Politicians often state that keeping tuition at state universities low facilitates accessibility to education to all residents of the state, regardless of income. A review of the market dynamics in this situation makes clear that this can only partially be true. While the demand will increase due to the lower price, the supply will remain constant.In a market where there is no intervention, prices are determined by demand and supply. This will not be the case if price is held constant. Assuming that state funding and university student capacity is held constant, the conditions that will prevail will be that of greater demand than supply. If tuition is held below the market determined equilibrium price then something else must shift. Given that the price is fixed, other criteria will become important with regard to which individuals are accepted into the state universities. Likely the determination of acceptance to university will become based on merit. Higher marks can be requested by state universities in order to filter the greater number of applications to match the supply of university seats.
Education is equally accessible under these conditions in terms of income. While income is no longer the greatest determinant, as the capacity of the state universities did not increase, this only means that different criteria must be used to determine who is successful in their application. The number of seats at the universities has been constant, but if the capacity of state universities was increased, in addition to affordable tuition, then more of the greater demand facilitated by lowered cost could be met.
If politicians truly believe in facilitating access to education for all state residents then it is important not only that the tuition rates be kept low, but also that the supply of seats at the state university increases.
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