The title of the article couldn’t be ignored: “Who should pay your college bills?” Before I read the very first sentence, I glanced down at author’s credits – Andrew J. Policano, Professor of Economics and former dean at UC Irvine’s School of Business. I had a feeling he and I would be on different tracks.

Dr. Policano quickly assures the reader that, despite the fact higher education is so expensive, the cost of educating a student “has been restrained.” He further states “at the University of California, expenditure per student has fallen by more than 20% since 1991 while tuition has risen … the consequence of decreasing state support for public higher education.” While I struggled to figure out what that meant, I spotted the matter of primary importance: “What’s really at issue isn’t the price but who should pay for it: students, parents or donors.”

From that point on the article became a complex dissertation involving legislative involvement, public university policies, university-designed redistribution programs and the qualm that “tuition is not rising by a large enough amount to replace the significant decreases in state support.”

Though I read through to the end, I never learned who should pay your college bills. For this reason, I’ll offer my opinion – and I’ll not beat about the bush. The student benefiting from the education is the logical payor. If that’s not possible, a devoted parent or other agreeable relative is next on the list. If money is in short supply, a low cost community college should be chosen for the first two years, with a reasonably priced state university chosen for the junior and senior terms. Student loans should be avoided whenever possible, even if it results in a later date graduation than originally intended. And if the student must obtain employment while attending college part time, this is the way it should be. The key is to obtain the diploma while incurring no loan obligations.

A final thought: Education is more than a university degree. It’s the learning you acquire. After your books have been disposed of, the names of your instructors forgotten, and your framed certificate of completion relegated to a wall at which you seldom glance, the information you acquired which resides in your head is what your schooling was really all about.