View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Cost of College

The Denver Business Journal (free registration required) published an op-ed by the head of the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network simultaneously decrying attempts by State Senate President John Andrews to cut state spending on colleges while enacting the Academic Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, he tends to do things llike quote un-named studies, rankings without context, and dollar amounts without percentages. A fuller dissection of this op-ed will have to wait, but the cost of college is a real problem.

The fact is, it's a simple supply and demand problem. We value college for its economic benefits. Employers value it for its supposed benefits in creating an "educated workforce," and students value it in large part because employers value it. So we're willing to pay well out of proportion to the actual benefits of those four years, as part of a self-inflating cycle, kind of like tulips. But you can't just snap your fingers and increase the number of classroom seats, either. So more money chases relatively fewer goods, and the price goes up.

Colleges don't complain when they're the beneficiaries of an artificially inflated market. But they sure do scream like hell when the market comes back to bite them.

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