January, 2016

Richard Vedder and the Future of Higher Education Reform

  • Jayme Lemke

    Associate Director, Academic and Student Programs
  • William F. Shughart II

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Find the full article at Cato Journal.

In the 2001-02 academic year, when Richard Vedder was beginning his work on the causes and consequences of rising costs in higher education, the average cost of a single year at a four-year university was $17,418 (including tuition, feeds, and room and board). In other words, for every bachelor's degree awarded, somebody--whether the student, his or her parents, the donor of a scholarship, or the federal student loan program--was paying something around $69,672. Since then the price of college education has risen sharply relative to the prices of other goods and services. Average tuition for the 2011-2012 academic year was $23,066--an increase of 32.4 percent in only a decade, compared to a 27.6 percent cumulative rate of inflation over the same period. With the cost of a four-year college education now approaching $100,000, Vedder's project has only grown in significance.

This article proceeds as follows. First, the authors describe the problem of rising costs in higher education. Second, they consider the array of potential alternative means for providing the benefits generally attributed to college educations and scholarly research. Third, they discuss the possibility and likelihood of reform. Finally, they conclude with an appreciation of how Vedder has helped us better understand these questions.