Mexia News Editorial

Priced out of prosperity

In 2003, the state legislature changed the rules on higher education costs by allowing colleges and universities to set their own rates for tuition and fees.
As with most changes meant to address the economy in recent decades, the argument was that deregulation would create a more competitive playing field, allowing students to find better deals and keep costs lower as institutions competed to draw more students. In the American economy, competition heals all wounds, right?
Since that deregulation, tuition and fees have jumped dramatically across the state at institutions both large and small. Twenty colleges and universities have seen these costs rise 80 percent or more since 2003. The University of Texas at Austin has increased 80 percent per semester. Ten institutions have seen an increase in excess of 100 percent, led by Lamar University at 154 percent.
Wages have not kept pace with these increases in higher education costs. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, real wages for the bottom 90 percent of American workers grew only seven-tenths of a percent between 1986 and 2012.
Costs are increasing all over for consumers while wages generally stagnate or decline. This is a problem for our economy the trend jeopardizes the profitability and viability of every business, but when it comes to education, there are deeper issues than just keeping a business open.
Education is the cornerstone of American opportunity. Without it, there is no opportunity to succeed and prosper in most cases. If we are priced out of college, then many Americans are priced out of prosperity.
America's economic success and its global competitiveness are dependent on quality education and its accessibility. Opportunity for all Americans is dependent on affordable education.
The other side of this coin is the growing student loan debt that threatens our economy and individual families. Because of the skyrocketing costs of an education, Americans are taking out loans at a higher rate than ever and now many struggle to pay them back. This not only threatens their economic future, but is expected to hamper economic recovery nationwide.
Like the way America got into the housing crisis, we are on the road to a student loan crisis. Education costs rise, lenders open the purse strings and borrowers bite off more than they can chew, expecting a brighter tomorrow. It is a terrible cycle that has come to define how America does business.
When it comes to education and our future, creating more of a struggle to reach new heights is no way to do business.