At the DNC Convention tonight (hey, I watch so you don’t have to), a good number of the speakers talked about the joy of Pell grants and affordable college tuition. It’s a real shame not one of them talked about how college tuition increased 15% between 2008 and 2010.
There are a lot of cost drivers for universities, but there is almost no willpower to take aim at rising costs with measures to make their systems more efficient or less reliant on inconsistent factors. As long as financial aid – in the form of federally-backed loans and grants in particular – is widely available and growing, there is no incentive for universities to back down. It was painful to listen to this line over and over again about affordable college tuition, knowing that this year’s graduates will enter an economy with fewer job opportunities and more debt than should be acceptable for anyone. But the administrators don’t mind, as long as the federal trough is open for business.
Four more years of this presidential administration would be grievous indeed for those seeking higher education and building a future – but it isn’t just this president, or this administration. State governments have a lot to do with the problem, and here in Texas, with tuition in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and state financial aid straining to keep pace, the federal government’s role in the problem is almost an afterthought. We’ve already seen one tuition assistance program go bankrupt because of tuition costs – it’s a matter of time before the same happens to others, because taxpayers do not have unlimited resources to refill the trough.
Tonight, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro extolled the virtues of the expanding Pell grant program. His brother Joaquin is an outgoing state representative who, despite serving on the Higher Education committee, filed no legislation aimed at correcting the problem that is causing the demand for Pell grants to rise in the first place. Let’s hope the incoming legislative class has the wherewithal to address this issue (here are some suggestions to get them started), and do their part to make college affordable without government handouts to make it so.