Coronavirus Pushes Higher Education to the Brink

Stephen Mihm:

The coronavirus has already dealt a vicious blow to key sectors of the U.S. economy. If the pandemic drags on into the fall, though, it’s likely to devastate yet another area that has so far escaped with minimal damage: higher education.

The problems confronting the nation’s colleges and universities long predate today’s crisis. But if current trends continue, the pandemic is likely to act as a catalyst for a historic reckoning that may transform the delivery of higher education in this country.

It’s common knowledge that the cost of attending both public and private institutions has grown far faster than the rate of inflation over the past 40 years. Since 1980, the sticker price of tuition, room and board has more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars.