Education has long been a topic of discussion in political debates. Now higher education, specifically the costs associated with obtaining a college degree, is causing politicians to take pause. The price tag of a college diploma is coming under fire.
According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition annually in the United States can range anywhere from $9,970 for in-state public institutions to $34,740 for private institutions. That does not include fees or room and board. So, at best, the average cost of a four-year college degree is around $40,000. How does the average person pay for that kind of expense? Student loans.
Earlier this year Forbes reported student loan debt had reached epic proportions including 44 million borrowers with a collective debt of more than $1.5 trillion dollars. This makes student loans the number two consumer debt category in the U.S. second only to mortgage debt. Those numbers make it easy to see why the cost of education and student loans will be a cause of concern for both sides of the aisle.
What Came First?
While debt is the current issue at hand, there’s a larger question about the cost of higher education in general. Why does it cost so much to attend a college or university? It’s a complex question with a complex answer. Essentially, the demand for a college education increases to rise along with the amount of money students are able to access via student loans. Higher education has a seemingly endless demand so colleges can continue to raise their prices. Students have access to the money, so they can pay the increased prices. It’s a cyclical problem with no end in sight.
Now it appears law makers are taking notice. In the Democratic presidential debates last week, the cost of college and student loans was discussed at length by many of the candidates. Presidential hopeful Joe Biden suggesting free community college as a solution, “That’s why there should be free community college, cutting in half the cost of college.” While many suggestions were made, the complexity of the problem leaves no easy solution. Mayor Pete Buttigieg noting, “And while I want tuition costs to go down, I don’t think we can buy down every last penny for them.”
The cost of higher education in the United States and the debt associated with it is cause for increased concern by politicians and citizens alike. The 2020 election will prove fertile ground for increased conversation and debate about how to best address this issue.