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Rot

Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on February 2, 2024

Eight of the country’s elite colleges settled a lawsuit last week, agreeing to pay $118 million for colluding to match financial aid offers — price fixing. The schools deny any wrongdoing, but writing checks for $118 million does not signal innocence. The complaint lays out a strong case. In fact, nobody disputes the collusion. It was done in the light of day, through an organization called the 568 Presidents Group. To collude lawfully, the colleges were required to practice need-blind admissions … and they didn’t. These schools are forking over close to the city budget of Irvine, California, to avoid discovering what a jury of their peers might decide when presented with the facts. The lawsuit is emblematic of the rot that’s infected higher ed over the past several decades.

Rot whose stench wafted into our living rooms when America witnessed the cloddish response to campus unrest following the October 7 Hamas attack. Rot evident in the metastasizing cancer of administrative bloat at elite schools, which has dwarfed investments in actual education. Rot that has hamstrug the financial future of a generation of college graduates by burdening them with absurd debt. All because university leadership asks one question when they look out a window and see themselves: How can I increase my compensation while reducing my accountability? A: Create artificial scarcity so we can raise prices faster than inflation to fund our bloat. The good news: This can be fixed.

High-Water Mark

A decent high-water mark for American higher education is 1983 — the year Columbia became the last Ivy League school to admit women to its undergraduate program. Applications jumped 56%, and the school’s “sex-blind” admission policy resulted in a freshman class that was 45% female. By the early 1980s, 6% of Ivy League undergrads were Black; gay student organizations were recognized on campuses; and financial aid was bringing elite diplomas within reach of the broader populace. America’s top colleges morphed from finishing schools for the wealthy into a lubricant for upward mobility — put another way, American universities began to define what was great about America.

I matriculated as a freshman at UCLA the same year, 1983, and benefitted from a 76% admissions rate and $1,350 annual tuition. It’s been downhill since. What’s changed? The education hasn’t — if my 18-year-old self were to walk into a UCLA classroom today, he’d perceive only surface differences. The ROI has declined — an elite school degree can still quadruple your expected income, but your purchasing power has declined as tuition has exploded. Progress in representation has been unequal — Asian students and women are overrepresented (compared to the population at large), but Black students remain underrepresented. (Their enrollment actually declined at many schools in the late 1980s and ’90s.)

In addition, the battle over getting the “right” mix remains a misdirect. As we’ve written before, affirmative action affirms its mission by advancing kids based on income, not race. Letting in a rich Indian student who played lacrosse at Choate is not furthering diversity. Harvard’s freshman class is 51% non-white. However, 67% come from the upper fifth of families by income — the same portion as in 1983. We’re simply reshuffling the elites. In today’s America, you’re better off being born wealthy and non-white or gay than poor. This represents progress, but we need to update our thinking about who needs a hand up.

Stasis

The stasis comes at a massive cost. College is more expensive than ever and, relative to the number of qualified students, less accessible. The tsunami of capital generated by increasing tuition has not gone toward the mission. Instead, it’s funded an army of high-paid administrators, and academic programs and centers with no measurable outcomes. These arrogant attempts at social engineering are immune from scrutiny — you are clearly a racist or don’t “get it” if you question the return on DEI, ethics, leadership, ESG, or campus Rolexification (such as lazy rivers and climbing walls). The top tier of higher education is steadily regressing (again) to become the domain of the ultra-wealthy, salted with some freakishly remarkable kids to wallpaper over its transition from a lubricant to a coronation.

Support System

Some of the increase in administrative spending is warranted. Expanding access to kids from different backgrounds requires more resources. However, it does not explain the 10:1 ratio of MIT employees to faculty who (gasp) actually teach.

Between 1976 and 2018, the number of “other professionals” employed at colleges increased 452%, while full-time faculty grew just 92%. Senior administrators in diversity and inclusion positions make double or triple what teaching faculty make: Michigan pays its vice provost for equity and inclusion $431,000 a year (equivalent to $938,107 in New York City), and UVA pays its DEI VP $340,000 ($753,783 in NYC). My experience serving on the boards of organizations ranging from the New York Times Co. to the Berkeley Haas School of Business is that having a DEI position, much less a department, means you are already one of the most diverse and inclusive places on Earth. DEI on a university campus is a fire station in the ocean — expensive and redundant.

This administrative growth is parasitic, and the parasites know it. A poll of administrative staff found that 38% responded “false” to the statement, “my work makes the world a better place.” Another found that bureaucrats at universities were much less likely to believe their job benefited society than faculty members. They’re right. Administration begets more administration; it is the nature of the disease.

Surgery

How do we reverse this reversal? There are two forces to contend with: The metastasizing bureaucracy, which sees every problem as an excuse to hire more bureaucrats; and incentives. University presidents are pitted against middle-class households, as they receive psychic and economic compensation for creating artificial scarcity, the low admission rates that result in faux prestige and pricing power. This turns springtime, in households all over America, into a season of despair. The rejection of tens of thousands of good kids fuels university leadership, alumni ego, and student debt. As the lawsuit reveals, rich kids and international students who pay full freight get preference. In sum, the kids who would benefit most from college are denied it.

The emotionally charged, divisive fight over who gets in is a head fake. It’s not about who, but how many. Outside of the top 10% of universities there is no need for DEI, because most schools have more supply than demand. As I’ve argued before, we need a grand bargain. The federal government should offer the largest 500 public universities (approximately the top third) an average of $1 billion per school (adjusted by size) over 10 years.

The Biden administration allocated just about that sum, $500 billion, for student debt relief before the Supreme Court blocked it. Despite the White House’s good intentions, I do not believe you can ask the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t go to college to bail out the third who did. In addition, loan bailouts are primitive chemotherapy — they shrink the tumor but make the cancer worse, as they also bail out universities who have less pressure to address the underlying disease: cost.

In exchange for this $1 billion, over a decade, schools must:

  • Reduce tuition by 2% a year;
  • expand enrollments 6% a year via investments in technology and infrastructure; and
  • increase vocational/certificate programs to 20% of degrees granted.

The net result, in 10 years, would be a doubling of freshman seats and a halving of cost (inflation adjusted). The investment would offer greater access — and a step-change in opportunity for kids who do not have the money, skill, or desire to pursue a traditional four-year degree. Nearly 50% of Germans receive some sort of vocational certification; in the U.S. it’s 5%. Pro tip: Forgive yourself and your kid, and reject the shame, if your son/daughter does not get a four-year liberal arts degree.

Note: Spare me the bullshit about an erosion in brand equity if our best universities broaden admissions standards. As I said, when I attended UCLA it had a 76% admissions rate, and the brand was outstanding. Scarcity is a concern for a luxury brand, not a school. Rejectionist Nimbyism is only continuing the transfer of wealth from the young/poor to the incumbent old/rich. If we can scale our most valuable firms 30% per year, then we can expand enrollments at our great public universities 6% per year. The system is ready. Increasing the amount of remote learning and utilizing campuses during non-peak periods (summers, nights, weekends) could double capacity. We can continue to produce poets and philosophers, but also nurses, plumbers, and cybersecurity technicians.

Reckoning

A reckoning is inevitable. Demographics are destiny. And destiny is coming for higher ed. The declining birth rates in the aughts mean there will be fewer undergrads starting in 2025. And the appeal of college to this dwindling cohort is fading. The most bloated industry in America is about to face a perfect storm: There are fewer customers, and the ones remaining are losing interest in the product.

This problem won’t affect elite institutions, as they receive 10 to 20 times more applications than they have freshman seats. Harvard sitting on a $52 billion endowment while limiting freshman seats to 1,500 defines what it is to be a for-profit firm. Any university that doesn’t increase the size of its freshman class faster than population growth should lose its tax-free status on the return from its endowment. At some of these colleges, the endowments have surpassed the GDP of a Central American nation. We (faculty and administrators) are public servants, not fucking Birkin bags.

Most

Why do we have a nation? Why fund a government and institutions? At the core, I believe, is the desire for our children to have access to a better life than we had. Isn’t that the whole shooting match? And we’re failing. Despite historic prosperity over the past several decades, we’ve registered less progress. We have produced the most anxious, depressed generation of young adults in our history. They must navigate algorithms and platforms that assault their self-esteem only to then face the rejection and debt higher ed levies on them.

America’s optimism, in this instance, is our weakness. We all believe our kid is the remarkable one. Well, I can prove that 99% of our kids are not in the top 1%. No institution or admissions director can predict greatness in a 17-year-old, nor should they. Our mission should be to offer as many decent/good 17-year-olds as we can a shot at greatness.

I will be accused of catastrophizing. And admittedly, despite all the challenges, most of our kids will be fine. Most.

Life is so rich,

P.S. Please add to the comments: your school; year of graduation; tuition; and what you received in exchange. I’ll go first.

P.P.S. Section’s AI Crash Course (Feb. 12-23) closes enrollment next week. Enroll here.

Comments

215 Comments

  1. Akhil, Kishore says:

    Wonderful piece Professor Galloway.
    We might need to start thinking about transitioning jobs into different ones with the same financial benefits otherwise the shift might not happen. The same is true of all jobs including jobs in the defence, oil…etc. The resistance will be too huge otherwise even if people themselves want shifts to happen.

  2. Ben says:

    IU– South Bend 2012 drop out, 12k/year
    Just didn’t have the money. After a tuition raise I was already picking up as much overtime as I could to cover costs. Thankfully my father lost his job so getting a loan was off the table with no cosigner.

    Dropped out to work a wine harvest and live out my childhood TinTin travel fantasies. This Indiana college drop out is currently enrolled in a rigorously academic wine accredadation with a bunch of Oxford and Cambridge grads.

  3. Heather says:

    Indiana University 1993-BS in Accounting. Tuition was $2,794 per year. Kelly School of business Accounting program is ranked #4 in the US.. Also the new CPA requirements require a 5 year degree. I have stayed in the Midwest. But greatly benefited from my IU degree.

  4. Bogdan Cristei says:

    Berkeley Haas MBA, ~$150k, December 2023
    Berkeley Industrial Engineering MEng May 2021 ~$100k
    UC irvine Chemical Engineering BS 2013 ~50k

    Immigrated from Romania at age 18; the degrees gave me the confidence to pursue the career I thought was best suited for myself. Was rejected from Berkeley 5 years in a row before finally getting admitted; I learned a lot from the process. I appreciate the UC system.

    Thanks for taking the time to write, It’s a pleasure to read your blog.

  5. Tim says:

    Georgia Institute of Technology, graduated 2022 with a Master of Science in Computer Science. I paid $8,216.00 total. Yes, $8k for 10 classes and a fully-accredited Computer Science degree.

    There are still bright spots in this industry. Georgia Tech, UIUC, and UT Austin are all offering these high-quality, online (and equivalent to on-campus), shockingly affordable MS in CS degrees. “Bootcamps” are out, online degrees are in. There are some early signs from ASU and Western Governors University that we might see the same for undergraduate education at top universities eventually.

  6. Jim Heavrin says:

    Entered the school of hard knocks in 1973 after high school graduation. Tuition was everything I could earn. Put 2 kids through college at state schools – one with a masters and now have a 15 year old grandson who is number one in his class that I am encouraging to learn a trade first and think about a degree if he decides later.

  7. David M says:

    U.P.E.I. (it’s in Canada) 1983 Business Administration
    David Foote’s book, “Boom, Bust, and Echo” describes my birth year, 1961 as the worst in the last 1/2 of the last century. Graduating into the highest interest rates ever was no fun. Even the accounting students didn’t all get jobs the year I graduated. However, graduating debt-free (tuition was $1350 per year with, plus books, meant a cost of approximately $1600 per year) gave me the freedom to take one heck of a long time to figure out what I wanted to do.
    Today, I have been retired since age 59 and am loving life.
    Don’t give up.
    Also, if your alternative is becoming a plumber or an electrician, live it. You’ll be making more money for the first 10 – 15 years of your career than the university guys unless you’re really unlucky….

  8. Kyle says:

    University of Montana 2019 Chemistry
    Tuition was roughly 20k a year for an out of state student. I joined the army before attending school so I had the GI Bill, and my tuition was covered. There would be no way I could afford to take off work for 4 years and rack up a massive amount of debt. Growing up poor, college was always seen as something well off kids do, and I figured out how to do it on my own terms without debt or loans.

  9. David Dobbs says:

    Ober,in College, 1980. Tuition was $5000/yr when I started, maybe 6 my 4th year; my parents paid it without too much strain, so I graduated debt-free … but into the Reagan recession.

    I’ve been a freelance journalist and author most of the time since, and don’t send the school anything. Your indictments are all justified. College was one of the best things I ever experienced — the thrill of discovering intellectual engagement— but the cost now is ruinous. My kids are graduating into a hellscape compared to my time. (Though Reagan bears a lot of responsibility for where we’ve ended up. He must be smiling his best big smile…)

  10. David says:

    UCL (University College, London), 1991.
    Tuition was free and I got a grant towards living costs. Spent most of it on beer.
    My kids will be starting soon. UK colleges fees capped at £9k/year with a loan scheme that looks more like a grad tax – only repayable over a minimum income threshold. It seems to work OK.

  11. Stephen Slater - Miami of Ohio BA 1980 // Pepperdine MBA 1988 says:

    Used to give lots of money to the universities of my entire family. …. Stopped when the student debt debacle began and now exclusively give to Doctors w/o Borders, Smile Train, International Red Cross … you get it… organizations that help those in need, those dying and starving, at no choice of their own…. instead of fueling the “rot” in our University System.

  12. Stephen Slater - Miami of Ohio BA 1980 // Pepperdine MBA 1988 says:

    Used to give lots of money to my universities, my children schools and universities, my wife’s universities…. Stopped when the student debt debacle began and now exclusively give to Doctors w/o Borders, Smile Train, International Red Cross … you get it… organizations that help those in need, those dying and starving, at no choice of their own…. instead of fueling the “rot” in our University System.

  13. John Michener says:

    I don’t have much use for the Ivys, they are foremost finishing schools for the wealthy. If you hire somebody from them you have to largely distinguish their grads into the super bright, the rich bright, or the poor bright. Each group is useful in different slots – note that there definitely are flyers and the groups are not fully disctinct. In some areas of study the grads are typically only going to contain the super brights from any background.

    But I want to propose a more open alternative based around the state flagship institutions that can be much more efficient and economical (Note, this will not work for all majors):

    Grind hard in middle school and the first two years of high school (STEM track students need to either take calculus in 10th grade or be ready to take it in ’11’ th grade).

    Do Running Start / College in High School at the local community college / college – taking only transfer level courses for the target department at the target state university. Live at home. For students who can do this, the cost is essentially transportation + books.

    Transfer to the state university and do admission to the target department. Students ‘May’ be able to commute depending upon distance, but college costs have at least been cut in half.
    If need be, do a Masters to polish the undergraduate, in which case the student is on the hook for 3 to 4 years of education costs.

  14. Greg says:

    Some valid points, but lacking in balance in favor of hyperbole. Yes, administrative bloat is an issue, but consider how much of it is the result of government mandates, such as the legions of people who deal with Title IV and disability accomodations, just to name two examples. Also, much of the growth in the form of academic support does indeed have metrics to support its cost. The more that students have access to these resources — academic advisors, mental health counselors, etc. — the more likely they are to stay enrolled and graduate. And the reality is that talented students who don’t get in to Harvard or Stanford are not shut out of college. They end up at Tufts or Michigan. They are fine. The reality is that, taken nationally, there are more than enough seats to accommodate demand. Not everyone gets to go to their top choice, but it has always been thus. The plunging acceptance rates in the IVy-plus institutions is less a sign that there is a swelling population of Harvard-ready students and more a result of our brand-obsessed culture and parents with legitimate concerns filtered through a distorted lens, who fear it’s Harvard or nothing for their kids. Not every kid who could succeed at Harvard gets in. But most kids whop are rejected don’t belong there. Both things are true.

  15. Robert Heath says:

    Harvard 1982. Freshman tuition, room and board: $6,400. Senior year: $10,600.

    If that senior year charge had grown with PCE inflation, it would be $28,800 instead of $79,450. I understand that on average, undergraduates pay about one-third the nominal charge because of tuition assistance, so the *average* price paid may be consistent with the pace of inflation, even if those that can afford the full tuition are paying it. College tuition is the ultimate form of price discrimination: “Tell us how much you can afford to pay and that’s what we’ll charge.”

    For that I got a thorough liberal arts education with a concentration in Philosophy.

  16. Thomas Knudsen says:

    No mention of elite college admissions bias towards legacy candidates? Harvard: 30% of admitted. Princeton: 31%. I’ve read that Legacy applicants to Ivy League schools are 5 times more likely to be admitted than non-legacy candidates with similar credentials. (acknowledged that this stat needs more study, but even if it were only “twice as likely”, that signals a clear bias) And you want to give them MORE federal funds? Try seeing first if they are willing to halve the number of legacy admissions prior to accepting the handout, and report back what they say.

  17. Chris Juall says:

    Well said! Class of 1991 Jacksonville University. BS Marketing. Investment advisor for the past 32 years. My college life taught me more about “life” and living on my own than it did about my career. My success was built from experience and a personal drive. I’ve also been entrepreneurial so I’ve also started a couple of side businesses that were fulfilling (they didn’t require college either). Getting a college degree for most of us simply provides a “ticket” to get a particular job. Our success is determined by us and our drive. Also, today I can learn more from YouTube and podcasts than I ever did in college.

  18. bartb says:

    Excellent analysis!
    I’m sharing this column with as many people as I can!
    “DEI on a university campus is a fire station in the ocean — expensive and redundant.” PRICELESS!

  19. Maureen Traynor says:

    Providence College, class of 2003. Tuition, room and board was ~$20K freshman year, rising to ~$28K by the time I graduated. I was granted a $5K/year academic scholarship at admission, which stayed flat over four years while tuition rose. My parents contributed $10K per year and I graduated with ~$23K in federal loans.

    Received a decent liberal arts education, albeit with a massive dose of Catholicism in the curriculum and administration, much more so than I’d expected.

    Today, annual costs per the PC website are at $77K, which is an absolute abomination. 20 years later, I’m still not sure who that school is meant to be for. I’ve met one alum in my field in my entire ensuing career. $308K for an average-at-best education and no useful alumni network. I feel lucky that I managed to avoid crippling debt for having made a less than perfect choice of undergraduate schools.

  20. Bill says:

    Great points, but the bottom line, higher education is a for-profit BUSINESS masquerading and marketed as a social requirement and keystone to obtaining the American dream. It’s a farce, hyped and packaged as a prerequisite to success, and without it you’re forever destined to failure. Total BS and all blindly marketed and sold to the masses of wide-eyed youth and dimwit parents as the only path and a worthwhile ‘investment’. For some, there is benefit, but for the vast majority it’s a total and complete waste of time and money (that money was in the form of a “loan”)…. So, were the over-educated and now under employed duped and now saddled with mountains of life debt that should be forgiven (on the backs of the taxpayers) ? Or, rather, is it more just that the university endowments be stripped and refund their misrepresentation and over-charge…. The majority of the under-employed college grads would be better off having learning a skilled trade and/or being taught the virtues of hard-work, fiscal prudence, investing and saving, and diligence. In the end, they’d have far more to show for it.

  21. Prefer to remain Anonymous says:

    The situation is worse in academic research programs within Children’s Hospitals. eg. Below for Seattle Children’s (so called non-profit!)

    Salaries (Vs NIH Research Grants they bring in to contribute to the institution)

    $1.4 Million CEO ($0)
    $800,000 Chief Academic Officer ($0)
    $600,000 Chief Science Officer ($0)
    $600,000 Chief Operations Officer ($0)
    Division Head $500,000 ($0)
    Center Director $500,000 ($0)
    Associate Center Director $400,000 ($0)
    Center Administrative Director $200,000 ($0)

    Faculty Member $150,000 ($500,000 – $1M/year in NIH grants)

    NIH grants (taxpayer money) that the Faculty compete for in the top 2% externally in the nation and bring in for their Research Program, are required to further pay an additional 98% Facilities and Administrative Costs to the Institution for support these Administrative salaries.

    Then the institution says that it’s running in losses, year after year. It’s pure greed, but not corporate.

  22. Chris says:

    When will someone come up with an original critique of higher education? These arguments have been around for years and are not original.
    I fear what would happen if “elite” colleges increased enrollment. Many of the thousands of colleges in the US that are less expensive and do enroll greater numbers of low income students would be forced to close, as has been happening already. The author is right there is a reckoning coming…for hundreds of colleges that you’ve never heard of.
    I have always had a difficult time understanding why people expect higher education to behave differently from other industries. The market influences the choices that colleges make. Colleges that can charge more, do. Why is this surprising? Consumers who do not want to pay tuition at an Ivy League school don’t have to. Much like buying a car, if you don’t want to pay for a Bugatti, you don’t have to. You don’t have to choose to attend a college that caters to the ultra wealthy.
    That said, many students coming from low income families don’t have the support to make this informed choice and that is a problem. I’m thinking that some of the billions of dollars the author has going to the top 50 colleges (already sitting on huge endowments) should be spent in high schools or on K-12 education. We can help students be prepared for their next step, whatever that is, including finding a college that fits their goals and family’s ability to support.

  23. Jane Upperton says:

    University of Cambridge, 1981, Modern Languages. Fees – zero pounds. I was the first person in my family to go to university and the first person from my high school to go to Oxford/Cambridge. I wouldn’t get there now from the same school with the same grades. A lot of what the Prof writes relates specifically to the US which is like the UK on steroids in higher education (and so many other things) but the fundamental truths are the same. After a great working life in journalism and industry I have just returned to academic life aged 62 to study for a PhD – but not in the UK. In Spain, where the fees are ca. 1% of the UK. Cost wasn’t my main motivation but it did figure

    • James Vryzas says:

      Can you tell us more about your decision to return to school for a PhD at age 62. That is fascinating.

  24. Bill Danner says:

    Amen brother, keep preaching! When I (white male) applied to the University of Texas in 1981 (I was in the top 25% of my Austin, TX public high school class) all I needed to get accepted was an SAT score of 1000 or better. I don’t know what kind of acceptance rate that translates to. I could NOT get into UT now, with the grades I had then. UT has become a university where you need to be (effectively) in the top 7% of your high school class to get accepted. I graduated from UT in 1987 with a B.A. in economics. Tuition and fees never exceeded $400 a semester (books not included). It was a great education and got me into Navy Officer Candidate School.

  25. Mark Flager says:

    San Francisco State University, 1981 BA Journalism. Worked throughout, so minimum 12 hrs/semester, whatever in-state tuition was then. Solid education, great friends and life lessons (including don’t buy an MG-BGT from your Urban Studies professor)

  26. AM says:

    University of Idaho, 2015, ~$6k/year, lots of friends/connections and life lessons

  27. RD says:

    I teach at an “elite” private high school in California and the phenomena is the same. While the number of faculty has increased slightly over the past 20 years, the number of non-faculty has swelled significantly. The focus has shifted from education and academics to services and “experiences.” It’s a country club for the wealthy.

  28. Stephen Ruben says:

    University of Toronto JD.1973 BA 1970 tuition between 800-1200

    The notion that there is status not only in educational scarcity but also grossly inflated tuition is one of societal values that invoke national nausea.

  29. AM says:

    Johns Hopkins, 2018. I was pushed out to industry by older who gave me the great advice to “make money trading crypto.” An AI prof took material from Berkeley, and unequivocally told us that “AGI won’t come any time soon.” Professors were more interested in investing in “great founders” and running slave driving research than teaching. Clubs were competitive to get into, even those for “first generation college students.” Elitism and information hoarding unless you were part of the “cool kids.” Still managed to make a bunch out $$ of school, and established great connections once I hit the working world.

  30. LR says:

    I occasionally badger Mr. Galloway on some of his more eye-raising opinions, but on this issue, he absolutely nails it.

    Every point made here was uplifting, and delivered with rhetorical power. Bravo, sir, keep hitting this bell.

  31. Joe Baggadonuts says:

    US service academy 1967-1971. Parents had to pay a $300 deposit for our first issue of uniforms, but the rest came out of our pay of $111 per month. We also paid for books (they had to be new as a used book may have notes from its previous owner that would give you an unfair advantage over your classmates) and meals. By graduation, we had just enough money to pay for our officers’ uniforms. Tuition was free as was living in the barracks (or a tent in the summer). The mantra was “a $200,000 education shoved up your ass one nickel at a time.”

  32. Karl Wallick says:

    University of Cincinnati, 1989, tuition was about $2500/year. Fast forward to 2000 and I’m paying $30,000 for a 1-year masters at Penn. Wow!

    Quite a lesson in value. I was stoked to attend an Ivy League in a big city and see what that academic experience was like. I had a great time, loved the autumn leaves falling amidst well-cared for buildings, and enjoyed my classes…I was less impressed with my peer academic elite. They were not any smarter than I was but they sure had more money. I sold a house I had renovated to finance my graduate education and they were arguing with their parents about their Gap credit card statement. Penn was great but in retrospect my public university experience was equally as strong and just as rigorous. The Ivy League is the biggest scam out there in terms of cost/education.

    Fast forward : I’m faculty at UW-Milwaukee. We are an access mission school and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact. I also totally agree with your comments about administrative bloat and not just in terms of DEI offices but in every area of campus life. I’m an administrator too and I still agree with you: department chair. I see your critique made visible with every Vice-provost of hand-waving that UW-Milwaukee hires. None of them teach. I feel like a lot of budget problems would diminish if every administrator taught1 class (and not some bougie seminar either).

    Anyways, this is the article I was waiting for you to write! Thankyou!

  33. Ross Brendel says:

    Yale, 2011. BA in Economics, tuition $50K

    I agree with almost all of this, Scott. However, one additional remedy that needs to be addressed is the nationalization of Student Loans. Having the government run student lending business, by definition, is going to lead to a rising floor on tuitions and a lack of accountability by universities. We can’t address student debt forgiveness or higher education cost without addressing the market failure of letting the government manage the business of student lending. Of course there should be a backstop option for family who have difficulties obtaining financing. But the vast majority of borrowers should rely on lenders who will underwrite the loan based on the fundamental return of the loan (eg risk involved, probability of being paid back in full). Over time, this will decrease the endless supply of debt that colleges have abused to increase tuitions and feed the bureaucratic parasites. As much as I disagree with what’s happened to college tuitions, the underlying schools are just responding to the incentives that our federal government has created.

  34. Stuart O'Neill says:

    Thank you. I’ve heard your comments on Pivot on the same.topic but not at length. I’m 14 years Der and made the.mistake to applying at a high price elite college in its second year of operation, California Institute of the Arts. Tuition as it turned was around 7k if memory serves. I didn’t have the support system or drive, take your pick), to try for UCLA. I wanted a PoliSci/Film combo. I knew TV would be the future of civic/political society. Perhaps it was fear. But imagine if that elite admin officer had simply told me that UCLA,.out of my league in my kind, was just 1k a year and I was qualified? A huge difference in opportunity.

    Imagine what the tuitions for each elite school would be today.

    What opportunities in the form of connections and.relationships, much less the education itself, would have benefited the young Stuart.

    Keep beating this drum. Certificated edu is critical. There is little I support as I find myself marooned in the Arizona desert . Yet Pima Community College offers majors in Welding and other trades. Those grads have guaranteed jobs on graduation. That’s a true education. A class room fou dation and a practical profession. A Master Welder does have a profession. Anyone who looks down on that should grab a.welder and give it a try!

    Keep it up Galloway!

  35. Loren Jaffe says:

    U.S.C., 1986.
    $12k/ year; Pell grants and cash.
    B.S. Entrepreneurship (before it was cool)
    Sat next to Marc Benioff for a year.
    I agree, Scott, that unremarkable at 18 turned into shift- shaping just two decades later. Marc, not me. Your solution(s) seem so clear and obvious, but it would take a generational leader on a mission to construct such structural shifts… Would you be up to the task? 🤞

  36. Loren Jaffe says:

    U.S.C., 1986.
    Sat next to Marc Benioff for a year.
    I agree, Scott, that unremarkable at 18 turned into shift- shaping just two decades later. Marc, not me. Your solution(s) seem so clear and obvious, but it would take a generational leader on a mission to construct such structural shifts… Would you be up to the task? 🤞

  37. Augusto Morais says:

    Unicamp (University of Campinas, Brazil)
    Electrical Engineering
    Free / no tuition
    Despite many deficiencies, got a great technical education that was very helpful in my 1st job out of school.

  38. Maria Petrova says:

    Very lucky:
    Brigham Young University
    BA, BFA, Master’s at about $1,500/semester. Graduated debt-free, great career in NYC. For all its faults, the LDS church runs some fine universities.

  39. Amy M. says:

    Left California to attend Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge on partial scholarship for $3000/yr +board. Not a good fit first year, so back to California where I did Jr. College to finish GE at $12/unit and worked part time. Did a TAG contract into Univ. Calif at San Diego and finished in Cognitive Science. Tuition was ~$7800/ yr + books. Got a work study for 175% of minimum wage, got great work experience and took out $11k in loans to finish in 1998 (took me 7 years to get Bachelors given need to pay my own way). Now only 1 person I know could get their kid accepted to any Univ. of California much less a Cal State school even though most of us got our degrees from an Univ. of California school. My kids aren’t there yet, but I worry about if they can get access to any Calif. public university regardless of grades.
    On this topic, many UCs are guilty of sending flashy expensive mailers to Calif. high schoolers encouraging them to apply even if they don’t meet the entry stats just to get those applicant numbers up. It messes with these kids minds and is just a waste of money.

  40. Tina Duncan says:

    UC Davis 88, $2000?
    Hass MBA93
    Amazing education, fun ag classes, best friends ever, job that led to my husband.
    This article is spot on. Why dont people like you work in government? Poor ROI? we are such an innovative country, except in public administration.
    Thank you for using your position to say what needs to be said!!!

    • Tina Duncan says:

      And let me add: my daughter just graduated from UCLA, which feels like a bargain these days. But was disappointed that 99% of her friends come from upper middle/upper class families. No issues paying tuition, ski trips, travel, etc. And no, she was not in a sorority. expected more economic diversity at UC.

  41. Lauren Hall says:

    New York University -2004- 2008; BA in Journalism & Psychology $20k+ per semester! In return I got the best four years of my life, a love for NYC, an open mind, a curious mind, and life long friends. I went to the Met almost every weekend, Broadway shows, Yankees games, unique bars, restaurants, comedy clubs. I was able to intern at Cosmopolitan magazine & Rolling Stone.
    All that to say now I’m a partner in a law firm in Southern California, where I grew up. Importantly, I would not have found Prof Galloway, without NYU.

  42. Virgil says:

    1991 Biochemistry @ University College London, £0. Maintenance cost-of-living grant from the UK gov’t of £4000/yr (~£9500 today, or $12k). Worked nights in bars, restaurants, security guard, call centers, to make rent.

    Agree 100% that admin bloat is killing higher ed, and has been for a long time (SRSLY, go read “Fall of the faculty” by Ben Ginsberg from over a decade ago!)

    The thing that’s been weird for me is seeing the UK about a progressively more Americanized model of higher ed., charging tuition fees, abandoning dorm building to throw students out into the mercy of the rental market, etc.

    The other observation is the “fanciness” factor you allude to, with lazy rivers, sport facilities etc. Yes, for me college was free, but I lived like a pauper – no car, couldn’t afford public transit so rode a bike year round, ate a lot of ramen noodles, bought clothes in 2nd hand shops, no laptop or cellphone or entertainment budget. By contrast many of today’s students exhibit the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle from day 1 on campus. There’s little humility or willingness to live small until you can afford it. Sure, admins earning large salaries is the bulk of the problem, but students should be living frugally if the goal is to pay off one’s loans as simply as possible.

  43. Tom Hughes says:

    In 1981 NYC trained me for 6 weeks to join the greatest fire suppression force on earth. They even paid me to do it. They gave a basic intelligence test and a physical test. Both were competitive. The pay was good and work conditions excellent.
    I don’t understand why so many jobs now require college degrees. I am sure you would get a better workforce if you screened for talent and trained on the job.

  44. Tim says:

    Didn’t go to college because it’s a huge scam. Rather, I got a 4 year jump on all the suckers who paid $80 just to start at the beginning.

  45. Santhosh M says:

    NIT-C (India), 1992 USD 2.20 per year
    – Foundation for life lessons
    – Opportunity to go places
    – Amazing engineering skills
    – Leadership skills
    – Strive for excellence
    – Prosperity

  46. Leti M says:

    1987 UC Berkeley, Economics: My rent was $220/month in the co-ops. Tuition for my last year was about $1,000 (or $2,700 in today’s dollars). 🙂 The price of tuition had been going up every year and that last year we marched on Sacramento to protest the rising fees. I got an excellent education in the fundamentals of economics, statistics, economic history, macroeconomics etc.. I can still recall with awe one of my best professors who taught World Economic History — after some of his lectures we gave him standing ovations, he was that good. Some of my fellow students were also low-income and first-in-the-family to attend college, so I felt like I fit in okay. Besides the strong academics, I made lifelong friends, learned about engaging in political advocacy, (e.g. went to jail for protesting UC Regents investments in companies doing business in South Africa,) did a year abroad, worked as a recruiter of high school students in low-income high-minority public schools, etc… I also won a fellowship that launched my career in public policy advocacy and research. I had about $7,000 in student loan debt at the end, which was easy to pay off. The whole experience was worth every penny.

  47. Larson, J says:

    McGill University, 1993. Tuition for my first year was about $1200. The four years in total was about $15 000. What did I get for it? I’m a public school teacher in Canada. Teachers are still paid livable wages here. I have a house, family, 3 cats, and frequent family vacations. I went on to complete a Master’s degree, and do some teaching on-line in continuing ed. I have more than I need. A very good life.

  48. Sears, S says:

    McGill University, Montreal, Canada, 1991.
    Tuition , easily under $20,000 for a 4-year degree in economics.
    Received: lessons in becoming and adult, critical thinking, (perceived) crisis management and generally, figuring things out. Now a parent of 3 and business-owner.

  49. Rochelle VanTil says:

    University of British Columbia, 1994, Bachelor of Arts – History and Education, $8,500
    Excellent article Scott! More attention needs to be given and not just what I observe is the blind acceptance that it is such a privilege to to accepted into these elite colleges and universities, and pay the runaway tuitions costs. It’s out of control and we are bankrupting the new generation of taxpayers before they even start working.

  50. Eric says:

    Kansas State University, 2014 Mechanical Engineering, 21k/year.
    My family was blue collar and couldn’t offer any help financially. However, I managed to graduate debt free. This was because I sweat blood every summer, break, and weekend building agriculture fence. I had a crew, equipment, and built 80 miles of fence. It built character, made me a man quickly, and lead to meeting an amazing partner at 20. But it was not fun. But I was in school to learn and change my circumstances. I achieved that. At graduation I had (4) offers and chose poorly but made good money (60k starting). Three years out of school I realized I could run my own gig again and started an engineering firm.

    Fast forward to now and I still run that firm and have several other ventures. But I don’t know that I would recommend it. There’s a big gap in experiences that I won’t ever have. But without that laser focus I don’t know that I could ever have reached escape velocity.

    Degree was 100% worth it though.

    • Eric Spurgeon says:

      I should add, help you kids understand financial aid if you’re poor! My folks are good people but had a huge blind spot for this. Trying to figure out the FAFSA by yourself at 18 suuucks. I ended up doing it wrong two years in a row and missing out on aid I should have qualified for. Add to that an underfunded school with no career counselor and I missed out on 10s of thousands in aid I could have received.

  51. Brad B says:

    University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2007 Computer Science & Engineering ~16k per year
    Accepted a job in my last semester of college as a software consultant. Started 4 days after I graduated. Realized I enjoyed working people to solve their business problems with modern software so I got into technical sales and have been doing it for the last 10 years. I paid off my student loan 10 years after graduating thanks to low interest rates (below 2%). Had great college experience, met lifelong friends but if I had to do over again I wouldn’t go to a 4 year univsersity and definitely wouldn’t be affordable.

  52. Dahn Shaulis says:

    Chances are that no one will see this comment. But several of these elite schools already have tech certificate schemes recruiting working folks through 2U-edX. The elite schools get a cut but they have little to do with the for-profit programs. The problem is that students are not getting jobs after they complete the certificates.

  53. Glen McGhee, Dir., FHEAP says:

    No mention of degree inflation here.
    Increasing thru-put only worsens credential inflation.
    Inflation is why a Masters degree is today’s new Bachelors, and yesterday’s high school diploma.
    Think about the waste that entails — except for the schools! They love it!

  54. Glen McGhee, Dir., FHEAP says:

    “Rot” has its memorable phrases, but if the sector is truly “rotten” then we need to be asking the question: What Come Next? What can we replace it with? No one knows.
    But I offer this observation — education is society’s “stratifying engine” that pushes SOME people up the economic ladder, and others it pushes down. As a society, we have handed over decisions about who gets what to a medieval guild masquerading as a public service.
    Price fixing is only part of the problem.

  55. TJ Allison says:

    University of Washington, 2014, 22k/year, a degree in business and access to entry level tech sales for which I started earning 100k right away. College worked for me, but I could have hustled my way there without it. Maybe I would have emerged with even more resilience?

  56. Colby J says:

    Texas A&M University, 2014
    Tuition – ~25k per year all in. 90% covered by scholarship.
    BBA Degree in honors program.

    Degree was worth it even if I paid out of pocket. With 90% paid via scholarships it was a screaming deal.

    In exchange: I received forced education in topics I would not have had the discipline to study on my own. I also received an external stamp of approval that got me in the door at initial internships and jobs.

    I learned how to present, work with groups, and impress an interviewer. I also had access to students organizations with sizable budgets and access to manage “real” problems with (guided) autonomy. The alumni network (for tech), not so so valuable. If I could do life over again knowing what I know now, I would have tried for a bigger national brand with a better chance of meeting future investors, founders, etc. My college network leans heavier on engineers, teachers, and O&G industry players. The world of finance, politics, and power is still far from my experience.

  57. Alberto Escobedo says:

    University of Southern California, 1998, $25k/year. Met the love of my life, had amazing experiences, and made lifelong friends. No chance I could get in today – such a shame.

  58. Bob S says:

    Scott – thanks for this truth & ideas to drive change. Unfortunately, I don’t have confidence that the schools’ Pres & Boards have the incentives or the inclination to address the problems. It would help if hiring organizations would hire from any & all schools, & not preference elite schools. Middlebury 78, Tuck (MBA) 81, don’t remember the tuition.

  59. Ryan Henderson says:

    I went to Villanova University on a tuition scholarship (saving ~$55K/year) and worked as an RA for three years to avoid paying room/board. My dad paid half my room/board for year 1, so between that and a class I had to take over the summer to stay on track, I graduated with about $10K in debt. Currently in grad school, applying to PhD programs. If I didn’t get that scholarship, I can’t say with confidence that racking up $200K of debt would have been worth it for the experience I had, even as someone who’s likely going to spend his career teaching and doing research

  60. Elan says:

    Hi Scott,
    I admire your work so just a tiny comment. I graduated from MIT in the eighties (yikes!) and while I agree that they are a bit bloated, and very much resent their complicity with antisemitic attacks, I do want you to know that as a ground breaking research university with massive multi-decade government research contracts, MIT has a deceiving teaching to non-teaching professional employee ratios that do not fit a typical university with a much lighter research load. I would not pick on them first.

    Thank you for your great insights!

  61. Brian J says:

    My son graduated from WSU recently with his business/marketing degree. He went to community college in WA for a year and then to WSU which didn’t take all of his credits, like history and other random classes. Watching the college experience with this generation was unreal. He spent 2 hours a week in classes the rest he gamed the system like all his buddies. They shared notes, alerted when roll was being taken, had apps to find tests, and paid to have papers written. He had maybe 2 instructors the entire time he learned from, and the coursework was no different than from 2 decades ago. He had a great time with his friends and partying at first, but quickly just wanted to be done to start his life and career. He said he felt like he was in prison waiting to get out, granted a nice party prison. We started a business when he was 12, luckyscooters.com, and grew and ran it so he learned a ton about real word business/marketing. I am glad he has the piece of paper and would support him again in his decision to go to college. We paid roughly $40K for his overall education and $15,000 was from a 529 plan we had for him. He has no debt, left school early to start a job, and finished his last 3 classes online.

  62. Brian J says:

    Much respect for you Scott as a speaker of the truth and how you cut through the bullshit. I went to a combination of community colleges in AZ, then to ASU for 2 years, and then finished at UOP in 1995. My wife and I transferred to University of Phoenix, so we could work, move in together, and get an education from someone actually working in the field. It was 1 night a week in the classroom and 1 night with your group working on projects. ASU was a tough school to focus on education with so much distraction and partying, it would have taken me another 2-3 years to graduate. I think total we each paid probably $20K for the education and spending probably 1/3 of the loan proceeds on partying and non-educational costs.

  63. RB says:

    BCIT ’05 (Canadian tech school, 2 year diploma)
    – Graduated with the maximum student loan/debt allowed
    – Discovered two life-long activities (squash and mountain biking)
    – Bought a motorcycle 1 week after grad (so frivolous, so fun) on newly found credit
    – Doubled my earning power quickly after graduation ; 3 x within 5 years
    – Paid off my student loan in 4 years
    – At new job(s), made new friends in very different social/economic classes than my upbringing.
    – Through them, met my future wife (married well up!)
    – Returned to tech school to teach part-time (and learned about the for-profit model they employ today – gross)
    – Raising family, building community, and have loads of fulfilment
    – All a result of economic security that is rooted with my simple 2 year diploma

    Cost: $5k/year (just checked and 20 years later, it’s $12k/year which actually seems OK…?)

  64. Scott Beeten says:

    I recieved a very good, affordable education for a year and ahalf at the University of Pennsylvania. Found the faculty and admimistration to be cooperative and helpful, Sad to see what has happened there redently. I then transferred to Lehigh university for a number of reasons and again found a dedicated, cooperative, caring and affordable education with an outstanding faculty. Recieved my BA and MA at Lehigh and prusued a long career as a coach and teacher in high schools and colleges. My education made all of that possible.

  65. Jay Webster says:

    UC Santa Cruz, 1987, $1500 / year. Graduated with no debt, managed a bike shop for a year post graduation before pursuing a path to SRI as a scientist. Were I competing for admission today, there’s no way I’d be accepted to a UC school.

  66. Jim Fleet says:

    2 yrs Farmingdale CC, NY, no debt, 15-20 h per wk NY regent’s scholar (no as impressive as it sounds….it didn’t cover full tuition)
    1981 BS Cornell U, agriculture 10-15 h (regent’s scholarship, 10 h/wk work, $2000 final debt).
    1984 MS U of Delaware animal nutrition (20 h/wk TA/RA, $2500 additional debt to buy a car)
    1988 PhD Cornell U nutrition biochemistry (supported as a research assistant to cover my tuition and earned ~$6500 per year. I spent the go-go ‘80s living like it was the depression).

    I am where I am today (in a named professorship at UT Austin) because tuition was affordable, the government gave me loans that didn’t crush me (4-7% interest), and federal research grants from NIH and USDA were there to support me. Of course I also worked hard but without the other things (and a willingness to go without while my HS friends were making bank) I couldn’t have done it. Of course a big part of the increase in tuition is the loss of state support over the decades. Cornell tuition was just $1600/y in 1981 – fyi, while it’s an Ivy League school it also has state supported colleges). Btw, I don’t like all of Scott’s ideas but at least he’s putting his ideas out there to discuss. The question to me is whether there is willingness for an honest discussion about this

  67. C Cook says:

    CSU Campus, Engineering, Mid 1970s
    Tuition and books ~ $1000/yr

    By asking the question about attended University, it appears you are biasing a response automatically. To the people who CREATED the system you are complaining about.

    ‘Why listen to THAT guy, he only went to a State school! Probably doesn’t pay Squash, and has never stayed in the Hamptons!’

    We have created a doom loop that causes large ‘Educated’ segments of America to have no knowledge of how others live. They silo their news, and consider other opinions as ‘conspiracy theories’. Watch late night comedians trash talk people who actually work for a living. Many stay on campus, or end up in Civil Service. They CREATED the DEI monster that is today’s colleges and our bloated government.

    I find it truly sad when I talk to young people who have ZERO practical skills, massive student debt, and STILL believe that one needs a degree to be whole. They are angry but at loss who to blame. We will see in the next set of elections who they choose. Neil Howe’s ‘great unraveling’ may be upon us.

  68. Leda says:

    University of Michigan, 2016, Computer Science Engineering, $50k a year.
    My parents paid it all because they went there too, but was it worth any more than the in-state university I could have attended for free? No. Michigan is a great education and I’m grateful for the connections, but I insisted because of the prestige, the elitism, and the label. You’re so right, I could have plastered myself in Balenciaga and had the same feeling. I didn’t know what I wanted as a career and letting a 17 year old pay $200k+ for a label shouldn’t be the norm.
    With Michigan football how it is now, I’ve heard way too many alumni ask ‘oh did you actually go to Michigan?’ When most people answer ‘no, just a fan’, there’s sometimes a smug smile and they stand a little taller. I know, I’ve unfortunately done it myself. It’s a luxury brand I’ll forever be associated with that they can’t afford to be a part of.

  69. Sabine Brettreich says:

    Gießen University, Germany
    Diploma in Biology (equivalent to Masters degree), graduated in 1993
    0,- tuition
    Very solid, broad-based science education, good qualification for a career in science.
    However, I did not finish my subsequent dissertation because I realized that I would not make a really good scientist.
    My education qualified me for various sales and administrative positions in Pharma, Biotech Healthcare consulting.
    Even though I no longer work in the field, I am grateful for the science education that enables me to understand developments in life science and medicine.

  70. Keith Loud says:

    Harvard College ‘89. Don’t remember tuition after financial aid and work study, but came out with “only” $16k in debt. The brand certainly opened doors (med school – McGill ‘96 for only $24k/year all in) for a middle class suburban kid whose parents didn’t go to college.

  71. Floyd Robert Welker says:

    Education:
    1960 High School; Shamokin, PA
    1960-62 West Point (decent 123lb Wrestler; sloppy cadet – out on demerits; the army paid me)
    1963 Lycoming College – BA Mathematics (1966; 5-yr coop with PSU)
    1963-1966 Penn State BS Civil Engineering ($700/academic year – in-state tuition, paid by wrestling — the in-state tuition for the 2023-2024 academic year at the University Park campus is $19,672 )
    1967 Krannert School – Purdue U. – MSIA (lived in Grad housing; ate meals at my fiancé’s apt, borrowed tuition from HS alumnae fund, not sure of amount, but we paid it back in a few years.)
    1970-1972 Cornell Univ Grad prog in Env System Eng (Ford Foundation Fellowship; National Science Foundation Traineeship; both included Tuition & a Stipend) dropped out to accept position at the Xerox Webster Research Center – Math systems analysis & modeling (ideal job!)

    Bottom line, I never could have attained the graduate education today without going into much debt. The undergraduate education paid for in sweat by wrestling and a PA State HS Championship. The state championship and a decent GPA got me into West Point (big mistake for both of us, but I have nothing but respect for the great cadets I briefly met, trained, and studied with at WP class of 1964.)

  72. Dan T says:

    University of Maryland, 1992, ~$2.5K/year tuition then, $11K now. Unable to leverage journalism degree into a living wage so my first job was working on 100% commission in sales.

  73. CHO says:

    Michigan State University, 2003, ~$5,000 per year tuition only. BA Economics, BA History. That cost is up about 265% in twenty years! The bureaucracy and salaries are staggering! I loved my time at MSU, but I would say I didn’t really get it together until I got a MBA in Finance at DePaul 5 years later. In the program, I networked and have enjoyed working in CPG and consumer goods industries ever since. I should also mention I was fortunate enough to have my education paid for by my parents and my MBA paid for by my grandfather and employer.

  74. Julie Stampler says:

    Syracuse U/long time ago/too expensive then and way more now. Didn’t need the degree in Speech Communications to start my career in radio but felt I had no choice. Now, as a mom to 3, with my baby waiting on acceptances and rejections from some crazy expensive schools as well as state schools, I’m inclined to make him an offer he can’t refuse; go to a lesser expensive college and I’ll cut you a check for the rest when you graduate! These are the posts that keep me coming back Professor. I think we need a Scott U!

  75. Jeff says:

    Really appreciate your candor. Thankfully, neither I nor my adult children chose a undergraduate degree. We did the math….lol. Also, I have always had a chip on my shoulder as it pertains to elitist. I am very proud of my poverty, and I am even more proud that my adult children can go through life knowing everything they have is theirs and theirs alone. They were not deprived the opportunity to be self made, even though that mark of distinction comes with a unique set of scars. Keep up the great work, my son introduced us. LOL

  76. Saar Pikar says:

    Wilfrid Laurier University, 1992, $10,000 ($2,500 a year roughly). I am Canadian, tuition was very reasonable (earned much more than I spent working at food services in the University while attending classes). Got a great education (BA in Economics) which lead to an MBA which lead to my current job (investor with a pension fund). I know kids who have 96%+ averages who are getting rejection letters from universities, I know many who failed to make it into medical programs while Canada is bemoaning the lack of family physicians and I know so many kids who didn’t make it into a good program in Universities who would have obviously have done well – Scott is exactly right.

  77. Roger Brown says:

    University of Washington, 1975, $564/year tuition only. English major; Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing (Expository Prose.). After flunking out of the State University of New York at Buffalo, I started over across the country and learned to read, write, and reason. This enabled me to succeed in a 35 year career in financial management with the Federal government, culminating in CFO positions at numerous DOD agencies. I received a good, old fashioned education, which would be applied to any vocation, as my experience demonstrates. I do not believe this opportunity would be available today, at any tuition rate, especially the obscene amounts being charged presently.

  78. Jack Spain says:

    Edinboro University (PA), 1978, $450 Tuition per semester. Positioned me to be accepted in GE’s Financial Management Program as a 21-year-old and a rather successful career leading technology organizations and becoming an executive in a number of software startup ventures.

  79. TMA says:

    Columbia business school MBA ‘96, my daughter is Columbia SIPA ‘23 still jobless and most of her American cohort is underemployed (largely admin jobs). My husband and I paid off her loans because we don’t think she’ll ever make the money back. Hard working kid who worked part time throughout under grad and grad school. I wouldn’t encourage any of my other kids to go to grad school at this cost. And I come from a family of PhD’s.

  80. Robert Nadler says:

    Suggest you put yourself forward for Education Secretary and make the changes you think are needed. Agree with most of what you say, especially about apprenticeships, but sad to see that in Germany, more young people would now rather go to university. The rot is infecting Europe.

  81. J. Peeters says:

    Dear Scott,
    I believe this is one if not the reason why in continental European countries higher education is largely state funded and (nearly) free for all students.
    Even though the US has probably more elite universities in some rankings some in Europe achieve excellence without being exposed to becoming an industry (see e.g. ETH Zurich) – posts like yours hopefully make US students reconsider public universities more closely
    And having had a chance to drink from such wells I am more than happy to pay my taxes now…
    In any event IMHO professional excellence does much less depend on the name of the university than on the motivation and efforts of the student…

    Best
    J

  82. Thomas Drotar says:

    Ouch!

  83. Christopher Brandt says:

    Hey there,
    I studied law at the University of Regensburg in the South of Germany. The 4-year-course is funded by the state, i.e. tuition free. My parents covered my living expenditures. Kids, whose parents are unable to do this, are granted state support, part of which does not to be paid back. But most of them work in parallel to their studies, because the support payment has not been adjusted for a decade or so. The application process is quite cumbersome, by the way. So, not all is perfect in Germany.
    What do I get? A degree in law, yes, but what does this mean? I could go on into another to years of state organized practical education – i.e. how to be a judge / state prosecutor / solicitor etc. – which is mandatory if you want to pursue these professions. During this time, one receives a salary which makes you quite independent of parental funding. This ends in another examination, the passing of which then means you are a fully qualified lawyer.
    A minority does not go through this practical education and the pushes careers outside the legal professions (e.g. journalism).

  84. Shakeel says:

    Purdue University 2009, 8k per year tuition. Got a great education in chemistry and physics from an amazing public institution that was my safety school. Got a PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2015, where I got paid a barely living wage to do cutting edge scientific research courtesy of the federal government investing in my education and the value of science.

    I tried entrepreneurship for a while, and now I make a lot of money working for the military industrial complex. So it worked out ok for me, but in my generation I’m in the minority.

  85. Mike August says:

    LSU Law School 1989 – 8K per year INCLUDING my rent and all other living costs… Greatest preparation for life working outside of legal profession I could have ever had, they need to teach more practical business law at the Undergraduate Level, would do the business community a world of good…Can’t imagine having that same freedom today in this age of educational bills the size of most mortgages…

  86. Michael Vitale says:

    Dartmouth; 1972; mathematics. For many years, Dartmouth’s tuition fees were about equal to the price of a new Chevrolet. I don’t think that was intentional, just that the increases were relatively small and more or less understandable. That era is long behind us. Retrospectively I got a great bargain, which has served me well into semi-retirement (and making donations; in my day us guys were reminded at every graduation that “you have drunk from wells that you did not dig, and warmed yourselves at fires that you did not build” — and that you are your brother’s keeper.

  87. Mary D says:

    I almost didn’t graduate high school in 1981. Several of my friends dropped out and went for the GED. I opted for summer school to finish with my HS diploma. A few years later I decided to pursue college and studied for the SAT. As it happened, the teacher of the SAT prep class was one of the administrators from my HS and had an unfavorable predisposition of how I would do in the class. To say my confidence of passing the test or being admitted to a college was diminished is an understatement.
    Fast forward to a successful career along with confidence in my skills and all that I have learned in my journey. My largest area of concern is we are not providing the forum for younger people to uncover their skills and talents outside of the traditional US based education system

  88. Dave Culbertson says:

    The Ohio State University
    B.S.B.A.
    1988

    I recall my full time tuition being around $300 per quarter. I paid my way through college with a part time retail job and tuition assistance from the Ohio Army National Guard in return for a six year commitment.

    At that time, OSU was open enrollment. Not unexpectedly, half of the freshman flunked out. Sink or swim – a wonderful life lession

    Fast forward to today: my sons attend an elite liberal arts college.

  89. Dylan Potter says:

    West Point, 2010. Tuition is free, but you must serve for a minimum of five years as an Army officer after graduation. Every foundational building block that has led to any amount of success I’ve had was learned there.

  90. Michael says:

    Brooklyn College undergrad cost me $0. No tuition and the state gave me a stipend that paid for my books and city bus fare (I lived at home). The University of Chicago for PhD, cost $0, as I had an NIH fellowship that paid full tuition + stipend. Became a prof at the age of 23 (tenured at 25).

    The real issue for the universities is that the faculty and administrators regard teaching as a hobby, spending as little time and money on it as possible. Most of the effort is spent on their scholarly activities, most of which are pretty much useless esoterica. Eliminate faculty research unless the faculty can come up with the funds for their salary. Have them focus their efforts on education rather than research. Basically, make the four-year institutions into community colleges. Small classes, committed instructors, very low cost. After the first two years, the students can complete their education online. Have all students go to college in the area in which they live, so that they can live at home and not have to pay for a first-class cruise (their dorms and the cafeteria) to get a college education. The cost of college will then be the cost of community college.

    • Margaret L says:

      I’m an immigrant to the US whose kids went to university here. My two National Merit Scholars attended elite institutions and thanks to massive amounts of financial aid graduated with very low debt. My children who attended state schools had the same amount of debt – low, very manageable. These two went on to grad school, (one to med school). Med school is a racket from application all the way through, but that’s a story for another day… My kids have advanced post graduation very much in line with my expectations of where their individual personalities and types of intelligence would take them. They will all be stuck paying huge bills for their own children’s education when that time comes, though luckily they are all entitled to dual citizenship and could just pack up and leave. My advice would be to avoid becoming the ‘squeezed middle’ at all costs.

  91. Peter Bolton says:

    James Madison University
    (class of 2007)
    I think about $6,500 per semester for 8.5 semesters = $50k. This was in-state tuition.
    I received a B.S. in Integrated Science and Technology with a concentration in Energy. I became educated in processing / presenting data and conduct an analysis. I learned to collaborate, too, as working with others was encouraged and part of the real-world training.

    Living away from home the first time was a difficult time to be able to focus and be held accountable. There was drugs, alcohol and friends to distract me. I suspect the fact that my parents paid for my degree is key in understanding my apathy towards achievement in my 4 years at JMU because I do not like wasting money. But I do feel overall now that I wasted my 4 years there and would have benefited to approach the same degree at my ripe age of 39 now. I came out with a lot of interest from companies as a “technical problem solver”…not quite an engineer. I had a job offer right out of college in 2007, but turned it down to ride a bike across the USA, and there are no regrets on that one. Nevertheless, I became an engineer over time, working my way through old channels like construction, unskilled labor, and a bent towards Saving Energy. After a while I found my knack and I do HVAC Controls Engineering at a beautiful and jalopy of a campus at UC Berkeley. Life is so beautiful on campus.

    Great article, Scott. One of your best.

  92. Duncan says:

    WPI 4500/yr class of ’76. Exposed to the brainy world of science folk yet lit a fire for learning about cultures from religious, to political to international with a tasty looking diploma on my resume.

  93. UncleBilla says:

    NC State, 1983, Aerospace engineering. Tuition was around $500 a semester. Received: most of the good things in my life have flowed from that degree: A fulfilling career in the US space program, met my wife, early retirement. Probably used about 15% of the detailed stuff I learned in school at work but the engineering mentality was key. Ad astra.

  94. Brian says:

    Syracuse U 1983. 10k student loans, dad paid rest, was IBM manager for office products. Started out selling typewriters after marines. At school I met kids who went to HS away, boarding school, never heard of college b4 college! Almost flunked out 1st year, was on academic probation after bc party so much, and deal weed. Almost got busted 2. Parents said u get one now year, 2.5 GPA or your out. Just got it. Last 2 years, taking biz major, could see classes useful so dreams list test of college. Them friends say thru ste going to grad school. I said what, they’re is more college? Took year off, worked for IbM. Scored Top 9% in country on LSAT. Got into Fordham U law, w help of phone call from my grandfather who taught at Fordham prep for 50 years. Dad said can’t pay, your brother is at RISD now. So I borrowed 40k. After a few years, went on my own as class action lawyer. Now 8 figure net worth. Retire at age 52!

  95. DEW says:

    Penn State 1997 less than 10k a year bc my pop was a professor there. BA in Journalism, which I turned into a 20-year military career and full pension. Haven’t been writer in sometime, so in that respec, it was a big failure.
    Also got a JD from the University of Miami (Fla) in 2012 on the Army’s dime in return for six extra years of service. THAT was a pretty sweet deal.

  96. Charles Leach says:

    Univ of TN (econ), Nashville School of Law ’72. Middle-class, divorced parents. Joined USAF after high school for 5 years, then used GI Bill for tuition for undergrad and law school. Worked 40 hrs per week during law school, so took 4 yrs to graduate. My law career was very good. Now retired. My military service made me. It would help anyone. My rant is more about skill training in high school. If everyone acquired a skill in HS I think poverty, crime, broken families, etc. would decrease. Become a plumber, electrician, write code, welding, drafting, etc., etc. Skill training should be a requirement in all public HS’s. TN has a tuition program for post HS trade schools that is funded by our lottery (lottery also partially funds college). Sigh, if everyone just had a marketable skill. A degree from an elite school will open many doors and will probably get you a job easier than a degree from a non-elite, but to keep a job and advance it’s more about the character of the person, the ability to communicate, the willingness to work long hours without being asked, loyalty, etc. Note: The US Dept of Education has 4,400 employees and an annual budget of abt $68M. The states and local govts actually run public education. Could we do without the Fed Dept of Education? Is that a place to reduce our deficit spending?

    • J W Soares Jones says:

      Perhaps you meant $68B, rather than $68M. I visited one college, applied to one college, accepted by one college, and decided not to go to that sand box for hippies. First student I saw on campus was sunbathing by a tiny pond in May. Hmmm, I thought. Hmmmm. Where is her swimsuit? I was 17. No money at all was offered for tuition by my older and wiser relatives. Fast forward 53 1/2 years and I am broke but content. Plus, I know things about stuff. People trust me.

  97. Kirk Fischer says:

    Great post. In a related topic, I would love Prof G.’s take on the crap research requirements in academia. There is no doubt that some research is uber-valuable. But there is a whole industry of useless academic journals where faculty come up with nonsense weak word salads posing as research to meet university professional enhancement requirements. It’s a scam that Warren Bennis called “physics envy.”

  98. Joel says:

    Temple U, ’74; UCLA Law ’78. UCLA was then $1,350 for in-state students. I switched undergrads majors from Sociology to Physics. I felt college really exposed me to a lot of brilliant people and ideas, but studying Sociology of Education also convinced me its social function is much more about certification, especially at the most elite schools, so selectivity would seem to be important. I listened to a discussion several years ago about rising college tuition on a radio program in LA. They had an academic and also a couple of economists. One of the economists marveled at the flatness of the price curve for private colleges: Harvard charges no more than USC or Pepperdine or most other private schools. He said the most elite schools could easily charge twice as much (and the Varsity Blues scandal seems to corroborate that) and then give more generous financial aid to compensate. So the selectivity of elite schools is maybe in lieu of maximizing their brand value. Maybe college admissions would be the perfect application for an AI that would evaluate all available information on previous graduates and optimize for future donations to their alma mater (and not have to disclose anything about what criteria it found efficacious).

  99. Samuel Wilson says:

    Seattle University, 1991, Electrical Engineering, Tuition Zero (ROTC Scholarship plus help from the school), served in the US Army. Great article, and honestly, the US Army taught me 10x more about being an adult than my university.

  100. Tom E says:

    Boston College, 1984, paid off loans for 10 years. Mathematics degree. Lotta fun. Maybe too much. But I could’ve gotten this education at any state university, and there was no university network to speak of despite with anyone says. Achieved well in life, but the name of my university never mattered once. Hard work and motivation is what mattered.

  101. Jeremy says:

    This was Prof G’s best commentary in a long time. In particular, because he actually offered a potential solution to the always entertaining diatribe.

    I’m going to withhold my education. I’m educated and it was expensive and it was worth it. However, going to school 20 years later, I’m not sure I could get into the same school. I’m not sure I could pay for it. I’m not sure it would be worth it.

  102. Richard McCue says:

    UCSD, ’74, under $2k, History, then Law School. Great education and good academic (and legal) survival skills. Worth it. Some points: 1: some schools (MIT, UCSD, CalTech, etc.) are research institutions where the emphasis is not on teaching (that’s what grad students are for) but research. In bio tech universities are the pipeline for Big Pharma. Basic research yield maybe drug, Prof forms a startup to make it a drug; if it pans out at all its gobbled up. Question: what do we mean by “university” ; research, polytechnic, prep for a job in finance? or are we insisting they all be polytechnics? 2. Admissions are rigged because they are impossible. Picking a thousand out of 100 thousand applications on “merit” (the promise of future competence and worth) is a fools errand. You might be able to split that 100 thousand into objective tranches (good, better, best). They are all smart, they all have merit, they should all succeeed. Then admit by random choice within the best, if you dont fill all, drop to randomn better. 3: Harvard is a small country with great money laundering. No one needs to pay tuition; now just a deliberate disincentive to maintain exclusivity, Question: should endowments, a regulated charity, be requi
    red to disburse a certian % for tuition?
    PS Keep up the good rant.

  103. Evan says:

    The University of Iowa, 2017, ~$6k/semester

    Received:
    – BSE in Electrical Engineering (Iowa didn’t have a Software Engineering degree but that’s essentially what I studied)
    – Met my wife
    – Lifelong friendships
    – The financial ability to leave Iowa
    – A fandom for the most upsetting brand of college football

  104. Tom Sullivan says:

    University of Illinois. First-semester freshman tuition in 1975 was $176. Received: an engineering education at one of the country’s top schools.

  105. John zac says:

    Think it’s much more complicated. I’m your age and skipped 2 grades growing up but my friends in Italy and Greece were smarter. Better math skills and I was getting 100s

  106. Tony P says:

    Miami (Ohio), $4,000/yr, 1989, BS in Finance

  107. Ed says:

    St Francis University, 1973, $1500 per year, History degree. Didn’t really use the degree, but made some great connections and learned how to roll a decent joint. These universities have become nothing more than money managers masquerading as educators. Go after the endowments and collect the taxes due. Loved your suggestions.

  108. BobK says:

    USC – Cinema 1987 — Tuition $55k for four years. Great education, great network. Wasn’t cheap, but my middle class family didn’t have to mortgage anything for me to get it. Scholarships covered about 60%, left w about $12k in debt, manageable. My kids (and my wife and I)? Not as lucky. You’re right Scott. Keep preaching about this!

  109. Shay James says:

    Cal Poly SLO, 2000, $750/quarter, BA in English Lit. If I had to pay today’s rate for that degree you better believe I would have chosen a different major.

  110. Liz says:

    I work at one of those colleges where the upcoming demographic cliff is a reality for us – a small, private, liberal arts college in Boston area. I have an amazing team of dedicated staff and I want to push back on the idea that all high ed staff levels are bloated – not in the tier we are in. The challenges are real, and we are all trying to figure out how we move forward with the headwinds we are facing. Most staff areas are stretched thin – these are the people that deal with a student’s medical issue at 2 a.m., respond to a fender bender on campus or a locked out dorm resident, cook and feed constantly hungry students, review students’ resumes and help them secure internships and jobs, run the social media accounts, organize all the weekend events so students are engaged, coach the athletes and coordinate all the athletic games, transportation, equipment, etc. People are working hard and they want students to succeed. Yes, the wheels turn slow in academia and there are processes in place that don’t make sense in today’s world, but every teen, if they want it, deserves the opportunity to purse a college degree and there are people working hard to try to make it happen – from finding creative ways to offer financial aid to providing the academic and social support that this generation coming out of Covid needs. Me: UNH ’89, 12K a year (out-of-state rate); grad at BU ’97, 18K

  111. Doug Marcheschi says:

    Butler University, Economics, 1985 Grad. Private School. Tuition around 4,200 a year. Now 55k.

  112. Jean Lotus says:

    Graduated 88 from one of the price-fixers, University of Chicago. I’ve sent three of my kids to German universities where they pay $400 per year. They had to learn German to B2, but the adventure and freedom from loan peonage are worth it. My heart breaks for the young people who will die before their loans are paid off.

  113. Ethan T. says:

    Utah State University; 2017; $6k a year for four years, or roughly $24k; English degree with a journalism minor

    Received:
    – Career in corporate learning and development
    – Lifelong friends
    – A trip to Australia
    – A path into the middle class and financial independence
    – No debt
    – The ability to write and think (fairly) clearly
    – An appreciation for hard work and its results
    – Four year access to an enormous library containing a wealth of human history and knowledge
    – An intramural co-ed championship t-shirt
    – Several scars
    – The transition from kid into adult

  114. Joe says:

    Hartwick College ‘82. About $4500 for tuition. Now, I think around $45,000? 1400 students when I was there. Now 1200. There is also, last time I looked, an Office of Freshman Experience. M/F ratio when I was there was 50/50. They added football as male recruitment fell thinking that would solve the problem. It didn’t.

  115. Greg Steenson says:

    Excellent overview. You’ve hinted at one issue that could be expanded on: The distinction between elite and non-selective colleges. Too much media reporting and public discourse is based on what’s going on, real or perceived, in elite institutions. But selective institutions make up only a fraction of the system. The vast majority of college students in this country are produced by non-selective colleges and universities. The fetishization of the Ivies, Stanford, Berkeley, etc. has, if anything, gotten worse. If Harvard wants to spend some of their prodigious hedge fund earnings on DEI administrators and climbing walls, should it matter much? It’s time to burst the bubble of our obsession with the elite schools, and open pathways for graduates of other institutions to access the elites, which are made more sclerotic because our culture thinks only graduates of a small number of colleges should access them. When 8 of the 9 SCOTUS justice attended two institutions, Harvard and Yale, we’ve got a diversity problem.

  116. Beth says:

    Rochester Institiute of Technology B.S., 81 – 83 University of Rochester, Simon School of Business MBA, Rochester, New York. 83 – 86′. 1/2 I paid by working as a secretary and 1/2 was paid by my employer. (that will never be in an employee benefit package again!) I have gone from Network engineer to now my 13th year as a CTO. In 2023 I joined a business partner and now I co-found and am the COO/CTO of a Spatial Computing/Web3 digital environment, no need for a Vision pro headset, in Seed stage. As a woman and coming from a rural farming/manufacturing area, it changed the direction of my life. For that, I am truly grateful and the gift of truly enjoying what “pays the bills”. It is the best!

  117. Cathy McMann says:

    Michigan State University, 1976, I don’t know what it cost, my parents paid. I was the fourth generation of my family to attend MSU (my great grandfather attended it as Michigan Agricultural College). Growing up, it wasn’t “if you go to college;” it was “when you go to college.” I lived a very sheltered life with a secure childhood and college opened my eyes to many things, including new possibilities for myself. College was the start of me learning how to live my best life while graduate school provided the credentials for my career. Both expanded the range of possibilities for me and changed my life for the better but in different ways.

  118. CAK says:

    Penn State University Park, PA, BS 1972, don’t remember the tuition but no family money and graduated with $1500 in loans. 1973 MEd in counseling, Penn State, Grad RA – paid tuition, room and board and a stipend. Never taught. Ended up in AT&T because they had to hire women and minorities with advanced degrees. Took a buyout in 1998, ended up in non-profit. I used my masters in counseling every single working day. We Are!

  119. Tom says:

    University of Bristol, 1992-95 BSc Political Science. Free tuition. I now live in the US and the cost and wealth around higher education blows my mind. I just checked the stats and the undergraduate intake of my Alma Mater is now 37% privately educated and 1% on free school meals. If higher ed doesn’t unlock social mobility, it’s a luxury good not a public good.

  120. Mark says:

    Univ. of Michigan-Flint. 1978-88. BA in Business. $52-105/credit hour. Left an assembly line job at General Motors in Flint to put myself through college while I worked. First person on both sides of my family to graduate with a 4-year degree. It changed my life trajectory from all my factory worker family and friends. College was easy. Battling the “shop mentality” was hard. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  121. Brian says:

    I just read that Jamie Dimon is already starting to suck up the Donald Trump the guy who called him stupid a bunch of times and basically because rich people only care about tax breaks even for a billionaire who didn’t create a company but merely ran it for the last decade and a half. Trump is a symptom of the Morro rock and it’s spreading like a cancer

  122. James Wilson says:

    JMU ’96. My grandfather would cut me a check for $5k each semester, which covered 15 credit hours, rent, a meal plan, and a few hundred left over to pay my fraternity dues and buy a little weed.
    It was well worth it. Decent degree, learned how to grind, happy with my station in life at this age. No regrets. Have a Jr. starting to look at college, so ask me in a few more years.

  123. Ben Levin says:

    Tufts, ’98, BS in Psychology – and also, an immediate and interminable certainty that getting the hell out of academia was my first and highest priority.

    But I’d consider my admission to Tufts (twice; first in ’94 – I went to UCSB instead – and again as a transfer in ’95) a matter of pure luck. Had I applied the following year, I would have been much less likely to have been admitted – as Tufts had finally broken into US News & World Report’s Top 20.

  124. Bob Tankel says:

    University of Florida, BA ’78, JD, ’81 Tuition? Who remembers? $17k in student loan debt paid on time with interest. I started at U of I Champaign-Urbana freshman year. My family moved to Miami, so I lived at home for a year, worked full-time in the auto junkyard my dad went in on and attended Miami-Dade Community College. I looked around and figured that the “best” state school to attend was UF. I didn’t realize it was all male until after WWII and that Florida State Teachers College for Women in Tallahassee was all female until then. I got a fine Poli Sci education and figured, “What will I do with this?” So, I went to law school, and today, admission is so competitive I wouldn’t have been accepted into either. I’ll take a Gator or Nole who can think critically and be able to hold and argue two sides of an issue over some Nepo Ivy mope.
    Today, you can be a high school grad and be an aviation mechanic whose job can’t be replaced by AI, offshored, or by robots and make about $70k a year, probably topping out at $80. That’s seven years of opportunity cost vs. being a lawyer. $500k in salary vs. maybe $150k-$250k in debt. With starting legal salaries at maybe $50k median, that’s a lot of time and money to make up.

  125. Clare T says:

    George Mason University BA ‘92 and MEd ‘02. Tuition undergrad $1500/semester and employers covered the MEd. I’ve brought an English degree to the metro DC tech world, which has been invaluable. Definitely got my money’s worth many times over.

  126. Nikki Van Ekeren says:

    Thanks for this one, Scott!

    Northern Arizona University, BA – $10k tuition, class of 2003
    -University of Minnesota, MA (about $40k per year)
    class of 2009

    Art history degrees, met my husband, grew up, made lifelong friends, laughed everyday, made art, talked about art, went on hikes and drank a lot of smoothies.

    I cannot imagine my life without the college experience – it was truly a soul enriching time. As a full time writer and poet, I see my degrees as more of a foundation on how I learned to learn.

  127. T2 says:

    Eliminate tenure, reward excellence. Make college about learning skills that will help the student build their future (meaning something they can make a living at, not all the self-indulgent crap – my niece is taking a college-credit class in YOGA!!) College degrees aren’t the only way to be useful to society so stop looking down on people who make a living with their hands – a master electrician can make over $125K/year…

  128. Marie says:

    SUNY College at Buffalo 1972-BS in Ed +Sp Ed and 1982-MS in Education. Cost $2500/semester. My priceless NYS teaching certification allowed me to move anywhere in the US and teach the next day! For the next 44 years I taught in 15 states, and loved the freedom my NYS education allowed! My income varied but I ended up with a nice pension from my last position. I became a teacher to have summers and holidays off- loved every minute of teaching and time off! Now I’m retired with an income double my expenses…
    – the entire educational system is a disaster waiting to happen! Administrative overload is so true. 10:1🤦🏻‍♀️

  129. Zach says:

    Fellow UCLA alum but attended 1967-71, admitted with 3.0 gpa. UC was peaking under Gov. Edmund G. Brown. $56 per quarter. First in my family to attend college. Lived at home with parents and sister in 1 BR apartment. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Great education. No debt. 4 NCAA basketball titles. Then came Gov. Ronald Reagan.

  130. Bruce Haefele says:

    I would add a policy that made the $1B contingent on meeting a minimum faculty to student ratio. Here in Australia, as the bureaucracy has grown, faculty positions have shrunk with far less tenure opportunity. Much money is being invested in marketing to international students and structures for translation and commercialisation with little accountability. There are fewer in person tutorials and almost no access to faculty for students because the few left are overworked and underpaid. It’s a tragedy compared to my studies in the early 90s.

  131. Mark Fancourt says:

    Hear, hear! I genuinely hope that you are right. The idea that education value in the developed nations of the world could possibly be so vastly different is obtuse. The only variance is the culture that the institution is based in. This is the driver of the price. Nothing more.

  132. BK says:

    A lot to chew on here, but just 2 things: 1st, at least w elites, the real price (after grants) has basically held w inflation. The “MSRP” has risen to capture tuition from the rich (which helps subsidize the financial aid) and for “brand equity.” This is horrible, but the consumer is also to blame here. 2nd, top-line charts that compare “X” against teaching expenses are rarely useful. Among R1’s, much of that “not teaching” expense is research-related, and research importance is at least co-equal to undergrad teaching. We can debate why, but sufficient to say R1’s are the engine for American research. Research itself is often too expensive, like it’s too expensive to build housing in CA. But mostly, it’s bc the comparatively “easy” discoveries have already been made (e.g. basic silicon vs, say, quantum), and (b) we’re far more deliberate in * how * we do research now, by which I don’t mean “diversity in the lab” but real advancements in safety, collaboration, etc. There are other things I’d add, but let’s move to solutions. Or rather, trade-offs bc there’s no cost-less answer. My main proposal is 2-year mandatory national service (not necc military) after HS. Then, we pick up the college (or analogous) tab. A modern GI bill, but geared inward not outward. There’s a LOT of good (and bad?) that goes with that, but think about what a post-10/7 campus would’ve looked like with slightly older, slightly more experienced students.

    • BK says:

      My 2nd proposal is to cap tax-exemption for univ endowments at (X). These tax monies then go to publics and vocationals. Edge case harm will happen – I could see Providence suffer if Brown can’t spend as much in town – but there’ll be broader gain. My 3rd is a firewall between electeds and higher ed. I say this as an elite univ admin – you have no idea how much expensive staff time goes into dealing with electeds (from both the left and the right) who are just looking for Twitter fodder. They’d argue that higher ed needs the oversight, but how are they exercising the oversight they have now? There needs to be a better mechanism.

  133. Stanley Cook says:

    Transferring into Wharton School of Commerce and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania from Arizona State University in 1970 was a wonder. I was enrolled as a business major and suspect that the true reason for my acceptance was not the interview I flew back to Philadelphia for only to find upon showing up that there was no record of any such scheduled event. Someone took pity on me and did conduct an interview on the spot for which I was very grateful. It became obvious that the what was convincing besides my very good grades was the fact that I or my father actually was willing to pay full fare as a transfer student. $1,270 per semester. Can you believe it? Leaving after only a single semester (grades were fine) but homesickness and a strong desire to be with the first future ex-wife prompted me to make an extremely poor decision which I regret to this day more than 50 years later. Everything turned out fine but the lingering thought of what could have been with a degree in corporate finance in the early 1970’s continues to make me think about how different my life may have been. The point of this confession is that the Qualified, yes, but financially capability has haunted me ever since. Money and oh yeah, money, seemed to be at the forefront of a very significant decision on the part of the University. Kind of sad really……

    • James Vryzas says:

      Wharton is one of those places that has exploded in prestige, popularity, luxury brand positioning – and fees.

  134. DJ Scruggs says:

    Northwester University, 1990, Music Ed. I decided not to teach so I got nothing out of the degree except knowledge of classical music.

    An idea I’ve been noodling on for years:

    Harvard, MIT, Stanford and others offer free classes online. The problem is that few people have the self-discipline to go through the courses.

    Idea: rent out space in a mid-size city and offer to proctor the courses. Basically, the students and instructor all show up together and watch the lecture. The proctor answers questions. Perhaps recruit local alumni of those schools and disciplines to offer help at night.

  135. Michael Cusack-Nelkin says:

    College of William & Mary class of 2022. BS in Physics, Minor in Data Science (one class off a major). Got a job as an Analyst at Deloitte Consulting out of college. Thank god but I don’t have student debt. Working toward a Masters in either Statistics, Data Science, or Computer Science with an eye on ML and algorithmic trading.

  136. Michael Hart says:

    Fantastic post and great data on a critical topic.

    Bowling Green State University, 1994
    Tuition: about 6-8K/year (but they gave me a National Merit Scholarship covering that plus room & board)
    What I got out of it: a great finance education and access to internships that set me up for a tech career with director-level roles at companies like Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft

  137. Paul Warner says:

    ’90 AA Community College – Tuition $300/year
    ’92 U. Michigan Architecture Undergrad $2100/year (in-state)
    ’96 UM Masters of Architecture $3400/year
    ’97 UM Masters of Engineering $3600/year
    Amazing education. Couldn’t get in to UM with mediocre high school grades so went to community college for 2 years on a program that directly transferred into UM Architecture so no wasted time or money. Missed the freshman benders but interned which led to my first professional job.

  138. Stephen says:

    ‘80 Community College, $4k… 2 yrs of great education by professors. ‘82 SUNY Plattsburgh $12k, BA in acctg, solid education. ‘84 Purdue, $0 – was poor, got full scholarship – exceptional, MS in Finance. Got to Wall Street, great teammates and luck, we did fantastic. Big donations to all 3.
    Community College is such a bargain, calc1 is calc1, as is cost acctg, and Econ 101, etc. No need to take these at $20k+ per semester at a 4yr university.

  139. Doug Sutherland says:

    ’87, BSc, University of Toronto, about $1200 (CDN)
    ’91, PhD, University of Western Ontario
    We live in California but my son is currently an undergrad at Western. The admissions process in Ontario hasn’t changed much in 40 years: you apply to up to three school and you are accepted or rejected based exclusively on your grades. No athletic scholarships (oxymoron), no essays (bull shit) and no one cares about your gender, race, color of your skin or how much money your parents have. The entire application process takes about two hours. He was accepted at Toronto and got scholarships to Western & Waterloo. I’m pretty sure that Ivey League profs do not have any special knowledge that only they can teach our kids – especially at the undergraduate level.

  140. John says:

    Another monster from Prof G:
    Embry-Riddle, BS Professional Aeronautics, mostly all Tuition Assistance from the Air Force. I have never ‘used’ my degree, but I got a commission in the Air Force at 33 (in 2001), and that immediately altered the financial arc of my life for the better.

    I really want to explore this 10:1 ratio of Administrators to Teachers. This is infecting every aspect of our lives, and someone, somewhere has to say, NO! No more. The administrative state is too large and not producing enough value. In Iraq, it was said that there were 22 people inside the wire for every one person outside the wire. Now, some of those guys inside the wire are really needed there, but many are not.

  141. Matt Faatz says:

    I’ll use your format:
    University of Oregon ‘87
    —Freedom to explore anything; a sense of possibility
    —Discipline (rode a bike to work study job at rec center off campus) 2 years.
    —Recreating: kayak class, downhill ski class, scuba class; still enjoy these from time to time.
    —A spouse (graduate school); still a hell of a lot of fun!
    —Public school teaching
    —Prosperity? Let’s say reasonably well-positioned after 35 years… so yes.
    —The skills/means to take care of my children; 2 now with college degrees & thriving
    —The certification, relationships and skills that led to connections with more than 10K people in course of my career. Learned flexibility in working with all kinds of people, both students & professional experiences. Made it my mission to really know/understand people in my line of work.
    —An appreciation for the WHO, Police, Bruce, David Bowie, U2
    —A passion for writing about history
    —A (poor) understanding of Economics; would only improve with graduate school (middling?)
    —A 2.85 GPA; does it count that I was above a 3.0 in history?
    —relief that I could make the money stretch and STILL only work part-time in Eugene in the ’80’s.
    $1,500 tuition/year. Thank God for Pell Grants, Work Study & reasonably priced rents. Housing is out of control now in Oregon.

  142. Robert says:

    Austin College, Sherman, Texas BA 1980. Tuition/room and board capped at $3,600/year and fixed for four years. Private liberal arts college. Considered very expensive then. Now it is $46,025/year. I received a classical liberal arts degree and learned to think and write, write, write. Amazing the high number of academic papers I wrote in four years. Career in oil and gas development and commercial real estate.

  143. LKL says:

    The University of Akron, BA Communications 1989. Semester tuition $800. In exchanged I received knowledge and interpersonal skills that allowed me to go forth without intimidation. I also received a trophy for Greek Week Chugfest which I proudly display as street cred to my now college-aged children.

  144. Peter Coates says:

    Indeed. In the mid 80’s I lived in Brooklyn NY and got my BA at Hunter College. I spent more on subway tokens than I did on tuition. Today, the tuition is approximately 10x what it was then. I then got my MS at Columbia for about 20k, but I didn’t care–my employer paid it, and gave me a year off in which to get it. Today, education has become a vampire on the neck of the young. Unless they are going into a profession, it’s much easier to break into a six figure income by learning a well paid trade like plumbing or electrical work. Well-meaning propaganda like “To get a good job, get a good education” actually turned college into the equivalent of high school, and made manual work something to be ashamed of. Our local high school has a basement full of machine tools and woodworking equipment for the courses they no longer teach, essentially because we made skilled labor low class.

  145. Skip Kapur says:

    UT Arlington, MBA in Information Systems. Tuition $1,600 per semester. Paid for 1st semester, then paid from a $400 per month assistanship. Yes, I lived on $400 per month, went days on one meal per day. The education was crucial in building a reasonably successful career. I’m grateful.

  146. Heather Sanders says:

    I couldn’t agree more with everything in this article!

    Oral Roberts University- $84k (3 years) starting in 2005 / Oklahoma State $10K (1.5 Years) – Worked two jobs off campus, cheerleading and RA scholarships, ultimately received a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing, a mountain of debt, and some life-long friendships.

    Almost 20 years later, I have a job that I love and one that I don’t think would be possible without a college education.

  147. Diane Peoples says:

    University of Georgia, BBA 1985, Marketing. MBM (Brand Management), 1988. Undergrad tuition $325 / quarter my senior year, total $975 for the year.

    Solid education that put me into a successful marketing career for 30+ years
    Lifelong love of the Georgia Bulldogs
    Work ethic
    Appreciation for new points of view
    Many friends

    Also so grateful for the Hope Scholarship program in Georgia – my three kids graduated from UGA tuition free after qualifying for the Zell Miller scholarship (revered governor who started the program, RIP), cutting their yearly costs from appx. $22,000 to $11,000 for books, fees, room and board. We had all three at UGA for one year; total bill about $33,000. While this is a great deal of $$ compared to the 1980s, it’s equivalent to or less than the total annual bill for ONE student at any out of state public school. Does it support those who may not need it? Possibly, but it’s also clear the middle class is hurt by secondary education costs. I’m most grateful that my children graduated with little to no student debt.

  148. TH says:

    NYU Bachelor’s, UC Berkeley Master’s – $120,000 in student debt, my best years of youth overwhelmed with stress, and punishing corporate hellscape jobs for 10 years where I experienced discrimination, bullying, and all the negative health impacts of the toxic patriarchy. Finally paid off my debt 11 years after graduating. I received no bailout, it was all just my sweat. In my twenties I even took some part-time work in addition to a full time job, working nights and weekends at minimum wage retail positions. I had to make impossible choices, live in dangerous parts of town to save on rent and I had to make financial decisions that put my life at risk. Difficult to say whether the brands of these educational institutions were worth that. I struggle with serious chronic health issues that I still have today. I blame the stress, and I wonder if I will ever recover from the educational trauma I survived.

  149. Richard Bliss Brooke says:

    Merced High School, Merced, Calif. GPA 1.9. No college. Annual Income $500,000. Net worth, 20 Million. Author of 3 books. Cover of Success Magazine, March 1992. Live ocean front on Lanai, Hawaii next to Larry Ellison. I have hired many MBAs. Only one was worth a shit and he is brilliant. I have two employees both of whom I hired right out of high school, no college. Both have been with me over 25 years. Both are multimillionaires. The one degree I wish I had would be a law degree, not to practice but for the business posture it might have provided. ROI on the law degree? 8 years of lost income and business education and $500,000 in mid 70’s money. Not worth it.

    • Richard Bliss Brooke says:

      PS. My father went to Stanford and my mother went to Mills. Neither of them used their degrees for anything.

  150. Raphael Tiseo says:

    The ugly truth.

    Harvard sitting on a $52 billion endowment while limiting freshman seats to 1,500 defines what it is to be a for-profit firm. Any university that doesn’t increase the size of its freshman class faster than population growth should lose its tax-free status on the return from its endowment. At some of these colleges, the endowments have surpassed the GDP of a Central American nation. We (faculty and administrators) are public servants, not fucking Birkin bags.

  151. Jackie O says:

    Bravo. Harvard’s priorities have been wrong for years. I know because I went to B-school there. My very rich classmates donated millions of dollars for their kids in order to get in. Imo, this is no different than the Varsity Blues Scandal. Entry should be based on merit and nothing else….but low income students obviously need to be addressed early in the public school system so that they have a fighting chance against the rich parents funding their kids education.

  152. QD says:

    university of Washington, computer science, 2009, Free-financial aid. Child of a poor immigrant from a tiny village in Vietnam. I’m grateful that not everything is broken…

  153. Scott Campbell says:

    This, “…having a DEI position, much less a department, means you are already one of the most diverse and inclusive places on Earth. DEI on a university campus is a fire station in the ocean — expensive and redundant.”

    • Angela Barrick says:

      Arizona State, 1992, first year was $1,200, but ASU gave me a regent scholarship every year and without that I’m not certain I would have finished. They have a great communication school and I also took a year abroad through that tuition which completely changed my life. I have taught at USC as an adjunct lecturer and I see everything you’re describing here. It’s probably the main reason I decided to take a break. I felt like I was doing non-profit work for a for-profit company.

  154. Laura says:

    Community College’ 87 $2,500
    ROI:
    -Skills & info to start launch a company at age 19
    -Skills & info to sell a company at age 24
    -The means to take care of my family and parents

  155. Elliot says:

    U of New Hampshire’78. Education major, tuition around $3,000/year. Quickly moved on from teaching to grad school to business career. Yes, higher ed costs are out of control and their administrative bloat a big problem. But, carving out the commitment to DEI investments is not going to solve that problem. Put simply our country needs to get WAY better at closing the opportunity gap for people of color. No offense, but I would be more inclined to cut the varsity crew teams…

  156. Bradley Webb says:

    Graduated 2004, University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Engineering – Mining. Total degree cost $25k in admissions over that 5 years.

    What did I get? An amazing life and opportunity to work in an industry that is considered boring (Mining) and to travel the world whilst generating economic security at a slow and steady rate.

    Would not change it for the world!

  157. Stacy Mitchum says:

    1990 Washington State University, Bachelors Business Administration. Last year’s tuition $1800.
    I had full-ride academic scholarship (thank you, WSU Alumni and high school guidance counselor) which I lost after year-two due to part-time jobs and 100% devotion to the rowing team. Crew changed my life for the better (yes, WSU has a crew team!) and got me out of my head a little bit, so I don’t regret my choices. Even in my eventual academic field (Hotel and Restaurant Admin), it was the extra-curricular activities that provided the momentum to get the career that I loved upon graduation. Decently happy ending!
    I am dismayed for young people at the current disparity between the value and the cost of a higher education. I fear that the Americian Disease of the Corporation has taken over, putting all but the wealthiest graduates into long-term debt to BANKS. Land of the free? I think not.

  158. Dani says:

    Lewis & Clark College – BA 1984. I think it was ~12k annually for tuition, room, and board, of which my parents paid 1/3 (equal to the cost of tuition at the U of O), and I covered the remainder through scholarships and loans.
    At the time, I wasn’t so sure of the premium for private school was worth it – still the case – and I can’t in good conscience recommend that any parent or child take on the eyeball-popping debt load that is today’s private school cost.

  159. Yoav Michaely says:

    I went to school in Israel in the early 80’s.
    The cost was under $1000 per year ( today it is around $4000 per year but need based subsidies are available)
    There wasn’t and still isn’t a shortage of seats with the exception of med school.
    I agree strongly with the article with one exception, it is stated that Asians and woman are over represented and it is implied that this is bad.
    I disagree. Like Jews today and in the past, Mormons as well, education is highly valued within the Asian community and they are more represented because they work at it and become more deserving on a merit base. Woman for a different reason but still merit based and that’s a good thing.
    In the 50’s there were “too many” Jews excepted on the merit system that existed that they changed the criteria to include “character “ in order to accept less Jews and have a system that is subjective and can’t be challenged.
    College acceptance should be a public good and every single person that “passes the bar” should be allowed and everyone that does not have sufficient means should be subsidized by the government, not by the university.

  160. John Arnott. RCA, ACID, IDSA says:

    Great observations highlighting the underlying problems of income inequality and the obfuscation of democracy (too much for this space). The developed nations don’t really believe in meritocracy; money wins every time, and democracy is so badly compromised that the young are avoiding it like the plague. Why is the US not able to field a string of brilliant thinker/doers for the Presidency? Because money favours the status quo.
    Keep up your brilliant acerbic commentary!

  161. JDubsFL says:

    UF ‘2003; paid only food, room & board (tuition covered by Florida Bright Futures – arguably one of the most successful state-based programs that continues to this day); graduated debt-free. Saved enough to buy a beachfront condo in ’08.

    UF has since been ranked one of the best value universities in the country for several years in a row, and recently snagged #1 in the Wall Street Journal for public institutions.

    Re: “Rot”, read UF President’s Ben Sasse’s statement on the Israel/Gaza war; it’s only remarkable because it stands out among what should’ve been a boilerplate response in what has been a surreal bizarro landscape of equivocation and cowardice.

    I’m proud to be a gator more than ever.

  162. Josh says:

    William and Mary BA ‘07 MBA ‘21
    – Football scholarship undergrad
    – lifetime membership to the Tribe and Tribe athletics community
    – a love for finance, art, architecture, diversity
    – a patriotic appreciation
    – broader world exposure

    Joined the Army during ‘the surge’ in Iraq.

    – no debt
    – all kids are able to go to college for free based on my time in service
    – 4 years military is the best college payment free option

  163. Shobe says:

    Purdue University, 1993, Professional Writing B.A. I think in-state tuition for my final senior semester was ~$1500. Since 2010, tuition has remained flat, bucking the rot and seeking diversification in terms of grant sources, innovation spinoffs/patents, and capital investments in new programs, like a popular “Degree in 3” accelerated undergrad program in Liberal Arts.

    It’s not a perfect institution, but I think it strives to offer meritocratic ladder rungs to a very diverse student body (where diversity is geographic, economic, ethnic, and many other facets).

    And, we’ve got Zach Edey. Big Maple. Hoo-yah.

  164. Jonathan says:

    Stanford, ’93. Tuition at the time was, I thought high. Now I have a kid attending Stanford and one attending a different school in Canada on a full scholarship. It will be interesting to compare the two results. Its clear that Stanford has the bloat of administration and it is also clear that is has swung too far to the left. The campus is not as it was 30 years ago. I work for a global multinational with people who went to many different schools in many different countries. They are all fantastic smart people.

  165. Sidney Smith says:

    This was one of your best articles. I am a High School graduate. I escaped college for the family business and marriage. No regrets. I have seen the struggles for my children. One who is a successful attorney and the other a 43 year old man who struggles with life’s challenges. He fits into the categories you have written and spoken about so eloquently. The attorney at age 47 is still paying off college loans. The systems that we have are broken from the top down and the rot is deep and needs to be lessened. Realty and life tells us we we can only control most problems, rarely eliminate. Scott, I appreciate you and your thoughts.

  166. Liz Ann Sonders says:

    University of Delaware, AS ‘1986, tuition less than $7k/year, wonderful experience; still have great respect for UDel (I’ve served on the endowment’s Investment Visiting Committee since 2000)

  167. Jim Erskine says:

    UCLA in 1969 for MS Finance. Cost $125/qtr for in-state tuition. Great professors, wonderful 1-yr experience. UC system not nearly as affordable now.

  168. Tim says:

    Georgia Tech EE 1981, UCLA MBA 1997. GT was $621.50 per quarter out of state the entire 4 years. UCLA MBA increased to $8K per year when I was there to begin to get it on par with other “professional” graduate programs like medicine and law. I think it’s closer to $45K per year now. It was pretty easy not to take too much student debt to pay back easily enough back then.

    Got huge ROI from both programs and classify myself more in Scott’s age/cohort where things seemed to be of high value at that point in time.

    I think GT now has 18K undergraduates as opposed to 12K or so back in those old days. 50% increase in 40+ years doesn’t cut it in a field (engineering) where employers could easily demand 3-4 times the number of GT grads per year. I like the 6% student growth, 2% tuition reduction model. I’ve heard you argue this over the past year. How do you (we) get a wider audience?

  169. Michael says:

    Williams College 1980 – English Lit with some math & final year was $8100 for a full year of tuition room & board – I held 2 school jobs to help pay some of the bills but was making $5/hr. I got noticed in my finance career because I could write decently – so an argument perhaps for liberal arts and mathematics education together. Dartmouth today is $30,000 per semester for 3 semesters per year. We just paid the final bill last fall.

  170. Jon Stine says:

    Indiana University, Bloomington, B.A., 1978. Tuition $350 per semester x two semesters a year. Worked part-time, left with a degree and zero debt. For a kid from Fort Wayne, it was an amazing, life-changing exposure to great books, great minds, challenging thoughts, people from everywhere — and higher intellectual standards than could ever be imagined. An entry portal to a new world.

  171. Sam Ruda says:

    What changed is that the state U funding model morphed. It’s called the great abdication of public high ed funding. It has either flat-lined since the early 1990’s or at best, did not keep up with inflation. It should also be said that a larger share of this funding has gone to pensions and health care of public employees as opposed to research, brick and mortar. Colleges have addressed this in multiple ways: a) raised tuition far in excess of CPI b) increased the share of out of staters c) force fed the collegiate loan industrial complex and d) increased the share of foreign students. U of Michigan has an enrollment of nearly 50% out of staters. My school, Rutgers, is an interesting case. It’s both diverse, large, and expensive. It also happens to have a very low out of state percentage enrollment: In point of fact, while it gets great marks for executing its public mission, it comes with a high financial penalty. It does not have a pot to piss in financially speaking. That’s not all on the back of tectonic changes in high ed, demographics and all the rest. Mis-management at the State and governing board levels plays a part. I am not sure even with incentives, 6% enrollment growth is to be had. But I think the incentives should be based on in-state enrollment gains.

  172. Eric Heiman says:

    Carnegie Mellon, 1992, Bachelors of Architecture. Tuition was around $5500/semester, but I was lucky to have a full scholarship from a third party. My education was excellent (even if I didn’t become an architect), I met so many people I am still very close to today, and there is no doubt it changed the direction of my life in the best way. I am so grateful for that place, and at that time.

    One difference from then to now at CMU (based on some faculty I know) is precisely what Scott says. The economic mix was much more varied when I was there because it was more financially accessible to more families. (There was a middle class then!) Now, forget it. While the students may look much better on paper (No way, with my 1987 grades and SATs, I would have been admitted today), the economic diversity is nil. I’d argue it was that economic mix that made it such a valuable and rich experience.

  173. Barbara says:

    Life is unfair; my oldest granddaughter was accepted to the out of state pre-med, bio-engineering school at UGA, because she is very smart, a leader and has parents who consider education essential. The youngest granddaughter is an elite swimmer with very high grades, and I have no doubt she will be accepted at a university of her choice. That said, I do believe at my core that it takes a village and a nation should do its best to make life better through education for all those who want to attend college. I love the article and the sentiment most productive is that colleges should not be given tax credit if the freshman class admissions are not on par with population increases. IS there rot at the core of so many elite institutions or is the rot in the individual who for reasons beyond normal comprehension find a way to cheat and never answer for crimes. A small, private college in my hometown of St. Louis is in massive debt and is petitioning to use endowments to wipe away loans. This despite the fact, the husband and wife team at the helm received increases in salary each and every year the school went further into debt and are very highly paid. I am at a loss.

  174. Old smart guy says:

    So many colleges especially the elite universities are Woke, ultra left wing, and against free thinking and speech that disagrees with the Woke/Left agenda. Countless studies show this with Havard ranked last for free speech by students, yet the most expensive school.

    And Prof G, defending Gay at Havard with her 50+ documented plagiarisms is negligent. You should join Biden’s campaign team!

  175. Brian C says:

    Cal Poly Pomona (CA state school). Undergrad ’02 and Grad in ’08. I believe for both degrees it cost us around 40-50k. Both degrees were in English Lit/Lang and helped me get jobs in search marketing/writing. Paid off for me as I was able to start my own business, pay off loans 10 years early. I’m planning to push my kids toward the Cal State system if they want to go to university.

  176. Phillip says:

    University of Central Florida; 2015; $5K annual tuition; I received a full scholarship for me education with the exception of two summer semesters loaded with credits ($6K). Graduated with ~$30K in total debt as my living expenses were financed. Took me 4 years to earn 6 figures, and 2 more to double it. Debt free as of this year. In Prof Gs words, life is so rich…

  177. Jerry Sheldon says:

    Graduated from Georgia Tech, B Mech Eng in ’90, and Masters in Mech Eng in ’92. Everything, in state, was $6k a year. Was accepted at MIT but my family couldn’t afford it. From working at a fast food restaurant when I turned 16, and saving my money, I paid for half and mom & dad paid for half by taking out loans. Masters degree was free from my research assistance-ship.

    Georgia Tech taught me the value of hard work, how to be a life long learner, be not afraid to learn, how to teach myself, how to be tenacious in problem solving.

  178. Scott Galloway says:

    UCLA ‘87

    —Joy (loved it)
    —Lifelong friendships
    —Discipline (Crew)
    —20 lbs of muscle (see above: Crew)
    —A spouse
    —Job at Morgan Stanley
    —Prosperity I could have not fathomed
    —The skills/means to take care of my parents and children
    —The certification, relationships and skills that led to $70m in investment in our great nation (taxes paid)
    —An appreciation for REM, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, ELO, and The English Beat
    —A sense of self
    —A (modest) understanding of Economics
    —A 2.27 GPA (no joke) that gained me admission to Berkeley for grad school
    —Lifelong gratitude/patriotism for CA taxpayers and 🇺🇸

    $1,350 tuition/year.

    • Justin Larson says:

      high school, class of 2000. free.

      – early access to purchase of first home, (no debt!) providing long-term financial stability
      – a career that still pays well into 6-figures

      most of the other stuff I see in other comments would have gotten with or without college. Suggesting that one would not have joy, or found a spouse, or an appreciation of the music in their formative years without college seems to be extreme tunnel vision on experiences instead of what the untaken path may have yielded.

  179. Mike Nelson says:

    I entered college around the same time as you, and the Pell Grant saved me otherwise I never would’ve been able to afford it. I felt honored to have an opportunity to be the first one in my family to go to college. because of that I studied hard and even got a scholarship to study in Japan twice. eventually the solid to a 23 year career in the airline business managing thousands of employees as an expat Director for the world’s largest Airline. I love your idea on government service which I’ve heard you talk about on pivot as well. The problem is how do we get government leader ship to take any of this seriously, especially since slightly over 1/3 of our country gets their news from garbage news networks with an agenda that is not in the country’s interest, but the agenda of lobbyists. Citizens United will be viewed as the nail in the coffin of our country.

  180. Tom says:

    Middlebury College, 1986, BA in History. About $20k per year, paid for in full by my parents, no debt. Learned the value of thinking, reading and writing critically. It was an intellectually maturing experience but not one that generated specific skills or abilities that transferred to the real world, at least not directly.

  181. Grant Huhn says:

    Mt Hood Community College. ’87-’88. 1 yr of tuition: ~$700. I received a Pell Grant for ~$1600.

    Central Bible College. ’89-’94. BA Ministry. I graduated with $15,000 in student loans. I made life-long friends.

    Willamette University. ’01-’02. MA Teaching. I graduated with $15,000 in student loans. A one-year, intensive Masters program launched a 12-year teaching career where I met thousands of amazing students and educators.

    • Grant Huhn says:

      I am not 100% certain about the numbers for Mt Hood CC in the late ’80s. The numbers given are what I recall.

      Both my daughters currently attend different state universities in Oregon. It costs around $30,000 per year at each school for in-state tuition.

  182. Liz C says:

    UNC Chapel Hill, c/o 2010. I hadn’t fully grasped just how outrageous tuition had become. My dad did well, worked for IBM and paid for my in-state tuition… but seeing the admission rates now, I truly wonder if I would have made the cut as a student today. Wow.

  183. Phillip says:

    right on target as always………………….. why aren’t you running for CEO of the USA?

  184. Jim Knapp says:

    Cal Poly SLO, whose motto is learn by doing, which is exactly what played out for me… from campus DJ (Jim Afternoon Knapp) to 40 year career in media, marketing and public service. $1,200/yr.We could use more of that.

  185. Jerry says:

    84′ Kenyon, around 15K which I borrowed for some; thank you Dad and Mom for the rest. Learned to communicate, think and figured out the rest on my own (not in the parents basement). I borrowed from a private bank who reminded me to pay a few times as well as limited how much I could borrow. Get the government out of the student loan business and colleges would be forced to control tuition. When students can borrow way to much, there is no incentive for all parties involved.

  186. Philip Otley says:

    1st degree (let’s not talk about the MBA)…1983-1986, Australia, zero tuition fees & PAID (due to family means) to attend a “red brick” university to attain a liberal arts degree.
    RoI for the country through greater than average taxes?
    Maybe 20X?
    RoI for other countries?
    Infinite.
    Time to discuss talent tax and poaching tax?
    Scott, I’m in London if you fancy a pint…

  187. Mark Hopper says:

    Some great points in there that should (must) get the attention of someone in education (hey – don’t we have a Sec of Education?!). Would vote for someone that would include this in their political agenda.

    • Josh M says:

      That’s good to hear. Unfortunately the narrative has shifted from higher ed as a public to a private good, with the cost-sharing and burdens that entails. But if we look at the states with the best quality of life and Gross State Products, we get states with higher levels of educational attainment on average. That’s not an accident. Meaning — investing in higher education is a public good that yields real public benefits.

  188. Josh M. says:

    Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State University), 2001. I think we paid about $5K in tuition a year then, maybe $6K, outside of room & board. I was a philosophy major and it was the best decision for my ability to read, think, and write. Administrative bloat at the top 1-2% of colleges is obscene. At my college, it’s not the problem. The problem is lack of state investment in students (we’re a private nonprofit). Our private colleges enroll 15% of the state’s college students and graduate 29% of its graduates. That’s a good return, and yet we get $0 in infrastructure support from the state. We’re a better bargain per graduate than nearly anywhere else. Why can’t the money follow the student?

  189. Stu Shapley says:

    Harvard ’99 – The topic of higher education being priced as a luxury good and incurring “brand premium” pricing for the same underlying products probably merits several weeks of posts.

  190. Tripp Sickler says:

    I truly hope your thoughts will lead to changes. Who can disagree with “No institution or admissions director can predict greatness in a 17-year-old, nor should they. Our mission should be to offer as many decent/good 17-year-olds as we can a shot at greatness.” The fact college education is out of reach for so many kids who want to go is a sad state of affairs. And it can be changed.

  191. Amy Barzdukas says:

    Wellesley 1984 – what’s worse than the prestige you describe is the way large corporations use the elite college admissions office as a proxy for potential in hiring. The rot lingers a long time.

    • Josh M says:

      This is an excellent point. This sort of thing perpetuates the very inequality that the massification of higher education was intended to stop.

  192. Chris Bell says:

    My best educational ROI was likely attending De Paul High School (class of 1972). It was a Catholic private school that was nevertheless affordable for my aspiring middle-class parents. We studied serious academic subjects – maths, English literature and composition, history, sciences – for 7 solid hours daily. Also had daily phys ed and everyone was expected to play at least an intramural sport. I was a bookish kid, but re-invented as an athlete by taking up new sports: soccer and wrestling. A terrific foundation both intellectually and physically. For university, I wound up at Ryerson Polytech in Toronto Canada, where my four year film program cost an incredible $500 annually – foreign fee differentials had not yet been introduced. At the time a similar program at Pratt Institute in NY was $4,000 annually. I ultimately became a Canadian citizen … which was priceless!

  193. John Thompson says:

    Ferris State University, 1983, Tuition was ~$1,200/year. I took a gap year and worked as auto mechanic in a Ford dealership. What I received – a first class education in computer science and a boost in critical thinking. I am now the global head of AI for EY.

  194. Chuck Messenger says:

    US Naval Academy, 1989, cost 5 years of service as a Naval Officer. It was a very good deal. Also a school with very low admissions rates, but for good reason.

  195. Cassandro says:

    One item that would help would be risk sharing of college debt with expensive education institutions. Risk sharing would place more risk on schools that pressure students to take out big loans to pay for education that doesn’t pay off. Kind of like a warranty. If the education was so valuable, then the student would be able to pay the big debt. If the education didn’t work out, the education institution would be on the hook for a percentage of the unpaid loan plus interest. This suggestion has been around for a while and has legs, but politicians like to take and action is what is needed. thx, paul

  196. Joan Breiart says:

    Why won’t people read Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. I have been working for 60 years. If I condensed the time in the office — 9-5 at least five days a week– for big companies Like ITT and Scholastic Magazines, I would have had 30 years of actual work. Grabber proves that 50% of White Color jobs re bullshit.

  197. Kevin says:

    Vanderbilt ‘13, my parents paid too much. I got a computer science degree and use it gainfully, AND I have half a mind to burn it all down.

    In my personal life (what I can control) I have adjusted downwards the respect I give to graduates of prestigious universities and adjusted up for anyone actually building in my city.

    I know it when I see it.

    • Tearse says:

      Riight on ! 1970. University of Minnesota. A couple grand a year (inflation adjusted maybe should be $8-10k now but it is actually $25-30 k

      The private colleges in Minnesota show $35k but most kids pay about $18k depending on ACT scores. Higher ACT lower tuition . Private secondary schools here. Catholic. $20 k. Others -very liberal elitist- $30-40 K. Even in elementary levels now. Public schools are a total failure. Teacher unions are negotiating for pay and benefits increases that will cause cuts to balance budgets. Administrators will survive and continue getting 6 figure pay checks even though most kids are below standards in reading and math. State law say they move up regardless: how stupid is that. Rot starts at the top and spills all the way down.

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