That Makes Me Stabby: College Tuition Hikes

My cousin recently went on her college tour and she looked at my old school. When I learned what they now charge for tuition, I was shocked and angry. In fact, I was stabby, for the first time in almost three months! I went to a good school, and enjoyed my time there, but it is simply not worth what they’re charging anymore. The education was good, but not amazing. In fact, some of the classes were downright awful.

The Rapid Rise in Tuition

It seems that colleges these days, even the non-profit ones, are more interested in bringing in money and earning acclaim than they are in educating their students. I graduated 15 years ago. At that time, tuition plus room and board was around $18,000. Steep, but not ridiculous. Now, that same school is asking an astounding $47,500 for tuition plus room and board. The cost of room and board has doubled in fifteen years. Meanwhile, the tuition has tripled. The total is 379% more than it was fifteen years ago.

If the cost had risen with inflation, it would be $25,000. That’s a pretty sharp difference. Almost a whole year of tuition different!

Where Is the Money Going?

According to an article in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times, the money usually isn’t going to academics. At the major schools like Yale and Duke, it’s going to sports, higher salaries for non-teaching professors, additional administrators, and infrastructure.

I don’t take issue with infrastructure improvements – certain things are necessary in today’s schools that simply didn’t exist in 1995. However, my old college does not have a single world-class athletics team, although they did rebuild the gym, maybe in hopes of getting one? The professors there actually do teach. They’ve remodeling several of the buildings and expanding the campus rapidly. However, I’ve also learned that their endowment has ballooned to over $400 million and they’re not giving as many tuition grants as similarly endowed schools. So what’s with the money grab?

Honestly, if it were my child, I would not send him or her to that school. It’s not worth it. Instead, he or she could go to a UC, which offers a similar, in some cases better, education for less cost. Yes, the rates at UCs have also gone up over 300%, but they started out pretty low so the total isn’t as steep.

Is This Fair to Our Children?

Sure, student loans make it easy to afford the education while the student is in school, but what happens once they graduate? An engineering grad may earn enough to pay back $188,000 in loans (total before interest), but what about an English major? They will spend the next thirty years paying off those loans. What happens if they want to buy a car or a house? What happens when they want to send their children to college and are still paying off their own loans?

The current system isn’t sustainable. We have to do something to contain these costs before they spiral any further out of control. The very idea of my old school charging a freshman living on campus $47,000 a year makes me irate. Harvard costs $50,000. Believe me, my college is not in Harvard’s league. In fact, I told my cousin it wasn’t worth it.

If we keep going this way, only rich students or students who plan to be engineers will have any hope of paying back the cost of their education and then eventually being able to retire. Is that fair? I don’t think so.

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