Ever wondered why the price of college feels like it’s on a perpetual escalator to the heavens? Well, you’re not alone. The soaring costs of higher education are giving us all a serious case of sticker shock. 

To find out why college is so expensive and why student debt has reached crisis point, we need to dig deep into a maze of factors that ultimately leave the government with a lot to answer for.

The alarming rise in college tuition costs over recent decades has become a persistent concern, creating a burden on both current students and taxpayers alike.

How government intervention ensures that tuition costs keep rising

One of the critical factors contributing to the escalation of college tuition is the incentive system established through government policies, particularly the subsidization of student loans. 

As the federal government continues to provide financial aid to students, educational institutions find themselves compelled to raise tuition prices beyond what would be reasonable in a free market. 

This creates a paradox where the more significant the loans, the higher the colleges hike their prices, perpetuating a cycle of skyrocketing education costs.

The current model of federal loans, along with increasing requirements for college degrees pushing more young people into taking on debt, is simply unsustainable. For the past 40 years or more, the cost of college tuition and fees are consistently outpacing overall inflation, making it harder for each new generation to obtain a college education.

With degrees not as scarce as they once were and costing more than ever, a growing number of Americans with student debt they are unable to repay feel aggrieved. They have paid much more than previous generations for degrees that have failed to give them the labor market advantage they had anticipated.

As such, politicians are now recognizing the increasing electoral appeal of making promises to forgive student debt, viewing it as a way to hand voters with student debt a clean slate. But forgiving student loan debt is not so simple.

The problem with student debt forgiveness

Besides doing nothing to address the root of the problem, the main problem with student debt forgiveness is a question of money. Where does it come from? To that question, there are two answers. 

One is from printing more money, which creates inflation and devalues everyone’s savings. 

The other is by raising the money through taxation, not only on those benefiting from student loan debt forgiveness but on millions of Americans who either didn’t go to college, paid their way through college, or already finished paying off their debt.

This scenario raises important questions about fairness, especially since it forces hardworking, blue-collar workers without college degrees to subsidize the education of others, generally from more affluent households. 

Indeed, the cost of implementing such plans falls hardest on the shoulders of working-class taxpayers while giving others an unfair advantage.

Until the underlying issue of rising tuition fees is addressed at its core, future generations are destined to face exorbitant costs, with the burden shifting periodically through student loan debt forgiveness plans.

To break free from this cycle, a holistic approach is needed. Addressing the root causes of escalating tuition fees requires reevaluating government policies that inadvertently encourage colleges to raise prices. 

Only through a concerted effort to reform government policies and stop incentivizing irresponsible lending can we hope to create a more equitable and sustainable future for higher education.

The student loan debt crisis will be an important topic of discussion at Students For Liberty’s upcoming LibertyCon International

There, Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the Mises Institute, Peter St. Onge; Chair of the Association of Libertarian Educators, James W. Lark III; and 2020 Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Jo Jorgensen, will take part in a panel discussion, moderated by TV personality Emily Austin, seeking to unlock the causes behind, and potential solutions to, the student loan debt crisis.

Students For Liberty’s flagship annual event, LibertyCon International will be held in Washington, D.C., on February 2-4, 2024. It promises to be the place for engaging with leading experts and connecting with others who share a dedication to advancing pro-liberty ideas and creating a freer future.

Click the button below to sign up for updates and secure your spot at this exciting event. We can’t wait to see you there!

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.