An irresolvable paradox

“Man, we keep drilling into kids from a very young age that college is the only path to the American dream, we tell them that the wage premium outweighs almost any amount of up-front cost, and we provide government-backed loans limited only by what a college is willing to charge. And yet somehow tuition keeps rising at an alarming rate! I guess that means we haven’t been aggressive enough in cutting labor costs.”

It’s simple economics, really.

3 Responses to “An irresolvable paradox”

  1. Jason Hills Says:

    It would be hilarious if it weren’t true.

  2. Jason Hills Says:

    Why spend money on educators, when the public cannot tell the difference?

    The public only sees the obvious signs of the value of a particular college–incredible buildings, new equipment, and flashy marketing–but cannot evaluate the quality of education. The physical infrastructure or social prestige become proxies for the prospective value of education, while the education gained through professor and/or student interaction becomes sublimated to the obvious symbols. Since only one of these is amendable to direct quantification and control–public symbols and the money spent to produce them–it receives tacit preference in funding. I suspect that the preference has been building momentum for years to leave us at our current state.

    If we combine that with a culturally or politically motivated suspicion of the “educational establishment” (in reality the teachers themselves), then it is even less surprising that the public or those in power do not turn to the educators themselves, but to corporate-like education “experts” and educational outcomes frameworks that such experts may employ. The frameworks present all the public respectability of hard data and analysis, and thus give the education experts power, while educators are hamstrung by the realization that the frameworks are mostly for show. Even the attempt by educators to co-op the frameworks and “beat them at their own game” only plays into the forces organized against them.

    Meanwhile, educators at elite universities may ignore this, since their power is assured by social prestige rather than a justification of value. Social prestige creates its own value from the implicit justification that “anyone who graduated from X must be smart!”

    Perhaps we are in a three-tier system. Elite universities, universities struggling to be elite, and those who do not even try. I fear that we are in the process of hollowing out the middle, but may arrive at the utter destruction of good wide-spread higher education without knowing it. We may be left only the the elites and everyone else, wherein the majority does not realize the difference except as an abstraction.

  3. Gary Smith Says:

    An easy supply of money, in this case college loans without full knowledge of repayment costs coupled with irrational expectations, increases the ability of the college to jack up the costs. In this environment colleges have no incentive to be price conscious . A basic law of economics is that when the money supply increases faster than the ability to produce results in price inflation. This phenomena has existed at least since the Spanish discovery and exploitation of gold and silver in the Americas and has continued wherever the currency has been debased, inflation follows. As noted, tuition inflation is rampant now, and the endless QE’s of the Federal Reserve will very likely end in a high inflation, it not a complete collapse of our economy.


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