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Editorial: Measuring Up College Tuition Costs Pierces National Problem

This story was written by , The Diamondback

If you feel like the cost of college is becoming (or already is) prohibitively expensive, you aren't alone. A national report conducted by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found the price of college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, while the median family income increased only 147 percent over the same period.

The report, Measuring Up 2008, analyzes and ranks the relative strengths and weaknesses of higher education in every state and against countries around the world. According to its findings, this state has one of the strongest profiles in the country, in many respects. For example, Maryland has one of the highest percentages of residents with a bachelor's degree, and strong preparation of young people for college - the state is No. 1 in student performance on Advanced Placement tests.

But Maryland is rated as an unmitigated failure in affordability, alongside 48 other states that receive Fs in the category; California squeaks by with a C-, the only passing grade. A New York Times headline starkly sums up the finding: "Higher Education May Soon Be Unaffordable for Most Americans, Report Says." The message is clear: Despite our state's academic strides, college is unaffordable here, and its unaffordable across the nation.

On July 2, 1862, former President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act into law. The law recognized the United States' need for advanced agricultural science, at the time a vital part of the country's economy. Accordingly, it provided for the creation of most of today's top public universities, including this one.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today. It is universally recognized that the United States is competing in a global economy. It is no longer enough to have an elite group of the best and brightest; the jobs that don't require advanced education are increasingly outsourced overseas. To compete in the global marketplace, Americans need access to higher education. Right now, they don't have it.

This is not a Maryland problem or a North Carolina problem or a Michigan problem - it is an American problem. And a national problem requires a national solution. President-elect Barack Obama (D) campaigned on the "American Opportunity Tax Credit," which offers $4,000 toward tuition costs. That amount only dents college costs that have risen more than 400 percent - it is a step in the right direction, but it will take more than a tax credit to make this the land of opportunity.

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