WSJ: College costs and inter-student subsidization getting more and more bloated

Whenever the Obama administration has periodically addressed the issue of the United States’ staggering and ever-mounting level of student-loan debt, it’s generally been with half-assed policy proposals that are meant to act as financial band-aids that do not attempt to substantively reform what is very clearly a broken system (and indeed, probably end up causing more harm than good in the long run). As the federal government continues to indiscriminately dish out inexpensive loans to any and all students, college costs have only continued to skyrocket — and the WSJ reports that the longstanding university financial setup in which more well-off students help to subsidize the costs of their less-wealthy classmates’ tuition is now metastasizing at an unsustainable rate and taking an increasingly big bite out of the middle class:

Well-off students at private schools have long subsidized poorer classmates. But as states grapple with the rising cost of higher education, middle-income students at public colleges in a dozen states now pay a growing share of their tuition to aid those lower on the economic ladder.

The student subsidies, which are distributed based on need, don’t show up on most tuition bills. But in eight years they have climbed 174% in real dollars at a dozen flagship state universities surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.

During the 2012-13 academic year, students at these schools transferred $512,401,435 to less well-off classmates, up from $186,960,962, in inflation-adjusted figures, in the 2005-06 school year. …

At the University of Washington for instance, a full-time student paying in-state tuition last year contributed about $2,200 in subsidies, up from $540 in 2006. …

But opaque college financing generally keeps this accounting hidden from public view, Ms. Finney said, largely to keep a lid on complaints from parents.

It’s yet another piece in the disastrous puzzle of our wildly federally-subsidized student loan system and its unintended consequences: Total student debt in the U.S. is now approaching $1.2 trillion, with this year’s college graduates owing a whopping $32,500 on average; add cash-strapped middle-class families and fresh graduates’ still-diminished job prospects, and it’s a recipe for a prohibitively burdensome financial situation that will plague their young-adult lives. Unfortunately, the biggest related Congressional plan in the works is coming from a group of Democratic senators (spearheaded by the likes of the “fairness”- and “inequality”-slinging Elizabeth Warren) that are looking to pump still more federal money into the system and “ensure struggling borrowers are better informed and treated fairly by loan servicers and colleges” — a.k.a., yet another progressive agenda item meant to treat the symptoms without curing the underlying disease.