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Is a $250,000 college degree worth it? Probably not — and Americans are catching on | Opinion

It’s the season for blow-out holiday sales. That thing you’ve been eyeing all year, the one that skyrocketing inflation made just a little too pricey to justify, is probably now a steal.

If only that were the case about college tuition. Instead, that just continues to rise. And Fort Worth’s own Texas Christian University seems to be leading the pack.

As multiple news sites, including the Star-Telegram have recently noted, during the next academic year, TCU’s tuition is set to rise a whooping 7.9%. That’s an additional $4,500 year over year, for a grand total of $61,643 — an increase that means the cost of attending TCU now tops that of Harvard, America’s oldest and most prestigious university.

Harvard costs only a measly $56,249 in comparison. After the $50k mark, what’s a couple thousand more, really?

Mind you, that’s just tuition; it doesn’t include food, housing, books or the countless other fees and expenses (which TCU estimates will cost another $20k) that accrue during college.

Don’t even get me started on graduate school.

Perhaps more startling than the price tag itself is the rapid rate at which tuition has grown.

In the past 12 years, the cost of full-time TCU tuition has almost doubled.

Wages, of course, have not. Although, everything else in life has become more expensive.

But college tuition costs have far outpaced even inflation, making a private college experience like the one TCU seeks to provide completely out of the question for a growing number of families.

Tuition at TCU is going up 7.9% next year.
Tuition at TCU is going up 7.9% next year.

To be fair, TCU doesn’t stand-out as a particular offender when it comes to college tuition mania.

The cost of attending a private university has soared exponentially over the last decade, currently averaging at $38,800 annually, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

While private universities like to point to their generous financial assistance and scholarships, many middle class families earn enough to make them ineligible for significant aid but not enough to pay a financially paralyzing bill each semester.

And so students take on debt (in Texas, the average upon graduation is over $32,000) which cripples young people, delays the start of families, and serves only to inflate college costs even further.

Instead of recruiting more faculty and increasing course offerings, universities now overflow campus buildings with administrators and other costly professional staff.

According to one recent report, there are now three times as many administrators — many making six-figure salaries — and other professionals as there are faculty at the leading schools in the country.

That’s astonishing. It’s also a bit infuriating, isn’t it?

Universities populate task forces and committees and build entire departments around diversity and inclusion. The ultimate result, however, is that bloated administrative budgets make the cost of private college so onerous as to be exclusive to an increasingly small group of students.

And one need only watch a few YouTube videos that illustrate the results: questionable course offerings at some schools; abhorrent behavior of students at others; interdisciplinary degrees of questionable professional applicability.

All of this should cause us to wonder if the suffocating cost of a private education is really worth it?

Most Americans don’t seem to think so.

A Gallup poll released last summer found only a paltry 36% of Americans have confidence in higher education. That number has been waning for years, but Gallup noted the sharp decline in its latest reading.

The poll didn’t speculate or pursue reasons for the decline, but I will: Cost and value are certainly part of the equation.

Then consider the low-cost of community colleges and trade schools — often less than $5,000 a year — and the comparable return on investment.

Think about how difficult and expensive it is to find a good and reliable tradesman these days and how quickly a student can start working after only a two-year program, sometimes even during their course of study with an apprenticeship program.

Private college will always be part of the plan for some students; it will increasingly be out of reach for others.

But the ever-rising cost of tuition should force us to consider its long-term value.

We need to start demanding a reduction in bloat and an increase in efficiency at elite schools, or begin encouraging more young people to seek alternative paths to professional success.

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