Some people in higher education clearly don’t understand the tsunami aimed directly at the industry right now. Claire Bond Potter is a professor of history.

She writes at the New York Times:

The Only Way to Save Higher Education Is to Make It Free

In January 2020, while I was in New Hampshire canvassing for Elizabeth Warren, a campaign organizer urged me to tell voters why I supported her. For me, that was easy. “As a college teacher,” I said when someone answered the door, “I believe that higher education is a house of cards because Americans won’t tax ourselves to support it.”

I didn’t know how right I was, or how quickly my words would bear out.

Two months later, Covid-19 closed American colleges and universities, and the cards came tumbling down. Millions of dollars in refunded housing and dining fees created yawning budget gaps. And the crisis isn’t over, especially if students don’t return in the fall. In the United States, tuition payments represent, on average, about a quarter of a public college’s budget, and about 35 percent of a private college’s. For many, it is far more.

The crisis highlights the unjust, unsustainable fact that higher education is surviving on ever higher tuition payments — and, going forward, will most likely lean even harder on students and their families to make ends meet. The frank conversation that Bernie Sanders and Senator Warren started during the primary season has now become a crisis. We urgently need to change how we pay for college, and that starts with removing the burden of tuition from working families.


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