21 October 2009

Recession Proof and Reality Proof

Times are tough. People are out of work. Retirement accounts have crashed. Retail sales are stagnant. Credit is tight, and you can't even sell an excellent new car unless the federal government rides in with an ill-conceived pay-off.

But the cost of a college education continues to go up at a rate higher than inflation for, what, the 25th year in row? So much for the laws of economics.
With the economy struggling, parents and students dared to hope this year might offer a break from rising college costs. Instead, they got another sharp increase.

Average tuition at four-year public colleges in the U.S. climbed 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall as schools apologetically passed on much of their own financial problems, according to an annual report from the College Board, released Tuesday. At private colleges, tuition rose 4.4 percent, or $1,096, to $26,273.

"Every sector of the American economy is under stress, and higher education is no exception," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education. "It's regrettable, and it's yet another piece of disappointing economic news that affects families."

See, that's where you're fatally wrong, uh, Terry. In every other part of the economy, anything you'd want to buy is more affordable than ever. Anyone providing goods or services has dropped prices and sweetened offers in order to drive business . . . except Big Education.

Across the nation, the price increases came despite painful cost-cutting by colleges on everything from faculty to cafeterias and sports travel. And as usual, the rise in tuition outstripped the overall inflation rate.

In fact, during the period covered by the report, consumer prices declined 2.1 percent. So the latest tuition increase at public colleges was closer to 9 percent in real terms. "It's only natural for parents to question why colleges are raising their prices yet again, while the rest of our economy is inflation-free," said James Boyle, president of the group College Parents of America.

The only reason tuition can keep going up is because government keeps pumping money into Big Education. The only reason money keeps getting pumped into Big Education is because terrified politicians will never turn off the spigot and let the system settle to a sustainable equilibrium.

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