Paying for College or a New Corvette - You Decide

Barry Lenson

“As the father of a student at Kenyon College told me, `it’s like driving a new Corvette to Ohio every September, leaving the keys and taking the bus home.’” – Froma Harrop writing on the Dallas News blog

In a new post on the Dallas News blog, reporter Froma Harrop writes that American colleges are charging more and delivering less. Here’s what she has to say . . .

  • The cost of state schools has grown six times faster than American incomes. The median income of Americans has grown 6.5 times in the past 40 years, but the cost of attending an in-state college has ballooned 15 times. Example: Tuition at the University of Illinois has increased by a factor of six since 1980, and is now $13,658 for in-state residents.
  • American universities now take in $40 billion a year more than they did in 1980. And more of that money pays for activities that have nothing to do with education. Example: The University of North Carolina at Durham now spends $20,000 a year on each varsity golfer. 
  • Athletic programs don’t make money. According to Harrop, there are 629 college football teams in America, and only 14 of them make money. Note: We have to question this a bit, since football does get a lot of alumni to donate to their alma maters. All those tailgating old boys and girls in raccoon coats do write checks.
  • The number of administrators at American colleges has doubled since 1980. And some college presidents are now earning as much as top corporate executives. Example: Vanderbilt University now pays its president $1.2 million a year.
  • Granite countertops can be found in dormitory kitchens on the campuses of some top schools. And student gyms look like ritzy health clubs.

“The market will eventually recognize the out-of-whack economics of today's `place-based colleges’ and intervene,” Harrop writes. “Someday soon, Web alternatives will let students of modest means try their hand at a college education. And what a great day that will be.”

Ms. Harrop, we couldn’t agree more. 

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