Thursday, August 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

That's exceptional, America!

That's exceptional, America!

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that America's solution to competing in the global economy is to make it harder and harder for people -- especially regular middle-class folk -- to attend college:

What do you get when college costs skyrocket but incomes barely budge? Yet another blow to the middle class.

"As the out-of-pocket costs of a college education go up faster than incomes, it's pricing low and medium income families out of a college education," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of financial aid sites FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.

The numbers confirm what most middle class families already know -- college is becoming so expensive, it's starting to hold them back.

Over the last 20 years, the story notes, tuition and fees and public universities have risen by 130 percent. Middle class incomes have essentially not risen at all. You don't need a Ph.D. in math to grasp the significance. So this is the part where somebody steps in to solve the problem, right?

Right.

Financial aid: Meanwhile, the amount of federal aid available to individual students has also failed to keep up. Since 1992, the maximum available through government-subsidized student loans has remained at $23,000 for a four-year degree.

"There does seem to be this growing disparity between income and the cost of higher education," said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. "At the same time, there's been a fundamental shift, moving away from public subsidization, to individuals bearing more of the cost of higher education."

Of course, now we're realizing that it would cost billions of dollars to re-train undereducated American workers for the jobs that might actiually exist -- money that we don't have. Kind of like how we do things here in Pennsylvania, where we slash money for schools but make sure we fund the prisons where poorly educated kids end up.

If you're looking the balance in this country between what government does and doesn't do, the two things that always struck me as way out of whack are health care and higher education, both of which are seen as more of a basic right in most other industrialized nations. How can we say that everyone in America is entitled to education through 12th grade, and then we stop them four unaffordable years short of the educational level that's needed for so many critical jobs? Would we fund a police department that only patrols 75 percent of the city? Or course not. So why have we turned college into a playground for the kids of our oligarchs, with the middle class watching on the other side of the fence?

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Will Bunch
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