NEVER RETAIL FOR COLLEGE: Today’s College Landscape
by Beth V. Walker
According to the new agency Bloomberg, college tuition and fees have increased 1, 120 percent
since it began tracking this information in 1978. Every institution of higher education has taken
part in this escalating arms race. Of course, schools promote the fact that they have the most
reputable professors, modern and comfortable student housing, a completely wired campus, the
best climbing walls and espresso bars, and so forth. They’re competing for our hard-earned
money. It makes sense that they double down on sexy amenities to attract students that will
boost their rankings and pass the cost along to us.
The cost of college has accelerated further and faster than any other category of spending we
measure while wages have remained constant or declined. In plain English, college consumes
more and more of our paychecks, and parents no longer have the luxury of “dealing with it when
we get there” like our parents did.
So why do parents continue to take on this increasingly difficult challenge, often going into debt
or agreeing to work much longer than they ever thought they would? Because the only thing
more expensive than a college education is not having a college education as you can see int
he chart below.
We need to realize that college is perhaps the largest unregulated industry in our economy, and
it’s extremely competitive,meaning colleges compare fiercely with each other to fill their
classrooms. Granted, the name brand institutions have the luxury of turning away most
students, but hundreds and hundreds of colleges each year scramble to meet their quotas. In
this environment, we need to strap our protective armor and be prepared to do battle with a
consumer mentality, not just the heart of a parent.
Aside from he cost, students face unprecedented competition to get into college because too
many students apply to too few schools that have recognizable names effective marketing
campaigns. Technology has made it much easier to =complete more applications in less time.
The Common Application allows students to apply to multiple schools simultaneously with a
single click. Three million students graduate form high school every year in the United States,
and a little more than two million of them are enrolled in college a few months after graduating.
All those kids fill out numerous applications (the most recent data suggest 25 percent of
applicants complete seven or more applications for college) and write countless essays to eat
lackluster dorm food nine months our of the year. Admissions committees are forced to sift
through thousands more applications and must eliminate a far greater number of students than
Significant increases in enrollment from international students adds to the competition. A Wall
Street Journal article published in November 2015 reported that one in twenty college students
enrolled in US universities comes from outside the United States. Because so many of those
students are paying retail for their US education, the appetite for admitting those “full-pay”
students continues to grow, eliminating a few more “home team” seats each year.
More students are applying for a finite number of spots in njamd-brand schools routed by
magazines and glossy brochures. Classic supply-and- demand rules indicate this won’t work out
in favor of most students or their parents. increasing demand chasing (what is perceived to be
a) limited supply favors the supplier. As the costs and competition increase, families have
started to seek ways to make this must-have rite of passage more attainable.
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