About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Cost of a Secondary Education

It's been much on my mind of late, to be sure. One in college, another about to go in just a couple of years away. The cost here in America of a college education is way, way, way too much. Everyone seems to agree. The sticker prices that I've seen range from low $20k per year (plus room, food plans, and other insundry items) to mid $50k per year plus the aforementioned insundry items. Total costs more like $28K to $60K, excepting most community colleges and Ivy League.

The cost since I went has far outstripped inflation. One wonders if Physics has changed, that they must constantly create new laws and rules and what not. Fair: there's more history now than there was a quarter of a century ago, but not all the kids are taking history...they don't really have all that much more to learn!

I've been reading a bit about this, and there are several arguments about exactly why college is so ridiculously priced.

They point to the fact that many colleges have installed "world-class" fitness facilities with rock walls, archery ranges, and other niceties to lure students. More stuff = more students = more money, but more stuff costs more money = higher tuition. Some other probable causes are gourmet food services. The argument is that kids are eating awesome food, fit for kings! Not the swill that I ate in my day. Better food = higher costs = higher tuition. BUT, better food is a lure for the kids. It's cyclical.

I read that some years ago our government tried to make secondary education more affordable by offering more money (mostly low interest loans) to families sending kids to school. Colleges perked up: "They have more money? GREAT!! We can take that!" These loans didn't make it easier to pay; the made our education cost more!

Businessweek had a decent article about this here:

Most of what I've read really tip-toes around what I think is truly the cause of out-of-control college costs in America:


Seems to me that a couple of generations ago, it was perfectly possible for a kid to pay his or her own way through college, and it was quite common to do so. I did, as did my beautiful wife. We had loans, but we were able to pay those loans. In some cases (not really ours, but in other cases), parents were able to help out and did so as much as they could.

Colleges, I'm thinking, put their nose into the wind and smelled money. "What? Mom and Dad are paying?!? Why, they've got more money than kids do...let's take that money!"

And the KA-CHING! sounded in the hallowed halls of American education.

"What? Many parents have houses! With Equity, no less! Why, I'm sure they won't mind digging into that for Jr's education!"


"What's this I hear? Mom and Dad were saving for retirement!?! HAHA! It is to laugh! Let us jack up tuition and take that as well!"


I can't find the article now, but I read one recently that said that one school's Dean (or president...can't recall which) went from a salary of ~$150k in 2000ish to ~$650k in 2010. Did anyone else get a 433% pay raise in that decade, while we were all losing pensions and 401(k) value? Not to mention the value of our real estate (and / or our jobs)? And not for nothing, am I the only one who thinks it's absolutely crazy that a school official makes more per year than the President?

Also note: that 433% is actually HALF A MILLION DOLLARS!!! Anyone else making an additional half million per year? Not I, certainly.

It's pure, unadulterated greed.

"But wait: we have put in this most awesome workout room! Free for your son or daughter to use!"

I'd rather get them a membership at a nearby gym and save myself the money. Not for nothing, my kids don't go to gyms. Kids will also by and large eat utter crap and be happy about it! Gourmet food is completely lost on them!

I have an idea, why don't you dispense with niceties, and keep my kid in school more? For the money that it costs, it absurd that they're out of school (and I know it varies) from late April to Late August, and for a month around New Year's, and then again for a week in the spring! They attend classes for just over half the year!

And the final blow: You spend 4 years to get a BA degree, pile up $100k in debt, and you can (if you're really lucky) get a job earning $30k per year. That's if the job is open, which it probably isn't because the fellow who helped you pay for the $125k that you didn't borrow to get through school can't retire because the school took the equity in his home and raped his savings, so he still needs the job and can't afford to retire!

Greed. And the paper isn't worth it anymore, but neither can we dispense with it.

Just plain greed. And no one is really saying that.

This is one of those cases where everyone knows that there's a pile of elephant crap in the middle of the room, and they're all looking at the bottom of their shoes to find out where the stink is coming from.

"Perhaps the baby needs a change, luvvie?" As he lights his cigar with a $1,000 dollar bill.
"And fire the cook!"


  1. It is horrifying to think of all those young folks going deep into debt that may not be able to get a decent job at the end of it all. We are tucking money away in a registered education fund for the grands in the hopes that the money will still be worth something by the time they are ready to use it. But who knows??

  2. You know what else is crazy? Laws down here have put a limit on what the banks can take for a payment plan (this part is good - they won't expect you to pay more than you make!), AND, they've put a limit to the number of years that you are forced to pay over. If you can't pay it all in that time, the remainder is forgiven...out of my taxes! The only people who make out on this deal are the colleges and universities. The fellow who can't pay it back gets rotten credit to boot!

  3. I am so glad my kids are out of college and have paid their loans off. I don't know how they will be able to afford to pay for their children's education though. They have been putting money away since their children were born, but I can't imagine that it will be enough. We also have accounts for them but the way tuitions are rising, it can never cover the costs. I see education going to on-line schools where people will interact with screens rather then people. It has been around for awhile now and I see this as an alternative to the costs of the traditional bricks and mortar colleges that have over-priced themselves.

    1. From what I see, and what I read, the education cost in America (not sure how the rest of the world looks) is going to experience a "bubble burst" just like the dot-coms and (around here) real estate. It simply must.