Cost of Higher Education

What good is the possibility of higher education if you cannot afford it?

Unless you've been living under a rock these last number of years, you're likely familiar with how the cost of college has been skyrocketing lately across both in-state, out of state, public, private, and community colleges. I alluded to the costs of journals on students, researchers, and universities in my discussion on education reforms, but not only are these journals becoming prohibitively expensive, the cost of college and higher education in general is too expensive. There are a compounding number of reasons for these high costs, with no one party being to blame. That's the problem with current politics and party solutions- they seek to address a symptom, ie that costs are high, instead of treating the disease, namely "why" those costs are high. As I said before, knowing the "why" is important to policy making.

Cost of College Textbooks

College textbooks are insanely expensive, purposefully so, where authors will release new editions every year or two when the only real changes are some rearranged chapters or new pictures or new homework questions at the end. The average price of a new college textbook went up 38% in the five years between 2007 to 2013, way more than inflation.1 Used textbooks went up 20% over the same timeframe.2

According to the Government Accountability Office, textbook prices rose 82% from 2002 to 2013.3 By comparison, the average price of consumer goods over that same timeframe rose 28%.4 It was reported by the College Board that students are spending an average of $1200 a year on books and supplies, way, way more than the $3-400 I spent on college texts back in 1998-2002.5 I think the most expensive year I had was junior year with $430 worth of books and then senior year was cheapest with $280 worth of books. I still have them all, too. Even that giant textbook I bought for my jogging class.

Textbooks are needlessly expensive, especially in the digital age when the cost for production is next to nil. That's why I'm super depressed to see textbooks like Abergel's and Aoyama's Econophysics of Agent-Based Models being sold for $152 on Amazon and then $144 for a Kindle edition.6 Do you know what kind of profit margin that is for a digital copy? A ridiculous amount. They don't pay for bandwidth, they don't pay for hosting, storage, or anything along those lines. And still the price is that high. It's no wonder that downloading textbooks from illegitimate sources has become so popular; the textbook market is turning away legitimate customers with ridiculous pricing schemes. These are students who are required to have a certain textbook- it's akin to a textbook monopoly. Because they are required, the supplier (a single publisher) can demand astronomical prices. Any digital book over $9.99 is just absurd in my opinion. The entire point of digital material like books, magazines, newspapers, etc is to make goods cheaper and more accessible by eliminating the manufacturing, shipping, and other "middle man" costs that make goods expensive in the first place. Consider as well that most of these textbooks are updated editions with maybe homework problems in a different order or a few details moved around, purposefully done to force editions that might be only a few years old into worthlessness, killing the used book market that publishers make no money from thanks to the first sale doctrine (a good doctrine).

So here's how I would combat this pricing scheme. I would, through Executive Orders, put together a small staff- say five to ten people- that would scour the internet daily for textbook pricing. Maybe even put together some algorithmic scripts to scrape a bunch of sites out there. Then we could offer up pricing for these books around the world. Much like medication can sometimes be found cheaper outside of the US, as I explained in my healthcare speech, so to can textbooks be found cheaper as well. And thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision of Kirstaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, it is completely legal to buy the textbooks cheaper overseas. Furthermore, I'd offer professors the opportunity to submit class reading recommendations so students would be able to search by topic and by professor to find the exact books they need. This could be done quite cheaply- under $100,000 for development. Small price to save students a decent chunk of change. I'd even be open to a partnership with Amazon or other ebook retailer for order fulfillment since Amazon has locations around the world.

On top of this, with legislative support, I would offer another fair use exemption in IP law for educational purposes to professors who wrote the books used in their classes. This would allow them to provide their students with free digital copies- PDFs, epubs, mobi or whatever. As the GAO tells us, faculty decisions are one of the biggest problems with the textbook costs because faculty don't really care about the cost and format available to students.7 Their concern, theoretically, is with quality of content. But does the third edition of an Intro to Economics textbook differ that much from the second edition? Enough to warrant an extra $100+ for each student in the class? Hmm, I doubt it. So if you are a professor who wrote the book, I'm willing to recognize your ownership and let you distribute the book to your students for free if you so choose to. And if you don't, then don't whine when your students complain about you forcing them to buy your $300 textbook when you could easily offer them all a PDF via email for free.

This exemption also steers around the ethical problem professors might face in crafting textbook requirements when they've written a book on the subject. Sometimes, professors get royalties for students using their textbook, making it a conflict of interest between the desire to teach and the desire to profit.8 If you remove the desire for profit from a professor's textbook choice concerning their own students, all that's left is whether their ego is big enough to force their own textbook down their student's throats.

The cost of textbooks pales to the cost of a college education in total, though. Now let's try to understand that behemoth of a mess.

Why The Cost Of College Is So Damn High

Every candidate knows that cost of college has skyrocketed. According to GAO, tuition and fees have gone up an estimated 89% between 2002 and 2012.9 Around 2002-2004, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association tells us that total state and local funding for higher education was around $70 billion before rising to $88.7 billion from 2005 until the 2008 recession.10 Even though enrollment in college grew 13.6% during the recession, state and local funding declined.11 It's not until 2012 that we start seeing an increase in appropriations per full time student- a 7% increase during those two years.12 That 7% increase, however, does not offset the 18.9% overall decrease in appropriations from 2008 to 2014.13 The downward trend also continues in a number of states through 2016.14

The dotcom bubble burst in 2002 stung; the recession of 2008 really crippled the nation. Decisions had to be made at the state level for what to fund and how to fund it. The vast majority of states chose to cut funding as they cut budgets. Raising taxes was not a popular option considering the pain being drilled into the middle class at the time; stimulating the local economy is tough when you increase tax collection during a recession. States began eliminating tax exemptions, broadening tax bases, and even raising rates/fees- a risky maneuver, for sure.15 But newly collected revenue failed to meet needs. Even though budget cuts were made, reallocation was slow to pick up. This led to double digit increases in tuition/fees at state funded colleges and universities.

Consider these flagship state universities that had the biggest tuition increases over the last five years: University of Georgia (59%), Louisiana State University (51%), University of Arizona (44%), University of Washington (41%), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (34%).16 All five states blame the lack of funding on the need for tuition increases.17 Georgia, for example, saw a 57% decrease in funding for each student from 2001 to 2013 while enrollment grew 80% over the same timeframe.18 Including these states, 31 of the 50 state flagship universities had 10%+ tuition increases in the last five years alone, more than the 8% inflation in the Consumer Price Index.19

When you contemplate the changes in state budgets like this thanks to the recession, it does paint a pretty dismal picture of college affordability. States still face budget issues to this day making lower tuition not likely anytime in the near future. Out of state tuition for state colleges and universities have gone up more than in-state- just one way these systems have tried coping with lack of appropriate funding.20 For me, going to the University of Maryland at College Park under in-state tuition made sense because I wanted to study computer science; UMCP had one of the best programs in the country. If you lived in, say, Idaho with a desire to study computer science at one of the nation's top schools, UMCP would pose a ridiculous cost to you, even with financial aid taken into account.

Which brings us to the next point of discussion on college costs: financial aid. I'm not talking about student loans, but grant aid from the universities themselves. Everyone focuses on the cost of tuition; a subset of those focus on tuition plus room/board/fees. Even though UMCP tuition is $9,996 for the 2015-2016 year, the real total cost is estimated at $24,588 for in-state tuition.21 Most colleges offer financial aid to ease the cost burden. If you aren't applying for financial aid, you absolutely should. What's shocking is the cost levels for state colleges compared to private institutions when you take financial aid into account. Observe the charts below which cover total cost (tuition + room/board + fees) of the top 15 colleges in the country as ranked by US News compared to a selection of state schools chosen somewhat randomly22-

Costs with and without various levels of aid at top 15 colleges in America

Sample of 9 state colleges with and without various levels of aid

The charts above contain several pieces of information. Cost Before Aid signifies the cost of the college, taken from either the college's website or the College Board Net Price Calculator results for that college.23 Then there are three levels of "income" used to determine what cost would be for that family- $60k (or less) household income, $100k household income, and $200k household income. All costs are estimates based on the net cost calculators on the college's website or the College Board NPC website. Income estimates assume a family of four with two married parents, one first year college student, one younger sibling in high school, a $200,000 home with $100,000 left on the mortgage, students with $2,500 in income the past year (summer job) and $1,000 saved in the bank. No other investments, dividends, etc. were taken into account. You should get similar numbers if you follow this methodology.

The income levels were at those thresholds because, while the median household income is $52k in 2014, Princeton starts the first level of financial aid decreases at $60k. A family with two working parents was given median income times two, rounded down to $100k. Upper middle class families were considered $200k based on both parents working with six-figure salaries. State schools were chosen at random, minus University of Maryland and Towson University due to my Maryland residency. Note that state school tuition and aid calculations were done under the assumption that the applicant was eligible for in-state tuition.

What you see is the incredible difference in cost for middle class families. If you are middle class, it's almost not worth going to a state college given the financial aid you're likely to receive elsewhere. I honestly did not have time to do a complete analysis like this with, say, the top 100 private colleges compared to state colleges. I'm willing to bet results are similar. But when the top 15 schools in the country are cheaper than some pretty good state schools for families making $100k or less per year, that's both good and bad. Good because wages are stagnant, bad because state schools is where the masses go. The moral of the story here seems to be get accepted to a top tier college, don't make a lot of money, and your student loans should be manageable.

But what about the rest of America? Graduating with $50,000 in student loan debt is nothing to scoff at, yet numerous Americans graduate with $100k or more in debt. Law students, med students, and other students who pursue education beyond a bachelor's degree will likely end up with loan payments as much or more than a home mortgage! I graduated in 2002 from a state school (University of Maryland) with in-state tuition and I still have $4,853 left on my loans at 3.12% interest. I pay $110 per month which is fairly affordable thanks to a number of stock investments I had during the 90's which helped pay down loan amounts. I'm the exception, not the norm, though; the vast majority of teenagers don't care about the stock market nor how to invest.24 And now we have $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, almost triple the amount of debt from 2006-

College costs have always increased more than the cost of inflation. But wages have not. The index cost in the 1980's averaged 9.6% per year, the 1990's averaged 7%, and the 2000's averaged 6.7%.25 Wages averaged 2.6% increases every year in the 2000's.26 Even if college was affordable in the 80's, the constant increases brought it to unsustainable levels given the also constant increase in full time enrollment. Why is tough to say, but my theory relates to the amount of government money thrown their way along with the supply and demand factor. A college education has almost become the equivalent of a high school diploma; many, many jobs require one even if the relevancy is non-existent. This necessity means supply will always be there, ever growing with the population. This is great from a business standpoint, horrible from a societal needs perspective.

We Get It. College is Expensive. Give Us Solutions!

All that background is critical to understanding the problem at hand. Recession at the turn of the century coupled with the major recession in 2008 forced budget cuts which led to increases in state education costs, especially. But even by 2004, college costs rose more than triple the percentage compared to the consumer price index. They've been increasing since the 80's for crying out loud! How the heck do we get this back under control?

Many options exist, each revolving around one key question: who will pay for it? There are options involving budget shifting, options involving budget freezes, options involving education alternatives, options involving tax increases, options involving minimal interest loans, options involving performance based payments, and more. Make no mistake about it, someone has to cover the cost of college. The question is who... and then how.

Don't forget existing debtors, either. Millions of Americans might be upset if college becomes free but they still need to pay back $1.2 trillion in loans.

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the founding fathers were keen on education. They knew an informed, aware constituency countered any threat to democracy that might arise from those seeking to manipulate them. In a perfect world, public college would be free for everyone. All existing debt would be forgiven. The cost for that would likely be around $300-350 billion a year for the next 10 years, then dropping down to $200-300 billion per year for maintaining higher education costs.27 That is a very tough bill to swallow when you have a Congress and a society that wants to get the federal budget under control. But some possibility exists. Let's look at them:

Federal And/Or State Budget Shifts

The United States has a 2015 budget of $986 billion to cover healthcare costs, including Medicare, and $1.25 trillion to cover Social Security.28 That is mandatory spending, dictated by legislation, and makes up 87% of total mandatory spending. There's also discretionary spending which Congress allocates every year, including $598 billion on military, another $66 billion on health/Medicare, $70 billion on education, and $65 billion on Veteran benefits- all three which account for 71% of discretionary spending.29 If the federal government is to shift funds from any area, it would (or should) be from one or more of these. Military spending is the best target for such reallocation, but we're already on a path towards spending levels not seen since 1988 as the Cold War was coming to an end.30 It also doesn't take into account future costs from conflict and infrastructure upgrades, like the F-35 program's 55 year life expectancy.31

Federal coverage of the additional $200-300 billion needed to fund higher education that states already fund likely cannot come out of the DoD budget. That would cripple our military tremendously. I'm all for DoD spending efficiency (procurement in general is a problem), but that's more than half the budget, possibly down to levels not seen since Bill Clinton was President. Likewise, taking money from other healthcare programs is not something we should do because healthcare is the biggest budgetary concern we have at the moment.

If we split the costs with states, it's still fairly unbalanced. States have enough problems paying their current $80-90 billion cost on higher education as is evidenced by their budget cuts since the 2008 recession.32 If states contributed $50 billion, that still leaves the federal government with an ever increasing $150-200 billion funding necessity.

Budget Freezes

One option to bring cost under control would be to freeze the college budgets. Whatever their costs are today would remain as such indefinitely. Maybe you could raise it for inflation, but there would be no tuition hikes, no raises for tenured professors, no extra money for research and development, no money to build more dorm rooms, etc. This would suck for the university. Probably the students as well. Professors may seek alternative employment opportunities, research grants might plummet, and the overall quality may suffer. Long term, wages would make current tuition affordable; short term, it doesn't fix the problem by itself.

Higher Education Alternatives - Going Digital

I'm a technologist. I firmly believe in a future where online courses and a quality online education from state and private colleges is part of the norm. MIT's Open CourseWare, for example, provides a wealth of learning material on a plethora of subjects without offering opportunity for a degree. The cost of education today could definitely push us towards a cheaper, more digital learning environment. Holographic projection in classrooms might not happen next year, but long term I feel this will work out.

The digital classroom removes costs of room and board. In some cases, that's half the exorbitant amount. It would provide perpetual access to class lectures, notes, readings, and all the material necessary to learn. If you have a crappy professor who just gives lectures word-for-word from a PowerPoint deck, an online video option works just as well considering the lack of questions and lack of further explanation of the topic at hand. Video calls could take place during office hours to replace the traditional face-to-face meetings. Personally, I prefer the physical face to face because a lot is conveyed by the body in person that cannot be conveyed digitally, but the next generation that was born in the digital world may appreciate the digital flexibility. Skype-ing a professor during office hours while walking to a class is easier than walking all the way across campus for a five minute talk.

Tax Increases

If states raised taxes, that would solve budget problems. Same with the federal government. How about a 1% income tax increase? That's only $14.8 billion based on 2014 income tax revenue.33 What we need is a tax revenue increase of over 10%, just to be safe. Payroll tax and income tax already make up 80% of our current budget, so taxing corporations more won't yield the kind of revenue we need.34

Taxes as a whole are an entirely different topic, so let me just say this regarding taxes associated with education revenue generation: be careful what you plan on taxing. Right now the "Robin Hood" tax is incredibly popular due to the popularity of the idea of reducing income inequality by taxing the wealthy. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to tax stock trades, 0.5% of every $100, ie 50 cents of every $100, claiming this will generate $300 billion in revenue per year.35 While the intention is quite good, I feel the results would be quite bad.

To start, it would not generate anywhere near the amount Senator Sanders thinks it will. The Congressional Budget Office looked into taxing financial transactions back in 2013 and estimated an additional $180 billion in revenue over 10 years when taxing trades 0.01% of the value of the security.36 If you traded $1000 worth of stock, the CBO estimates $10 in revenue compared to Sanders' estimate of $5. For the estimated $180 billion over 10 years, Senator Sanders' plan would likely only generate $90 billion. In order for the tax to pull in $300 billion, there would need to be $60 trillion in taxable financial transactions.37 Not only that, the $300 billion would be taken out of Wall Street profits, which I'm guessing is a significant amount (20-25% of all profits? Maybe?). It also destroys the concept of "breaking even;" if you buy at $100 and sell at $100, you actually lose money because of this tax.

Now this idea does a lot to get back at Wall Street by hitting high frequency traders, hedge funds, and other 1% types. If you really dislike Wall Street, investors, and the like, then this idea has merit. But the cost is too great. It would drive trading to foreign exchanges and really mess things up here at home. It also has no exceptions for trades related to IRA's, 401k's, etc. Since most Americans that invest put money in a mutual fund, do you think the firm managing trades in those funds won't charge clients for the extra cost? If I trade stocks in my personal Roth IRA, do I need to face the tax consequences- something I purposefully avoided by investing in a Roth IRA? This proposal also takes aim at HFT's by forcing a "buy and hold" strategy to avoid ringing up transaction fees. It removes market liquidity and should be avoided.38

Tax increases in general don't need to be taken off the table, but taxes on transactions definitely should be. Sweden tried it in the 1980's with a result of driving the vast majority of traders to London.39 It's the kind of policy that only works if every nation on Earth participates.40 Otherwise, traders will just move to the nation that allows them to keep hundreds of billions of dollars in profit.

Minimal Interest Loans

Current rates set by Congress for the 2015-2016 school year are fixed at 4.29% for undergraduates, 5.84% for graduate/professionals, and 6.84% for parent/graduate/professional students.41 If Congress eliminated the rate altogether, students and graduates would owe almost 20% less than they would otherwise.42 Eliminating interest on student loans means overhead costs in government would get eaten by the taxpayer as a whole.

Interest could be tied to an index. The rate of inflation is possible, but the variation would really mess with loan payment schedules. Telling someone they pay 2% this year and then 4.1% next year in interest causes confusion and annoyance. Other indexes or rates are available for association, but you need to ensure the rate remains constant over the lifetime of the loan.

Performance Based Pay

A number of people feel tying professor's income to performance would help lower tuition costs by lowering professor salaries. It might, but nowhere near enough cover costs being discussed. Leaving the fate of a teacher in the hands of students is also a recipe for disaster. How many students have given negative feedback after getting a D or F in a professor's class? How many students that get A's go "the teacher sucked, but the material is easy" on their semester feedback? It's too dangerous a game to play, in my opinion.

Debt Relief For Community Service

Proposals have surfaced to allow tax credits against student loans in exchange for community service. This would be done at the state level. It's a possible solution if the state could afford it. Community service is typically work performed for free instead of waged employees, meaning no revenue would be generated by the state for the work being done. Thus, at first glance, the state would be paying for services it might not typically pay for, leading to additional budget costs.

A slightly different take on this solution would be to take jobs that pay near median income and offer student debt relief as a "benefit." For example, if the state has a job that they would pay a contractor $50k a year, they could offer the job at $45k and then guarantee $5k towards student loans. Loan guarantees could increase over time as an incentive not to job hop. It could help bring even more qualified medical staff (med school loans are expensive) to state funded hospitals amongst other positives.

You Discussed Potentials. Really, Tell Us YOUR Plan.

My plan implements a number of the options I discussed in various manners. Here's the breakdown:

  • Minimize Loan Interest Rate - tie the interest rate for all students (undergrad, grad, professional, etc) to the US Treasury Three-Year Yield Curve Rate, averaged out for the previous calendar year. Rates would be calculated July 1 meaning the rate on the three-year bond would be the average of 7/1/2014 - 7/1/2015. Historically, this rate is in the 1% range. Interest gathered will go towards funding the Federal Student Aid program that disperses these loans.43 I'm open to tying student loan rates to the one-year bond and it's ~0.37% average. Either of these interest rate cuts immediately make college 15-20% cheaper for most students.
  • Allow Refinancing By All - anyone with a student loan can refinance at the current market rate. If I got a loan in 2002 at 3.5% and the current rate is 0.9%, I would be able to refinance at the lower rate for the rest of my loan.
  • Ridiculously Cheap Loans to States - states will be allowed to borrow money from the federal government at extremely low interest rates to cover education budget shortfalls. Some states already borrow millions to fill education budget gaps. These loans could also be tied to US Treasury rates to ensure they are more competitive and favorable than traditional loans states may get.
  • Healthcare Budget Shifts at State and Federal levels - as I discuss in healthcare reforms, there is potential for significant savings to the exorbitant cost of healthcare in state and federal budgets. When a single drug like Sovaldi can take up $200 million of a state's budget by itself, even recovering 25% of those costs would go a long way to saving money in state and federal government budgets.44 States could then put the savings towards higher education costs. Portions of the savings at the federal level could then go to aid states in the cost burden. I say "portions" because other savings would be used to reduce the budget and deficits at the federal level.
  • States Must Freeze Tuition - if the federal government is to contribute to the states, there must be a tuition freeze with an option to unfreeze after X number of years. I was thinking 10 years as a start. Room and board costs would also be restricted to cost of inflation. Employee wages and the like are free to go up or down as necessary. This way colleges don't look at federal contribution as "free money" and start raising tuition 10%+ each year just because they can.
  • States Must Make Good Faith Efforts to Cover Costs - state GDP increases and education budgets will be compared to ensure states don't see 3% GDP increases and education budget increases less than that amount. States with GDP increases and education budget cuts will face consequences ranging from public shaming to one-time tax penalties or grant reallocation away from said state.
  • Tax Free Debt Relief for Community/Government Service - all employees and new hires to federal government positions will be given the option of having portions of their salary go towards student loan payments tax free. This means not just DC employees, but national park service members, VA hospital staff, and more. If you make $50k salary, you could have $5k paid towards your loan tax free- that's the full $5000, not $5000 before/after taxes. Your taxable income would then be considered $45k. Students engaging in this practice forgo the typical repayment schedules. With the median income of $52k, this allows students to pay off loans faster. It's akin to an IRA contribution, but going towards student loans instead of retirement savings. There would need to be minimum payment designations to prevent students from paying too low a percentage on their loan; having $5 taken out of your salary a year against a $20k student loan won't work, just like $1000/yr on a loan of $300k (med school) won't work. Minimums would be as fair as the mathematicians can make them. State governments could work out similar type deals as can charities/non-profits that qualify as active and in good community standing. The idea here is that students who use their education skills to give back to their community, their state, and their nation get a nice reward for doing so.
  • Move Towards Digital Classforms - offer tax breaks to colleges that move towards a fully accredited digital classroom offerings. If the University of Maryland is $24.5k with room/board, cutting that to just tuition/fees would likely half the cost towards students, further reducing debt burden. Plus there's the additional benefit of being able to offer quality education at lower prices due to lack of on-campus necessities. The 21st century is when sci-fi becomes reality. More digital learning, less SkyNet war.
  • Prioritize Student Loan Repayment in Bankruptcy - institutions that close down and seek bankruptcy protection will be held liable for debt of all currently enrolled students. I'm not a bankruptcy law guy by any stretch of the imagination, but making student loans a secured claim should help lessen the burden on students who thought they were doing something good only to be screwed by those abusing the system.
  • Tax Increases - yes, I said it. This could happen at the state level and/or federal level. My approach at the federal level would be to eliminate tax loopholes for funding purposes. I would not implement a transaction tax, but I would see changes to capital gains taxes and corporate taxation. This would not only affect Wall Street but many in the 1% who don't pay their fair share of taxes. I would also give a tax break in capital gains as well to balance it out. How will I do that? More details on these two ideas will follow in my positions on tax reforms. This should generate billions in additional tax revenue. Not $300 billion directly for education, but enough in my opinion.

All of these ideas combined will help finance public higher education and cut back on student loan debt tremendously. When students from middle class families making $100k or less already have a lot of aid options available to them, I feel this balances the public/private comparison pretty well. Some students may still graduate from law school or med school with $100-300k in debt. I can't do much about how long it takes you to complete your education. I also cannot guarantee that the major you study will yield a six-figure salary. But what I can guarantee you is that getting a college education will expose you to many perspectives, many viewpoints. This broadening of your worldview pays off the rest of your life. The cost to all of us is worth it.


  1. See Higher Education Retail Market Facts & Figures.[top]
  2. Ibid.[top]
  3. See the GAO's Congressional Committee report College Textbooks – Students Have Greater Access to Textbook Information. They cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI with the below chart to show how fees have risen.

    Estimated Increases in New College Textbooks Prices, Tuition, and overall CPI 2002 to 2012[top]

  4. Ibid.[top]
  5. See Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets, 2014-2015. The $1200+ average is in reference to the typical four-year degree.[top]
  6. See Econophysics of Agent-Based Models on Amazon's site. Last checked 8/29/2015.[top]
  7. See the GAO's Congressional Committee report College Textbooks – Students Have Greater Access to Textbook Information.[top]
  8. See On Professors Assigning Their Own Texts to Students.[top]
  9. See the GAO's Congressional Committee report College Textbooks – Students Have Greater Access to Textbook Information.[top]
  10. See SHEF: FY 2014 - State Higher Education Finance.[top]
  11. Ibid.[top]
  12. Ibid.[top]
  13. Ibid.[top]
  14. Ibid.[top]
  15. See State Tax Changes in Response to the Recession.[top]
  16. See Tuition and Fees at Flagship Universities over Time.[top]
  17. See Georgia Budget Primer 2014 for Georgia, Why is tuition increasing? for Washington, Budget FAQs for North Carolina, University of Arizona faces new budget cuts for Arizona ($200 million in cuts since 2008), and good luck finding the right PDFs on Louisiana's horrible Division of Administration site. Half the links from before 2010 just take you back to the homepage.[top]
  18. See Georgia Budget Primer 2014.[top]
  19. See Tuition and Fees at Flagship Universities over Time. Compared that to the CPI increase from July 2010 (218.011) to July 2015 (238.654) from the US Inflation Calculator site which uses BLS data.[top]
  20. See Tuition and Fees at Flagship Universities over Time.[top]
  21. See Cost of Attendance. $9,996 for tuition, $1,130 for books, $6,678 for room, $4,294 for board, $2,490 for expenses/transportation comes out to $24,588.[top]
  22. See National Universities Rankings.[top]
  23. All the colleges mentioned have a financial aid website where costs are outlined. Net Cost Calculators can usually be found on those pages as well. The easiest way of finding them is to Google "XYZ net cost calculator" where XYZ is the name of the school in question. A lot of these schools use College Board ( for their calculator, which is helpful in comparing many schools since College Board allows you to save profile/financial information. You do not have to input your real financial data to get cost estimations. Stanford's calculator for $200k in income seems to be broken as it spit out the same cost for $100k, hence why I highlighted it in the chart.[top]
  24. See An Astounding Number Of Americans Aren't Investing A Cent.[top]
  25. See Bureau of Labor Statistics Series Gate and look for the following series: CUUR0000SEEB01 (CPI tuitions/fees index), CUUR0000SEEB01 (CPI tuition/fees 12-month percent change), and CIS1010000000000I (ECI total compensation for all workers in all industries).[top]
  26. Ibid.[top]
  27. $1.2 trillion over 10 years plus interest. It's estimated higher education costs in America to $80-90 billion per year from state budgets. Then there was another $64 billion in revenue from tuitions (which are high) for a total of around $150 billion in 2014. So that's around $250 billion per year plus interest, hence arriving at $250-300 billion. Plus, you know, that $150 billion number will keep growing year after year, even if just by inflation. See SHEF: FY 2014 - State Higher Education Finance for more state budget costs.[top]
  28. See Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go.[top]
  29. Ibid[top]
  30. See Trends in U.S. Military Spending.[top]
  31. See Exclusive: U.S. sees lifetime cost of F-35 fighter at $1.45 trillion.[top]
  32. See SHEF: FY 2014 - State Higher Education Finance.[top]
  33. See Federal Revenue: Where Does the Money Come From.[top]
  34. Ibid.[top]
  35. See the College for All Act for the bill that Senator Sanders introduced. Also As Top Democrats Embrace a Robin Hood Tax, It's Time for Activists to Go Big for references of $300 billion in revenue.[top]
  36. See Impose a Tax on Financial Transactions by the CBO. They were looking at options to reduce the deficit from 2014 to 2023.[top]
  37. $60 trillion / 100 * 0.05 = $300 billion. But there are some who dislike the math. They claim that billions of shares are traded each day on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and in Regional trading (7.9 billion shares on 8/28/2015). When you take the average stock price of $60 (+/-) on the S&P, that comes out to $474 billion average a day times the average 250 days of trading a year, you get $118.5 trillion, almost double the needed $60 trillion annually to make $300 billion. Great, huh?

    Not quite. See, the tax is on every $100 of value. This means for stocks under $100 do not get taxed unless the total transaction accounts for more than $50 (transactions are rounded). If you do 5,000 transactions for $49, that's $245,000 worth of stock purchased tax free. High frequency traders today can do that in seconds, especially if their operation already contains the shares of stock to buy/sell in-house. Wall Street profits might sink a little as those seconds are wasted, but skirting the tax is definitely doable.[top]

  38. There is much debate concerning the rise of HFT's and the increase in market liquidity. I take the position that they are somewhat related. Having firms constantly moving shares gives more opportunity to buy and/or sell for everyday investors. Even I've faced wait times of 5 minutes trying to get market orders fulfilled on days when the market acts irrational (ie, all of them), especially in the 90's. Price swings could lead to huge losses if that kind of liquidity is removed.[top]
  39. See Sweden Explains Why A European Financial Transaction Tax Won't Work. Also Proposal for a Council Directive on a common system of financial transaction tax and amending Directive 2008/7/EC which discusses Financial Transaction Taxes and the possible impact/consequences from the EU's perspective.[top]
  40. See Robin Hood tax: 1,000 economists urge G20 to accept Tobin tax. Note this is about the entire G20 accepting a transaction tax. If a single nation does not, they become the go-to destination for traders.[top]
  41. See Understand how interest is calculated and what fees are associated with your federal student loan..[top]
  42. See this student loan repayment estimator. A $100k loan at 4.3% interest yields $123k in total payments, $23k in interest. Similar values occur for other loan amounts.[top]
  43. Federal Student Aid delivered $133.8 billion in 2014. At an interest rate of 1%, that would be $1.4 billion collected, matching their appropriated federal budget in 2014. See Federal Student Aid Annual Report FY 2014.[top]
  44. See Hepatitis C drug's high cost hits California budget.[top]

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