I know there are those that proclaim that a private education is fiscally more promising than a public one, but the statistics would not indicate this is true. The war is not necessarily one for or against public options as it is a war by our education systems against those they actually represent, with private institutions acting out a little worse.
Since the early 1980's, the cost of an education at American universities has been rising steadily, at two to three times the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Since 1980, through 2005, after adjusting for inflation, the average cost of tuition plus room and board at a four year public university has increased by over 120%. For the private 4-year institutions, tuition prices have increased by over 140%. The College Board reports that private college tuition rose most sharply in the early and mid 1980's, while public tuition increased the most in the late 1980's and early 1990's. If a gallon of milk in 1980 had sustained this level of increase, it would now run just over $15.00; if a gallon of gas in 1980 had sustained this level of increase, it would now run over $9.50. While the cost of a college education has more than doubled, median income in the United States has risen by 18 percent. And, this does not even count the untold billions raised by universities (public and private) from private sources.
Whether private or public, most of this increase is simply unjustified on any basis. For example, all universities scream the cause is a decline in public support, but in Texas, as in most states, public support has not decreased. It has only increased over this period of time. It just has not increased as fast as universities have been increasing tuition, fees and costs.
Another problem was illustrated in a recent Washington Post article. The rising tuition, fees and costs have made it nearly impossible for any middle class family to pay for the educational needs of their children outright. Therefore, students and families have to incur an ever increasingly staggering amount of debt. Debt is bad in that it diminishes the future of most people. It makes you think that universities were simply increasing their tuition, much like the housing bubble, because they thought students, buying into a brand, could continue to borrow any amount the university set. But, that is not so any longer. With the current economy tuition continues to zoom. College saving plans, known as 529, have suffered acute losses. Effective February 22nd a new law will bar students younger than 21 from getting credit cards on their own. Most private students loans have dried up, and most federally backed loans have a limit of $5,500.00 per year, which is not enough for most four-year institutions.
Law schools have been worse. The level of increase in tuition and fees, and the inability of universities to control costs is truly astounding. Just like the financial crises there are no real statistics that justify what has happened except for greed, much like our housing crises. But, unlike the housing crises student loans are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. No matter the charm of a single university or law school professor or staff, or the quality of the law school, cumulatively this inability to control costs demonstrates a profound disrespect for their students, to the community, to the country, and the objectives these institutions claims to meet. They treat students and their families like opportunists and predators and they have no actual regard for the monumental damage they are doing to the future of these people and the fabric of our country.
We are prosecuting at least some symbols of Wall Street greed, but where are the Elliot Spitzers, Andrew Cuomos, and other state attorneys general, who need to go into each institute of higher education in every state (public by virtue of their status, and private by virtue of their non-profit status) and root out the greed, excesses and abuses of these institutions. Just with the student loan investigations we know these exist. But, until such issues as high end salaries, luxury excesses, sweetheart deals are uncovered, will this stop.