Still, the average cost of in-state tuition, room and board ($12,110 a year last year) at a four-year public university, after scholarships and tax breaks, has risen 40% faster than economywide inflation over the past decade, the College Board estimates. Private schools are more expensive (average net cost $23,840), but their inflation-adjusted net price has climbed more slowly, at 9%.
White House insiders say the president is frustrated that increases in federal aid have coincided with–some say, fueled–rising costs in higher education and steep cuts in state funding. “Over the four years of the Obama administration, federal support for higher ed rose by $20 billion and states cut by $10 billion,” says David Bergeron, who recently retired after 30 years at the U.S. Education Department.
Increasingly one hears parallels in Washington being drawn between higher education and health care. Both are heavily financed by the federal government. Both are essential and inefficient. Both are characterized by century-old institutions and habits that may block technology from improving productivity.