Clearly, I’m in the Wrong Line of Work

No Telling

For the past week, I’ve heard nothing but horror stories from my students. While these were often about parking tickets – which is their own fault – most of the terror had to do with buying textbooks.

Everyone had a story and the register-tape to prove it.

There’s the one about the poor science major whose Intro to Chemistry book was $270 – used. There’s another involving a Psychology textbook that rung up at just over $110. “I was relieved,” the poor child said, “it was the cheapest book I had to buy.” My own daughter threw down $140 for a used Spanish I book. Thank God she found it, because a new one would have set her back over $200.

Keep in mind that these folks have four, five, sometimes six classes to buy books for, as well as other pesky things like tuition, room and board, and “fees.” They’re all taking out loans.

So I began thinking about my first semester in school. My folks doled out right at $1,000 for the whole Spring 1980 semester. That covered everything, including my books. For two grand a year, you bought a kid’s college education, at least at the state university here in Arkansas. No, I didn’t walk to class in four feet of snow, but I did have a job and a car – one paid for the other. I’m walking around with an $8,000 undergraduate degree right now. For now, let’s forget about grad school.

Students attending school this year at the same university pay approximately $13,000 a year, give or take a science book or two. I realize it’s been a few years, but that’s an astronomical increase. The average four-year jaunt through the ivory towers will cost 52k – not that many of these fine students will have an average jaunt. Many programs now have five-year plans and there’s no getting around it.

Let’s forget about their grad school too, because none of them will be able to afford it.

Here’s where I got tangled up. After class, I pulled out the Granny Calculator with the Big Buttons and started figuring. If the 79’/80′ school year was two grand, and the 09’/10′ school year is thirteen grand, and school costs keep rising exactly as they have thus far…

…the unborn children of my students will pay approximately $78,000 a year to receive a state college education. That will be (clickclickclick) around $312,000 for the whole undergraduate rodeo. Feel free to check my math. I was an English major.

Ladies and gentlemen, I may very well be teaching the last generation to earn a college degree. We like to talk about Generation Y (or Millennials) as the tech generation, but history may prove them to be the Last of the Educated. All these texting, Facebooking masses will be intellectual gods.

Tonight I look at the sleeping Perfect Grandson, and even though several generations of family are socking away money for his college, it may take more than this village to educate the child. Even here in Arkansas where such a thing is relatively cheap.

I predict in the future there will be a rash of bank robberies and petty thieveries committed by women in orthopedic shoes and brandishing canes. Legions of Grammies out there trying to raise a little tuition spare-change for their Perfect Grandkids. There won’t be jails enough to hold us all.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of going into the textbook business.