That Which Cannot Go on Forever…

Herb Stein

Herb Stein, President Nixon’s chief economist, once said, “That which cannot go on forever must come to an end.”  There is a school of thought – to which our governor arguably belongs – that says that because tuition at colleges and universities has been rising faster than inflation, there is a bubble that will inevitably burst, maybe around now.  Bette Billet, president of the UCLA Faculty Women’s Club for 2013-14, passed me an article that argues that both higher ed and medicine are in the same boat. So, one might assume, a university with a med school is really in trouble – or is soon to be in trouble.  Excerpt:

…(F)or cities hanging their hat on eds and meds growth, a … fundamental problem now looms: these industries are at the end of their growth cycle. Spending on healthcare and college tuition costs has been skyrocketing at rates greater than inflation for years…

You can find the article at http://www.urbanophile.com/2013/07/07/replay-the-end-of-the-road-for-eds-and-meds/

Note that forecasting the timing of when things end is difficult.  Moreover, unlike financial bubbles – which tend to end suddenly with large ripple effects – other trends can reverse more gradually with less harm done. And note that the notion that putting courses online will fix the tuition problem is questionable even though that seems to be the remedy de jour. There is an item in Inside Higher Ed today that suggests that the MOOC bubble may be bursting: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/09/higher-ed-leaders-urge-slow-down-mooc-train

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