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Paul Hayden

Liberals and the High Cost of Higher Education

March 17, 2008

It's indisputable that for today's youth, attaining a college degree is more important than ever. Yet the skyrocketing cost of higher education threatens to put it out of reach for many middle-to-lower income families; that is, those who need degrees the most to get ahead. In other words, those that the Democrat party claims to care about the most are taking the biggest hits-and what are the liberals doing about it?

To be sure, there are several factors contributing to the unfailingly large increases in college tuition over the last 25-30 years. Advanced technology has spawned the need for state-of-the-art research facilities that, due to the acceleration of technological progress, are in frequent need of updating, augmenting or outright replacing. Salaries for top-notch professors and administrators have escalated as top-flight universities compete, sometimes to ridiculous lengths, for their services.

Despite the monumental cost increases, the quality of education has arguably decreased, or at best certainly has not kept pace with the rising costs. After all, when so many students arrive on campus ill-prepared from their high school experience, and others are simply not qualified to attend in the first place, there is an unavoidable watering down of academic requirements.

In typical fashion, liberals, instead of challenging colleges and universities on their price gouging as they do the oil companies, try to attack the problem sideways with a series of "goodies" for middle and lower class families-grants, relatively easy to obtain loans, tuition tax credits, and so on. While helpful, the goodies simply put a band-aid on a massive wound. Grants are shrinking in proportion to overall tuition costs; loans for the increasingly larger amounts that must be borrowed, take much longer to repay; and tax credits award behavior (i.e., sending a child to college versus a vocational school).

When John Edwards spoke of his "two Americas," he didn't say much about the differential between the incomes of those with college degrees and those without them. Arguably, he didn't make much noise about this because at the lower end of the spectrum, illegal immigrants have driven down wages for unskilled and maybe even some skilled laborers, not to mention taking many of the jobs that Americans supposedly "won't do." Certainly that is part of what has widened the income differential between the higher educated and those with high school diplomas or less. But more importantly, it has put increasing pressure on young people who are sitting on the fence career-wise to lean toward attending college, even if they aren't really cut out for it.

But here's the kicker that I searched in vain to find in all of the articles I read about rising college tuition-could it be that the liberals are reluctant to go after their academic comrades who are, by at least a nine to one margin at most major universities, sympathetic with the leftist agenda? Surely there is a political dimension to the lack of meaningful action on the almost obscene increases in tuition over the years. If it's true that liberals are looking the other way on this issue, it would certainly come as no surprise. Rather, it fits a pattern of glaring liberal hypocrisy that allows leftists to snarl about "the rich" while allowing (and in a way creating) the conditions where only the rich can afford to send their children to college. And, it fits the pattern of everything that is controlled by liberals costing more. All you have to do is look at the cost of living for the most liberal cities in the country-New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles as examples-and for the most part these are also the most expensive places to live, by far.

Parents have been way too passive in the face of massive tuition increases over the years that threaten their financial security, while at the same time providing a drumbeat of leftist propaganda disguised as education but designed to mold the minds of their children into blame-America-first, politically correct cynics of the first order. This is nothing new; I experienced the attempted brainwashing along with 10,000 other freshmen over 35 years ago at a Big Ten school.  The only difference was that I paid the princely amount of $13.00 per credit hour, or about $700.00 annually in tuition and fees. The same year of education now costs over $5,000.00 according to the national survey averages. So, while the cost of living has increased about five times since 1972, the cost of a college education has increased by more than seven times. For a party so concerned about "fairness," the Democrats aren't getting very worked up about this. But, as a parent and grandparent, I certainly am.

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Copyright ©2008 Phil Perkins