image : David H. Feldman

David H. Feldman

I teach in the economics department at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I chaired the department from 2011 to 2016, so I have seen how the sausage is made inside the world of academic politics. In my academic career, I have studied or taught at small private liberal arts colleges, a big suburban community college, a major private research university, and a public flagship. The world of American higher education is very complex, and people who oversimplify that world often misunderstand it.

My coauthor (Robert Archibald) and I have been thinking and writing about higher education issues for well over a decade. Our first book was provocatively titled "Why Does College Cost so Much?" We designed it to be accessible to a general audience, not just an academic one. We think anyone who has been to college, who has a relative or child who aspires to go to college, or who is just plain interested in the debate about the cost of higher education, will find something of interest in this book. Our take on the subject may intrigue you. It may enlighten you. It may infuriate you. But I doubt it will leave you feeling indifferent.

News: Bill Gates includes "Why Does College Cost so Much?" in his list of the top 7 books he read in 2013.


Our newest book is titled, "The Road Ahead for America's Colleges and Universities." It's due out in August of 2017 and you can preorder on Amazon. Our first book was primarily a look back at the causal forces that pushed cost and price in American higher education over the course of the last century. The Road Ahead, by contrast, if firmly forward looking. We examine the likely path or paths that this complex system may follow over the next thirty years. Some people foresee a technological scythe cutting down much of the higher education system, replacing it with inexpensive and high quality online alternatives. This narrative is suffused with the jargon of disruption. The American system of colleges and universities does indeed face serious demographic, economic, and social problems, but we do not see major upheavals wiping out the traditional residential model of higher education. Yet we are not optimists. The schools most under threat are the small colleges and less selective state universities that serve the bulk of America's students from less privileged families.

The Best 1 Books on David H. Feldman

image Robert B. Archibald

Why Does College Cost So Much?

Much of what is written about colleges and universities ties rapidly rising tuition to dysfunctional behavior in the academy. Common targets of dysfunction include prestige games among universities, gold plated amenities, and bloated administration. This book offers a different view. To explain rising college cost, the authors place the higher education industry firmly within the larger economic history of the United States. The trajectory of college cost is similar to cost behavior in many other industries, and this is no coincidence. Higher education is a personal service that relies on highly educated labor. A technological trio of broad economic forces has come together in the last thirty years to cause higher education costs, and costs in many other industries, to rise much more rapidly than the inflation rate. The main culprit is economic growth itself.

This finding does not mean that all is well in American higher education. A college education has become less reachable to a broad swathe of the American public at the same time that the market demand for highly educated people has soared. This affordability problem has deep roots. The authors explore how cost pressure, the changing wage structure of the US economy, and the complexity of financial aid policy combine to reduce access to higher education below what we need in the 21st century labor market.

This book is a call to calm the rhetoric of blame and to instead find policies that will increase access to higher education while preserving the quality of our colleges and universities.
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