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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The cost of college

The Campus at Soutern Cal. Beautiful and expensive.

Froma Harrop writes for the Providence Journal. The Republic usually picks up her column to give us the East Coast liberal point of view. I guess the idea is to offset some of the more conservative guys they carry like Charles Krauthammer and George Will.

Anyway, although I usually disagree with her pandering to Obama, I do agree with her column from 9-27 where she talks about the insane cost of going to college these days. On my August 4, 2009 blog, I talked about the high cost of education but mentioned I thought it was worth it even though it means debt for a lot of people for a long time.

Even with the bad job market, one is better off with at least a bachelor’s degree. It puts them to the front of the line over those without a degree in case jobs are ever available again. However, a college degree is not always the answer to good employment since many are not suited for the classroom and can do better in some sort of trade work. It’s an honorable alternative and plenty of skilled trade workers earn a very comfortable income. A good example is a quote from Herman Melville made 150 years ago: “A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.” I would assume he cashed in pretty good from Moby Dick. I wonder what he would have received for the movie rights.

Harrop mentions some interesting numbers for college costs: In the last 40 years, American median income has grown 6.5 times while the cost of attending a state college has risen 15 times.

Tuition at the privately owned U. of Southern California has risen 360% since 1980 to $41,434 a year. At the U. of Illinois, a state school, the tuition is $13,658, six times the cost of 1980. This does not include room and board.

Maybe universities need to tone down their expenses a bit. Harrop mentions that the president of Vanderbilt makes $1.2 million a year. Also, highly acclaimed Duke University spends over $20,000 per year on each varsity golf team member. There is no way the golf teams can cover that expense with the small following they have. What about the beautiful campuses and amenities for students? Is all of that necessary? Do the schools need fancy student unions?

I’m sure there are many who simply can’t afford to go to college. Bill Gates has said that “Five years from now on the Web, you’ll be able to find for free the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.” Gates also mentioned that a year at a university costs an average $50,000 but you can get the same quality education on the Web for $2,000.

Gates is a Harvard dropout but seems to have done pretty well for himself so maybe he is right. Of course, if you follow his advice you may miss some traditional college life. With the cost of college, you may not have a choice.

To leave a comment or to read 24 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic newspaper.

1 comment:

midnightsstaff said...

I can now prove that I read your blog..