Rising Cost of Higher Ed

The rising cost of higher education has been a cause of concern for many students and their families. We have more students leaving colleges and universities with huge amounts of debt that will take them years to pay back, assuming that they can even pay all of it back within their lifetimes. Below, we can see how average tuition and fees for colleges and universities have increased in recent years. The fees are reflected in current 2020 dollars.

Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020, Figure CP-2. [1]


In just 30 years, we see that the tuition and fees for private nonprofit four-year institutions have doubled. Public four-year institutions have almost tripled their tuition and fees. In 1991, the minimum wage was $4.25 and now in 2020, it is $7.25 [2]. The minimum wage hasn’t even doubled, but college and university fees have been increasing tremendously. In fact, the minimum wage has been the same since 2009, so it hasn’t even increased in the last 11 years.  The university fees on the chart above are shown in the current 2020 dollars, but the minimum wage does not reflect the same. We know that the cost of living has increased and is still increasing and that one 40-hour per week minimum wage job is not enough to provide a livable income for one person. With this in mind, it is not hard to see why every year fewer and fewer people are able to attend universities. Some people might need to work 2 full-time jobs to make ends meet. This affects the diversity we see in college and universities where it seems that we are reverting to a system where universities will only be available to the wealthy and those of lower socioeconomic status are deterred by the high cost of education not only for the four years that they will attend the institution, but for many years thereafter if they need to pay back loans.

I truly hope that student loan debt is canceled in the near future. I was fortunate enough to not have to take out loans for my education, but there are so many people around the country who cannot afford the same luxury. If student loan debt is canceled, it will encourage many people to enroll in colleges and universities and allow for economic stimulus as students/those paying back loans will be able to use those funds for other things such as purchasing homes and potentially investing in other areas. My concern is for those who have private loans as the government can only cancel federal student loan debt. What can be done to help them?

I dream that one day if student loan debt is canceled, then we can also work on free public universities in the USA. I think it will take some time to get there, but I hope to see more people on Congress who can advocate for students and the public for these benefits. It will greatly improve our society if more people have access to higher education. If we can’t get to free immediately, we can at least start with the government subsidizing costs and helping to reduce tuition and fees at public four-year institutions.



[1] https://research.collegeboard.org/trends/college-pricing/resource-library

[2] https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/minimum-wage/history/chart

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