Who was it who said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
According to the Department of Education, the Obama administration’s budget proposes: “$173 billion in loans, grants, tax credits and work-study programs to help students go to college.” But experience has shown that simply increasing federal subsidies for higher education hasn’t solved the college affordability problem. After all, federal spending on student aid has doubled over the past decade, but college tuition costs are higher than ever. Since 1982, the cost of attending college has increased by 439 percent (or four times faster than the rate of inflation!).
Rather than continuing to increase subsidies, policymakers should be looking for ways to solve the college affordability problem by lowering costs and improving efficiency. We offered some ideas for new strategies to do that in our new paper: “Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable.”
For example, states university systems could follow the trend of innovative schools like MIT that have placed most of their course content online and made it available to the public for free. They could also use online learning and the growing body of free online content to streamline the efficiency of their college system’s course offerings. Moreover, state higher education institutions could follow schools that are offering credit-by-examination options, giving students a path toward earning a college degree without taking out huge loans or depending on big government subsidies.
Given our ballooning federal and state budget deficits, taxpayers can’t afford to continue dumping mountains of dollars into student aid programs that only allow colleges to continue increasing their already-high tuition prices. The time has come to solve the college affordability problem by lowering costs.