Monday, January 30, 2012

College Tuition Controversy Highlights Challenges (ContributorNetwork)

COMMENTARY | According to the Associated Press, President Barack Obama is upset with colleges and universities that have been raising their tuition rates, forcing an increasing number of students into debt as college degrees are worth less in a down economy. He has threatened to cut federal dollars for these schools and transfer the money to schools that offer good education for a reasonable price.

That rising tuition is a problem is undeniable. With the weak job market oversaturated with college graduates, degrees are worth less and less while remaining indispensable -- twentysomethings cannot hope for a shot at a middle class lifestyle unless they nab a diploma. Knowing that high school graduates cannot hope for middle class security without a term of stay at college, colleges have teens by the short hairs: They can charge more each semester, and everyone has no choice but to pay.

And if all colleges raise their prices similarly, it makes no point to contemplate a transfer. Students might as well grin and bear it as they write checks, grimly hoping the economy improves and their degree is worth something by the time they walk across the graduation stage.

Despite being able to engage in abusive tuition-raising at will, institutions of higher education are consistently protected by the fact that hurting schools will hurt students. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a critic of Obama's tough talk, said shifting federal dollars from universities hurts the students it is meant to help.

Aye, the old rock-and-a-hard-place dilemma: You can't put the squeeze on universities today to get them to change their tuition-raising ways so nothing changes tomorrow. Every time you get ready to teach a well-deserved lesson to those in corrupt ivory towers, you are lambasted as a tyrant who is harming innocent kids. To avoid looking like an anti-education Neanderthal you must spare the fiscal rod and spoil the college president child.

The catch-22 scenario afflicting attempts to rein in tuition abuse at colleges and universities is also seen in other areas, particularly military spending. If you try to cut military spending you risk being attacked as an unpatriotic coward who is risking the lives of brave American soldiers by denying young men sufficient body armor and weaponry. Therefore, you can never deny the Pentagon the funds it desires, lest you be seen as willing to send young Americans to their deaths.


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