Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


An article in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education (unfortunately paywalled here) notes that "...58 private colleges and universities published rates for tuition, fees, room, and board totaling $50,000 or more in 2009-10. Last year only five institutions did so." Recalling the tuition I paid when I entered college in 1965, at a selective private liberal arts school, I thought it would be interesting to bring that up-to-date in 2008 prices.

Entering tuition, 1965: $1,400 per year.
Adjusted to 2008 prices: $9,569.
Tuition at that institution in 2009/10: $32,800.

At least my school is not one of the $50K institutions. Makes it a bargain, right?

The leader nationally is Sarah Lawrence University, at $55,788. Northwestern leads the schools inthe midwest at $50,164. Harvard isn't on the list, somewhat to my surprise...

To be fair, the "list price" is not what many-to-most students pay, because of various forms of financial aid, whether need-based or merit-based. Nonetheless, tuition and other direct expenses private, non-profit, four year schools averaged nearly $36,000 this year, nearly 60% of median family income. My 1965 tuition was less than 25% of the median family income then.

Whatever one might say, this looks not like a sustainable trend to me. And, as Herb Stein once said, if a trend can't be sustained, it won't be.


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