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The Unsustainable Rise in College Costs


The headline of an editorial in the Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun contains a disconcerting but certainly accurate message: That the state’s system of post-secondary education is on a “ Collision course of unsustainable higher-ed costs .”

Inflation, the emergence of new fields of study, and ever-rising standards of care, not to mention increases in the cost of salaries, benefits, financial aid, maintenance, and technology, mean that most colleges and universities are on an untenable financial trajectory — unless their expenses are offset by new revenue sources or sustained increases in government aid.

The economist Herbert Simon had it right: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Trends that can’t continue won’t.

As I ponder the future of higher education as a whole, our options are these. We can have: Higher quality.

Lower cost.

Increased equity. Greater convenience and flexibility. More of a career-focus. Choose one.Sure, institutions with extensive resources can select “all of the above.” But a growing number of regional and urban colleges and universities will have to make tough choices.Ours is a wealthy society and, in theory, we can evade many difficult decisions. I don’t think that’s the world most colleges and universities inhabit.Instead, the institutions that serve the […]

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