HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Who Can Still Afford State U? As public colleges spend more and get less from the states, tuition costs are shifting to parents and students—often putting higher education out of reach.

A number of factors have helped to fuel the soaring cost of public colleges. Administrative costs have soared nationwide, and many administrators have secured big pay increases—including some at CU, in 2011. Teaching loads have declined for tenured faculty at many schools, adding to costs. Between 2001 and 2011, the Department of Education says, the number of managers at U.S. colleges and universities grew 50% faster than the number of instructors. What’s more, schools have spent liberally on fancier dorms, dining halls and gyms to compete for students.

Administrative bloat is a big problem. But the really interesting story is how higher education is being outcompeted in state budgets by various social-welfare programs of the sort that higher education folks tend to support. Oops!