A national poll of four-year college students has found that they are more likely to blame colleges than other institutions for the rising levels of student debt. The poll, by the Harvard University Institute of Politics, found that 68 percent of those polled viewed student debt for young people as a major problem, while 21 percent viewed it as a minor problem. Asked who was “most responsible” for rising levels of student debt, students cited the following:
- Colleges: 42 percent
- Federal government: 30 percent
- State governments: 9 percent
- Students: 8 percent
- Other: 4 percent
- Refused to answer: 7 percent
Colleges may claim that they are blameless since they are subject to forces beyond their control, but it’s certainly reasonable for students to point fingers at the institutions to which they are paying tuition.
Do students think federal spending has been too little, or too much?
Federal government spending has climbed over the long term, with substantial increases in recent years*. If it’s true that government spending has been a major reason for the dramatic escalation of college costs as well as related debt levels, then students are right to blame the federal government. But I suspect that was not their line of reasoning, and that they want taxpayers to fund more of their education.
Meanwhile, state spending per student has been dropping but very few students see that as the major problem.
* 2009 marks an anomaly however since there was also a one-time accounting adjustment for all student loans issued since 1992, which made it appear that the federal government more than offset its spending for higher education during that year. These adjustments helped conceal the full magnitude of the federal government’s all-time record budget deficit in that year, which perhaps helps to explain the timing of these adjustments.