Many discussions of college being “unaffordable” focus on high and rising tuition prices, without much attention to the resources available to students to pay those prices. Plus, too many times we talk about college expense without considering the return on investment.
There is no one indicator that can show whether college is affordable. Instead, measuring affordability requires a thoughtful approach that considers:
- Sticker prices and net prices (after financial aid)
- Parental resources
- Students’ earnings while in school
- Expected earnings premium—how much the education will pay off in future earnings
In general individuals with a college degree earn much more than those with just a high school education. Increased educational attainment has significant benefits both for society as a whole and for the students themselves.