We were very fortunate to be able to put our children through college (and one through graduate school) by scrimping, saving, a tuition reduction scholarship for one and choosing from schools within the range of affordability. When I read about college tuition costs now and young people saddled with six figures of debt, I think we are asking the wrong “why?”
I attended a private, major city East Coast university and paid full TRB (tuition, room, board). At the time (rounding numbers here) the median family income in the US was around $17,000- $20,000/yr, the TRB costs were $4000/yr. So, even though it would take a chunk out of the family budget, it was possible for a family to save up and pay for all or most of a kid’s tuition. (I actually knew no student who had taken out loans - I knew scholarship students, but none who needed loans to pay for college.) Today, the median income is around the low 50s (I read $52,000 somewhere) but that same university tuition is in the mid 60s. So, education there no longer costs 1/5-1/4 of a family’s median income, it’s more than 100% of a family’s income. IMHO, we need to be phrasing the question differently - instead of just asking why tuition is so high, we should ask why it’s now the equivalent of or greater than a parent’s annual income.
We talk a lot about the addiction crisis, but getting young people hooked on loans that they will take the majority of their working years to pay off is a pretty insidious form of addiction, too.