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Back to School: College Costs Up 1,120% Since 1978

24 August 2012 in Trading Ideas

You’re probably safe in defining a cost as “escalating” when it can be shown that it has nearly doubled the price rise in medical care over the last three decades.

That is where the US stands with the current cost of a college education. A recent “Chart of the Day” by Bloomberg revealed an eye-opening comparison of tuition costs relative to the appreciation of other consumer costs.

The short version: It’s not even close, with the cost of obtaining a college education rising 12-fold – 1,120% — since 1978, compared to medical expenses, which have climbed only 601% in the last 34 years.

Meanwhile, the price of food has increased 244% over the same period, just slightly less than the overall consumer price index in that time frame.

The huge increase in college tuition has, of course, begun to spill over into the political arena, whether it’s the increasing inability of fiscally stressed states to keep up subsidy levels for state universities (hello, California) or the very issue of how much the federal government should be doing to maintain (or increase) student loan funding while also helping states control costs.

“Soaring tuition and shrinking incomes are making college less and less affordable,” Sen. Tom Harkin an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “For millions of young people, rising college costs are putting the American dream on hold, or out of reach.”

President Obama has also been showcasing the issue, recently saying that his Republican opponent Mitt Romney has plans to cut aid to college students while keeping tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. Obama has made expanding access to higher education one of his key re-election themes, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Romney’s camp has responded by saying his  economic proposals would help students by boosting job growth while trying to reduce the government debt.