JAMES PIERESON and Naomi Schaefer Riley’s complaint about the rising cost of college (“Popping the higher education bubble,” Op-ed, Feb. 25) makes a large and all-too-common mistake: It assumes that all of “higher education” is the same.
In fact, the ballooning cost of college at some selective private institutions, as the authors point out, may indeed be the result of luxury spending and a reliance on the stock market to return sizable profits on astonishingly large endowments.
In the public sector, however, rising tuitions have largely been driven by a steep decline in public support, accompanied by rising costs and rapidly growing enrollments. Most public colleges and universities, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, are serving more students with fewer inflation-adjusted dollars per student than 10 years ago.
Given these circumstances, Piereson, Riley, and others should be singling out public community colleges and hailing us as heroes of higher education.
For the most part, community colleges serve larger numbers of at-risk students, including minorities, those with low income, students with learning disabilities, part-time students raising families, and first-generation college students. We do this with a fraction of the public support offered to four-year colleges and universities, and for a fraction of the cost.
And, as a report issued by the American Association of Community Colleges demonstrates, community college graduates receive nearly $5 in benefits for every dollar they spend on their education, while the return to taxpayers is almost 6 to 1.
Want to pop the higher education bubble? Support your local community college.