Home » Education » Caveat emptor, or How I Found a Way to Send My Kid to College and Keep All The Good Things In Life

Caveat emptor, or How I Found a Way to Send My Kid to College and Keep All The Good Things In Life

It’s never a good or noble thing to be perceived as self-indulgent, arrogant or snobby. Having said that, I recently have found myself feeling slighted and even a little guilty at having what I consider a great education. I really have no right to feel this way but I do. Maybe a little venting will help.

This past February, an old friend remarked to me that one of her children, then a junior, had received admission materials from my alma mater, Vassar College, and was absolutely delighted with the place! A potential early decision candidate, I thought. Her mother, who I have known for over 30 years and absolutely adore, asked if there was there a way to attend for the same overall cost as the local state institution, the University of Colorado. I now must assume that the question posed was purely tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, I responded as if it were an honest inquiry. I said he short answer was no but I did qualify my response by saying it was by no means impossible and that I would be delighted to discuss attending the College with the prospective applicant and the family at her mother’s discretion.

Needless to say, the now senior high school student will not be a part of Vassar College Class of 2018. To be honest, under the circumstances I strain to imagine the student even submitting an application to Poughkeepsie. I suspect her mother was simply asking humorously, as it is my belief that the family’s lifestyle would be, shall we say, cramped by a child attending a Seven Sisters college. However, it still bothers me for some reason. What is truly more relevant: an Education of Great Value or an Education at a Great Value? If this young person was as qualified as I was told, admission would not have been any real problem. That having been said, in the interest of full disclosure, I offer a comparison between the schools courtesy of CollegeData. To wit:

University That Shall Remain Nameless: Public, comprehensive university.
US News & World Report National University Ranking: N/A
US News & World Report Regional University Ranking (West): #22
Entrance Difficulty: Moderately Difficult. More than 75% of freshmen were in the top 50% of their high school class and scored over 1010 on the SAT I or over 18 on the ACT; about 85% or fewer of all applicants accepted.
Cost for Attendance for Out-of-State residents: $33,477
Payment Plans: Credit card (no, really…it officially lists “credit card” as the payment plan, I kid you not)

Vassar College: Private, liberal arts college.
US News & World Report National College Ranking: #13
Entrance Difficulty: Very Difficult. More than 50% of freshmen were in the top 10% of their high school class and scored over 1230 on the SAT I or over 26 on the ACT; about 60% or fewer of all applicants accepted.
Cost of Attendance: $61,860
Payment Plans: Installment plan, external finance company

The rub, of course, is the cost. That’s legitimate but only to a point. According to the University That Shall Remain Nameless, on its own website, it prides itself as “affordable…a top value in education”, which I suppose is a polite way of saying “we don’t cost much and if you stick us on your credit card you can file for bankruptcy later and still keep the diploma”. Well, good for them. But if cost is the only factor in choosing higher education for even well-to-do families, then I’m in the wrong line of work. Perhaps I should start my own university and charge half of what the students pay at even the most “cost-effective” institutions. How hard can it be to convince the U.S. Department of Education that my new institution can offer a truly effective and quality education? If Oral Roberts could pull it off in Tulsa, I could certainly do it. A person could become rich beyond their wildest dreams of avarice.

In all seriousness, I know what upset me about this. The “ha-ha-no-we’re-only-kidding” approach to even asking me if your child could attend my alma mater on the cheap. Don’t even ask if you know in your heart of hearts that there’s no way you’d surrender your 4-car garage and the condo in Vail with college costs often being what they are. Frankly, if you really want to save and get a great education about real life, have your child join City Year or the Peace Corps. By the way, never mind the bothersome scholarships, grants and yes, student loans which I myself used. How much do they help the rich? Quite possibly as much as any other student regardless of financial background. Was it difficult paying for school? Of course it was. My mother had all 4 of her children in college at one point but we made it work. “A great value” or not, I’ll stack the quality and long term usefulness of my education against the University That Shall Remain Nameless any day of the week.

Except in football…


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