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Catherine Rampell, Washington Post: Why public college tuition is skyrocketing

Climbing walls, Jacuzzis, exotic chefs. There are lots of (misguided) explanations for skyrocketing tuition costs at public colleges and universities, which educate about three-quarters of America’s postsecondary students.

Of course, very few schools actually offer any of these country-club-like amenities, despite the attention and mockery they’ve earned in the press. So on to the latest scapegoat: greedy executives, or so suggests the coverage of two recent reports about highly paid college presidents. Their outsize compensation is supposedly yet another sign of bloated, bureaucratic colleges’ inability to control runaway spending.

You can debate whether public institutions are spending on the right things (including compensation for both executive and athletic personnel; in most states, the highest-paid public employee is a college athletic coach). But these days it’s hard to complain that public colleges are spending too much overall, or even that their spending is rising. Total spending per student at public schools has actually stayed about flat over the past decade, once you control for inflation.

So why is tuition climbing so quickly at public schools?

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