College tuition prices have reached an all time high as they have inflated at a rate of approximately six to nine percent per year, but the question everyone is wondering is will the prices ever stop increasing?
From an economic standpoint, the cause of the inflating college tuition prices is simple: as the demand for a college education increases, but the supply remains the same, the prices are going to rise. When comparing the current college students to their parents generation, the demand for a college education is dramatically greater due to the need of a college degree in order to receive a stable and comfortable job today. Now there are some exceptions; there are the entrepreneurs who create thriving businesses as teenagers who find no need for a college education, and there are dedicated citizens who chose to join the military, and there are many who would prefer to work on top of attending a community college and are perfectly content with that, but the majority of American citizens desire and greed great success which most view as a six-figure paying job that comes from a prestigious college or university degree.
For Wake Forest University specifically, the total average cost is broken up into sections on their website: tuition and fees, housing, meals, books and supplies, personal expenses, transportation, and the Federal Stafford loan average fee which adds up to be a grand total of $66,582 for the academic year of 2016-2017, but $49,322 being tuition and fees alone (2). According to College View, which is a website that outlines the cost of every university and college’s tuition nationwide, the tuition cost for Wake Forest University for the academic year of 2015-2016 was $46,200 meaning there was an approximate 6.76% increase in tuition for the upcoming academic year (4). The question we again are all asking ourselves is why? Why does each student have to pay now an extra $3,122 per year? And where is all of that extra money going? Well, current students at Wake Forest know that the campus as whole has been under great construction all year with the new McCreary Field House, the new freshman dorm being built, the renovations being done on the track, and of course the brand new Sutton Center which ties in the renovations that are currently being done on Reynolds Gym. So, is that where all of the extra tuition money is going?
Wake Forest University prides itself in academic prestige and providing facilities that promote success on all fronts whether it is athletics, academics, the arts, etc., but there seems to be a disconnect between the executive board, which is assumed to make the financial decisions about the university, and the current students and their families who are paying the $49,322 per year for reasons they are not even aware of.
Wake Forest is highly ranked on a variety of “Best Colleges in America” lists like Forbes, and U.S. News, and more, so the tuition cost is definitely worth it for most, but if the cost of tuition increases every year at an inflation rate of 6.76 percent like it did this year, the ability to afford this prestigious university is going to be unattainable for most in the future. Nearly every student at Wake Forest that you ask will proclaim their love for the school and all that it has to offer, so from a moral standpoint, the thought of those who could thrive and succeed at a school like Wake but not be able to due to financial restraints is devastating. But again, from the economic standpoint, the price of tuition for Wake Forest specifically is not going to stop rising until the demand diminishes because the supply, in this case being one school, is so minuscule relative to the demand making the price do nothing but increase.
This economic concept can be applied to nearly every single college or university nationwide, which is terrifying because unless a national price ceiling is set to lower or maintain the price of tuition, there will come a time where it costs $100,000 per year to attend a college or university and people will start to not receive that level of education due to financial constraints which will alter the entire economic, occupational, and social playing field worldwide. In order to prevent this from happening, the government could put forth more of its tax revenue towards public colleges and universities to allow them to compete with the overly priced private universities. The government really has no control nor authority over the price regulation of private universities and colleges nationwide, but they definitely can drive prices down through the law of competition by making their competitors, which are public education establishments, that much cheaper. As of now, it is unpredictable how the government will handle this issue, and also unpredictable what the economy will look like in a decade or two, but it is inevitable for those who’re actively aware of these risks to fear what the future of college level education will look like from an economic standpoint.