It’s no secret by now that the cost of a higher education has been rising for some time now. But these reports often fail to take into account the myriad of loans, financial aid programs, and tax credits that reduce or delay the cost for many students. Over the past ten years, the amount that students actually pay has remained relatively flat compared to the sticker price.Until now. The New York Times reports that for the first time since 2003, the net cost of college has risen—by four percent. And many are concerned the net cost is going to continue to rise:
Ms. Baum expressed concern that this year’s increases in what students really pay at four-year colleges could be a sign of things to come. After soaring from 2008 to 2010, financial aid from colleges, states, the federal government and private sources has been flat for two years, and budget pressures are likely to defeat any increase.
Higher ed should take this warning sign very seriously. It has become clear that the byzantine system of government loans, tax credits, and financial aid designed to offset the skyrocketing cost of college is no longer working. We need something new. When all else fails, it’s time to think.