please sir, can I have another?

Just submitted the payment for the first installment of Second Son’s first semester at University.

Included in the bill was $1,684 for a semester in a dorm room, and $2,393 for a semester on the “silver” meal plan. (Don’t get excited: the “silver” meal plan is the cheapest one available. Those in charge of naming the meal plans are apparently not up to speed on the relative value of the nation’s precious minerals — I’m thinking zinc.) All students living in the dorm must purchase a meal plan, and all freshman must live in the dorm. It’s a beautiful system, really, if you think about it.

In other words, we are being extorted, and we have only ourselves to blame. And this is a state school, you know, one of the land grant universities whose mission is to provide educational opportunities for all and sundry.

First objection: we are paying $7.12 per meal for a child who lives on cereal. Even HE can’t eat this much cereal, and God knows he’s tried.

Secondly, we are paying $421/month for “room.” This equals $1263/month for a 12′ x 14′ room to be lived in by three 18-year-old boys (the thought of the “aroma” alone makes one shudder), which is more than I am paying for house payment, taxes, and insurance for 1300 sq. ft. + finished basement on 2 acres of wooded land in a perfectly lovely city with excellent schools.

And yet, universities are in trouble.

Husband speculates that the areas of the sciences cause the most trouble, as schools want their programs to be taught by the best and the brightest, and the best and the brightest in medicine, engineering, physics, etc., can expect to make six figures many times over in the private sector and for universities to compete they must pay accordingly.

Would it be “fair” to suggest that medicine and engineering tuitions be higher to cover those differences? I think the argument could be made. The people graduating with degrees in those areas can expect to make more money throughout their careers: wouldn’t a cost/benefit analysis and the “laws” of fairness dictate that their education also cost more? And some consideration of the Canadian system, where a certain number of schools are “allowed” to teach certain programs and others are not, might not be out of order. This system allows individual colleges to prioritize and focus, and the situation of every school competing for every student is avoided, and more efficiency gained. I imagine that the average American would protest, as part of the American mindset is the right to have whatever you want wherever you want it, and if you don’t “qualify” through your grades and industry you should at least have the right to pay whatever premium necessary to get it anyway.

In any case, at this point in every child’s development, perhaps the most compelling motivation to the average American parent is the tradeoff between becoming a voluntary extortionee, and having the 18-year old move out of the house.


If you’re reading this, Second Son, I love you dearly. Now off you go.

*This is NOT a picture of Second Son’s room. This one was downloaded from the internet, the source which can be viewed if you click on the picture, chosen for its dramatic impact. I regret any misapprehensions. p.s.  He has more guitars, two amps, and less crap on the floor. However, the dust bunnies under the bed were beginning to form their own government, until they were vacuumed up in preparation for visitors, that is.

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