You know that guy who ran under “The Rent is Too Damn High Party” for governor of New York? That guy was crazy, but when I started thinking about my topic for this week, that phrase popped into my head, but with a twist.
Tuition is too damn high.
I’m not just talking about the passage of NYSUNY 2020, which—aside from being redundant—is raising tuition at the four major SUNY schools (including Stony Brook). I’m not even talking about the recent hubbub from the CUNY schools with their tuition also going up.
I mean tuition as it stands now across the United States. It’s ridiculous.
For example, the average in-state tuition for public schools is $7, 042 according to the U.S. News and World Report.
As an out-of-state student (I’m from Oklahoma), I look at that number with envy. But, I digress. This article isn’t intended to complain about out-of-state costs vs. in-state costs, either.
Did you know that 20 years ago the tuition average, when adjusted for inflation, was around $2,800? A middle-income family could afford that; they can’t afford the over 100% increase.
But here’s the real issue: Why are colleges charging so much more anyway?
The price of admission is going up, but the amenities are pretty much the same. What are they doing with this money? They’re building more facilities, buying more technology, paying administrators more. The actual logistics vary from institution to institution, but in the end, the costs of running a school don’t add up to the costs said schools are charging their students.
So, why the massive increases?
Because they can. Universities have become a business. Unlike in other nations, which offer free university-level educations—for instance, Denmark, Greece and Argentina—the U.S. has created the perfect storm for making certain people lots of money and taking it from many more people.
College is very in demand. Twenty years ago, the tuition was lower, but so was the number of people trying to gain admission. As demand rises and supply stays pretty much the same, the price goes up. That’s a standard of capitalism.
Also, the reason so many people are trying to get into school, any school, has to do with changing ideas that college is a necessity for living the great American dream. Students and parents are willing to shell out whatever universities demand because they have been conditioned to believe that without that piece of paper, the only job they’ll get is flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
The really annoying thing about that is they’re probably right. Unfortunately, even with the expensive piece of paper, the only job available is flipping burgers at McDonald’s. That’s just the way the economy is these days.
This column is about overreaction and why it sucks. In this case, the universities are overreacting to the promise of lots of money by charging exorbitant rates for college admission. Students and parents are overreacting to the pressures of a changing world by being dumb enough to pay these prices. The thousands of dollars in debt really aren’t worth it.
Unfortunately, the few of us who realize this can’t fight the tide, which is why I’m still shelling out over $10,000 a year for a public school. Go seawolves.