The piece is about how higher education, once attainable for more people than ever before, started becoming stratified. Well, it began to get stratified when an "ideology" of economic stratification took hold in Washington, with the increased influence of the crackpot Milton Friedman and his equally crackpot, evil Chicago School "economists" on politicians. Central to this ideology was tax cuts for the rich and cutting of social programs for everybody else. This anti-government nonsense became entrenched and eventually filtered down to the states. States likewise cut taxes and social programs, while colleges and universities raised tuition to make up for the shortfall. At the same time jobs started to be offshored and unions came under increasing attack thanks to Reagan's little antics with PATCO. When students couldn't afford to pay their own way through school thanks to the decline in purchasing power, they went into crushing debt.
I would argue that the increasingly difficult access to higher education parallels the outrageous increase in the cost of buying a house. Both of these were and are deliberate attempts to deny upward mobility and property to more and more people so that the economic elites would have more. The end result would be everybody else would be in "service" to their "betters," never having any chance for a piece of the economic pie.
Since our D.C. politicians, and later the state and local politicians, were all bought and paid for, the notion of education being a right, a public good, got thrown out the window in favor of some nutball idea of "choice" or turning education into a "business." Public colleges and universities have been one of the great instruments of upward mobility for the masses, but the elites don't like them because of it.
Time to starve these schools out of existence, and with them the vast majority of college students get denied a college education. Eventually the hoity-toity private colleges like the Ivy League, Stanford, and a few others will be out of reach to them as well as the aid and other bennies get cut off. However, the gangsters running our politicians have their "for-profit schools" designed to rip off taxpayers while giving what few students can even attend these an inferior education.
It sounds cynical, but this is the trend.
From the piece:
Private nonprofits, schools like Stanford or Vassar, list the highest “sticker prices,” but the average student pays less than half of full fare. Some nonprofits provide generous need-based aid to low- and middle-income students, supplementing their federal aid. Others devote their resources instead to merit-based aid, courting students with high SAT scores, typically from higher-income backgrounds. These colleges rise in the rankings, but they also provide a disadvantage to poorer students who would benefit from more need-based aid, who struggle financially to stay enrolled and who take out more student loans to do so.
Nearly three-quarters of American college students attend public universities and colleges, historically the nation’s primary channels to educational opportunity. These institutions still offer the best bargain around, yet even there, tuition increases have bred inequality. For those from the richest fifth, the annual cost of attending a public four-year college has inched up from 6 percent of family income in 1971 to 9 percent in 2011. For everyone else, the change is formidable. For those in the poorest fifth, costs at State U have skyrocketed from 42 percent of family income to 114 percent.
The worst problems, though, occur at for-profit schools like those run by the Apollo Group (which owns the University of Phoenix), the Education Management Corporation or Corinthian Colleges. These schools cater to low-income students and veterans, but too often they turn hopes for a better life into the despair of financial ruin.
It's all calculated because the "philosophy" of neoliberalism/libertarianism says that public institutions shouldn't exist at all; everything should be for sale to loot and enrich the elites even more.