Does A College Education Have To Cost So Much?

The cost of college has risen faster than personal income in recent years, a trend some experts warn can not continue. Economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University and Stephen Trachtenberg of George Washington University discuss what colleges should do to reduce the price tag of a college education.

NEAL CONAN, HOST: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. College tuition and fees rose over 400 percent between 1982 and 2007. Let me repeat that: 400 percent in 25 years. Many students get help from financial aid and scholarships, not to mention their parents.

Yet college costs spiral faster than anything except maybe health care. We spoke about the burden of college loan debt a couple of weeks ago. Today: Why does college cost so much in the first place? If you work in academia, call, tell us why is attending a four-year college so expensive?

Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later in the program, the popularity of micro-philanthropy through social media. But first the cost of college. Richard Vedder is distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Nice to have you with us.

RICHARD VEDDER: Glad to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: And would not economic theory suggest with so many colleges out there, the prices should be driving down, down, down?

VEDDER: Economic theory suggests that if we had free markets in higher education, that might well be the case. But that's not the case because higher education is different than virtually any other sector in the American economy. Everything is different.

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