Category: Student Debt

The Price of College Affordability

WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, university professor, USC Pullias Center for Higher Education.

This op-ed originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The political standoff in Washington over extending low interest rates on student loans would have been unimaginable a generation ago. Back then, there was an unwritten compact between government and higher education. Everyone largely assumed that if government — that is, taxpayers — financially helped more people attend and graduate from college, we would all be better off in the end. A college education was considered a “public good.” Now it’s a “private good,” and the individual student is increasingly picking up the tab.

This shift in responsibility began in the mid-1980s, but it has exploded during the Great Recession. Revenue-starved states have slashed their higher-education budgets, forcing public universities and colleges, where three of every four students enroll, to dramatically raise tuition and fees. There is a limit to all this, and we may already be at the tipping point of affordability. Student debt, at $1 trillion, is now greater than credit card debt.