The New York Times reports that higher education may soon become unaffordable for most Americans. The prognosis is from Measuring Up 2008, the most recent report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
College tuition and fees have risen 439 percent from 1982 to 2007. Student borrowing has doubled in the last decade. Anecdotally, I can say that among my circle of friends, in my income bracket, I can’t imagine how parents can pay for their children’s higher education. The sacrifice it entails is incredible. I honestly don’t know how people do it.
It’s seemed to me that we were tending this way for a very long time–in a sense, it’s refreshing to see someone put such a bald face on the issue. We already have a system where social class and income are tied to educational opportunity (or lack thereof) in some very ugly ways. If we don’t find ways to change the system, we’re going to face even greater problems. For one thing, an undereducated workforce is not globally competitive. For another, undereducated people tend to make decisions that are costly to themselves and to society.
I’ve seen the Measuring Up report described as the most important report on education this year. It’s definitely sobering.