Economics/Class Relations

Neoliberalism Pushed up Cost of Attending University in USA


In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how housing polices of countries in the anglosphere have been optimized to benefit those who have lots of money rather than satisfying the housing needs of the median person in those places. That is why housing prices and costs have gone up much faster than the “official” rate of inflation during past 40 years. This is also why developed countries outside the Anglosphere have a far wider range of good choices for housing and why those within Anglosphere have an unusually high number of homeless people. Now let us talk about the cost of “higher” education under neoliberalism aka late capitalism where, once again, we see a very similar trend- and for broadly similar reasons.

So, have you ever wondered how the cost of university education has risen so much in certain “developed” countries during the past four decades? Some of you might not believe it, but there was a time when attending public universities in this country cost very little. Boomers, such as MikeCA, could attend well-regarded public universities for the equivalent of less than five thousand dollars per year in today’s money, while doing so right now would cost at least 20-40 thousand per year. Which leads us to an even bigger question- namely, why hasn’t the cost of attending university in other developed countries (outside the anglosphere) become similarly expensive during the past four decades? What explains this peculiar difference?

While I encourage you to confirm it (with Google, Bing, Brave etc), the yearly fees for attending public universities in developed countries ranging from Italy, France and Germany to Japan, South Korea and China are between 1-5 k USD- when adjusted for purchasing power. They are even lower in many central and east European countries. In other words, university fees in the rest of world retain the same relation to income as was the case in USA between 1945 and mid-1970s. And let us face it, the quality of undergrad education at a decent public university in one developed country is pretty much identical to that in another. The student who spends 20-60 k per year to attend an undergraduate program at Harvard, Columbia, Berkley or a large state university in USA is not learning anything different from his or her equivalent attending a similar university in France, Germany, Japan or in any other developed country. So why is the American student paying so much more money for the same product?

Here is a short list of the main reasons:


Leave a Reply