Costs of College, and Bad Reporting

There’s bad reporting, and then there’s egregiously bad reporting. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias seems to specialize in the second variety.

In Friday’s Slate MoneyBox, he has a brief item on “The Real Problem With Colleges’ Business Model“, two paragraphs long, with one chart, and one five year old photo of students drinking beer on Spring Break.

The chart shows how young college graduates real earnings have declined since 2000, and says that colleges can’t continue to jack up the cost of college at rates higher than inflation.

The picture makes it look like college students are wastrel ne’er-do-wells that don’t deserve the education. The analysis makes it sound like colleges are are greedy spendthrifts — the only link is to another Yglesias article on amenities that new students are demanding, illustrated by another Spring Break photo.

What’s the reality? Well, the reason that college costs to students have been rising so fast is that skinflint legislatures have been cutting back state support for higher education, and dumping it on the student. They then make it easier for students to load themselves up with debt, and call it improved student aid.

What’s the reality? Well, the decline in real earnings is part of the hollowing out of the American middle class. Over the years in question, pretty much all under Republican administrations, the increases in productivity have all gone to the top 1%.

The reality is that we are systematically destroying the foundation of higher education in the U.S., and shallow articles like this one do nothing but pander to those who would continue to do so.

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