Over the last decade or so, tuition has skyrocketed to unparalleled levels.
The good theory on why colleges have become so insanely expensive in the United States is because higher education is believed to be treated more along the lines of a business, and nobody knows how to brand higher education better than university administrators in the United States.
It is a brand. It is a status. It is a lifestyle.
When you look at other countries, the best, top universities are public schools. Oxford. Cambridge. Sorbonne. The University of Tokyo. Only if you cannot get into the top, public universities, would you ask your parents to shell out lots of money to get a degree from a lower-ranked, private university?
However, that order is completely reversed in the United States. Supposedly, the best and the brightest go to the Ivy League. The future leaders of the country go to Stanford and Duke. Or at least we are led to believe that, through subliminal messaging and smart marketing.
Only in the United States, save UC Berkeley's impeccable international reputation, the best brands internationally are Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT, etc. The list goes on and on. And they are all private schools where international students have bought into the hype and are fighting for those precious seats at these famous universities. The economic principle of supply and demand is quite alive.
Right around 15 to 20 years ago, when tuition started to increase at a disproportionately higher rate than inflation, university administrators and trustees already figured out that they could raise the tuition as high as the market would bear. And because they have figured out how to market the brand very well, they could afford to keep on raising tuition. To their own surprise, people have kept on paying! Why? Universities have provided just about everything.
Top of the line residence halls. Chefs and multiple different meal choices. Libraries bigger than high schools. State of the art athletic facilities and recreation centers. Sports teams. Campus services and administrators. Student activities and events. Clubs. Famous researchers. Research equipment and labs.
In the United States, college has become more than just an education.
Even public schools are in the game of branding and lifestyle marketing. Let's think about it. The University of Alabama has had arguably the best college football team in the country for the past 10 years. Nick Saban is expected to make around $8.3 million this year alone. $8.3 MILLION.
How many people have watched the Alabama football team playing on TV? How many people want to buy a University of Alabama jersey or t-shirt just to feel that they belong? But out of all the people buying these jerseys and t-shirts, what percentage of them actually go to the University of Alabama? The same things apply to the athletic departments at Michigan, Nebraska, Cal, UCLA, UNC Chapel Hill, etc. etc.
The biggest pet peeve of all of this is that universities aren't as publicly funded by the government as they used to be. Education is a very minuscule part of federal spending compared to social security, Medicare, and military and defense. Many say this is because taxpayers don't want to pay for the education of others. We may never fully understand why. However, a change in the system must happen if students are so adamant about lowering school tuition.