It’s Back to School Time … Why Does College Cost So Much?

I have missed many things because my children died at an early age but the high cost of a college education is one that I’m glad I was able to escape. I cringe at what families have to do to financially afford educating their sons and daughters beyond high school these days. Having grown up in the “dark ages” and going to college in the 1970s, my parents certainly had to tighten their belts to afford my education requirements, but nothing compared to what is necessary in 2013. In fact, the only scholarship I received was a $100 gift from the women’s group of my home congregation in St. Louis MO! You can read a couple of things about that between the lines: there weren’t very many scholarships around in those days or I wasn’t that sharp as a student. I’ll let you make your own inferences …

In today’s Wall Street Journal is an interview with Richard Vedder, from Ohio University’s Center for College Affordability and Productivity on the topic of today’s high costs of college and you can read it here. Now, the WSJ is slanted against President Obama (always has been and always will be) but this interview points out some interesting trends dating back from the 1960s when Federal Government money was specifically set aside for the purpose of making it easier for children of lower class families to attend college.

First, as with most government programs, they mushroom in size quickly. In 1964, federal student aid stood at 231 million dollars. In 1981, that program had increased to 7 billion on loans alone and today, in 2013, the amount is 105 billion. That’s some increase!

Second, universities have expanded their “educational” offerings in rather unique ways. Stanford University, long known for its educational prowess, today offers more classes in yoga than Shakespeare according to Mr. Vedder.

Third, schools everywhere have been on a continual building boom. Mr. Vedder’s example from right here in New Jersey at Princeton is a classic: “Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.”

For several of my years at college, I did not have a car–today a child considers that as necessary as a pair of jeans–so my opportunities for employment were more limited. But when I did have a vehicle, I also worked. Most students today don’t seem to want to work. How do I know? The college students I know don’t work when they come home for summer vacations. Instead they literally waste their time doing–well, you can fill in the blanks.

God bless our students and God bless their parents as they try to figure out how to pay the high cost of educating their children.

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