Why does college cost so much?

The high cost of college is arguably one of the most pressing problems in higher education today. The question then is why does college cost so much? I think that before answering this question it is important to clarify what we are talking about when we talk about the cost of college. The reading The Landscape of the College Cost Debate makes a point of describing the difference between cost and price. This reading explains, “we use the word cost to refer to the value of the resources used to produce a good or service” (9). This cost is how much the college has to pay to run; the costs of the faculty, administration, buildings, etc. all affect the cost of college. While the price that we pay for college is greater than the cost of college, I think it is more important to understand why the cost is so high as this high cost is what is affecting the high price. However, “the facts show tuition increases have persisted regardless of the circumstances such as the economy or state funding, and have far outpaced inflation year after year, regardless of whether the economy has been stumbling or thriving” (9). Since the cost isn’t correlated to the state of the economy, there has been much debate over why the cost has increased so drastically.

Some people argue that the cost of college is increasing due to the increased demand. This increase in demand means that the limited resources are becoming more valued and therefore are costing more. However, this increase in the cost of resources is not the sole explanation for the high cost of colleges. Another reason explained for this high cost is the fact that in the last thirty years there has been “a significant decline in the share of the average state’s budget allocated to higher education, despite a substantial increase in the student population being served” (18). State governments tend to be the ones to allocate money to universities a lot more than the federal government, making it much easier to decrease the amount allocated towards higher education. While the cost of resources are increasing the amount of money colleges have to spend is decreasing, leading to the main source of revenue for colleges to come from the students tuition. The only way for the tuition to stop increasing is either for the colleges to be more supported by their state and federal governments or for the demand of higher education to start decreasing. Unfortunately today, the latter option seems to be the one that is most likely to happen.


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