Many Variables, One College Problem

Over at the American Prospect, Matthew Yglesias raises a question from my blog entry yesterday in which I pointed out that college tuition is rising astronomically in large part because government provides the money to pay it. Yglesias points to my observation that over the last 10 years, aid per-student has actually grown faster than costs. He suggests that aid is therefore likely doing its job, making college more affordable by bringing aid closer to the cost of tuition.

Yglesias reaches a reasonable conclusion, but he takes one observation I made and leaps far beyond what can be surmised from it.

There are many factors that affect tuition prices, ranging from the cost of energy to rising and falling state aid to public colleges. These variables could certainly affect whether aid grows faster than college costs or vice versa in any given period. In the long term, though, it is clear that, as per-student aid has risen, tuition too has gone up, both at rates far exceeding normal inflation.

Suppose, though, Yglesias is right and aid does eventually match costs. At the rate we’re going, would anyone want to pay the tuition bills taxpayers will be forced to fund if and when that happens? I sure wouldn’t.