We all know there's something deeply wrong with how we ask students to pay for college. Long gone are the days when you could cover tuition with a minimum-wage summer job. But there's knowing the system is screwy, and then there's seeing college tuition as a plurality of annual income spending.
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The think tank Demos has released a new report, "The Unaffordable Era: A 50-State Look at College Prices and the New American Student." Researchers calculated what percent of a person's income college tuition from a public institution takes up by demographic. The findings are jaw-dropping, even if you're prepared for ridiculous numbers.
White families can expect to spend one-fifth of their median income on tuition. For Latino families, that number is one-third, and for African-American families, it's fully half. This is only a national average, flattened out — dig into the state-by-state data and in some cases, it's far worse. Given that this reflects prices at state universities and community colleges, one can assume that private institutions incur a far higher burden, depending on financial aid.
Government spending on education has also gone down considerably since the turn of the millennium. As the report states, "In 49 out of 50 states, public college is less public than in 2001." The whole study has massive implications for things like student debt and racial disparities in career opportunities and wealth accumulation. It's a rough situation for anyone trying to pay off higher education, but with data like this, at least it's clear that this struggle started off with a steep uphill climb.