American middle class cut off from college?

I wonder what my American readers think of this Times Argus article:

It is not a question of “if,” but rather “when,” the middle class will be priced out of access to higher education. The trends are clear: current costs are staggering, causing families and students to take on debt that will burden their financial decisions for years to come.

If tuition costs continue to increase at its current pace, the middle class will be shut out of college within a generation. Access to higher education will then revert to pre-World War II status: an institution exclusively for the wealthy.

In 1994, students whose families earned more than $100,000 per year represented 15 percent of the campus population. Ten years later, this percentage has risen to almost 33 percent of all students. What does this show? That the presence of students from middle- to lower-income backgrounds are a diminishing on our college campuses.

In comparison, in Quebec, you can attend any program in any university (including anglo universities like McGill) for less than CAN$3000 a year. That’s right, including medical school, MBA programs, the works! CAN$3000 is about US$2000 discounting the Bush effect on American currency. It is interesting to note that this article is from Vermont… Vermont is basically our neighbour.

Of course, Quebec salaries, including professors’ salaries, are much lower.

I’ve got to wonder what the long terms effect of this improper wealth distribution will have on the USA. The truth is that a country needs to draw on the smarts of its entire population to go forward and be competitive. Whether we like it or not, there are many very brigth kids in the 80% poorest kids. I’m sure Bill Gates has smart kids, but mines could, maybe, compete and win! If given a chance!


Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

2 thoughts on “American middle class cut off from college?”

  1. The lost cost of studying in Quebec is for Quebec-residents, based on the idea that our families have paid taxes for X number of years, and so we should get access to these provincially-funded institutions of higher learning (which I think is a good idea). If you are a Canadian from outside of quebec, the cost is x3, and if you are an international student, it is from x8 to x10.

    Note also that while tuition for residents is frozen and has been for some time, rates for international students are not.

    At least this is true of McGill, but I believe it is the same at other local universities.

    I believe that the rising cost of higher ed are one of the factors that will lead to less people attending university.

  2. I think that the Times Argus article overstates the situation. I’m also skeptical of the statistics regarding percentage of college students with family income over $100,000. I certainly don’t think it’s the case at the large public universities. I note that it says about the author, “Brian C. Greenberg is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified College Planning Specialist.” Writing articles such as these is a standard marketing approach for consultants, and Mr. Greenberg can hardly be said to be a disinterested party.

    Much of the increases in tuition at public schools has been the result of a reduction in funding from states, as the populace at large decides that education isn’t important to them. However, a good portion of these increases are used to fund financial aid to those students who need it. That is the model that private schools use. In a way, this is akin to a progressive education tax, but only levied against those actually using the system. It’s not the best approach, but it’s hard to get people to pay taxes to support higher education when anti-intellectualism is what the dominant political party is selling.

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