On Friday, January 9, 2015, President Obama announced his proposal to make a community college education free to anyone who attends at least half-time and maintains a 2.5 grade point average. Average college tuition and fees have increased at an annual rate of 7.1 percent each year since 1981.
If passed, the proposal would save each student about $3,800 per year in college costs. This might be a good time to think about a research paper on college tuition costs.
High college costs
It’s no secret that the cost of a college education has exploded over the past thirty years. This high cost is rapidly placing a degree beyond the reach of many Americans at a critical time when more education is needed, not less.
Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman explained how rising college costs exhibit the same market behavior as other industries in their book, Why Does College Cost So Much? available at Questia.
According to the authors, the main culprit is economic growth itself. Forces that have pushed the cost of college tuition higher include the changing wage structure of the U.S. economy. Education is a service industry and like other service industries its costs have increased. These costs are not as easy to control as those in manufacturing or agriculture where technological advancements have lowered costs of production.
The authors refer to this as the “cost disease” phenomenon. They say that the artisan nature of higher education accounts for the continuing rise in costs. It relies on a highly educated workforce. Although the technology of distance education could lower costs, people value the student-teacher interaction in an on-site classroom. As long as this is the case, costs of an education will continue to rise faster than inflation.
“If our policy goals are built around increasing access to higher education so that a greater fraction of the population can acquire the skills that come with a high quality education, then we must build those policies with a clear understanding of the broader social and economic forces that limit access,” Archibald and Feldman said.
President Obama proposal
Perry Bacon, Jr. covered the story, “Inside Obama’s Proposal to Make Community College Free and Universal,” for NBCNews.com on January 9, 2015.
According to Bacon, the President’s plan is built on a model used in Tennessee and in the city of Chicago. Under the plan, the federal government and states would contribute to paying the entire cost of two years at a community college.
It is estimated that 9 million people would benefit from the plan, which would save each student about $3,800 each year in college costs.
“It would probably benefit middle-class students more than the very poorest, who qualify for federal Pell grants that usually cover the cost of community college. People of any age would be eligible for the program,” Bacon said.
Community college tuition plan
Considering the fact that the U.S. Congress is primarily Republican now, what are the chances that the president can push this plan through? According to Devin Dwyer in his January 9, 2015, article for ABCNews.com, “Obama’s Free Community College Idea May Be Hard Sell.”
Both the Republican congress and the states would have to get on board with a plan that would cost an estimated $60 billion over ten years. The costs would be split with the federal government paying three-fourth and the states paying one-fourth of the cost.
So far the response has been less than supportive. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee opposes the plan because it involves the federal government. He prefers that states champion their own programs.
“Still, the notion ‘free’ community college is tantalizing to many. Democrats envision a system akin to free the nation’s public high school system which is funded jointly by state and federal governments,” Dwyer observed.
President Obama has been touring the country and talking about his proposal on college campuses. The White House said that the president will describe more details in his State of the Union address on January 20 and in his budget request which is due on February 2.
How are you handling the rising costs of college? Tell us in the comments.