I’m already paying for enough people’s college

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama talked about making college affordable for every American. He really got my hopes up when he said “But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.” Finally, we’re talking about reducing the cost of college, and not just finding ways to pay for spiraling college costs.

Those hopes were dashed in his next statement “Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that.” Aagghh! Certainly, providing ‘free’ community college will reduce the cost for those students, but it just adds to the list of other people’s college that I and others are stuck paying for.

And it doesn’t address the underlying reasons that college costs are going up so much.

Spiraling college costs

Tuition at Harvard has increased at three times the inflation rate over the past 40 years, and according to Ray Franke, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, “[college tuition] has been rising almost six percent above the rate of inflation” as a long-term trend.

In my column a year ago, I noted “The Oregonian reported a few months ago that Oregon student debt has doubled in a decade and the majority of Oregon college students graduate with more than $26,000 in debt. A recent Forbes article noted that in the past 25 years ‘average tuitions nationwide have risen faster than general inflation and even health-care costs over the same period.’ An October 2013 chart from U.S. News & World Report shows how much faster.”

The chart shows college tuition increasing at nearly double the rate of medical care cost increases.

More public dollars not the answer – some possible causes

A New York Times column from April 2015 notes that “public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s” and that “increased spending has not been going into the pockets of the typical professor.” The column calls out “the constant expansion of university administration” as a major factor in driving increasing costs.

NPR reported in 2011 “universities are not getting more efficient the way other industries are,” and in 2014 Time touched on students “having to retake subjects such as math and reading that they should have learned in high school.”

I’m already paying for enough people’s college

After serving four years in the Army, I went to community college several decades ago. Using the G.I. Bill, working half-time and having my wife working full-time, I was able to graduate with no college debt. Putting children through state college was a significant expense, and also left all of us with sizable student loans.

In addition to paying for college for my own family, I also pay for college for others through my federal income taxes and my state income taxes. Those taxes pay for things like federal Pell Grants ($41 billion in 2011 for 9.4 million students), and for Oregon Opportunity Grants for eligible students from families with adjusted gross income of less than $70,000 ($58 million in 2014-15 for 35,000 students). Grants don’t have to be repaid.

So I feel like I’m already paying for enough people’s college.


Before we’re asked to pay for ‘free’ college for more people, the federal government and the state government should conduct audits and report on why college tuition is going up so fast. Then we can have discussions on how to reduce those costs.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Bernie Sanders, Education, Federal Budget, President Obama, State Taxes | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Connie Kosuda

    this is what’s called ‘analysis’ nowadays????? remember student loans???? you know conservatives and the banks love to keep students in debt forever, that interest rates are through the roof /

    that bankruptcy can not eliminate these horrific debts / that many students simply can’t find a way to continue their education while working 2 or more minimum wage jobs (if they’re lucky) – (and you don’t even want to raise the minimum wage, now, do you,)

    that even finding a student loan takes a miracle,

    so, really, Dan, whose tuition are you paying???? names please.

    or are you just another whiner, you got yours, and damn the rest of the world. for shame.

  • thevillageidiot

    a couple of interesting links correlating the change in bankruptcy rules for college loans and the increasing tuition.

    the last graph in the post is very telling. What happened after 1983 that changed the increase in tuition increases. and also consider some of the other reasons in the first liked article. in the second linked article and interesting correlation with the first.



    look at the last graph in the first link and asked what changed after 1983 to cause tuition to start on its continuous increase. during the 1970’s inflation was not zero yet tuition costs did not change with the rate of inflation. since 2008 with decreases in state funding of tuition the burden has shifted to the students and exacerbated by extensive use of non bankrupt able loans.
    but this is more causation vs correlation. student loans and government grants make it easier to justify increased tuition. perhaps more research into what drives the costs of college. rather than throw more money at the problem. (tuition) again why were college tuitions in line with median income from 1973 -1983? and have inordinately outpaced median incomes since.

  • Bob Clark

    Most often Obummer says one thing while the complete opposite is occurring or about to occur. Then there are times when he says two opposite things, like here, in the same sentence, or paragraph.

  • No Hypocrisy

    “After serving four years in the Army”

    It’s amazing how many “anti-government” types spent time working for the government.

    “I went to community college several decades ago.”

    i.e. Publicly-subsidized education.

    “Using the G.I. Bill,”

    i.e. Publicly-subsidized education.

    “I was able to graduate with no college debt”

    Thanks the government subsidies you received.

    “Putting children through state college”

    i.e. Publicly-subsidized eduction for your children.

    “In addition to paying for college for my own family, I also pay for college for others”

    i.e. And now it’s time to whine about others receiving the benefits I enjoyed.

    • DavidAppell


    • Jonathan

      Very good!

  • DavidAppell

    “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

    — Derek Bok, former president of Harvard

  • Jonathan

    Dan, you wonder why public college tuition has gone up so much. It’s no secret, public college subsidies per student were being slashed! When you went to school, most of it was paid for by the public. Not anymore. And you went on the GI bill! What a hypocrite you are!

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