24 September 2014

Paying for Public Education: A Serious Proposal

America, we have a problem.  A democracy depends on an educated voting public, but obtaining a university education is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Over the last decade, tuition at four-year public institutions has increased at about 7.5% per year. This translates to a doubling of tuition in a decade. Tuition is twice as expensive as it was 10 years ago.

In addition to tuition increases, many universities have increased room and board charges and added an array of student fees, which mask total cost increases of attending college.  It appears that more affordable 2-year programs and community colleges may have had even larger increases.

Against rising costs of education, minimum wages, which many students earn while working part time, have not increased at all. Average annual wage increases for all workers have risen about 3% during the same period.

With higher costs and lower relative wages, it is not a surprise that students are accumulating higher levels of debt. There appears to be about $1 trillion in outstanding student debt in the U.S., and student loan defaults are reportedly about $146 billion.

A second problem relates to cutbacks in social services at the same time social needs are increasing. The recent financial crisis reduced revenues to Government, resulting in spending cutbacks in many state and local governments. Cutbacks were typically widespread including support for public education and social services. At the same time unemployment and underemployment were increasing, community services were decreasing.

These two issues may have a common solution. I have a proposal that will not eliminate these problems but could help mitigate them. The proposal is more fully explained on my new website (macdonaldscholars.com).

The proposal does not require any more Government funding; it is a private initiative, funded by private sources.  If implemented broadly, students will graduate with less debt, and community services will be increased, Stay tuned.

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