CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since 1980, the average cost of college in America has skyrocketed 700 percent. Now, a typical four-year degree totals about $90,000 for tuition, room and board. The average student finishes with $26,000 loan debt. Many suffer worse horror stories.
Since college increasingly is essential for middle-class success, America must find ways to make it affordable for ever-larger segments of the population -- lest advanced education become only for the privileged elite.
Two Republican governors named Rick are spearheading an attempt to slash college costs. Gov. Rick Perry challenged Texas universities to submit plans for four-year degrees costing no more than $10,000 in tuition. So far, 10 schools have complied. Florida Gov. Rick Scott was so impressed that he asked his state's universities to do likewise.
Maybe West Virginia colleges likewise could craft low-cost education plans -- copying the pattern of inexpensive community colleges. The Indianapolis Star commented:
"Higher education costs are inflated by bloated bureaucracies and bills paid with other people's money. Universities employ professors too busy with research to spend much time teaching. They sink vast sums into money-losing intercollegiate sports. And they spend lavishly on marketing efforts to build prestige and buck up their college rankings."
In contrast, two-year community colleges avoid most of this waste, keeping overhead low.
Another cost-cutter we cited previously is MOOCs (massive open online courses) that are free to every computer-user. They offer the potential to instruct hundreds of thousands -- perhaps millions -- of students at tiny cost.
The best method to improve West Virginia's economy is to guarantee that more young residents earn degrees, propelling them into successful careers. Reducing college cost to just $10,000 would create a wonderful opportunity for the Mountain State.