Investing in TomorrowPosted by admin on 11/16/12 • Categorized as Fall/Winter 2012
By Robert S. Benchley
“Sticker shock.” It’s a term with its origins in car dealer showrooms. You walk in off the street, captivated by the latest model—shiny, seductive, filled with the promise of good things to come—and wonder what it costs. You lean forward to look at the price, and then you experience it, a feeling somewhat akin to a punch in the gut: sticker shock.
It has been some time since the cost of a year at a private liberal arts college surpassed the price of a new car. Beloit’s current sticker price—$46,336, plus another $3,000 or so for health insurance, supplies and personal expenses—is about twice the MSRP of a Toyota Camry, America’s best-selling sedan.
It’s this fact, and this shock, that has spawned countless editorials and stories in the national press in recent years. Even before President Barack Obama called on colleges and universities in his 2010 State of the Union address to “get serious about cutting” their costs, the topic was a regular feature in the papers, not to mention the minds of college-bound students and their parents.
In the summer of 2010, the rising cost of college was quickly becoming a daily topic in the editorial pages and on news programs nationwide. In response the topic was explored in the pages of this magazine, with “[Paying for] An Education.” With the cost and value of college remaining a regular feature in the media, and because it became a factor in the presidential race, we return to the topic in this issue to see what, if anything, has changed in the past two years.
Earlier this fall, the cover of Newsweek magazine asked “Is College a Lousy Investment?” and then, some say, attempted to answer its own question in the affirmative. A week later, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a cover story on student loans titled “Debt for Life.” And these are but two prominent recent examples.
Given this onslaught of debate and demonstrative headlines, how is it that colleges like Beloit continue to enroll its class—and get mentioned, as it recently did, among the “Best Value” schools in publications from U.S. News to the Fiske Guide to Colleges?