Interesting since the president of the college I work at just had a letter about this in the Huffington Post
. One quote: "According to the College Board's 2012 study, Trends in College Pricing, the average tuition and fee rate has increased at an average of 2.44 percent at private, nonprofit four-year colleges in recent years; in fact, when one accounts for financial aid and scholarships, the average inflation-adjusted net tuition at private colleges has actually dropped by 3.5 percent over the past five years. "
Now, that's for private, non-profit schools. Public schools it has jumped substantially, but not for any nefarious reason: it's what happens when the state legislature looks for easy cuts in the budget and axes higher ed first. When I went to William and Mary back in the mid-80s, 34.7% of the budget was covered by the state. It's 12.8% now, but they're still expected to offer everything they did before (and more) as well as give discounts to in-state students. That money can come only from two places: tuition and endowment.
Endowment is an entire 'nother subject. You might have noticed a serious drop in the stock market a few years back? We (and many other schools) run a three year trailing average on endowment draw, so that's still hurting badly. Oh, and you can't get bonds or other securities with yields higher than a percent or two these days.. Couple the two and your endowment income has cratered as well.
Can we cut budgets? Sure: I started here six years ago in IT and my budget is 20% less than was when I joined. Software vendors don't care: my SPSS licensing costs have tripled in those 3 years for example, and everyone else wants their 5% a year bump. And I'm at a healthy school: I've been at ones that aren't and it's worse.
The real abuse IMHO is the loan industry. We've somehow gotten this idea that it's ok to put yourself into debt for the rest of your life for a degree. (And that debt, unlike every other kind can't ever be vacated by bankruptcy) Nobody should take out $100k of debt for any degree, and the feds shouldn't back it, much like they shouldn't back flood insurance for people who want to live on barrier islands. That may mean you don't get your dream school. Maybe it means 2 years of community college before residential. There are plenty of ways to get an education- shop for them just like you would for an phone