Reading, writing and ROI
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Last year, in a piece on a generation of Americans hobbled by student debt, the former president of Ohio State University told the NYT that in the past he â€śdidnâ€™t think a lot about costsâ€ť. President Obama wants to change that. In a speech in Buffalo today, the president introduced a plan to keep college costs down; Dylan Mathews breaks down the details.
A key part of the plan is to use the federal governmentâ€™s $150 billion role in Americaâ€™s student debt burden as a cudgel: colleges that hold down costs will get more student aid; students at colleges that donâ€™t will get less. Josh Barro thinks this is a smart approach. Simply â€śboosting taxpayer subsidies for collegeâ€ť, he writes, â€śisn’t an affordability strategy that will work foreverâ€ť. Tyler Cowen is skeptical, because research has shown “educational subsidies mostly are converted into higher rates of tuition and thus captured by the school”.
The presidentâ€™s plan also aims to insure students get what they pay for by publishing scorecards evaluating institutions — metrics like average tuition and debt, graduation rates, and post-graduation earnings will be taken into account. As Ezra Klein puts it, measuring value in education is hard: â€śDefining the right quality metrics is difficult, and making sure youâ€™re not penalizing institutions that accept disadvantaged kids is crucial. And thatâ€™s before you even get into the politics.â€ť
Matt Yglesias points out that defining value is especially tricky when both cost and services provided increase: â€śThe idea of inflation is that the price gets higher without improvement in qualityâ€ť. Colleges have, he notes, been steadily adding ancillary benefits for decades.
Even as the amount of student debt Americans owe crosses the $1 trillion mark, David LeonhardtÂ finds that the â€ścost of attending college has indeed increased more quickly than inflation in recent years, but it has not risen as fast as many people imagineâ€ť. The true figure: the cost of attending college has risen 4% annually for the last 20 years, or 1.6% more than the rate of inflation. — Ben Walsh
On to todayâ€™s links: