The Forum | Costs

The Impoverishment of the American College Student: A Scathing Indictment of the College Affordability Crisis

September 24, 2019 by Erik Gross

In The Impoverishment of the American College Student, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics emeritus and president emeritus of Old Dominion University James V. Koch pulls no punches in his detailed, panoramic account of how our colleges and universities have become so unaffordable for ordinary Americans. Published by The Brookings Institution, the book is evidence-driven and ideologically neutral in its account of the drivers of college costs and the long-run impact of rising tuition rates. With a wealth of data, charts, and figures, Mr. Koch explains how governmental funding mechanisms, as well as mismanagement by college leadership and shifting labor market demands, have created a perfect storm that is financially draining households and limiting social mobility.

The book is dense, and should not be approached as a light read. If one wishes to have a deep and nuanced understanding of the higher education marketplace, however, it is a must-read. After reading, I was at a family gathering and my grandmother asked me why college has gotten so expensive. I said, “How much time do you have?”


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