How Should We Deal With the Rising Cost of Education?

The rising cost of education in the United States and internationally cannot be attributed to a single cause. In its place, the occurrence of cultural shifts, a steady decrease of federal and state support, advancements in technology, and economic problems have contributed to the skyrocketing school fees in learning institutions.

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Some stakeholders in the higher education community are greatly concerned about the rising cost of education, but with the advent of global recession other economic issues, the matter has not been resolved despite the ever-rising attention from parents, some government representatives, prominent business leaders, and nearly all newspapers. To make the matter worse, the cost of education is going up at a time that income streams are declining (Eaton et al., 2016). Since the issue of the rising cost of education has been adequately researched, a careful review of the causal factors by all stakeholders can assist in progressing toward possible solutions.

Economic, Social, and Cultural Effects

The support for higher education by governments has decreased considerably in the previous decade. For example, about 36 states in America have reduced their support by more than 20% for every student, 11 of them by a third, and two (New Hampshire and Arizona) by 50%. States started reducing their financial support significantly around the year 2000 and began increasing the cost of higher education noticeably during the recession (Pei & Friedel, 2017).

Despite the reduced government support, learning institutions were required to cater to the educational needs of 15% additional students attributable to the increasing enrollment. The number of students has been consistently increasing and being the highest in universities and community colleges, where it is rising by approximately 9% each year.

Nowadays, the issue of increasing costs of higher education elicits heated discourse among the public and stakeholders. In reality, the issue of costs has created an unsurpassable hindrance for many learners residing in poverty-stricken regions and from low-income households. Specialists affirm that the embezzlement of public funds has contributed to most problems in education (Agasisti & Johnes, 2015).

The national and state funds are misused while the quality of education remains exceedingly low, especially in public schools when compared to their private counterparts. In this regard, students completing public secondary schools have very few opportunities to enroll and succeed in institutions of higher learning. Moreover, the costs of higher education are progressively rising thus making the payment of school fees an unaffordable burden for underprivileged families.

The rising cost of education is leading to the widening of social gaps hence the expulsion of learners from low-income families from higher education. Researchers have established that racial gaps also broaden and divest minority students, for instance, African Americans, of the opportunity to acquire diploma or degree certificates. Regardless of the existing programs for students from minority groups and low-income families, they are ineffective and most of such learners continue to suffer and drop out of school for failure to cope with the rising cost of education. Furthermore, cultural backgrounds coupled with the escalating costs also influence the accessibility of higher education (Blanchard & Willmann, 2016).

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Some parents and students are not willing to pay the high fees as required in higher education, irrespective of their ability to afford it, due to their cultural beliefs. Nevertheless, what reawakens the effects of cultural factors are the rising costs of education. This is exacerbated by the high cost of living. Under such circumstances, a huge number of students from low-income families get severely affected.

Health benefits and the increasing utility cost that learning institutions are charged contribute to the rise in the expenditure on education. To attract a high number of students, some schools assure learners and their parents of a compact plan. Under the arrangement, the students are required to pay an equal tuition fee for the four years of study. The problem is that students from middle- and low-income families do not receive adequate financial aid for education to a point of truly making a difference. About 60% of students are given financial aid in the form of grants or loans (Mitchell, Palacios, & Leachman, 2015). Nevertheless, since an increasingly high number of students are applying for such monetary aid, there is gradually less to be offered.

The decreasing level of financial aid leaves many learners with too little monetary assistance, in debt, or seeking help from every possible avenue. When the forthcoming help is inadequate, many students from low-income families are compelled to stay out of school, which affects their performance and career goals. With the increasing population, the federal grant program has risen to about $8 billion in the recent past and state aid has increased by approximately 78% in the last decade (Popescu & Ciurlau, 2017). With the government experiencing economic hardships from other sectors such as health, the amount of financial aid in education has started decreasing hence worsening the effects of the rising cost of education. This has sparked a public outcry on the lofty prices in colleges and universities.

It has been found that students from low-income and some from middle-income families cannot afford to pay for tuition fees charged in universities and colleges devoid of borrowing loans. The rate of student loan debt exceeds credit card liability in the United States. The extent of debt linked to the pursuit of higher education may make students question the value of their profession through most schools statically promise huge payroll checks for graduates.

However, if the rising cost of education is effectively addressed, the value of courses in universities and colleges still gives hope. Statements from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average salary for graduates is $72,830 per year and about $36,000 for people with just a high school diploma (Popescu & Ciurlau, 2017). Such a doubled-up average annual wage could be attributed to the skills gained or instilled in the pursuit of higher education.

Increasing Tuition Costs

The costs of tuition have continued to rise above inflation mainly because the education financing structure is broken. The simple fact behind the wrecked financial system in the education sector is that there is insufficient enlightenment for students to give attention to the increasing costs in learning institutions since it is believed that they can always obtain a loan. It is easy for students to get federal loans while private loans are equally readily available (Popescu & Ciurlau, 2017).

Since universities and other learning institutions know this, the officials in their finance offices encourage learners to borrow as much money as possible, thousands of dollars, with just a few mouse clicks and selections on online websites. The majority of students choose the amount and press on the agreeing button devoid of the realization of what they have just accepted. Because institutions of higher education feel that students can borrow a huge amount of money, they have no choice but to pay for any set figure, and there is no person in the education system to center on controlling the rising costs, they charge exorbitant prices. Therefore, universities and colleges are continually increasing the cost of education each year, and parents pay or students borrow loans, which they later struggle to pay back.

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In the past couple of decades, a student in an institution of higher learning could pay for tuition by working part-time in the course of the study. This was provided for in the work-study program but no longer exists in most regions. In 2017, the average tuition fee in private and public universities and colleges in the US increased by 3% to 3.6%; a time when inflation stood at 2% (Lucca, Nadauld, & Shen, 2018).

The cost of education in universities and colleges has excessively increased and shows minimal or no indications of decreasing shortly. This has led to students from low-income families seeking loans to pay for their education. The Institute for Higher Education Policy established that more than 20% of college diplomas and degree programs at the universities are unaffordable for both low- and middle-income families without student loans. Attributable to the ever-rising cost of education, student loan debt continues to rise beyond 1.5 trillion dollars.

A technological triangle, an extensive economic pressure that influences costs in a given sector, is causing a rise in tuition charged in higher education. The main causal factor in the technological triangle is the increasing demand for economic growth globally (Lucca et al., 2018). The demand for technical expertise influences the methods used in the incorporation of new shifts in the system thus influencing a significant rise in tuition fees as universities and colleges seek to adopt technology and other variations in learning. Therefore, tuition fee has to increase continually in all institutions of higher learning to cater for the cost of training manpower and buying of adequate machines and equipment to facilitate learning.

Studies explore how variations in the wage structure, the need for economic expansion in the US, cost pressure in colleges and universities, and the intricacy of the financial aid strategy has reduced accessibility to institutions of higher learning. Higher education is increasingly becoming unreachable to the American public as institutions take advantage of the rising demand for technological experts to increase tuition fees unjustifiably.

Most universities and colleges operate as independent entities where there are no restrictions for money they should charge as tuition. Therefore, schools do not bother about the increasing tuition fee since the number of enrolling students from high-income families is also on the rise (Lucca et al., 2018). The combination of such factors, administration independence, and analysis of the education system lead to the ever-increasing cost of education.

The cost of higher education in the US and globally has been gradually rising since the 1980s. In line with reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, the standard cost for the 2015/2016 academic year was above 19,000 US dollars for a public university and about $41,000 for a private university (Lucca et al., 2018). This cost comprises tuition fees and accommodation charges.

The average cost of education for 4-year programs in universities and colleges is approximately 100,000 US dollars. This comes to about $25,000 each year. The comparable cost for a similar 4-year course in 1989 was $26,000. Adjusting for inflation the cost becomes approximately $52,000. This shows that comparing the cost of a 4-year program in 1989 and 2016, the unjustifiable charges, after factoring in inflation, have almost doubled the price. In the course of that time, the average yearly increase rate for the cost of education was about 3% every year.

Dealing with the Problem

Continued lack of access to higher education for talented learners from low-income families and minority groups is hazardous for the future development of the United States and other affected countries. The broadening gap involving the students from high-income and low-income families, as well as majority and minority groups, will result in dangerous social and racial conflicts in the US (Goldrick-Rab, Kelchen, Harris, & Benson, 2016).

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As a solution to the concern of many bright students from low-income families and minority groups failing to continue with education or complete higher education, specialists affirm that the government should get involved and seek assistance from stakeholders and the public. For instance, a kitty could be established in a bid to offer learners the chance to proceed with learning based on their academic performance, potential, and skills instead of monetary grounds, social status, race, or parental income.

The government should create successful state and national programs that can offer all learners equal opportunities to access college education and enable them to acquire high-paying jobs to achieve their full potential. On the issue of misappropriation of funds, the government should enact stringent measures of dealing with the culprits and regular monitoring and auditing should be carried out. Additionally, communities should be directly involved in the selection of the needy students and management of funds (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2016). The local community members understand the impact of the rising cost of education better than government officials.

For instance, members of the community can be involved in the selection of the students who require aid and be given a chance to propose the amount of money that each learner should be given. Consequently, the redistribution of public funds ought to be undertaken at the local level as a way of offering learners in need adequate monetary aid to address the problem of the rising cost of education that threatens to shut them out.

In the past decade, the average cost of higher education across the US has been mounting faster than inflation. The standard amount of money paid as tuition at a public college for one year is roughly 9,000 dollars. This shows that tuition has become overly expensive and is likely to continue increasing until major changes take place. Nevertheless, the easiest way of dealing with the growing costs is for the government to align incentives for both students and schools (Lucca et al., 2018). This could best be realized by enforcing a tuition cap and setting a limit on the amount of money that a learner can borrow.

The implementation of a dual-sided approach to manage tuition fees may provide a lasting solution to the issue of the rising cost of education. Such an approach should center on putting a limit on the amount of money that students can borrow and capping tuition which schools charge. The limit on a student’s borrowing should apply to all forms of loans and the mandated cap on school fees chargeable should cut across all learning institutions.

While combining the dual approach, the amount of tuition should be fixed at about 25% of the learners’ loan limit. For instance, if the maximum possible borrowing for students is set at 57,000 dollars, no school should be allowed to charge above $14, 250 (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2016). This will enable each student to complete the four-year degree course even without any other external assistance apart from the loan. Other plans such as loan forgiveness programs should be set at the borrowing limit. In this manner, learners going into universities and colleges will understand that they qualify for forgiveness anchored on the profession in which they pursue. Such practices will eliminate ambiguity in the sector and guarantee equity, access, and quality in the education system.

The objective of capping tuition fees is not to ensure artificially reduced costs in the education sector but to simplify the educational funding progression for both learners and schools. Capping tuition fees can assist in successfully curbing the increasing prices charged by learning institutions since students’ loans have to be incentivized to remain below the established limit. Moreover, universities and colleges have to be encouraged to settle below the tuition ceiling on the condition that they desire to keep on obtaining federal financing. For most public institutions, that cannot be a problem because the present average cost is well under the restriction (Popescu & Ciurlau, 2017).

Although capping might make it challenging for for-profit learning institutions, going by the latest inquiry and allegation concerning such schools, setting a restriction beyond which fees cannot be charged will be an effective manner of protecting students.

The approach of limiting students’ loans and restricting the fee charged will be unsuccessful devoid of educating the learners. The ultimate support of this policy requires the inclusion of compulsory education of borrowers before the college or university signing any financial documents (Pei & Friedel, 2017). This strategy should use more than just an online selection and require filling out documents and forms, akin to credit card statements.

For example, the borrower is required to understand what capping is, the amount of money expected in the form of loans, and an estimate of their future monthly salary. Providing timely education, over and above modifications of limiting loans and tuition fees, will ensure that costs stop increasing and make universities and colleges affordable even to students from low-income families.


The increasing cost of higher education in the United States and globally cannot be attributed to a single reason. The existence of cultural shifts, a constant decrease of federal and state backing, technological advancements, and economic challenges have contributed to the rising costs in institutions of higher learning. The cost of education is continually increasing at a time that revenue streams are going down. Since the problem has been sufficiently understood, a careful evaluation of the causal factors by all stakeholders can help in proceeding toward likely solutions.

A kitty could be set up in an attempt to offer learners the chance to carry on with higher education based on their academic performance, capability, and skills rather than the monetary basis, social position, ethnic background, or parental income. To deal with misuse of funds, the government should implement tough measures of punishing the perpetrators and regularly monitor and audit school budgets. Another effective approach entails putting a restriction on the amount of money that learners can borrow and capping tuition fees which learning institutions charge.


Agasisti, T., & Johnes, G. (2015). Efficiency, costs, rankings and heterogeneity: The case of US higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 40(1), 60-82.

Blanchard, E., & Willmann, G. (2016). Trade, education, and the shrinking middle class. Journal of International Economics, 99, 263-278.

Eaton, C., Habinek, J., Goldstein, A., Dioun, C., Godoy, D. G., & Osley-Thomas, R. (2016). The financialization of US higher education. Socio-Economic Review, 14(3), 507-535.

Goldrick-Rab, S., Kelchen, R., Harris, D. N., & Benson, J. (2016). Reducing income inequality in educational attainment: Experimental evidence on the impact of financial aid on college completion. American Journal of Sociology, 121(6), 1762-1817.

Lucca, D. O., Nadauld, T., & Shen, K. (2018). Credit supply and the rise in college tuition: Evidence from the expansion in federal student aid programs. The Review of Financial Studies, 32(2), 423-466.

Mitchell, M., Palacios, V., & Leachman, M. (2015). States are still funding higher education below pre-recession levels. Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy, (10), 71-76.

Pei, S., & Friedel, J. (2017). The rising cost of being foreign. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 9(1), 56-57.

Popescu, G. H., & Ciurlau, F. C. (2017). The skyrocketing costs of US higher education and the student debt crisis. Psychosociological Issues in Human Resource Management, 5(1), 242-247.

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