What Needs to Change to Make College More Affordable?

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For decades, going to college was seen as "the great equalizer,"  a ticket to the American dream for people from all walks of life. But with rising college costs leading to skyrocketing student debt, has that dream become a nightmare? Myles unpacks the reasons college is so expensive and ways to fix it.

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

How did college get to be so expensive?

After the passing of the G.I Bill, the U.S. government gave money to returning soldiers to pay for college. This means regular everyday folks could get a higher education instead of just wealthy people, which worked as the percentage of folks going to college grew from its signing up until a few years ago.

What is administrative bloat?


After the pandemic forced at-home learning on many students, they started thinking about where exactly their dollars were going. Administrative bloat is a term used to describe when resources and money go to administrative positions instead of teaching positions. The Department of Education found that positions like college presidents, deans, and provosts grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which was 10 times the rate of tenured faculty positions. However, is that all bad? As college becomes more diverse and more competitive there is a higher need for positions in student services to ensure students have equal opportunities at succeeding.

How do cuts in state funding contribute to rising tuition at public universities?

Beyond administrative bloat and increases in student services there’s been a trend of states cutting funding to schools and to make up for that decrease in funding the cost of college has risen thus increasing the amount of debt a student needs to take out to be able to pay for it. Women and minorities are taking the brunt of the debt as they on average have more than white borrowers. The high amount of debt students are accumulating is slowing down trademarks of being an adult and again has folks reevaluating if paying all that money is worth it for them.

What are some ideas for making college more affordable in the U.S.?

President Biden announced canceling some debt for borrowers making under 125k a year. However, that doesn’t stop the cost of college from being extremely expensive for most folks out there. Other countries offer free college or tuition at a way cheaper price than here in the U.S but that means getting rid of some of the more glamorous things we associate with the college experience like living on campus for example. It also means potentially higher taxes for citizens, basically, a lot would have to change in the states for college to resemble what European countries are doing.


A Crisis in Confidence in Higher Ed  (Gallup)

Why Is College So Expensive in America? (The Atlantic)

Fewer Kids Are Going to College Because They Say It Costs Too Much (CNBC)

Bureaucrats and Buildings: The Case for Why College is So Expensive (Forbes)

Fancy Dorms Aren’t the Main Reason Tuition Is Skyrocketing (538)

38% of Parents Worry They Won’t Have the Money to Cover College Costs (CNBC)