George Leef of the Martin Center focuses on a new study that should provide valuable information to college students and their parents.

TANSTAAFL. There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

That’s the pithy way that economists convey the idea that there are always costs associated with the goods and services we consume. Some resources, if only our time, had to be expended so we could enjoy them. Despite foolish talk from politicians about giving us “free” college, higher education cannot escape costs. People must pay for all of the inputs that go into the college experience.

But just how much are we paying? And what are we paying for?

Those are the main questions addressed in a new study published by the National Association of Scholars, Priced Out: What College Costs America. In it, author Neetu Arnold delves into the revenues and expenses of our higher education institutions.

Most Americans are used to thinking of college as an expensive but extremely valuable service that’s provided by well-meaning experts who are doing their best to keep it affordable.

Arnold’s view, however, is deeply skeptical. Her research shows that college officials spend huge amounts on non-educational programs and personnel that they desire and which add considerably to the costs imposed on students, families, and taxpayers.

Priced Out highlights two well-known facts, namely that the cost of college has been rising much faster than the rate of inflation for more than 40 years, and that many students today appear to have derived little educational benefit or employment boost from their college years. It also shows the connection between them.

What is that connection?

As college officials raked in more and more money, they simultaneously turned away from the traditional mission of higher education—giving undergraduates a solid knowledge base—and focused instead on a host of tangential activities. The deluge of money freed them from old-fashioned academic concerns to do lots of other stuff.