Cost of a College Education

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,448
Eastern PA
#1
Over the years I have been appalled at both the alarming increase in the cost of a college education and the unjustified spread of the requirement for a college degree for positions that did not require a degree 40 years ago. Night shift manager at the Dollar store - C'mon? Fireman- Why?

I graduated from a prestigious engineering school in 1973 and the total cost of my 4 year Engineering degree was less than $14K. Today at the same college, the $14K my degree cost would cover my college education costs all the way up to the first week of October, freshman year. Correspondingly, my starting salary was $11K and starting wages today are about five times that.

So the cost of the degree has increased by a factor of 18 and earnings have multiplied by only a factor of 5. (I leave the deficit math to you.)

The past 40 years have produced a number of reports and explanations for this upward cost spiral; professor salaries, government regulation, need to upgrade dorms to attract students, declining enrollment........ Not a one of these excuses really explained the problem to me.

Today I came across an article that makes sense on the increase in college costs. It does have a bit of a conspiracy component to it that bothers me; I do not believe in conspiracies that involve more than a handful of people.

The article is a long read and I quite aware that it will likely, and sadly, be deemed TLDR by way too many people.

Here is a link to the article and... part of the conclusion:

Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations and hypnotize the media


The whole enterprise changed. One term they used for it in the early days, according to a landmark 1988 magazine article by Barry Werth, was the “Chivas Regal argument”—the idea that college was a luxury good and should be treated as such. Forget all the bushwah about diversity and lazy professors driving up tuition; price increases in those days became virtually an end in themselves, something colleges did simply to burnish their prestigious brand image. Werth quoted an administrator from Lehigh University who put the new philosophy succinctly: “If it’s going to be a world of haves and have-nots, we sure intend to be among the haves.”


That is the offer our ever-more expensive colleges extend to their students as well: in a world of rich and poor, the only choice before you is whether or not you intend to purchase a place among the haves. And these days even the once-sanctimonious New York Times runs stories openly treating the most expensive colleges as brands, as class signifiers.


Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations and hypnotize the media
It is the best explanation that I have seen.
 
Jan 2019
130
USA
#2
I agree that the article is a bit too conspiratorial. I think there is a more plausible explanation. The landscape has become more competitive and prerequisites for employment have accounted for it.

Americans with a college degree 1940-2017, by gender | Statista

The job market has accounted for the rise in college graduates. In regards to tuition fees? The value of a college education has accounted for the increase in demand for 4-year degrees.

Personally, I think it's simple as opposed to complex.
 

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,448
Eastern PA
#4
The job market has accounted for the rise in college graduates. In regards to tuition fees? The value of a college education has accounted for the increase in demand for 4-year degrees.
.
Even my personal experiences, as I related in the OP, totally refute the issue of value.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,101
#6
In regards to tuition fees? The value of a college education has accounted for the increase in demand for 4-year degrees.

.
The problem with this assertion is that while (in the same college) the cost of different degrees is very similar (e.g. engineering vs african poetry) , the value of such degrees (i.e. the salary one can get on average with such a degree) is vastly different.... So if the tuition fee was purely defined based on how much the student will earn later, you should have a wide range of tuitions in the same college....

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

According to this, the starting salary for a chemistry major is $63K while for art history , music or drama it is $36K ....40% less..... yet those degrees do not cost 40% less
 

Solidaire

Ad Honorem
Aug 2009
5,423
Athens, Greece
#7
To be honest, I never understood why in some countries public education is not free. Personally, I find it inconceivable that one has to pay for it. OK, I can understand that some people don't want their taxes used for the benefit of the broader society, but how are poor people supposed to get education in these countries? Isn't such a system leading to a class-oriented education, deepening class distinctions?
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,101
#8
To be honest, I never understood why in some countries public education is not free. Personally, I find it inconceivable that one has to pay for it. OK, I can understand that some people don't want their taxes used for the benefit of the broader society, but how are poor people supposed to get education in these countries? Isn't such a system leading to a class-oriented education, deepening class distinctions?
Depends on which level... higher education is costly, so its not altogether unreasonable to have the students pay for at least part of it... theoritically this should discourage "eternal students" from clogging the system, push them to work harder to get their degree faster, push them to choose degrees with a good return on investment (this last point however does not seem to happen as consistently as it should).....

For the underprivileged a system of grants, scholarships and -as last resort- loans allows them to get higher education...
 

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,448
Eastern PA
#9
The problem with this assertion is that while (in the same college) the cost of different degrees is very similar (e.g. engineering vs african poetry) , the value of such degrees (i.e. the salary one can get on average with such a degree) is vastly different.... So if the tuition fee was purely defined based on how much the student will earn later, you should have a wide range of tuitions in the same college....

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

According to this, the starting salary for a chemistry major is $63K while for art history , music or drama it is $36K ....40% less..... yet those degrees do not cost 40% less
My example was 100% comparable. An engineer today starts out making about 5 times what I earned yet that engineers college cost is 18 times what mine was.

Apples to apples...................
 
Jan 2010
4,364
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#10
In the meantime student debt has ballooned to $1.5 trillion this year.....(up from some $200 bio 15 years ago)

The ability to borrow to finance one’s post high school education is one reason why advanced education costs so much. Students don’t see the long-term costs immediately and therefore discount it drastically.
 
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