John Sexton and Charlie Winans

NYU president, John Sexton, never thought his career would be in law. He says his long-time friend and teacher, Charlie Winans, "argued me into it."

Behind Every Famous Person is a Fabulous Teacher.

Cost of Higher Education

What’s it all about?
Arguments in Favor
Arguments Against
FYI: Further Reading

What’s it all about?

  • With the rising costs of higher education, more and more families are struggling to pay for their children’s tuitions and more young adults are forced to take out student loans. Many top universities have begun an effort to increase financial aid in order to boost attendance by low- and middle-income students, but some argue that more help is required by the federal government. Currently, the Higher Education Act, recently renamed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, is up for reauthorization. This law would increase the federal government’s involvement in the cost of higher education with such policies as encouraging lower cost for college, simplifying the federal aid application process, increasing accountability in student loan programs, and increasing aid for veteran families.

Arguments in Favor:

  • The increased cost of higher of education creates a demographic dominated by upper-class and upper-middle-class students at most top universities. This leads to less diversity and less representation by low- and middle-income students. A government initiative would ensure equal education opportunities for students of all economic backgrounds.
  • Historically, education has been the key to economic leverage. With our move to an economy dominated by the service sector, a college degree is more crucial than ever to increase socio-economic stature. However, due to the rising costs of higher education, the wealth gap is widening and fewer low- and middle-income students are being given the opportunity for upward economic mobility.
  • Federal government oversight would also ensure greater accountability to students and greater access to knowledge for students when they are choosing between universities.

Arguments Against:

  • The federal government should not be involved in the finances of institutions of private education or even public education. The tuition of a given institution of higher learning should be determined internally and should not have to respond to external pressures, such as those imposed by the College Opportunity and Affordability Act.

FYI: Further Reading

  • College and Money: Ask the Experts is a blog from the New York Times online that gives advice for parents and students about dealing with the cost of higher education. Readers can also write in with their questions, making this an accessible way to navigate the financial aspect of the college process.
  • Federal Pell Grant Program This is an informative website from the U.S. Department of Education about the federal aid program for college. It is very comprehensive.
  • College Opportunity and Affordability Act is the official website from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. It explains COAA in-depth and even gives a listing of news articles related to the law.
  • House, Focusing on Cost, Approves Higher Education Act is an article from about the process of approving COAA in the House of Representatives. It is a more colloquial explanation of what the act entails and is an unbiased look at its passing.
  • NPR: Taking Issue…The Rising Costs of College has articles from three different experts in the higher education field. All three articles offer clearly-written and interesting arguments that represent different perspectives on the issue.
  • Joint Statement on the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education is a statement from the NEA and AFT in support of the findings of the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education. Both unions emphasize the need for lower cost of college and a reevaluation of the direction of higher education in this country.
  • The Center for College Affordability and Productivity is an independent nonprofit organization that researches and facilitates discussion about the issues facing institutions of higher education, including federal student aid, productivity of faculty members, and the causes of inefficient spending. Their blog is particularly insightful with discussions of current and changing policies in higher education.
  • The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has released a comprehensive report on the rising costs of higher education that can be accessed here. It explores the reasons why college tuition has increased so drastically, mostly focusing on the impact of public money on tuition costs. The report also compares how various states are dealing with the budget cuts, giving multiple case studies and examples.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education, has released a report exploring the issues accompanying the rising cost of higher education. It seeks to answer such questions as what the value is of a higher education degree and how much accessibility there is to attain a degree of higher education.
  • A Congressional report entitled “The College Cost Crisis” explores the origins and history of the rising cost of higher education. It does not seek to suggest solutions to the problem, but rather to begin a discourse about how to make college more affordable for more students.
  • This scholarly paper from the College of William and Mary looks at the rising cost of higher education from an economic perspective and compares the theories of two different economists, regarding the reasons behind the cost increases.
  • New York Times Op-Ed: The (Yes) Low Cost of Higher Ed (4/2/08) explains the move by more and more administrators of elite colleges towards making their schools affordable for low- and middle-income students, mostly through scholarships rather than by financial aid. The author claims that this is a growing trend in institutions of higher education.