will take him to New York and Pennsylvania…. Tuition and fee increases that have for years outstripped inflation have made officials and faculties at colleges and universities the targets of angry parents, students and policymakers who blame the rising costs on the profligate ways of academia. Amenities such as campus climbing walls are often used as a shorthand for wasteful spending.
Yet the reasons for relentlessly rising college costs are a lot more complicated than an abundance of climbing walls and other snazzy features. Needless to say, it’s difficult to deal with all the complex factors that contribute to these higher costs from the bully pulpit, which is why it would be surprising if the president attempted as much.
The second article briefly mentions and then discards the argument that federal financial aid is causing increasing tuition, but that is an argument heard time and time again–the availability of “easy money” from the federal government allows colleges to charge higher tuition. It is true that more students than ever are receiving aid (see this article), but the correlation between available aid and increasing tuition has been repeatedly debunked by, well, honestly, “interested parties.” See Media Matters and WaPo (the government and colleges/universities have argued against that claim). Of course, the enemies of “big government” are arguing against federal financial aid.
Let’s see what President Obama has to say over the next few days…. States are really the entities tightening the screws on public universities, so it will be interesting to hear what the Feds think about that, if they touch the subject.