A. Barton Hinkle on Why College Costs Will Soon Plunge


Credit: ajagendorf25 / Foter / CC BY-NC

Government aid to higher education has exploded in recent decades. In 1964, federal student aid was only $264 million, or $1.7 billion in current dollars. Today, the feds shell out $105 billion a year just in student loans. Total federal aid has soared from $64 billion (in 2000) to $169 billion (in 2010). Flooded with such largess, colleges have sent prices skyward (tuition is up more than 500 percent over the past three decades) and indulged in luxuries that would have made Marie Antoinette blush, from gourmet dining halls to rock-climbing walls. But as A. Barton Hinkle observes, trend lines like these cannot go on — and they won't. But not because of politicians' efforts to rein in college costs. College costs will drop because of market forces politicians will be powerless to stop.