Editorial: With another tuition increase, are we headed for a ‘college bubble’ crisis?

The University recently sent a letter home to families informing them of a 3.9 percent increase in the bottom-line price tag of a year’s tuition as a full-time student at the University, which will amount to $67,136 for the 2017-2018 academic year. The cost reflects the comprehensive fee including tuition, a student government fee, and standard room and board.

The University cited several construction projects as the reason for this tuition increase, including the opening of the Graham Building, the renovation of Roberts Hall, the renovation of the former Delta Upsilon building into a new Humanities Center, and the establishment of the College of Management.

The question of the sustainability of the ever-increasing price of college tuition is one that has been around for decades—Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Ellis ’00 recalls that when he was a student at the University, nobody thought that tuition could go any higher than $26,000. The steep and continuous price changes make it increasingly difficult for students to pay back loans or earn competitive scholarships and grants.

Without a privileged background and/or resources to afford college tuition, many students are less likely or entirely unable to attend expensive schools like the University. Wealth gaps are especially pronounced at the University because of the high price tag; if the cost continues to rise, how can the University justify its heavily emphasized initiatives to diversify and broaden the demographics of its student body?

With the simultaneous increase in the cost of a college education and the number of people seeking one, are we headed for a catastrophe similar to the burst of the 2008 housing bubble? When will this phenomenon hit a breaking point and begin to experience diminishing returns on applicants or enrollment? The value of a college education goes far beyond the price tag; unfortunately, the price tag itself dictates the ability to gain a college education.

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