Why Does College Cost So Much?

Stephen Spruiell

One of the most popular articles on Digg yesterday was titled, “Why Does College Cost So Much?” — I guess it’s that time of year. The article was written by a pair of economics professors who have written a forthcoming book on the subject. The authors argue that the primary factors driving college-tuition inflation are:
1. The labor-hours needed to provide this “artisanal” service have not declined;
2. The cost of employing the highly educated workers needed to provide the service has gone up; and
3. The cost of the technologies employed in higher education has risen faster than the cost of other technologies.
I’m interested to see what kind of evidence the authors provide for this thesis in their book, because I’m not at all persuaded by this article. The authors don’t bother to mention the argument, even for the purpose of dismissing it, that the primary factor driving college-tuition inflation is actually ballooning federal tuition support: Tuition keeps going up because the federal government ensures that students can afford to pay it.