You have probably heard a lot of yammering of late about the high cost of education. Forbes asks, "Is college still worth it?" Worth it?? It's a steal. It's such a sweet deal that I'm considering going back for a degree in - well, whatever... ballroom dance, turf management, gynecology; spin the wheel, it doesn't matter.
At my alma mater, Iowa State for example, tuition for an in-state dude or dude-ette will cost you $3,324 samoleans for the fall semester. For $3 grand you receive all the wisdom of the ages, the key to the interstellar gym locker of lifetime economic achievement and the mystic combo to the Masterlock on the grand foot locker of universal awareness. At those prices, you should tip the prof a couple of bucks after every good class. "Here you go, bro, buy youself something nice."
Three thousand dollars doesn't go as far as it used to. What else are you gonna buy with that dough - a medium high-end bicycle perhaps. A really good suit. Quite a lot of beer. A hunk of Kate Middleton's used bubble gum on e-Bay.
So, Dana, you ask, what exactly is the catch here?
It's about time you asked, pal. I'm on a schedule here.
Let's again take as an example our completely random, fully fictitious in-state student whose parent insists on sending to their alma mater Iowa State. We will call this random example, "My son."
If you are of the parental persuasion, your colon will tighten up and climb into your esophagus the moment you read this next bit. You may wish to send your child to pre med in order to find an explanation for that phenomenon.
I don't know when this came to be or if it is true elsewhere, but here it is: the cruddy dorm room may cost more than the education. The crappy food may cost more, too.
At ISU, you would write a check in blood for hundreds of dollars for a few textbooks at the bookstore, plus a handful of goofy things like a "health fee," "activity fee" and "technology fee" to put your little meathead into classes. The dorm room will cost you close to $4 grand a year for a double-occupancy dump to $5,500 for the taj mahal suite. Health insurance, another $1,500. And the meals - over $4,100 if you want them to get three squares every day. Suddenly your bargain tuition of just over $3,000 is looking more like $9,372 for a semester.
Frankly, I'd sublet the dorm room, and scalp cheeseburgers on the corner. Wear a jacket full of pizza slices and pimp garden salads to pay your way through Organic Chem 301.
Sadly, your "cheap education" will end up costing Mom and Dad exactly the equivalent of the annual NASA space program budget. And the munchkin will come out utterly confused and owing a loan for sixty-five bazilliongazzilliontrillion dollars and 32 cents, which they couldn't pay off if they worked for 800 years.
Still, it's worth it. Exactly what kind of career doesn't need a college degree these days? Panhandling? Piracy? Member of Congress?
Out of the latter two there, I'd choose Piracy. It's a tad more respectable.
You have to go to college. Even if it's only to be able to correctly formulate the sentence, "Hey, youse want fries with dat or what?"
I read somewhere that Baby Reagan, a Carroll infant, was once awarded a $1,000 College Savings Iowa account, courtesy of the State Treasurers nifty Iowa Baby 529 Plan Giveaway. By the time she gets to college, that will just about buy a gallon of milk.
Apparently, a random baby born at a participating Iowa hospital is chosen every so often to win the Benjamins.
My first question is, how the heck does one find this "random" baby? Do you put them all into a big rotating drum and pull one out by the big toe?
On that sane day, I read about a baby that had been found abandoned. If we're giving away the taxpayer's dough, why not give a college account to those poor little ones getting dumped off by parents who don't want them? If anybody on earth is due a break, it's them.
Of course college is worth it. But the real danger is losing the perception that college is affordable. Our society is built on the belief that if someone works hard enough, they can aspire to education and achievement no matter the circumstances they come from. It would be a tragic socioeconomic splintering for our society to lose that. There's a reason kids at Storm Lake High School flocked to the charter school program - it is a way to grasp those precious college credits when their families might not otherwise see college as possible.
I note too that the Regent colleges in Iowa charge around $9,800 for out-of-state student tuition - nearly triple the normal amount. Of course, classroom spaces must be available for Iowa residents first, but is it wise to so discourage bright young people from other states and countries from studying in Iowa?
In Iowa, we whine about a graying society and brain drain. Maybe we should be building up those colleges to house more top students recruited from around the country and world, instead of paying football coaches ten times what the president of the United States gets, for mediocre seasons. (I know, I know football makes money, don't write in...)
No matter how you look at it, though, education is cheap at any price. But just like buying a car, read the fine print... it's those extras that'll have Dad dining in a dumpster.