Cutting college costs: five questions about Obama’s proposal (+video)

President Obama unveiled a plan Aug. 22 to make college more affordable. “We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education,” he said. Here’s a look at the plan and affordability efforts.

3. Why have college costs been rising so much?

AP Photo/Ryan J. Foley
University of Iowa student Angie Platt, 20, is seen on campus in Iowa City, Iowa in July. Some say college costs are rising due to increased spending on amenities and administration, while others say professor and student interactions are worth the price.

There’s debate about that. One key factor for public institutions is a significant decline in funding from many state governments. States spent about $10.50 per $1,000 in per capita state income on higher education in 1975, but only about $6 in 2012, according to one analysis.

Some observers say colleges have little incentive to cut costs because students and parents place such a high priority on college and are willing to take on debt. They say colleges are spending more than they should on amenities and administration.

Others say technology has driven down costs in other industries, but higher education is still largely (and understandably) dependent on personal interactions with professors.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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