Higher education has become an almost exclusive gateway to a middle-class income in our modern world, even as the ever-rising cost drains middle-class families' assets, saddles young graduates with massive student loans, and effectively bars the door to many working-class and poor young adults.
Just how much has tuition risen? According to a Bloomberg report last year, 1,120 percent since 1978 — an increase more than double the pace of medical costs, which themselves have exploded beyond all reason, and four times general inflation. Tuition-paying parents are right to feel strapped.
The intense financial pressure on students and their families has led to political pressure to increase student loans, federal Pell Grants and state-funded financial aid in California, as well as to restore taxpayer financing to the universities that have raised tuition dramatically as the Legislature has cut subsidies. None of that is a bad idea, within reason. Education remains a great investment in our people and our future.
But what is all too rare is a hard look at the underlying costs themselves. As they rise, are students really getting their money's worth? And are we using our resources most effectively?