Word from the old alma mater is that the price of private education is going up faster than the national debt. A recent College Board survey revealed that the price of a diploma at one of the more expensive schools is now $75,000, which does not include gas, oil or ski trips during the school break.
Can parents afford to send a kid to college for $75,000 and still find happiness? The answer is most people can't afford to send them for half of that. And yet for some reason the older generation continues to do it. Thanks to their own sacrifice, parents are making the nut and their children are growing up in the rich academic environment everyone has told them they are entitled to.
In order to get a better picture of what exactly is going on, I talked to those involved in the tuition struggle to see how they felt about it.
One student at Georgetown University took the news calmly. "Nobody wants to force our parents to come up with 75,000 big ones, but if that's the price we young Americans have to pay for a good education, I say it's money well spent. Dad had it easy when he went to college, so he never knew the cost of a diploma. Now he's learning the hard way, and he'll be better for it."
The drama concerning heavy tuition is being played out everywhere. I saw a father at Johns Hopkins say farewell to his son at the gate. As he bade him goodbye, the father gave the young man his cuff links, tie clasp and gold watch. "This is it," the father told the boy. "When they are gone you're on your own."
"Where will I find you?" the boy asked.
"Your mother and I will be in the basement of a federal housing project in Baltimore. Don't worry, the move has nothing to do with your tuition. We always planned to do it that way."
A president at one of the Ivy League schools defended the high-priced costs and said that $75,000 hardly pays for books and a half-baked history teacher.
"It's wrong," he said, "to use the figure $75,000 as the cost of a four-year education, because everybody will expect one for that. We have a different plan at our school. We insist that parents throw everything they have in our great rotunda and allow the school to take what it needs."
"That would be a fair way of doing it," I said.
"Parents think we make money on $75,000 tuition. There is no way we can get in the black by filling our classrooms," the president said. "We don't even make a profit on Shakespeare."
"What do you make money on?" I asked.
"Towing students' cars away. If it weren't for our police tow-away program we would never have been able to construct a new science building."
The final person I spoke to was a football player attending a great Texas university.
"How do you feel about a college education costing $75,000?" I asked him.
"I don't think that's a lot of money to pay a linebacker. After all, we have given up a great deal to play football for our school."
"I believe you misread me. The student is expected to pay the school, not the other way around."
"Why would a college football player want to pay the school anything?" he asked.
"Perhaps to get a better education."
"I'd rather see the $75,000 go into new shoulder pads, where it belongs."