Supply, Demand and the Higher Education Bubble

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In the mid 2000’s, our society saw the largest asset bubble in modern history.  Low interest rates spurred loosening of credit which propelled home sale prices upward.  Operating by simple laws of supply and demand, the abundance of cheap and loose credit meant that there was an abundance of money.  Without a strong constraint on the availability of funds with which to buy homes, there price of homes increases to match the supply.  The crash that began in 2008 was driven in large part of the well of credit drying up.  This caused the supply of money to shrink rapidly.  Again, operating under the simple laws of supply and demand, home prices plummeted. 

For decades, we have been seeing the same process at work in education.  Driven by easy access to low interest credit in the form of Federally backed student loans, the prices of post-secondary education has risen unchecked.  According to, in 1986, average costs of a 4-year degree was $10,000.  By 2015, costs of a 4-year degree is anticipated to be $120,000.   Between 1985 and 2010, the total cost of education increased more than 485 percent, while the average of all consumer prices increased about 107 percent.

Based on this information, it is apparent to me that higher education costs are a major bubble.  The only reason that bubble hadn’t burst years ago is because the Federal Government has been willing  to continue to lend with reckless abandon.  In 2010, in the wake of ever increasing student loan defaults, combined with a widespread cry for fiscal accountability in government, there finally started some discussions about limited the pool of government funds to be used for new loans.  If and when that pool dries up, finally, there will be a reversal in the cost of a college education.

Unfortunately, this will come too late for those students who will be laboring for decades under the load of loans that in many cases will not result in a large enough income stream to pay them off in a reasonable period of time.

 Supply, Demand and the Higher Education Bubble
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