College cost/benefit skewed

It is past time to rethink higher education, particularly cost/benefit – in terms of utility, return on investment, contribution to social/political/economic advancement and stability.


Are we building more stately mansions for our souls or for our egos?

Just for kicks, go to the web and look up the tuition costs alone for a full semester at Augusta State University, or Georgia Military College, or any online university of your choice. In round numbers it will be $3,000 for 16 semester hours – times eight for a bachelor level degree, or $24,000, That’s not including living expenses – $12,000 a year, at least, or $48,000 for the same bachelor’s degree, to enter a job market at $16-24 per hour with a debt of $72,000. Include rent at $7,200 a year for a one-bedroom apartment, $7,600 a year for a car and insurance not including gas, and $8,000 a year for debt reduction.

Now add a professional degree: medicine, law, dentistry, optometry, theology – the list could go on, all costing into the high six-figures.

What about a newly minted cardiovascular surgeon? He or she will have a very high six-figure debt, and the only prospects are to join as a junior in a large group practice – where the old “guys” can’t quit because they lost their nest eggs in the market four years ago – or to become a “house” doctor in some for-profit hospital chain. All this, while the guy who invented compound interest is cleansing his palate with Dom Perignon.

We, the taxpayers and the beneficiaries of these newly minted professionals, need to say “stop” already. What we want built is men and women of skill and sterling character – not bigger, fancier, costly monuments to some imported ego.

I am 87 years old, and if it weren’t for the professional skill, care and empathy of professionals educated and trained at state-funded universities, I would have been dead 20 years ago. In those 20 years I have helped three grandchildren into careers of their choice. I want my great-grandchildren to have the same opportunities I had, my children had and my grandchildren had.

As things now stand, every stately mansion of today will be obsolete within the next 20 years. Then what? Tuition at five to 10 times the costs of today. The best I can do is urge my great-grandchildren to learn Chinese and get an MBA, or be happy with a Moon Pie and a Coke.

Tom Zwemer




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