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Policy raises tuition rates

Professors offer insight on reasons for increasing tuitions

Published: Monday, October 15, 2012

Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 23:10

When it comes to higher education, there is at least one issue in which President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney agree: the rising cost of tuition.

According to the Department of Education, the cost of tuition and housing at public institutions, adjusted for inflation, has increased by 42 percent during the past decade.

“I think it's pretty important, considering the fact that students are graduating with $25,000 in debt due to student loans,” said Jacob Brown, freshman international studies major. “They're swamped with debt, and there's a bad economy so [students] can't even get a job to pay it off. I think a lot of students are paying close attention to the election due to that issue itself.”

Part of Obama's approach to tackling the issue has been an expansion in federal aid. claims that Obama’s efforts of reform in higher education funding have produced the largest investment in student aid since the GI Bill.

Students are unsure as to the true benefit of this type of investing as a solution to the higher education problem.

“I think it's kind of interesting, because President Obama wants to expand the loan program and make it easier for students to go to college.” Brown said. “Part of the reason college is so expensive is because of all the subsidies involved with it. Because of the increase of money that's going into the system, universities can just keep raising their rates, knowing that federal funds are going to come in.”

Romney’s argument criticizes current policies and reaches out to students who may be experiencing these problems.

According to his campaign website, a “flood” of federal dollars is driving up tuition and burdening too many young Americans with substantial debt and too few opportunities.

Nicholas Prisco, junior mechanical engineering major, said he agreed that there is some merit in this argument, but that there is more to the problem.

“I think there [are] other factors that are already influencing the rising cost,” Prisco said. “There isn't as strong of a direct correlation as [Romney] suggests.”

Jonathan Meer, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University, said there is evidence that universities fund expansion through financial aid,

Meer said as the cost of tuition and the amount of federal aid increases, the net price of college has stayed pretty much constant.

“Of course, this means that relatively well-off people are paying more, which partly subsidizes lower-income people,” Meer said. “But, especially when it comes to a state university, we should ask ourselves, ‘What policy goal is being served by heavily subsidizing the tuition of those whose families can easily afford more?’ I'm not being flippant about the burden of college costs, but keeping tuition prices low across the board means that there are fewer overall resources.”

Lori Taylor, an associate professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, discussed the other factors that are driving up tuition costs.

“[One] reason is that the state governments have been cutting back on the amount of financial support that they give to institutions of higher education over the last decade or so, and that has led to a shifting of the cost of education from the state to the student over time,” Taylor said.

Meer said more transparency in information — regarding on-time graduation rates and employment percentages — would be useful to those considering college, and could help decrease tuition rates.

Obama and Romney have both proposed policies along these lines.

Romney's proposals include simplifying programs within the Department of Education; welcoming private sector participation in providing information, financing, and the education itself; and repealing “confusing and unnecessary” regulations that primarily serve to drive costs higher, according to his website.

Obama's proposed a “Race to the Top for college affordability and completion,” which aims to drive tuition costs down by rewarding states that are willing to systematically change their higher education policies and practices, according to

“There will be some institutions of higher education that are not good value, that will have more difficulty getting financial support for their students [under Obama's proposal],” Taylor said. “That seems like a more prominent federal role in higher education than we've had in the past, and so I need to know more about whether that's going to be a good idea — how they're going to operationalize that. How are they going to decide whether an institution is a good value or not?”


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