My mother always told me that when it came to higher education, it was more important where you got degrees at the Masters level and above than where you got your bachelor’s degree. A person could, for example, get a bachelor’s degree at my alma mater Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and then a Masters degree from Harvard and be equally impressive (according to my mother) as a person who got both degrees from Harvard. At the time that I attended Rutgers, the tuition was under four thousand dollars for New Jersey residents.

Compare that to the 1996 Harvard tuition of $19,472. If this seems shocking, compare it to the current tuition of just over thirty-six thousand dollars. This represents an eighty-six percent increase in that time period.

In the same time period, Rutgers tuition went up to $10,104 — a greater increase, percentage wise but ultimately a much smaller increase. Some might say that this is because one is an Ivy League school and one is not, but I would argue that this is not what should determine the cost of an undergraduate education. (Some of my professors also mentioned in passing that Rutgers was invited to join the Ivy League but declined as they did not want to lose state University status.

The problem as we see here is that tuition is spiraling out of control and burying the graduates of our nation further and further into debt from which they find it increasingly difficult to get out, even as the job situation does seem to be getting better. The increases in tuition are not comparable with the increases in costs for schools and President Obama has seen fit to throw a warning to schools who are reckless with tuition increases — knock it off, or pay in decreased federal assistance.

Naturally, the plan from the Obama administration is being met with opposition from the Republican congress which is strange considering that they seem to be the champions in cutting government spending — except, it seems, when the idea to cut the spending comes from President Obama. If the schools are taking measures that are harmful to the students of this country from an economic perspective, they need to stop being so well compensated by the taxpayers at large.

I am hopeful that this measure will pass and that we will see more restraint in tuition increase as a result. Happy school graduates are often the ones that donate more freely to their alma mater, after all.

5 Comments

  1. We live in odd times, Gordon. I’m sure 80% of the students who attend Harvard have no trouble paying, and the rest of them get deep discounts and scholarships. It’s important for Harvard to be #1 — even in the highest tuition cost — to be seen as the value leader in the marketplace.

    The Rutgers to the Ivy League is a strange canard I hadn’t heard before, but there’s some rumbling about it on the internets —

    http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=45297

    — it doesn’t make much sense to me from a historical point or as a method of governance.

    The Student Loan debt is looming as our next massive financial crisis. Some analysts claim student loan debt will dwarf the home mortgage crisis that almost killed our economy. Better buckle up!