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Why Does College Cost So Much?

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Overview

College tuition has risen more rapidly than the overall inflation rate for much of the past century. Over the last thirty years, tuition growth has accelerated. The rhetoric of crisis now permeates public discussion of the cost of attendance. Much of what is written about colleges and universities ties rapidly rising tuition to dysfunctional behavior in the academy. Common targets of dysfunction include prestige games among universities, gold plated amenities, and bloated administration.

This book offers a different view. To explain rising college cost, the authors place the higher education industry firmly within the larger economic history of the United States. The trajectory of college cost is similar to cost behavior in many other industries, and this is no coincidence. Higher education is a personal service that relies on highly educated labor. A technological trio of broad economic forces has come together in the last thirty years to cause higher education costs, and costs in many other industries, to rise much more rapidly than the inflation rate. The main culprit is economic growth itself.

This finding does not mean that all is well in American higher education. A college education has become less reachable to a broad swathe of the American public at the same time that the market demand for highly educated people has soared. This affordability problem has deep roots. The authors explore how cost pressure, the changing wage structure of the US economy, and the complexity of financial aid policy combine to reduce access to higher education below what we need in the 21st century labor market.

This book is a call to calm the rhetoric of blame and to find instead policies that will increase access to higher education while preserving the quality of our colleges and universities.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[The authors] really know what they're talking about."—Stanley Fish, The New York Times

"A book that should be read by anyone with even a passing interest in the answer"—Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalaster College, writing in The Huffington Post

"Robert Archibald and David Feldman tackle the dominant question facing higher education leaders, state and federal policy makers, families and students, and provide striking and surprising evidence and conclusions on the much-debated question that is the title of their book. In the process of proposing a radically new way of financing college and university education, they present an elegant history of how we got here, the financial problems we currently face, and a possible way out of these dilemmas. This eminently readable book warrants the thoughtful attention of all who care (and worry) about the future of higher education."—David W. Breneman, University Professor and Newton and Rita Meyers Professor in Economics of Education, University of Virginia

"Robert Archibald and David Feldman write calmly and rationally about an issue that too frequently generates sensationalist headlines, as well as poorly reasoned and counterproductive proposals. Whether or not you agree with the details of their ideas for reforming the way we finance higher education, you will learn from their analysis, question your pre-conceived notions, and think more clearly about how our nation can best assure that a quality higher education is affordable for all who are equipped and motivated to benefit from it."—Sandy Baum, Professor Emerita of Economics, Skidmore College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199744503
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/17/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 731,105
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Archibald teaches economics and public policy at the College of William and Mary. While he has held several administrative posts, he is regularly promoted back to the faculty. In the past six years, together with David Feldman, he has published widely on the economics of higher education.

David Feldman teaches in the economics department and in the Public Policy Program at the College of William & Mary. He has been honored with a University Professorship for Teaching Excellence. In addition to his work with Robert Archibald on higher education he writes about the international economy.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Introduction Chapter 1 The Landscape of the College Cost Debate Chapter 2 Is Higher Education All That Unusual?
Part 2 Costs Chapter 3 Higher Education is a Service Chapter 4 The Costs of Employing Highly Educated Workers Chapter 5 Cost and Quality in Higher Education Chapter 6 The Bottom Line: Why Does College Cost So Much?
Chapter 7 Is Higher Education Increasingly Dysfunctional?
Chapter 8 Productivity Growth in Higher Education Part 3 Tuition and Fees Chapter 9 Subsidies and Tuition Setting Chapter 10 List-Price Tuition and Institutional Grants Chapter 11 Outside Financial Aid Chapter 12 The College Affordability Crisis Part 4 Policy Chapter 13 Federal Policy and College Tuition Chapter 14 Financial Aid Policy Chapter 15 Rewriting the Relationship between States and their Public Universities Chapter 16 A Few Final Observations Appendix 1 Data on Costs and Prices Appendix 2 Granger Causality Tests of the Bennett Hypothesis Notes Bibliography Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2013

    I thought this treatment of a very complex topic was spot on!

    I thought this treatment of a very complex topic was spot on!

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