More on the Cost of College

I don't know why I can't just move along from Michelle Obama's rant about the terrible cost of her Princeton / Harvard Law degree.  Maybe its because I attended the same schools (different degrees) and my reaction is just so different -- I had a fabulous experience and live in awe that I had such a unique chance to attend these schools, while Michelle Obama seems to experience nothing but misery and resentment.  Granted that I did not have to take on a ton of debt to get these degrees, but I have plenty of friends (and a wife) that did.

This analogy comes to mind:  Let's say Fred needs to buy a piece of earth-moving equipment.  He has the choice of the $20,000 front-end loader that is more than sufficient to most every day tasks, or the $200,000 behemoth, which might be useful if one were opening a strip mine or building a new Panama Canal but is an overkill for many applications.  Fred may lust after the huge monster earth mover, but if he is going to buy it, he better damn well have a big, profitable application for it or he is going to go bankrupt trying to buy it.

So Michelle Obama has a choice of the $20,000 state school undergrad and law degree, which is perfectly serviceable for most applications, or the Princeton/Harvard $200,000 combo, which I can attest will, in the right applications, move a hell of a lot of dirt.  She chooses the $200,000 tool, and then later asks for sympathy because all she ever did with it was some backyard gardening and she wonders why she has trouble paying all her debt.  Duh.  I think the problem here is perfectly obvious to most of us, but instead Obama seeks to blame her problem on some structural flaw in the economy, rather than a poor choice on her part in matching the tool to the job.  In fact, today, she spends a lot of her time going to others who have bought similar $200,000 educations and urging them not to use those tools productively, just like she did not. 

Ironically, two Ivy League schools have actually decided that they want their graduates to be able to afford any career they wish, without fear of student debt, and so endeavor to provide student aid nowadays in the form of grants rather than loans.  One of those is Princeton University, her and my alma mater.


  1. M. Hodak:

    Great analogy.

    BTW - we're quickly arriving at the point--without any government program--where a poor, smart kid less likely to graduate from an Ivy league school with debt than an upper middle-class kid. The poor kid would actually have to borrow to pay the $6,000 state tuition, etc. whereas an Ivy league school would likely fund their entire education--room, board, and supplies--from their burgeoning endowment.

  2. Sameer Parekh:

    I have to just second M Hodak -- great analogy. I think I will use that one myself.

  3. happyjuggler0:

    Going $200,000 (or whatever) into debt to get a $30,000 (or whatever) year job makes about as much sense as hiring Michael Jordan to tutor your 5 year old daughter in basketball. It is a massive waste of resources, you can do about as much good with radically less cost by hiring someone (or some school) far less prestigious, or even forgoing the education for that matter.

  4. dave smith:

    And everyone thought Hillary was a scary first lady.

  5. Scott:

    Surprised Mrs. Obama hasn't proposed the obvious solution: goverment control of tuition costs.

  6. Tribal Elder:

    But capped tuition wouldn't generate the substantial raise Mrs. Obama's got following Mr. O's election to the Senate. Her value to the University of Chicago more than doubled.

  7. waymad:

    It's worth taking a look at what Spengler has to say, here and here on the potential First Lady, in Asia Times online. An angry lady......

  8. Sandy:

    Furthering your education is a rewarding endeavor, both financially and spiritually. Unfortunately, there is financial help for many college costs such as tuition and living quarters but no help for College Textbooks.
    I have resorted to buying older edition cheap textbooks when available and also have been purchasing International Edition textbooks that are much cheaper on sites such as International textbooks are legal in the US but the professors frown on them. I wish the government would regulate the prices and profit on textbooks and make them more accessible to students.