SALON: You argue for a movement toward something called “DIY U.” What is it? KAMENETZ: I define it as the mentality that there’s another way to provide the benefits of higher education to the people who need it. It’s an idea that puts the learner at the center. Rather than the game being, “How do you get into the most exclusive institution possible?” the idea is that you as a learner are identifying your own goals and assembling experiences that will be the most valuable for you to achieve those goals. SALON: How did college tuition costs get so out of control? KAMENETZ: On a broad policy historical level, what we have now is an erosion from the high-water mark of the early 1970s. There was a short period of time — from the postwar era with the GI Bill to the early ’70s — [in which] there seemed to be unlimited rounds of investment from the federal government and the state into mass higher education. It was seen as good economic policy, from a national defense and security perspective, and with the Civil Rights Act, there were more and more people — women, minorities — who wanted access to opportunity. College seemed like a way to allow them to prove themselves instead of unleashing them on the job market. Then the economy turned upside down. There was a political backlash against college students, fueled in large part by the campus unrest in the ’60s, and it was no longer so popular to support students. So states started withdrawing their support, and colleges started practicing cost shifting. States came down on colleges as being fat and happy and full of liberal professors, and colleges put the cost burden on families, and families took on more student loans. As a result, you get this credit bubble effect, similar to what happened recently with mortgages: There’s so much debt available, and so much free money for colleges, that parents and families become less sensitive to price increases, and there’s no political outcry at the state level.The full article is available at Salon.com.