Some observations about going or sending someone to college
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Misconceptions about the College Admissions Process. Some Observations About Going (or Sending Someone) to College. Why is it getting so expensive? Where should I go? How do I get in? Paul W. Eykamp, Ph.D. Why is College so Expensive?.

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Some Observations About Going (or Sending Someone) to College

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Misconceptions about the College Admissions Process

Some Observations About Going (or Sending Someone) to College

Why is it getting so expensive?

Where should I go?

How do I get in?

Paul W. Eykamp, Ph.D.

Why is College so Expensive?

  • Unlike manufactured goods, there are not economies of scale, basic production methods haven’t changed.

  • Like Automobiles, what we accepted in 1950 won’t fly now, and we want more. Airbags, seatbelts, computers, safe chem labs, air-conditioning.

  • Many things are more expensive to teach than they used to be (labs).

  • Highly trained people make more (everywhere) than they used to (and colleges use lots off them).

Percentage Changes in the Prices of Goods and Services Purchased by College and Universities Compared to the CPI and HEPI 2000-01 to 2005-06(CPI = 14%, HEPI = 22%)

Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2006

Source: Common Fund Institute, 2006 HEPI Update, Table 3.1.

Average Published Tuition and Fee Charges in Constant (2006) Dollars, 1976-77 to 2006-07 (Enrollment-Weighted)

Source:Tables 3a, 3b, 4a, and 4b, and data online (

Private schools have gotten more expensive relative to public ones, but you get what you pay for, student faculty ratios have mostly gone up at public

Institutions, and mostly have gone down or remained `constant at private ones.

Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2006

Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2006

Sample Average Undergraduate Budgets, 2006-07 (Enrollment-Weighted)

Note, when you are thinking about costs, the first $10,000 is a fixed cost, pretty much where ever you go, and places where people take more than 4 years, adds $10,000 per year regardless of tuition. (Plus foregone income from working).

Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2006

Why Public Education prices keep going up – less state support.

It could get worse:

State budgets could be pinched well into the future by a vicious combination of weak revenues and rising health-care costs. Among the losers in this prolonged fiscal squeeze? Public colleges.

Why you should go..

Even at current prices, if you pay full rate, the rate of return of college as an investment, is about 15% per year in higher incomes, plus all the other benefits from higher education (more civic engagement, better health, more interesting work, smarter kids).

Distribution of Annual Earnings by Level of Education, Ages 35–44, 2005

Source:U.S. Census Bureau, 2006, PINC-03.

College Pays & Trends in College Pricing Sandy BaumSenior Policy Analyst, The College Board, [email protected]

Median Annual Earnings by Level of Education and Age, 2005

Source:U.S. Census Bureau, 2006, PINC-03.

Source: The College Board, Education Pays, Second Update, 2006

Distribution of Full-Time Undergraduates at Four-Year Institutions by Published Tuition and Fee Charges, 2006-07

63% of students at 4 year institutionsspend $9,000 a year or less on tuition.

Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2006

Source: Annual Survey of Colleges, The College Board, New York, NY.

Where Should I Go?

  • Public or Private

  • LiberalArts or Research University

  • Away or Home

    • Near or Far

  • How to Choose

Public or Private

  • When is Private worth the extra money?

    • Check financial aid, if you are middle class it may not cost much more than public.

    • Are you totally self-motivated and don’t need any hand-holding, willing to aggressively get what you need? (Is the default answer No or Yes? – Brown vs Berkeley.

    • Do you get lost in crowds?

Research or Liberal Arts

  • Research Universities are strictly better if you want to get a Ph.D. – IF you are motivated to talk to professors and get involved in their labs. Better recommendations. May be better for Med School, matters less for other things.

    • Not all are the same, some value teaching more than others. Princeton, Washington, more, Harvard, UC less.

  • Liberal arts colleges are better if you want smaller classes and more low effort interaction with faculty. If you are not doing physical science or engineering, they may be a better deal.

Away or Home

  • Going away means that you meet people from different parts of the country, makes you more self-reliant, forces you to expand your horizons.

  • The farther away (unless you go to Washington (St. Louis) or Notre Dame) the greater the exposure to different ways of thinking you will get.

  • If you stay home, you have to negotiate an entirely different arrangement with your family than you had in high school before college starts or you will have a lot of fighting during the first year.

How to Choose a College

  • Visit. Stay overnight. Talk to people who went there recently (and freshmen and seniors now).

  • Ask tough questions about who does the teaching (professors, teaching assistants) is there a campus culture of learning and teaching, or is everyone just interested in getting out.

  • Are you (the student) comfortable with the general campus culture (parents: if they aren’t happy, (even if you are) you aren’t going to get your money’s worth and their success rate won’t be what it could be).

  • Is there a helpful alumni association?

So, How Do I Get In?

  • Things Admissions Officers Look for:

    • Did you take the hardest classes offered? (AP)

    • Did you do well in them?

    • Do your SAT/ACT scores match your grades?

    • Are you a “stick to it” person? (multi-year activities)

    • Are you well rounded?

    • Did you exhibit leadership?

    • Are you interested? (apply early, do the interview)

    • Filling the Buckets.

SAT/ACT and the Essay

  • Do the Prep. You will do much better if the exam is old hat and you aren’t stressed out about it.

    • On the English writing exam volume matters. Write lots and lots.

  • Do take Achievement Exams and the AP Exams (but only if you know the subject) But don’t expect to use the AP credits.

  • Write a careful essay, be interesting, don’t look coached. Tell them about what really excites you.


  • College is expensive, but partially because its not your father’s Oldsmobile and partially because the inputs are more expensive. (and sticker does not equal price paid).

  • The rate of return on the investment is by nearly every estimation greater than 15% even if you pay full sticker price at Harvard and only earn $14,000 a year more than you would if you didn’t go to college, including the cost of not working for 4 years. Returns on a masters degree are even higher.

  • The extra expense of private school is worth it unless you are really a driven self-motivator willing to argue (a lot) to get what you want. (And its probably still worth it).

Summary continued

  • Visit everywhere you think you want to go, ask questions about who teaches, how motivated the students are who are there, does it feel right to you.

  • Take the exam preps, take the hard classes, study hard, take leadership positions.

More Information

Copies of this talk available at:


    Tiny url:

  • Presentation given at the Evansville Rotary Club, 26 December 2006

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