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Can universities become more affordable?

With college tuition rising, universities and lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels says that universities must adapt.
/ Source: The Daily Rundown

With college tuition rising, universities and lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels says that universities must adapt.

College costs, excluding room and board, have increased more than 25% at private universities and more than 60% at public universities in the past 10 years.

Purdue University President and former Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind., says that’s got to change so that higher education is affordable for more students.

Daniels said on Wednesdays The Daily Rundown that part of the reason tuition rates have been rapidly rising is the flood of easy loans to students.

“With the best of intentions, we’ve subsidized, poured loans and grants into higher ed. Universities did the human thing— they pocketed the money. But students and their families were no better off,” said Daniels.

Both lawmakers and universities are grappling with ways to make a secondary education more affordable.

An interest rate hike on new student loans will take effect July 1 under current law if lawmakers can’t agree on how to stop it from going into effect. Last month, President Obama urged Congress to freeze student loan rates. While student loan interest rates remain an important issue, some economists say that the rising cost of college is an even bigger barrier.

Schools are offering record amounts of financial assistance to incoming freshman. And college applicants certainly recognize the impact of tuition on their decision. In fact, a study released by the University of California-Los Angeles found that over 43% of students entering their freshman year view the cost of attending this college as “very important.” This was an all-time high since the survey began in 2004.

In recent years, many universities have implemented temporary tuition freezes and a handful have even cut their tuition rates in an effort to encourage accessibility.

Daniels believes that universities will have to change. Rather than focusing on spending extra tuition dollars on “country club amenities” and “very lavish facilities,” Daniels says that “universities will need to deliver an excellent education at a very affordable price, prove that students learned and grew while they were there.”

“It has been too easy to add these nice-to-do items and just send the bill to A)the taxpayer and B)the students family. That game is up,” added Daniels.

Daniels also shared his belief that universities must lead the way to make sure college sports are fair and student- oriented. Purdue is one of only seven division one schools which does not use tuition dollars to subsidize its athletic programs.

“[The NCAA] doesn’t have the tools to enforce the improvements and reforms they would like to bring. I think they’re working on it as hard as they can. But universities are going to have to police themselves and get it started that way,” explained Daniels.