POLITICS: PennAve

Big ideas: On rising tuition, neoliberalism and Katy Perry

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Education,Health Care,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Liberalism,Think Tanks,Higher Education,College Tuition

Andrew Kelly for AEIdeas: You've likely heard by now that college tuition has increased much faster than the rate of inflation year after year. Despite this trend, you can always count on the optimists at the College Board to find a good-news story to tell. In recent years, the message was that we shouldn't worry about massive increases in sticker prices, because net prices haven't grown nearly as fast. ...

This year, the rosy picture is reversed: Though net prices “have grown more rapidly than published prices” since 2010, sticker prices increased “only” 2.9 percent since last year (after adjusting for inflation). Based on this “relatively small increase,” the authors conclude that the increases of the past five years “did not signal a new era of accelerating prices.”

None of this is actually good news, folks. Here's another way to tell the story: During the recession, states cut higher education funding and endowments fell. Institutions responded by increasing their tuition. But an unprecedented, one-time increase in the federal Pell Grant program kept net prices low. Between 2008 and 2011, federal spending on Pell more than doubled. ... The number of recipients grew more than 80 percent between 2006 and 2012.

In other words, the “good news” on net price over the past few years was the result of a massive influx of federal Pell Grant dollars. We spent a ton of money, which kept net prices low for a bit. But the increase in federal spending has been completely eroded by rising tuition prices. Now the flood of federal cash has plateaued, and sticker prices remain high and growing (albeit more slowly). Hence, net prices are rising.

 

TIME TO BRING BACK OLD-SCHOOL LIBERALISM

Mike Konczal for next New Deal: “This massive IT launch sure came in on time, under budget, and without headaches” is a statement that nobody has ever said. But even controlling for that, Healthcare.gov looks to be having a disastrous launch.

People are naturally asking about the practical and political implications of this disaster. Is it a problem for the Affordable Care Act as a whole, with its mixture of individual mandates and risk-pooling? Is it a political disaster for President Obama and the Democrats? Does this show us major problems in the way that government procures its contractors?

These are important questions, but some are asking a bigger one: Is this a problem for liberalism as a political governance project? Does this rollout failure discredit the core goals of a liberal project, including that of a mixed economy, a regulatory state and social insurance?

Conservatives in particular think this website has broad implications for liberalism as a philosophical and political project. I think it does, but for the exact opposite reasons: It highlights the problems inherent in the move to a neoliberal form of governance and social insurance, while demonstrating the superiorities in the older, New Deal form of liberalism. ...

My man Franklin Delano Roosevelt may not have known about JavaScript and agile programming, but he knew a few things about the public provisioning of social insurance.

 

IS KATY PERRY CAUSING KIDS' OBESITY?

Michelle Minton for OpenMarket: No, of course not! However, a coalition of health advocates seems to be making that assertion when they sent her a letter this week asking that she relinquish her sponsorship of Pepsi because, they insist, its deviously-effective marketing of soda to children is a cause of childhood obesity.

Never mind that childhood obesity rates are declining around the nation among all socioeconomic levels, the cause of obesity is not and never has been advertising. Additionally, the solution to any health problem our nation faces is not in the marketing of high-calorie foods. The real problem is that adults — specifically those with the responsibility of raising children — have abandoned their responsibility to instruct children about how to make healthy choices. ...

[Q]uieting the marketing of a single high-calorie product will do absolutely nothing to address the problem of obesity in America. There are a million other options on store shelves; if a brainless zombie teen is at the mercy of commercials featuring pop stars, then they will simply be pushed toward a different ad and a different product with equally high sugar content.

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