American Consequences - April 2021

temptations of the flesh and devotes oneself to the life of the mind... To which the modern American scholar would say, Are you freaking kidding me ?! Contemporary American college students are looking for a lot more than a mere education. They are in pursuit of an “experience.” THE UNDERGRAD FACTORY So the comforts and luxuries are recruiting tools. The schools are in competition for high- quality students who can pay... with borrowed money, if necessary. They aren’t interested in bargain hunters. They want kids who have the best transcripts and test scores. Sort of like blue-chip law firms going after recent graduates of the more prestigious law schools. The kids – and their parents – likewise want the schools with the highest rankings. They are looking for a prestige diploma, which explains why some television actresses recently had to do time for resorting to bribery as a means of getting their kids into the “right” schools. The “amenities” are one component in the mix that goes into making a school prestigious and appealing to the right kind of applicants. But the amenities are only one of the elements driving the cost of college. And while they may be the most conspicuous and vulnerable to ridicule, they are not the most costly. There are other drivers of rising costs in higher ed... There are salaries. Most of the people who are employed by colleges and universities have at least one degree, and most have more. And people who have degrees don’t work cheap.


In 1969, college was an affordable Spartan affair (including the beer). And my undergrad horizon- broadening experiences and personal connections I got skulking around Miami University's quads have stuck with me ever since. But now, the hemorrhaging costs of higher education make you wonder if the whole enterprise is even worth it. And you won't need an MA to grasp the absurdity of these numbers. • In 1963, the annual tuition cost at a four-year public college was $243 – $2,078 adjusted for inflation. • Average yearly tuition for four-year institutions more than doubled between 1986 to 2018, from $12,551 to $27,357. In that same stretch, college costs increased nearly eight times faster than wages. • The average annual cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per student. This cost has tripled in 20 years, with a yearly growth rate of 6.8%. • The average student loan debt is $37,584, and more than a third of students borrow money to pay for college. • Today, the average American needs to earn about $22,000 more than the current median income to afford college.

American Consequences

American Co s quences



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