WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Ranking Member Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) warned today that college tuition has risen too fast for many Americans.
The warning came on the first day of a two-day investigative hearing before the Governmental Affairs Committee on the Rising Cost of College Tuition . The hearings focused on why tuition costs are so high, to what extent federal financial aid contributes to or mitigates rising tuition, and the impact of debt burden on a student?s educational and career choices.
“Apparently, colleges and universities themselves don?t have a good understanding of why tuition rates are rising so rapidly,” said Thompson. “Colleges have to do more to make themselves more transparent in explaining their finances. At the same time, the federal government needs to do a better job of looking at tuition rates that are rising faster than the cost of living. As this Committee has found with government agencies, you have to know the nature of the problem before you can work to solve it. “
“The high cost of tuition has an intense personal impact on individual families,” Lieberman said. “But if college becomes a luxury that an increasing percentage of the population cannot afford, the economic divide between the haves and the have-nots could undercut the American dream and stunt the nation?s economic growth.”
Senators Thompson and Lieberman noted that the high price of a college education is an issue of growing concern for American families. Over the past twenty years, tuition has more than doubled at both public and private schools, driven in large part by an increase in schools? costs. And tuition rates have risen so fast that they have outpaced grants, loans, state appropriations and other subsidies to schools, as well as aid to students and their families. According to a report by the American Council on Education, a stunning 71 percent of Americans believe that “a four-year college education is not affordable.” Sixty-five percent of Americans list the cost of a college education as a top concern, ranking it ahead of violent crimes against children, children?s healthcare, and quality of public schools.
The Senators added that ensuring affordable higher education is critical to maintaining national competitiveness in a global economy. Highly trained, skilled workers earning good wages power the economy, both because of the work they do and the revenue they generate as buyers and sellers of goods and services.
Witnesses at the hearing explored the myriad issues that drive the cost and price of college tuition, including what colleges can do to contain costs. The hearing also examined the phenomenon of “merit aid,” or tuition discounting, which enables students to bargain for a more desirable tuition price than the one advertised.