When my parents went to college in the 60s four years of private higher education cost around 5k. When I went in the nineties the same degree ran 100k. Today, it’s around 225k. When my two-year old daughter is ready to go off to school, it’s liable to be 500k
For those of you saying serves those elitist rights, let’s look at the much cheaper option of a public state university. What was once practically free was up to 25k in the nineties. It’s now in the neighborhood of 100k, which puts it on track to be around 200-250k when my kids are ready to matriculate. That is still an ungodly amount of money for a piece of paper that no longer guartuntees anything except that your tuition loans are now due.
Then there’s the curious case of the disappearing school year. Over the years summers have started earlier and ended later. Many schools shut down for a full month for winter break. Others have invented something called fall break that shuts school down in October. Apparently spring break was making the school year asymmetrical.
My parents used to attend classes on Saturday. By the time I went to college it was pretty easy to avoid Friday classes and possible to limit classes to three days a week and still graduate on time. Today the two-day weekend has become the exception to the rule. The weekend starts Thursday night and many students can spend a mere 12 or 15 hours a week in class and honestly say they’re taking a full course load. By the time my daughter is in college I can only assume classes will be restricted to every second Monday on months with 30 days except June and September which are part of summer break.
No doubt some will insist the college they work for, teach at, send their kids to or attend is not like that. Fine, these are generalizations. And yes, community colleges remain an inexpensive alternative and probably will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future. But by and large kids are paying more for less education then they used to. Which is particularly worrisome given the economy students are graduating into.
I have an idea on how to fix it. Or more exactly, I have two people who should have some ideas on how to fix it. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Both smart, both successful, both dropped out of Harvard because it didn’t offer then what they need. I’m not sure what, if anything would of. And I bet they didn’t know at the time. But I suspect if you caught either of those guys at the right moment, in the right mood, they’d complete the sentence “I would have stuck around if…”
And that would be the basis for a very interesting conversation on how to create a new kind of college. Gates University probably wouldn’t be a four-year college on a campus with professional professors. Zuckerberg Tech probably wouldn’t have sports teams, or a student body government, or ever classes as we think of them today.
But something makes me think these institutions would do a lot better job of getting our best and brightest and even our mediocre and moderately bright for life after school for a lot less money. Hell, they might even come up with a model that puts money in student’s pockets. Imagine a school where you could not just come up with new ideas or practice writing a business plan but actually get to pitch them to real investors.
You might argue, those guys didn’t need college, why would they want to start one. Vanity. There is no better way to leave a legacy than to create an institution of higher learning. It’s better than a highway, an airport, or even a museum. It’s almost as good as a theme park.
So if anyone reading this knows Bill or Mark send them my way. I happen to run a very interesting, unconventional, real world experience based school inside an ad agency.