Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why is UW so expensive?

This morning's MJS included a thumbsucker on increases in UW tuition and the way in which it keeps low income students out of college. I'm not so sure that the article makes its case. That students don't want to take out loans does not amount to a crisis. I seem to recall that students took out college loans back in the 70s (when the financial advantages of higher education were much less pronounced than they are today) and it is not self-evident why someone ought not be obligated to finance a portion of his or her own education. Loans make that possible for people who presently lack the means to do so.

A more interesting question is why the cost of higher education has risen at a rate greater than the rate of inflation. In preparing a recent column for the MJS (this one), I looked at the long term trend on state assistance to the UW. Its gone down recently but over the long run, its been relatively stable in real terms. Yet the UW's budget - and tuition - has increased at a rate that exceeds inflation for just about forever. Why has that been necessary? There's a series I'd like to see the paper tackle.

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