Why public college costs keep rising

According to a new study by Demos, a progressive think tank, public colleges aren’t so public anymore, and that’s deepening America’s racial and economic rift, an article on MarketWatch reports.

College affordabilty

Thanks to years of state cuts, public colleges in every state but Wyoming now get more dollars from tuition than they do from taxpayers, writes reporter Jillian Berman, citing the study’s statistics. She goes on to explain that, in 2016, 4-year colleges in 24 states got the lion’s share of their revenue (over 50%) directly from students and parents. Less support from states means higher costs for attendees, and that spells trouble for blue-collar students, the bulk of whom are minorities.

At a time when having a college degree is essential to getting ahead in the workplace, rising prices are making it unaffordable for many Black and Latino students, the study’s findings suggest: In 22 states, students from blue-collar families fork out an average net price of $10,000 a year at public 4-year institutions. Gone are the days when they could work their way through college with a low-paying, part-time job, Berman adds: In 38 states, students would need to work over 20 hours a week to finish sans student-loan debt; in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, they’d need a time-turner and full-time job just to attend classes and stay out of the red, the report found.

College affordability

While Trump’s proposed budget would make college even less accessible for working-class students, congressional lawmakers spurned it yesterday in favor of a massive spending bill that includes additional funds for student aid and ups Pell Grant awards for low-income students by $175 to a maximum of $6,095. (Currently, Pell Grants cover less than a third of the cost of attending a public college, notes Mark Huelsman, a policy analyst at Demos and author of the aforementioned study.) Unfortunately, that’s not nearly enough. What’s more, the president still has to sign the bill.

Let’s hope he does. When states invest in higher education and treat it as a public good, everyone wins, Huelsman explains in his report, citing statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which estimated that “the net public returns—that is, the benefits that accrue to all of us, not just the individual—in the United States range between $100,000 to nearly $300,000.” It’s a shame that as colleges have become more racially and ethnically diverse, our government policymakers have abandoned the compact with students that prior generations enjoyed, he adds.

DACA - UnidosUS | College affordabilityConcerns about rising college costs aside, most people have “no doubt that their children need a good education,” writes op-ed columnist David Leonhardt, in a recent New York Times piece, noting that it’s still the surest route to a good life. He thinks education could be a winning campaign issue for candidates running in the midterm elections, since it transcends party politics. It’d also be a welcome opportunity to talk about something besides Trump, he says: “Many voters, understandably, care more about their lives and their children’s future than about Stormy Daniels or Jared Kushner.”

By Gabriela Montell, UnidosUS Communications Manager