Yesterday’s New York Times notes the finding of a new study that the cost of college education has risen at three times the rate of inflation for the past 20 years, as well as its projection that college will soon be beyond the financial reach of most American families. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education also pointed out that public universities–long the best bargain on the higher-ed shelf–are the first to feel, and pass along, the impact of a shrinking economy: when state tax revenues decline, state college tuition rates go up. This leaves students with two unpalatable options: community college (which, whatever their virtues, don’t generally provide the upward social mobility Americans seeks from higher education) and hugely expensive private institutions.
So that of course explains why places like Harvard are issuing statements crying havoc about the decline of their endowments and threatening program cuts and tuition increases. Because there’s going to be a rainier day later on, and the important thing is to make sure that the current faculty and administration stay dry.