Phi Beta Cons

Contextualizing Trends in College Pricing

The College Board’s annual Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid reports are out, and—at least on the surface—they seem to bring some good news this year. While tuition and total student debt are up, the rate of price growth has slowed, and students are borrowing less today than they have in the past.

But for all the attention this news has been getting, when you look closely, the good tidings are only skin deep. Over at Real Clear Policy ACTA’s Michael Poliakoff and I delve a bit more into the numbers are attempt to discern what the data really reveal. We note, for example, that:

The Great Recession put a tremendous amount of strain of college and university budgets, as state appropriations evaporated and families’ finances suffered. Instead of making the tough decisions that would allow them to maintain academic quality while cutting back, many schools made up their financial shortfalls by passing the costs onto students in the form of higher tuition and fees. The decline in the rate of price increase this year doesn’t reflect institutions’ learning to control costs; it is simply the process of returning toward the pre-recession status quo.

And, of course, it is important to remember what the College Board’s reports don’t measure: whether students are learning anything for all of their money.

Check out the whole piece here.

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