Both of my parents graduated, but neither finished and earned a college degree. In my family, I was the first to get that prized BA. Although I went to a public school, I headed to U of WI in Madison. So, my folks very generously ponied up what would have been the cost of a good private school back then. I started in 1969, and room and board was about $3,000 annually. In today's dollars, that would be about $18,800.
I am extremely grateful to my parents for their efforts and sacrifice for me to get a fine education and my degree. And although what they spent was a lot of money - it actually pales in contrast to what students today must shell out.
How did college go from being expensive to out of control? Here's one article about part of the story.
At New York City’s New School, for instance, then-president (and now failed Nebraska Senate candidate) Bob Kerrey made $3 million in 2010. Students entering the college this fall will pay a steep $38,000 in tuition. (And that’s before room and board.) It’s the same story at other colleges. At Washington University of St. Louis, where the tuition is now $44,000, chancellor Mark Stephen Wrighton made around $2.3 million. At Vanderbilt University (tuition: $42,000), chancellor Nicholas Zeppos made $2.2 million, while at Columbia University (tuition: $47,000), president Lee Bollinger made $1.9 million.
It’s generally less profitable to be the president of a public university, but many of their paychecks would still look pretty darn good to any member of the 99 percent. Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee made $2 million in 2011. Current tuition there is $10,000 in-state and $25,000 out-of-state. At Penn State (in-state $16,000, out-of-state $29,000), president Graham Spanier made nearly $1.1 million, and at the University of Kentucky (in-state $10,000, out-of-state $20,000), president Lee E. Todd Jr. made $1 million.
Exorbitant as these salaries are, they’re not the driving reason behind the enormous rate of increase in college tuition over the years. (Since 1985, tuition has jumped by 559 percent, according to the New York Times, while the Consumer Price Index has just about doubled.) But presidents certainly could choose to give back some of their salary as scholarships for the 99 percent trying to attend those schools. Bob Kerrey’s 2010 haul, for instance, could have paid for about 80 students to attend the New School.
Of course, insanely exorbitant salaries are only part of the story. Country club campuses, more administrative workers than one can imagine being necessary are another - and so forth and so on.
What cannot go on will not. I don't know if we will have a gigantic overhaul of how our universities and colleges are structured and their pay scales. I don't know if getting a college education will become something of the past for many Americans. All I know is what is going on today is ridiculous - and I feel more fortunate than ever to have been a young adult in the early 70's, with a quest for knowledge and a family and system in place so that I was able to enjoy and earn it all.