Education Costs Rising Faster Than Health Care

A little more than a week ago, the Labor Department announced that, among other things, the price of education increased faster than the price of medical care over the last year, according to its July Consumer Price Index report.

That got us wondering what the historical trend has been, so we looked it up and the results are interesting. And a little scary.


For 27 of the past 30 years, the price of education has grown at a faster rate than that of medical care. Education also grew faster than inflation for 29 of the past 30 years, while medical care beat inflation 27 of those years. Could education be our next health care crisis?

The answer is probably no, at least not for a long time. Average spending on medical care was between three and four times more than that of education in any given year from 1984 to 2007, the only range that the Labor Department's spending data was available. In 2007, the average consumer unit, similar to a household, spent $2,853 on medical care and $945 on education.

But that doesn't mean the cost of education isn't on a terrifying tangent. Just last year, the College Board reported that most students and their families could expect their 2008-2009 tuition and fees to increase by $108 to $1,398. Private colleges are reporting a dip in enrollment as this recession compounds the monetary burden for families.

Last Thursday, on the Tavis Smiley show, Education Secretary Arne Duncan predicted that students will increasingly turn to schools that are more creative at keeping their costs low, and he has offered a $5 billion sweepstakes for districts that demonstrates extraordinary results. President Barack Obama has pledged a $4,000 tax credit and often talks about improving access to education, but the early months of his presidency have been dedicated to bailouts and health care. The sad thing is that everyone -- politicians, parents, kids, even the schools themselves -- agrees that the rising costs are a huge problem, yet the 30-year trend demonstrates and even steeper curve than our much-maligned health care inflation.
healthedinflation.png

Presented by

Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In