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Protesting college tuition - one dollar at a time

Posted by Michael Sandoval on January 29th, 2011
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The cost of tuition for higher education keeps going up and up, and yet there are more and more questions about what students actually get for those additional dollars.

Nic Ramos, a sophomore at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently decided to pay his $14,000 tuition bill with a 30-pound dufflebag full of $1 notes to protest the high cost of tuition, as reported by 7News - and the Boulder Daily Camera:

“It might seem like it’s kind of a useless cause,” Ramos said in a YouTube video produced by the Boulder Daily Camera that is grabbing national attention.

But, he said, “Just the sheer volume (of cash), just looking at this really sends a message: …Money does talk. Tuition is extremely high for out-of-state (students) and it’s only going up for in-state (students). Maybe … people will kind of think how much it really does cost to go to CU.”

As an example, tuition at CU Boulder increased by 14.6 percent in 2007, only to be increased again in 2008 by another 9.3 percent.

Talk of a bubble in higher education has blossomed with higher tuition rates and higher student loan balances. Combine that with an increase in enrollment that has traditionally been associated with economic downturns. Recent graduates and professionals (and the unemployed) may take refuge on college campuses, seeking out additional skills, more credentials to increase their competitiveness in job searches and, thanks to student loans, partially subsidize day-to-day living.

The result? Student loan debt now exceeds revolving consumer credit debt (mostly credit cards) by $3,000,000,000. Americans now hold $829.785 billion in federal and private student loans.

Profligate spending at the nation’s universities and colleges, both public and private, is met consistently with appeals for more and more money in increased tuition, state subsidies in the form of direct spending, and the types of loans described above. While many college campuses have caught the “sustainability” bug, but when it comes to the environment, they have not considered the sustainability of the system that continuously seeks to provide more and more revenue without also seeking a balancing cut in spending.

In many cases, when state spending has not been forthcoming and another tuition hike is viewed as unpalatable, students have elected to “tax” themselves for capital construction and other “necessities” by voting to expand mandatory student fees. These fees come in addition to tuition, and at CU Boulder, rose 60 percent over the five years leading into 2009, faster than the rate hikes in in-state tuition over the same time period.

The inevitable question of where this is all headed appears clear - unsustainable expansion in prices resulting in a burst in the higher education bubble, as indicated by this article, which documents “8 reasons why college tuition is the next bubble to burst.”

Glenn Reynolds pointed to a recent report of the skyrocketing price of college tuition in just the past 30 years.

When the cost of education rises as much as four times the cost of inflation, students, parents, and taxpayers should naturally be expected to protest.

It’s hard to argue with a student paying tuition with $14,000 in dollar bills when the individuals being educated are being nickel-and-dimed by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Sandoval

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