Ross Mackenzie

The cost of running the family car is all over the news these days, and rightly so. But what about the cost of a college experience for Melissa and John?

Many colleges are bursting with bucks from alums, from the feds, from parents — and never mind that if Melissa and John (18, and now, you know, legally “adults”) don’t want Mom and Dad to see their grades, then hardly any college will show them.

The numbers can be staggering. More than 60 colleges have endowments exceeding $1 billion — with Harvard ($35 billion) and Yale ($23 billion) leading the way.

In addition, the federal government awards colleges an avalanche of grants, tax credits, deductions, and subsidized loans (for which the nation’s colleges paid D.C. lobbyists, over the past 10 years, $602 million in fees). All these incentives totaled about $94 billion in 2007 — all of them on the revenue side. Nowhere do incentives encourage colleges to hold down expense-side costs.

And so costs go up — for utilities, libraries, health care and arenas for the darlings to sweat in. Oh, and for faculty and administrator salaries. Profs are paid more to teach fewer hours. Compared with the mid-1970s, the number of university administrators per student has doubled. And in 2006, at least 120 college presidents made half-a-million dollars annually — and this because their principal assignment is neither to cut costs nor to save money, but to hit up alums for cash.

Then there is the matter of tuitions: They keep soaring to pay those soaring costs.

Since 1983, the price of keeping colleges running has outpaced the Consumer Price Index by 50 percent. Yet the tuitions colleges charge have climbed far faster — by a factor of 5. At D.C.’s George Washington, for example, during the past 25 years tuition for full-paying students has gone up 270 percent.

For Melissa and John, $60,000 in tuition, room, and board for one year of a prestige college — in after-tax dollars — is not uncommon. Despite college aid, private scholarships, and billions annually in federal subsidies, out-of-pocket net average tuition increases paid by students and their parents during the past decade exceeded inflation by 28 percent at public colleges, and by 33 percent at private ones.

Offers of fully paid tuitions, on a need-blind basis, are now sometimes possible, yet from just a few of the highest-end schools. Such arrangements combine with government handouts to raise the college premium — encouraging lesser-endowed schools not to cut tuitions but raise them because of insufficient motivation to hold down expenses.

What do these extravagant tuitions buy for the kids — what besides parties, forbidden substances, sex, and maybe here and there a spouse? The more studious get something close to Indoc — George Orwell’s “1984” word for intellectual reconditioning to promote thinking in all the “correct” ways.

In any society it’s not politics that leads the way but religion, entertainment, the academy, and the media — the culture’s premier opinion-forming entities. From what the people learn (or are told) in those realms, politics follows. And it is no secret that all four realms lean lopsidedly to the left.

Here’s a telling datum: Early this year, the Daily Princetonian could find on campus not a single teacher or administrator who had given money to any Republican candidate for the presidency. The faculties at Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia — more balanced? — gave to Democrats at only an 80 percent rate.

Nor should one overlook the hostility of the academy to the U.S. military. Yale Law School faculty-members formulated the (losing) case against allowing dread military recruiters on campus — prompting 1978 Yale graduate Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute to note “how far out of the legal mainstream Yale’s legal professoriate is.”

As President Bush has put it regarding the determination of lofty private colleges to bar ROTC from their campuses: “It should not be hard for our great schools of learning to find room to honor the service of men and women who are standing up to defend the freedoms that make the work of our universities possible.”

For the latest on today’s hot campus fad called “sustainability,” consider this from The Wall Street Journal’s Naomi Schaefer Riley: “There’s the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education; a Sustainable Endowments Institute that publishes a College Sustainability Report Card; and (the) Ivy Plus Sustainability Working Group. . . . There are sustainability offices and officers at dozens of schools nationwide.”

What price are parents willing to pay to ship their children off to these cesspools of licentiousness and leftism? To be proselytized (at Columbia et al.) by the likes of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? To be indoctrinated in liberal ideology, propagandized in sustainability, and infused with chi-chi fallacies of the hour?

For darling Melissa and John, with no tuition relief in sight, it seems many parents (too many?) will continue to find no price too high.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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