Every day we see colleges, students and the government all point their fingers at each other in an attempt to explain why the cost of higher education skyrockets every year.
The truth is that there is a clear answer as to why this happens: Once again, the federal government, in trying to make higher education more affordable to everyone, has made it more expensive and buried thousands of college graduates under debt that they will be paying the rest of their lives.
The ideas of federal subsidized loans, Pell grants and other myriad federal aid initiatives have all spawned out of the noble and idealistic goal that a college education should not be out of the reach of any person because of financial reasons. By making it easier to get money to pay for college, more students would be able to attend and contribute to the intellectual growth of America, etc. etc.
What has really happened is that colleges and universities have increased their prices accordingly to soak up all of this money that is now being thrown their way. If students can get a loan that will fund their entire tuition bill, why would schools not charge more and provide degrees to attract every potential "client?"
With the federal government backing loans allowing more students to attend college, banks are obviously going to offer those loans, as they are almost guaranteed a return on their investment. This return will be either at the expense of the student who will pay from the wages they get from their jobs upon graduation, or at the expense of the government who will repay the loan in the case that the grad can't find a job and defaults on payments.
This, coupled with the government's misinformed drive to produce more college graduates, has created a huge number of degree-holding Americans with no need for them. What we now see is Starbucks baristas with English degrees, waiters with biochemistry degrees and numerous other people who possess diplomas from four year universities with working jobs that never required them in the first place. That, however, is not the problem of the universities.
A little lesson in economics: When you make anything more affordable (or accessible), you increase the amount of demand for that thing. With an increased demand generally comes an increased price, especially when it comes to colleges. Universities are merely responding to market forces when they continue to increase their tuitions.
The solution is a paradoxical one: If the federal government eliminates its aid and subsidies, leaving the ability to provide financial aid to the individual universities and setting interest rates up to the banks, we will see an overall decrease in enrollment in universities, leading them to decrease tuition to remain competitive among other colleges. People will consider for a longer time whether or not it is in their best interests to obtain a degree in Mesopotamian Architecture or Middle English language, and may just end up entering the workforce.