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Skill-Biased Technical Change and the Cost of Higher Education: An Exploratory Model

  • John Bailey Jones
  • Fang (Annie) Yang

We document trends in higher education costs and tuition over the past 50 years. To explain these trends, we develop and simulate a general equilibrium model with skill- and sector-biased technical change. We assume that higher education suffers from Baumol's (1967) service sector disease, in that the quantity of labor and capital needed to educate a student is constant over time. Calibrating the model, we show that it can explain the rise in college costs between 1959 and 2000. We then use the model to perform a number of numerical experiments. We find, consistent with a number of studies, that changes in the tuition discount rate have little long-run effect on college attainment.

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File URL: http://www.albany.edu/economics/research/workingp/2011/collegecost_jonesyang.pdf
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Paper provided by University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 11-02.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nya:albaec:11-02
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, BA 110 University at Albany State University of New York Albany, NY 12222 U.S.A.
Phone: (518) 442-4735
Fax: (518) 442-4736

Order Information: Postal: Department of Economics, BA 110 University at Albany State University of New York Albany, NY 12222 U.S.A.
Web: http://www.albany.edu/economics/research/workingp/index.shtml Email:


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  1. Lance Lochner & Alexander Monge-Naranjo, 2010. "The Nature of Credit Constraints and Human Capital," Working Papers 2011-024, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  2. Dynarski, Susan, 2001. "Does Aid Matter? Measuring the Effect of Student Aid on College Attendance and Completion," Working Paper Series rwp01-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Felicia Ionescu, 2009. "The Federal Student Loan Program: Quantitative Implications for College Enrollment and Default Rates," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(1), pages 205-231, January.
  4. Giovanni L. Violante & Costas Meghir & Giovanni Gallipoli, 2008. "Equilibrium Effects of Education Policies: a Quantitative Evaluation," 2008 Meeting Papers 868, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Akyol, Ahmet & Athreya, Kartik B., 2003. "Risky higher education and subsidies," Working Paper 03-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  6. Donghoon Lee & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2006. "Intersectoral Labor Mobility and the Growth of the Service Sector," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 1-46, 01.
  7. Meta Brown & John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri, 2009. "A New Test of Borrowing Constraints for Education," NBER Working Papers 14879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ljungqvist, Lars, 1993. "Economic underdevelopment : The case of a missing market for human capital," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 219-239, April.
  9. Daniele Coen-Pirani & Rui Castro, 2011. "Public Policy and College Attainment," 2011 Meeting Papers 1350, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Lee, Donghoon & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 2010. "Accounting for wage and employment changes in the US from 1968-2000: A dynamic model of labor market equilibrium," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 68-85, May.
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