Viewpoint: College Costs

The Georgia Student Finance Commission told lawmakers recently that lottery proceeds cannot keep up with the demand for scholarships. That means the financial burden on the student and his family will increase, and it's no wonder.

The problem is that the cost of higher education has grown at a ridiculous rate.

The College Board says tuition and fees at public universities have surged almost 130% over the last 20 years -- while middle class incomes have stagnated. Since 1988, if incomes had kept up with surging college costs, the typical American would be earning $77,000 a year.

But according to the latest data available -- the median income was $33,000. Adjusted for inflation, the middle class actually earned $400 less than it did in 1988.

CNN contributor Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, said recently that Americans spend 42% more on higher education now than we did in 2000. Again, while real spending power has declined for the middle class.

Vedder, who knows higher education from the inside, says that too many times, the customer is seen as faculty, influential alumni, administrators, and politicians. But college presidents and their governing boards need to understand who the customer is.

He is the student and family members who are on the hook to pay for college. And higher education needs to get that message sooner than later.