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Why Does College Cost So Much?$
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Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744503

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744503.001.0001

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The College Affordability Crisis?

The College Affordability Crisis?

(p.185) 12 The College Affordability Crisis?
Why Does College Cost So Much?

Robert B. Archibald

David H. Feldman

Oxford University Press

There is a widespread concern in the United States that college is becoming less affordable for the average citizen. Affordability typically is measured using the percentage of a family's income required to pay the cost of attendance. Increases in this percentage are taken as decreases in affordability. This is a problematic measure of affordability since a family with rising income can have more left over after paying tuition at the same time that college takes a larger percentage of the family budget. Using the “income left over” definition of affordability, the chapter presents data showing that the affordability problem in the United States is limited to those at the very bottom of the income distribution. This is consistent with the evidence that cost disease is the major long-run driver of rising college cost. Affordability problems result more from changes in the income distribution than from rising college cost.

Keywords:   affordability, cost disease, income left over, percentage of income

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