OPINION: College costs then and now

Guest Commentary by Mitch MacKay of East Jordan

ON MAY 23, 1989, Ken Winter, then editor of the Petoskey News-Review published a study I’d done on rising costs of college education.

That research didn’t allow for cost of living comparisons since it bridged only the span between the 1960s and the 1980s.

Now equalization adjustments are commonplace and seek to challenge the actual costs against US dollar valuation in current relative fungible bang for the buck.

Even back then we were facing a standoff of, 1960s example, a $300 annual tuition contrasted with $10,000 in 1988.

At that time the 33.3 times higher college tuition compared to 8.3 times higher wages, as then calculated, revealed the offset as unequivocally unaffordable.

Imagine now!

Now college tuition is out of sight for all but the rich and the wittingly debt-ridden.

One school in Detroit that offered a $300 1960s tuition now charges $30,000 and rising, plus $10,000 room and board, plus materials and supplies, PLUS BEER.

Need we add that transportation was figured at $0.169 per gallon, concert entertainment at $3-4 per ticket, room-rent $10 a week or apartments $50 a month, planes $50-$100 anywhere, and, oh yes, cigarettes $.30 a pack.  And dime bags – no, let’s not go there.

Conversation with a licensed optometrist recently begat the information that college debt would be paid off by the time he reached the age of 59+-, a few years to go.

This is the common plaint of the college-educated now, more or less to work for tuition almost their entire working lives.  Yet, they could not ploy their chosen professions without the degrees forthcoming from money and time spent.

This is the tradeoff package.

There are ways of workaround for those so attuned to ripping off, I mean negotiating, other means of paying tuition and living expenses: usually grants, curricular work, scholarships, other means of compromises for sake of the almighty degrees.

Cost of living adjustments postulate that a $300 bankroll is now $2400 in one calculation of COLA.

These adjustments are all over the graph needless to say, a corn-maze with no CAT tractor on the radar. 

Propaganda, for that’s what it is, as to Unemployment rates at an all-time low, market values an all-time high, are, uh, ah, um, deflated-inflated, yes, those vacillatingly workable terms.

Working three minimum-wage gigs without benefits in no way equates to one well-paying job with benefits.

In thirty-nine-years’ accounting, not considering the postwar 50s-70s boomtime, the USA has undergone a stagflation resulting in prosperity for the rich, near and actual penury for the working classes, devastating the already etiolated middleclass.

Not so oddly, the parsimony of the upper classes is, as they pontificate, not to be considered untoward, in fact rather to be expected of the elite who govern and employ.

There is no Recovery, only the Obama era financing in avoidance of the Great Recession turning into the Great Depression 2.0 and a little left over for the working-class stimulus.

For this buyout Obama is labeled Socialist as was FDR.  In non-adjusted terms the $300 tuition of the sixties is now 100 times more, so go figure to your heart’s content as to how much more you’re paying now reflexively or perplexedly, vexed, hexed, COLA or whatever.  We, by any measure, got screwed. 

In fact, young people today couldn’t believe or conceive of such riches as we used to enjoy without even realizing our good fortune.

$1.00 an hour, $3.00 for auto factory work, $0.65 restaurant work, was the standard back then and rose according to vocation and experience.

College educators didn’t make that much either, hence tuitions reflected that.  It was, in effect, a different world.

That allowed the nineteen-sixties to sprout and flourish as it had the average nineteen-fifties workers to buy lakefront fishing cottages and forest hunting cabins. 

The Petoskey News-Review BTW has been sold twice in the intervening years, now considered a corporate entity of stock market proportions even though it’s still a small-town press.

We can’t fault Kirk Schaller and family for selling out for millions or whatever, Kirk having expired and family not up to the task, Ken Winter though certainly capable not prepared for such numismatic undertaking.

The paper was sold to Schurz Communications in 2006 which implanted some of their personnel and carried on devoid of local interests but for perfunctorily.

This year it was sold to Gatehouse Media whoever they are.

Who cares, if it ain’t local no more, hasn’t been for 13 years, doesn’t want local commentary anyway?

Even respite Community College needs subsidizing by student loan programs, grants, scholarships, fellowships, work-study &c.

College is now the luxury it was prior to the postwar bonanza.

Or it’s strictly vocational debt.

There is another way, other than low-wage jobs: wrongful conviction, restitution.

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