What are your thoughts on the federal government subsidizing higher education?
Complicated subject, for sure. And I'll preface this by saying I'm not trying to engage anyone in a blue/red political argument. I'm more curious on the math involved here, and if it actually makes sense to continue doing this.
I enjoyed this Atlantic article, The Real Cost of College , on the subject. Breaks down how the federal government, while giving tax breaks of many kinds and many varied subsidies to colleges, universities and on a per-student basis, is actually giving higher education facilities a golden opportunity to uniformly raise all rates. And most definitely all higher education schools are taking full advantage.
Even though the US government is subsidizing more for college than ever before, tuition rates have continued to go up steadily every year, at a faster rate than what can actually be subsidized. Meaning that even though you can get more breaks than ever before (maybe), college costs way more than ever before.
This is because of all the direct and indirect subsidies. From all I can tell, higher education systems are taking full advantage of what once was a system put in place originally to only help veterans re-enter society with a leg up (GI Bill), or the financially struggling get a chance to move up in our caste system.
This all started with subsidized federal land grants for schools, in 1862. Then expanded on that in 1890 (both parts of the Morrill Act). 1917 saw the Smith-Hughes Act, which helped fund the salaries of local vocational education teachers. All benign to this point, but all setting a precedent with each step. Mo' money, mo problems.
1944, the GI Bill. Then the big one. In 1958, we get the National Defense Education Act. This was the start of pell grants, college library aid, teacher training programs, and a host of other subsidies.
Here are some numbers to consider from the article:
Since 1965, the federal government has provided steadily increasing funding for higher education. Just since 2000, the cost of Pell grants has soared from $10 billion a year to $34 billion, and federal student loans have jumped from $48 billion a year to about $100 billion. Meanwhile, grants to higher educational institutions, including Gallaudet and Howard Universities, increased from $1.3 billion in 2000 to $2.5 billion today.
That would be great, if the real cost of tuition wasn't soaring, right alongside those numbers. In fact, soaring even higher. Our net cost for college is actually worse, on average. So, college costs more than ever, tax payers are subsidizing more than ever, and the college degree is dropping in value more than ever. Oh and more people are massively in debt more than ever. All in a time and reality when brick and mortar schools are becoming less and less absolutely needed, thanks to the internet.
So do we really need to continue federally subsidizing higher education? Seems to me if you were to take out all the higher education tax breaks and supposedly free federal grant monies, then the student loans etc... then the schools would be forced to stop all the frivolous spending, start charging tuition rates that don't make your stomach turn upside down, and make college a realistic venture, for all.
Or ya know, just include it into the tax code, and make everyone subsidize it, but make it free for all (what up, Bernie Sanders, right?). Maybe. But talk about over-saturation of the value of a degree. Either way, much like our healthcare system, the higher education sector needs a massive overhaul.