Paying the Price for Tuition Increases

It’s a mistake to assume that college students who hold jobs are working to pay tuition — or, for that matter, any college-related expenses.

One full-time student at Wright State complained of working 50 hours a week, but then admitted using much of the money to pay for flying lessons. Others acknowledged spending a substantial chunk of their money on electronic gadgets, or drinks at the bars along nearby Colonel Glenn Highway.

But the share of students, nationally, who report needing to work to pay college expenses has spiked in recent years… —Peter SchmidtPaying the Price for Tuition Increases (Chronicle)

It would be hard to measure which students are taking multiple part-time jobs in order to pay for their portable phones and entertainment, rather than their tuition.

I watched a few episodes of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” this week. I enjoy the concept — a “deserving family” is whisked away on a vacation while a team of designers leads an army of workers to re-design their home, though I rolled my eyes at the efforts to emphasize tension between members of the design team (gruff and aloof designer A borrows a chisel from gruff and aloof designer B without asking; fur flies).

Even watching “free” television brings with it commercials that create new “wants” that can only be satisfied with new purchases. Ultimately, however, I came away from the show realizing that its premise is that families that suffer “deserve” a fancy home, which will magically lessen that family’s suffering. It’s a very materialistic concept, and it’s the same one that undergirds The Sims.

My six-year-old has been trying to teach our two-year-old the difference between “wants” and “needs.” She “needs” love, but she “wants” a cookie. She “needs” a new diaper, but she “wants” this particular toy.

There are two ways you can have all that you “want”: you can try to get enough money to pay for all your wants, or you can discipline yourself to “want” less.

Of course, anybody’s family life would be a little less stressful if there were a little more money to pay the bills. Truth be told, if we did have a little more money, we would have bought a slightly bigger house, and we’d still be watching our pennies — and I’d still get in trouble with my wife for occasionally buying a book that I could have gotten via inter-library loan.