From my own experience I saw tuition climb 24% from the freshmen year of college to my senior year at a state school in Illinois. I also saw the graphs that charted how in the early 1980s for every $1 dollar of tuition paid by a student, the state of Illinois paid $9. Now that ratio is close to or less than 1 to 1.
What this leads to is fewer kids going to college or those that do go amassing large amounts of debt that necessitates a high-paying job to service that burden, which are becoming harder to come by as well. This was a major element of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Now I know not everyone needs to go to college and I do think we need to direct more kids toward technical/vocational colleges then to English 101 then we currently do, but it's not like this money is being shifted. It's just going away. Surely it's in the national interest to have centers of learning to equip students with the knowledge and the critical thinking skills needed to drive innovation. And yet, this is a topic that pops up and fizzles out.
When I think about this issue and those that would suggest I think everyone should get a college degree for free, (not a half bad idea) I am always reminded of this clip from The West Wing. It's supposed to be hard, but surely the government has an interest in making it easier. Surely those that want an education should be able to do so without racking up massive amounts of debt.