The New York Times reports that the price of a college education has grown far faster than incomes over the past 25 years. According to a new study from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, tuitions and fees have increased 439% since 1982, while median income has only increased 147%.

In a somewhat curious understatement, the Center's Patrick M. Callan tells the Times:

"If we go this way for another 25 years, we won't have an affordable system of higher education."

After a generation of costs increasing three times as fast as incomes, we've already lost an affordable system of higher education.

Mr. Callan does acknowledge that this growth has been sustained by "a huge amount of debt." The current economic environment has made such massive borrowing an even less tenable option, especially as the value of families' homes and investments has suffered.

Years before the current crisis, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren warned about middle class debt in The Two-Income Trap and other works. In a hopeful sign, Prof. Warren has gone to Washington to serve on a panel overseeing the Treasury's bank bailout. Perhaps the end of easy credit will earn a receptive audience for her insights:

"Any effective policy has to start with the households," she said. "Years of flat wages, low savings and high debt have left America's households extremely vulnerable."

Click here to visit "Credit Slips," Elizabeth Warren's blog.


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