At least, that’s what Devin Fergus argues in this op-ed from the Washington Post.

My students pay too much for college. Blame Reagan.

This fall, I’ll be teaching some of the most financially distressed students in America.

At my employer, Ohio State University, student loan debt reportedly rose 23 percent faster than the national average between 2010 and 2012. This is true at state schools across the country. Student debt has risen nationally, and the sharpest uptick occurred at public universities with the highest-paid presidents. From 2006 to 2012, for example, the “average student debt of graduates in the top 25 public universities with the highest executive pay increased 5 percentage points more or 13 percent faster than the national average,” according to one recent report.


Today’s student aid crisis has its roots in the 1980s. In 1981, the Reagan administration, with a coalition of congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats, pushed through Congress a combination of tax- and budget-cutting measures.

No federal program suffered deeper cuts than student aid. Spending on higher education was slashed by some 25 percent between 1980 and 1985. In raw dollar figures, cuts totaled $594 million in student assistance and $338 million in Pell grants. Students eligible for grant assistance freshmen year had to take out student loans to cover their second year. For middle-class families, eligibility was changed as well. Low-cost, low-interest, subsidized federal loans were limited to families with household incomes of less than $32,000, regardless of family size.