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Editorial: With high college costs, state should provide more funding

November 21, 2019
<p>Beaumont Tower photographed on May 15, 2019.</p>

Beaumont Tower photographed on May 15, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

It’s not uncommon for students to graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

The cost of attending college has skyrocketed, rising far faster than wages or inflation. And it’s not okay, no matter how common student debt and unreasonably expensive tuition has become. 

Michigan State students typically graduate with $25,200 in debt — a monthly payment of $268, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard

This is new and alarming, as MSU’s tuition rate has grown exponentially since some of our parents attended college in the 80s and 90s. 

Adjusted to 2019 dollars using a calculator from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual tuition for an in-state freshman taking 15 credits each semester during the regular school year has gone from about $4,001 in 1979 to $5,595 in 1989 to $6,664 in 1999 to $12,220 in 2009 and to $14,460 in 2019 — all according to data from the MSU Office of the Controller

And that’s just tuition.

Those numbers become even more stark when compared to wages. Using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the cost of tuition for an MSU student in 1989 was 9.2% of the median household income in Michigan. By 2009, during the peak of the recession, that number was 22.6%. It’s now 23.9%.

Meanwhile, universities in other countries charge a fraction of that. 

At McGill University in Canada, for example, a student from Quebec pays only US$1,925 per year in tuition. And much of the European Union makes tuition free for EU citizens. 

So what’s driving this increased cost for us? A large part of this comes from a drop in state funding over the decades. 

Funding universities should be a responsibility of the state and federal governments. Education is a public good and pursuing it shouldn’t cost students for years.

People who went to college decades ago might talk about how they were able to pay to go to college by working part-time or working a summer job, even though college was substantially more affordable then. 

To that, we would say, “OK boomer, we’re just asking for the same opportunities you got, and that students around the world get.”

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Madison O’Connor, Managing Editor Mila Murray, Copy Chief Alan Hettinger, Campus Editor Kaitlyn Kelley, City Editor Evan Jones, Sports Editor Paolo Giannandrea, Photo Editor Sylvia Jarrus, Multimedia Editor Haley Sinclair, Social Media and Engagement Editor Wolfgang Ruth, Staff Representative Matt Schmucker and Diversity and Inclusion Representative Edwin Jaramillo.

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