David Leonhardt serves up a dialogue with Robert B. Archibald, and also David H. Feldman. Archibald starts by citing the cost disease and also the heavy use of skilled labor in the sector. I don't think they get to the heart of the matter, as there is no mention of entry barriers, whether legal, cultural, or economic. The price of higher education is rising — rapidly — and yet a) individual universities do not have strong incentives to take in larger classes, and b) it is hard to start a new, good college or university. The key question is how much a) and b) are remediable in the longer run and if so then there is some chance that the current structure of higher education is a bubble of sorts.
I never see the authors utter the sentence: "There are plenty wanna-bee professors discarded on the compost heap of academic history." Yet the best discard should not be much worse, and may even be better, than the marginally accepted professor. Such a large pool of surplus labor would play a significant role in an economic analysis of virtually any other sector.
When it comes to solving the access problem, the word which pops up is "financial aid," not "increased competition." Why might that be?