Buying Power: Computers Are Cheaper, College Is 248.4% More Expensive

The American Institute for Economic Research has released their Cost-of-Living Guide, which tracks the purchasing power of the dollar, says the WSJ Wallet Blog. They pulled some interesting examples of items that have increased in price — and a few that have actually gone down since 1990.

College tuition and fees: 248.4%
Cigarettes & other tobacco products: 246.5%
Motor oil, coolant & fluids: 170.7%
Oranges and tangerines: 157.6%

Personal computers & other information processing equipment: -89.4%
Televisions: -83.0%
Audio equipment: -45.4%
Toys: -43.4%

Good news for those of you who like electronics, and bad news for those of you who want to go to college to learn more about them.

The Buying Power of a Dollar, on a Downswing [WSJ]


Edit Your Comment

  1. nighttrain2007 says:

    In general the areas that increased are either sponsored by the government, heavily regulated by the government, or in the case of tobacco heavily taxed by the government.

    OTOH, products that do not face the same regulation, interference, or mandating of government ‘intervention’ are seeing a decrease in prices. Imagine that….

    Of course when you compare the value of a dollar to pre-1913 (creation of the Fed), the dollar these days is pretty much worthless.

    • anonymousryan says:

      @nighttrain2007: Goddamn the tangerine lobbyists!

      But seriously, wtf are you talking about? I understand how tobacco is taxed more but are you saying if the government stopped funding universities they would be cheaper?

      • nighttrain2007 says:

        @anonymousryan: In fact if universities, not just a few, but ALL, were privately funded and forced to face the free market, instead of living off my dime (subsidizations by the government), universities would be forced to adjust their prices and offerings to bring in customers (students). Some prices may go up, but many would go down.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @nighttrain2007: “universities would be forced to adjust their prices and offerings to bring in customers (students)”

          yes, because catering to student demands works out SO WELL for universities, and doesn’t contribute AT ALL to grade inflation, lowering of standards, and students who graduate illiterate. It doesn’t create “majors” that train for a job that will exist for exactly five years before changing technology makes it obsolete and you now have some fachidioten (specialty idiots) who can do nothing else but the major they DEMANDED the university provide.

          There’s a robust and competitive market in universities, public, traditional private, and for-profit. The truth is they compete based on student services, not cost. Lowering tuition doesn’t help the bottom line; raising it while providing a spakin’ new gym helps the bottom line a lot. Students don’t make (many) educational decisions based on price.

        • yamahagrand says:

          @nighttrain2007: Then why is is that privately funded schools cost so much more than publicly funded schools? Here’s what would happen if they were all private. Only the wealthiest among us would have a chance to go. It’s already that way for most of the private universities.

        • anonymousryan says:

          @nighttrain2007: The point is there has to be an active balance between government and private industry. Too much government intervention stifles creativity and lessens incentives for investment, too little government regulation and private industry will always seek to provide as little as possible per dollar to the consumer to maximize profits, often sacrificing the safety of their consumers and employees.

          Those who believe in pure capitalism are just as hopeless as those who believe in absolute socialism. The reason why college prices have increased is because more and more people want to go to college and there hasn’t been enough private or public universities and colleges created.

        • Clobberella says:

          @nighttrain2007: In fact if universities, not just a few, but ALL, were privately funded and forced to face the free market, instead of living off my dime (subsidizations by the government), universities would be forced to adjust their prices and offerings to bring in customers (students). Some prices may go up, but many would go down.

          You are aware, I hope, that most private schools cost considerably more than do most public schools? For example, I go to school in Oregon. The estimated costs per year for tuition & fees for full-time resident undergrads for 3 major public universities are as follows:

          6,100 Portland State University
          6,531 University of Oregon
          6,123 Oregon State University

          Compare that to the figures for the same type of student for the following well-known private universities in the same state:

          33,726 Lewis & Clark College
          33,750 Willamette University
          24,870 George Fox University
          29,400 University of Portland
          37,960 Reed College

          I could go to any of the public schools for 4 years and pay less than I would for one year at the private schools. Tell me again how privatization saves money for students?

          • frodolives35 says:

            @Clobberella: If you can’t afford to go you save the money. Hey community college is the new votec from highschool. Just ask anyone who spent 6 months to be a nurses assistant. 6 months to get a cert to wipe asses take temps and blood preasure. WTF College is becomng a joke. I work with a guy who has a associates in video game design and will never get a job anywhere related to that. I had to help him reload xp on his laptop. This moron wasted 2 years and lots of grant money to get 10 grand in debt so he can still live with his mom at 24. But hey at least he works even if it is a dead end min wage job. I blame the local comm. college for even offering that kind of crap degree.

        • varro says:

          @nighttrain2007: Private universities do that, including my alma mater, the University of Chicago.

          They have a program where students from families making $60,000 a year or less get a full ride for four years. Children of rich families pay full fare.

      • Paul Hibbard says:

        I pay less going to a private university than i wold to UNC…. explain that.

    • TCTH says:

      @nighttrain2007: And if the government stopped regulating all these industries the prices would go down and the consumers would all live happily ever after?

      We have had more government regulations tossed aside in the last thirty years than you or I could imagine and look where the hell we are right now.

      Get it through your head… American corporations are not run by starry eyed idealists full of altruistic motives and with the best interests of the country at heart.

      • ChibaCityCowboy says:

        @TCTH: “American corporations are not run by starry eyed idealists full of altruistic motives and with the best interests of the country at heart.”

        Neither is the government.

      • nighttrain2007 says:

        @TCTH: Yes because the government has done such a good job the previous 60 years they’ve been interfering in the economy haven’t they? Promising drugs not getting to patients when needed, limited choice of safe and interesting foods available throughout the world, socialized medicine that has skyrocketed the prices in the medical industry. The list can go on quite a while…

        I can honestly say there is not major government regulation entity that if it didn’t exist, the free market wouldn’t handle just as easily.

        >>American corporations are not run by starry eyed idealists full of altruistic motives and with the best interests of the country at heart

        Of course those 536 idiots in Washington know what’s best right? One more ‘bailout’ and we’ll be wallpapering our cardboard boxes with dollar bills…

        • RandomHookup says:

          @nighttrain2007: You do realize that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, right? Maybe we should go back to privately run fire departments and toll roads? The unfettered free market would be a scary thing indeed — no fire codes, no building codes, no concerns about insider trading and manipulating the stock market, no minimum wage laws, no OSHA or worker’s comp. Sounds like a ball.

          Constantly harranging about the studidity of government doesn’t really do much to move the discussion forward.

          • nighttrain2007 says:

            @RandomHookup: You do realize that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, right?

            Unfortunately to the point that we have gotten that may be the best possible solution. But interesting you bring up privately run fire departments and privately owned roads, both of which are on the RISE (include privately funded police and ambulance services)

            >>Constantly harranging about the studidity of government doesn’t really do much to move the discussion forward

            I see. So pointing out that the three areas that have seen an over 100% increase in fees since 1990 are heavily regulated by the government while those that have seen a similar decrease are not is ‘harranging about the stupidity of government’.

            I thought it was making a logical statement about the general ineptness of government that quite a few here seem to believe to be doing a good job…

            • RandomHookup says:


              I must have missed all the ballot initiatives for self-funded fire departments. While I admit I haven’t been following this issue, of course it’s on the rise…there haven’t been that many since…maybe 1900? There are also initiatives around outsourcing the running of toll roads where the new operator will strip out a lot of the costs associated with public employees, but at some point the stockholders will want a higher ROI than the tolls alone can support and there’s only so much cost you can strip out.

              Re: ‘harranging about the stupidity of government’ – see your previous statement- >

              Of course those 536 idiots in Washington know what’s best right?

              Name calling doesn’t add much to the conversation (I do give you credit for painting both parties with the same brush). You made good points about the government influenced aspects being the areas where cost have risen. I don’t make apologies for the government, as they can all be self-serving, but I don’t write up capitalism as the perfect system either. As we have seen lately, there needs to be an element of trust in the market that sometimes the market itself can’t provide.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @nighttrain2007: If you think what exists in America is “socialized medicine” I firmly believe that you need a re-orientation.

        • stevejust says:

          @nighttrain2007 wrote: “Yes because the government has done such a good job the previous 60 years they’ve been interfering in the economy haven’t they? Promising drugs not getting to patients when needed, limited choice of safe and interesting foods available throughout the world, socialized medicine that has skyrocketed the prices in the medical industry. The list can go on quite a while…”

          No, the private sector did a great job with the economy over the last sixty years. That’s why our health care costs are so low relative to all the other countries and the Investment Banks and Auto Industries are absolutely tripping overthemselves trying to lend the bankrupt inept government money so that it doesn’t fail.

          Speaking of failures…

          • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

            @stevejust: That’s why our health care costs are so low relative to all the other countries

            UM EXCUSE ME? When you have to mortgage your house to pay for lifesaving surgery, or forgo sending a child to college and throw yourself into massive debt to live through the cancer you quite obviously brought on yourself. Right? Or pay upwards of a months salary because you had to ride in an ambulance. That’s “cheap” right?

          • HIV 2 Elway says:

            @stevejust: Take a look at the S&P since inception and tell me that the private sector doesn’t do amazing things.

        • chuckv says:

          @nighttrain2007: And even if they were starry eyed and perfectly altruistic , they don’t have a fraction of the information they would need regarding the preferences of ever individual in the country. (See public choice thoery)

      • HIV 2 Elway says:

        @TCTH: We’ve also instituted more regulations in the last 30 yeas than you or I could imagine.

      • chuckv says:

        @TCTH: You’re right, they only care about themselves. The problem is, the government is also full of self interested people. The government isn’t full of starry eyed idealists full of altruistic motives either.

        • nataku8_e30 says:

          @chuckv: At least the government does have some semblance of responsibility to the public and politicians have much less to gain than corporate managers. While public vs. private is certainly not a black and white issue, and some mix is required, it does generally seem like our government cleans up the mess left behind by capitalism run-amok. If you feel that the people who represent you at any level of government are simply self interested liars trying to make a buck in public service, by all means, vote them out. If you don’t like any of the candidates, maybe it’s time to try to run for office yourself, or try to make your voice heard by exercising some of your political freedoms. If politicians are as you say, it is only because of the political apathy of the American people.

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @nighttrain2007: The telcos were deregulated a few years back. Since then, the prices have only risen and the throttling has only increased.

      The difference is that even though the government doesnt by itself give a damn about the people, they HAVE to, because that who gets them elected. So some of the times, they have to do things that are good for the people. Ofcourse, if the government is controlled by corporations, that doesnt hold. That also explains the mess we are in at the moment.

    • nataku8_e30 says:

      @nighttrain2007: oh also, didn’t really seen anyone else point this out – everything that has decreased in price is pretty much completely manufactured in asia / china in particular.

    • xwildebeestx says:

      @nighttrain2007: That seals the deal – a random comment by a random internet person espousing their relatively uninformed opinion about the cause of rising prices on certain goods and services will now dictate the policies of a nation of 300 million people.

      Happy, Internet? I hope so.

    • Anonymous says:

      @nighttrain2007: @nighttrain2007:
      I don’t see why anyone should be the least bit concerned about what a dollar could buy in 1913 and the fact that a dollar bill could not buy the same amount of goods now. Does it make some people feel poor that they need to pay for things using larger numbers? Even if $1(1913) = $20(2009), which is what “losing 95% of its value” means — and frankly I think someone is trying to pull a fast one here by expressing things with a bigger number to puff things up — the fact is that you can buy a greater variety of more interesting things with today’s $20 bill than you could with 1913’s $1.

  2. Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

    The “television” one seems deceiving, to a point. Here’s my theory: In 1990, a “big screen TV” was often a glass-screened CRT that was 31″ or maybe 35″ diagonal and ran around $1,500 new.

    Today you can get the same number of inches for a lot less money…but most people are buying larger TVs. Those same exact people who bought the 31″ CRT are now buying 60″+ LCD models for $3,000 or more. The same idea trickles down to the smaller ones, from what I’ve seen. Most LCD buyers are going with 42″+ now. So the bang-for-buck on inches is better, but people’s expectations have grown at a greater rate.

    Hope that made some semblance of sense.

    • sweetdreamsaremadeofthis says:

      @Ash78: While many consumers certainly are buying bigger and bigger televisions based on this reduced cost, I personally have no interest in having a TV bigger than my 32 inch CRT. I don’t think I’m alone in that notion either, that at some point, enough is enough, and bigger is not always “better” if a TV is merely an accessory to life rather than its focus. I think its fair to compare a 35 inch TV in 1990 with a 35 inch TV today in the way this study does. While a 60 inch LCD or plasma is far superior to a 1990’s jumbo screen CRT (and likely about half as much), certainly a 750$ computer of today is light years ahead of the 1500$ personal computer of 1990, and that is not “counted” either in this study.

      • thezone says:

        @sweetdreamsaremadeofthis: Yes. There are plenty of people who have no desire to get rid of their 32 inch screen. Most of them are over 50. Comparing the relative cost of education vs technology is apples to oranges. As more people buy technology the manufacturing process becomes less expensive. It also may become more automated. However, an education is always going to be labor intensive. Add to that the increasing number of people who seek a college education and you are guaranteed large price increases.

    • bishophicks says:

      @Ash78: Comparing a big TV then to what people are calling a big TV now is not a fair comparison at all. You have to compare things that are similar, and for TVs that means looking at screen size.

      I owned one of those 31″ CRTs. We bought it in 1993 for $900. We finally upgraded to hi-def a few months ago and bought a 37″ LCD for $650. Since we had to fit the new TV into the existing TV cabinet this is as close to an apples to apples comparison as you’re going to get these days. That’s a 28% price difference right there. In inflation adjusted terms the difference is about 75% I think.

      Now we’ll see if the new one lasts 15 years.

    • Repique says:

      @Ash78: I think that’s true for what its worth, but if you’re looking for buying power, it really *has* gone up in the area of TVs, from your own explanation. So it makes sense to say that the cost has gone down, because on average even if people are paying the same, they’re getting more TV for their dollar.

    • Bakkster_Man says:

      @Ash78: Actually, with most electronics, as you improve the performance you are simultaneously reducing the cost. It’s a two-fold benefit. Reducing size (the primary improvement) also reduces the manufacturing cost.

  3. alexburrito says:

    Toys –> down in price due to Chinese manufacturing replacing US plants

    Lead poisoning —> UP!

  4. Pumapayam says:

    All the items that went down are all made overseas, in particular in China, where outsourcing has ruined domestic jobs with anti-competitive cheap labor.

    You’d be hard pressed to find a 100% American made computer, television, or plastic toy.

    If you did, they’d be more expensive.

    • BlazerUnit says:

      @Pumapayam: Good observation.

      Someday, buying American made products built by fairly paid American workers will be in style again…and make good business sense, too.

  5. Jean Britt says:

    What is sad is that I am a working mom interested in getting back into college to get my photography degree yet because of the drastic increase in cost and me losing my job due to business closing, there is no way I can even come close to affording it! I wonder if Applebee’s is hiring…. :(

    • TheHans says:

      @Jean Britt: Work with the financial aid offices of the colleges you’re looking at. While I don’t know your exact situation, I can tell you that there are many financing options available if you are attending a regionally accredited college/university (e.g. Pell Grants for your first undergraduate degree, subsidized/unsubsidized student loans, state and local grants and loans, college financing, work study, scholarships). Private universities, while their sticker price may look prohibitively expensive at first glance, often aren’t even close to the actual cost to the student.
      Just my two cents, as someone who has worked in a smaller private university for many, many years.
      You may also want to look for accelerated programs tailored for working/adult students.

    • veronykah says:

      @Jean Britt: As someone with a photography degree and a student loan debt in the high 5 figures, I suggest you just get jobs in the industry. Start photo assisting, working in production…unless you are really set on having a degree in which case by all means…
      I just kind of feel that if you want to SHOOT a degree isn’t necessary. Its kind of like getting an MBA from Harvard, its more about the connections you get than the actual learning.
      Also, the photo industry isn’t really doing so hot at the moment. I’ve had other photo assistants who have been in the business longer than I have asking me if I know of any bartending jobs. And considering I’m STILL bartending 2 years out of school, you might want to get that job at Applebee’s. Photography is a work your way up from the ABSOLUTE bottom kind of career. You will not be making money out of the gate. If you are interested in weddings, running a portrait gallery etc. you probably could but why would you need a degree for that?
      Sorry, I could go on and on…pm me if you want any more info.

    • snowburnt says:

      @Jean Britt: There are thousands of grants and scholarships out there to help people go to school.
      I’m not positive about how to look them up, but if you’re serious about it and don’t mind a lot of writing, you can get a lot of it paid for that way.

    • johnfrombrooklyn says:

      @Jean Britt: I’ve hired dozens of photographers, filmmakers, graphic designers, and other creative people through the years. Not one time have I asked to see their college diploma or even asked if they went to college. I’m more interested in their experience and portfolio. Getting a college degree in a creative field may be worth it for the skills you learn. But if you can obtain those skills elsewhere (and for much cheaper) you won’t be any worse off.

    • oneandone says:

      @Jean Britt: Definitely speak with the financial aid people at colleges/U’s you’re considering, like TheHans suggested. Mine (large, private research U on the east coast) had good aid for ‘nontraditional’ students – and some special scholarships for single moms, most set up by families who wanted to help especially motivated students. Expensive education institutions often have very savvy financial aid people who can help you find funding you might not have considered.

      Also, though it is likely less feasible now, at most colleges employees get tuition benefits or free classes, so that can make getting a degree much more affordable.

  6. FatLynn says:

    I’d like to see the cost of college calculated by what students actually pay. Some schools up their tuition and then give out tons of grants, because there is a perception that a more expensive school is a better one.

    • LuluStarPony says:

      @FatLynn: Yeah, and then the surrounding schools will up their prices just to “match” the rising school’s prices, and thus, the cycle perpetuates, even though no one is really getting a “better” education from one semester to the next or whatever.

      True story.


    • TheHans says:

      @FatLynn: There’s a thing in academia called the ‘discount rate’, which shows you this information. Unfortuntately, I am not aware of any public regulations that require this information to be published. However, what you can find in many cases is a breakdown of the amount of financial aid offered to students, including institutional aid (e.g. scholarships). The College Board’s website has this information on colleges and universities, and even provides an average amount for different award types, as well as the percentage of students whose need was fully met.
      NACUBO (the National Association of College and University Business Officers) does quite a bit of work with discount rates. Just FYI.

    • unpolloloco says:

      @FatLynn: I go to a school with a tuition of over 35k. I pay about 3k with no need-based aid (merit based put me well over my need threshold). While some people do pay sticker price (and get into massive debt), others (like me) found and pursued financial aid options that allow us to attend school for the cost of food and housing.

  7. nicemarmot617 says:

    It does seem like toys are cheaper nowadays. I was a kid in the ’80s and early ’90s and I feel like my family just couldn’t afford to buy us that much stuff. Partially because we were pretty poor, but also because toys were expensive! We had to save our allowance to get anything and it took a long time to save enough for anything significant.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @nicemarmot617: I’m not sure I would say that. I think partially because you may not have been earning as much as swiftly. To me it seems that items have only gotten more expensive, even though they’re being made more cheaply.

      Personally, shelling out $50 for a video game is reprehensible, and $29.95 for a stuffed animal I could make myself is beyond belief. Look at the action figures – $10 even $15 for something that used to be $5 MAX.

      I just think the “assumption” of affordability is there because people were making more money.. for a time.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @nicemarmot617: With toys, everything is marketed around the holiday season (and with a lot of other products as well). The cost of toys gets SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper if you don’t shop for them right before Christmas.

      If you are poor, teach your kids that Santa doesn’t exist, but when the store clearance sale starts for toys they can buy double what they would normally get for Christmas for the same price as pre-Xmas. So if they got 4 toys, they could get 8. The electronic toys that are oh so wanted by today’s children yet tossed aside after 1-2 days of play seem to have the biggest drops, so if your looking for this stuff, try to hold off till after Xmas. Yes you lose the magic, but you get more entertainment value for what you pay, if you are poor this is what you might have to do. There are some instances where the toy will be cheaper before Xmas, but that doesn’t happen often.

      That 50$ video game WILL go down in price, I have seen it a million times. If your looking for a Mario game that seemingly never goes down in price you will have to look a little harder, but during the off-holiday-season the ebay selling price for games goes down significantly, this is the time to buy! I have seen copies of Super Smash Brothers Melee sell for 20$ on ebay.

  8. Bladefist says:

    Indoctrination is up 248% ?!

    Not too surprising. The government and the colleges are in cahoots. Colleges raise their tuition, and the people running for election run on increasing student aid. Unfortunately its not 1 to 1 and therefore you young little whipper snappers get ripped off.

    • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

      @Bladefist: I’m already operating on the notion that my eventual kids will really have to earn their way into college. If they’re not 100% academically inclined, I feel they’d be better off at one of the many tech schools available now. College degrees are being devalued (or commoditized) more and more every year, but the prices are still going exponentially higher.

      • Bladefist says:

        @Ash78: I fully agree. One of my theories is a bachelor degree will be the equiv of a GED in 20 years and everyone will have masters. Then, in 20 years, phd.

        • rorschachex says:

          @Bladefist: In my family I was brought up with the notion that unless you’re an engineer or an accountant (I’m an engineer), you need a masters to do anything. What I’m seeing now, in engineering, is that to do anything interesting, you need a master’s. That’s not because it’s a money-driven scam, technology advances so quickly and you need a firm grasp of the underlying concepts to do any contemporary research/work that I would rather spend 6 years and learn the appropriate topics, than have it reduced to a 4-year curriculum to satisfy the spendthrifts who view a degree as a vocation-granting license and nothing more.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Ash78: Tell that to my mother. She insists on me going to collee to the point that she’s considering sending me to a Chinese college (yes- because undergrad “international student” tuition at most Chinese colleges is 1/10 what equivalent colleges cost in the US, living costs included- and local resident students only pay 1/10 of THAT- yes, imagine a college that only charges US$500 in tuition per year).

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @Bladefist: As a semi-recent college graduate, I have to agree. College was a bit of a joke, although I went to a state school. Most students view it as a place to party, not learn. I would venture to guess that a high schooler 40 years ago knew more than the average college grad now.

    • veronykah says:

      @Bladefist: When did this “increase in student aid” happen exactly?
      I was allowed to take out government loans but the amount of actual AID I got for school was miniscule. I would have assumed the increasing cost had to do with the government NOT giving more aid and PRIVATE companies stepping in to offer loans at high interest rates to anyone who wanted them, everyone but the students looked at the problem as “solved” and moved on.
      I can’t imagine the incidence of default on student loans isn’t rising along with the rate of default on mortgages, but unlike mortgages companies that give out student loans lobbied congress hard enough to make them the ONLY loans you can’t declare bankruptcy to get out of. I wonder if there is a coincidence between that and them giving so freely of their money????????

    • AcceleratedDragon says:


      The LA Times did a story about financial aid departments getting kickbacks for steering students to take out loans with “preferred lenders” at greater costs to the students.

      can’t find the original, here’s the follow up

      And to anyone who says, privatization ALWAYS is cheaper and better for citizens. The way we do student loans would show otherwise.

      “But recent reports and analyses have shown this is not the case. In fact, studies have concluded that FDLP has not provided the promised savings and is actually paying more out in interest payments – approximately $16.4 billion – than it has taken in from borrowers since its inception 10 years ago”

    • atypicalxian says:

      @Bladefist: When are we going to have congressional hearings on price gouging by Big Education? (Answer: never). Tuition/textbooks are unrealistically expensive and the costs go up far in excess of the rate of inflation/cost of living. And the professors don’t even teach the classes in the larger colleges/universities!

  9. GildaKorn says:

    Well, duh. I think everyone knows the cost of labor in the US is much higher than elsewhere. Americans can buy computers made in countries with less expensive labor, but most college education purchased by Americans is taught in person, with professors and other staff living and working in America.

    • OwenKlient says:

      @GildaKorn: That’s exactly what I was thinking: things produced here versus things produced elsewhere/outsourced.

      • orlo says:

        @OwenKlient: If incomes rise to cope with college and food in the US, prices will drop relative to purchasing power, even if Chinese prices increase. A 10% increase to $1.10 for a toy that costs $1 to make in China, is only a 1% increase when the selling price goes from $10 to $10.10 in the US, and equivalent to a price drop if everyone gets a 3%/year raise. This allows the government to pretend that inflation is low

  10. wallspray says:

    A personal computer was not something every house had is 1990, based on the fact that the technology was so much more expensive. I don’t feel like this is a fair comparison. It would be like comparing the cost of a prescription drug when it is first released with itself after 10 years and a generic is available.

  11. stanner says:

    Hard to know what went into the college cost calculations.

    It is true tuition is going up quite fast, but that’s in part due to the decreases in government support of colleges, either through direct funding or indirect research dollars.

    As government support of education has waned, the colleges have little choice but to raise tuition.

    One side effect of this is grade inflation – since the schools are more dependent on keeping students happy.

  12. nataku8_e30 says:

    @nighttrain2007: And you think that these cheaper universities would still conduct the same amount of beneficial research and provide the same quality of education that they currently do? Guess what? Your private sector universities already exist – they’re called DeVry, ITT-tech, University of Phoenix, etc… Hey, a B.A. is a B.A., right?

  13. Jevia says:

    College tuitions also increased significantly because student loans were given out freely to just about anyone who asked. That’s why college students graduate owing $100,000 or more and then struggle trying to pay off these student loans (which are not discharageable in bankruptcy) while working at fairly low paying jobs. It will only get worse over the next few years.

    I think if more people stopped going to college defacto, but looked into trade schools and other forms of post-high school education/training, college tuitions will decrease due to less demand.

    • erratapage says:

      @Jevia: It’s already happening.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @Jevia: It’s ridiculous how much debt some grads have. My heart goes out to young married couples who have two sets of college debt, a mortgage, and two car payments.

      Part of me thinks “how could you have been so stupid,” but the other part remembers that even basic money management classes aren’t taught in schools either.

      • Andrew Morin says:

        @GuinevereRucker: Where does the stupidity part come in? So they wanted an education….it is unfortunate that it is so expensive to get what is considered a “good” education these days. What is more is that less and less people qualify for enough need-based aid (not including loans) to graduate close to debt free. The plight of the middle class, which no one in government seems to understand. There are also very few scholarships available for middle-class white guys who aren’t disabled.

        However, the two cars part I’ll give you….one car should be enough, otherwise carpool or work closer to home.

    • sarahq says:

      @Jevia: I’m too lazy to find citations to support this, but I’ve gotten the impression that community colleges have experienced an attendance resurgence in the past decade. Why go into horrendous debt for the first two years when you’re going to be taking introductory-level courses anyway?

      Nevermind that so many of your teachers at “real” universities are just TA’s. Having a teacher with an MS and some real-life experience is preferable to an absentee PhD who’s off writing grant proposals.

      (Disclaimer: I went to a 4 year liberal arts college, but only because I was offered free tuition.)

  14. BytheSea says:

    What kind of toys? That’s a huge category with a lot of variables to consider. Is a “toy” a game boy, a branded doll, a nonbranded rubber dolly from China, or toys-for-boys like a 4-wheeler?

  15. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Since when is everyone entitled to a college education? World needs ditch diggers too.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The prices of these may have gone down, but the quality has also gone down. WAY DOWN.

    Is it really cheaper a TV made in the early 90s is still around today and one you buy today only lasts for about 3 or 4 years?

    At least paying more back in those days, we didn’t have to worry about harmful Chinese chemicals and poor quality control.

  17. bishophicks says:

    What I’d like to see are some of these costs compared to the median income at various times. How many hours of work were needed to pay for college in 1990 at the median income then compared to how long it would take to pay for it at the median wage today?

    We bought our first laptop in 1995 and it cost approximately 1 month’s gross pay. I just bought a laptop 2 months ago and it cost a day and a half’s pay.

    Quite a difference.

    • Caitlín Rosberg says:

      @bishophicks: That’s a great question, actually! I went to a public university in a state my parents didn’t live in, but because of scholarships and grants, a lot of out-of-state students didn’t have to pay much more than in state ones. It would also be interesting to see if private or public school costs have increased more, or if it’s partially because there are so many more colleges and universities around now…who knows who has that kind of data, besides the Princeton review.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      @bishophicks: Well, let’s see. I was in grad school 1997-2000. In 2000, my annual tuition was about $6800. I had a 14-week internship that paid $11.25/hour. So, all told I could pay for about 80% of my tuition with my net pay from a summer job.

      I checked recently, and tuition at my old school is now $16,800 per year. Hmmm, $16,800 x 80% = $13,440. Divide that by 14 weeks of work @ 40 hours/week and you would need a summer job that grossed $24/hour to get the university purchasing power I had back in 2000.

      In case it’s not obvious how ridiculous that is: $24/hr is in the range of base compensation for licensed pros with 8-10 years experience in my field. We pay interns $14-$15/hour. If they want to pay for school with a summer job they had better get two of them.

  18. bishophicks says:

    @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected:

    Yes, Judge Smails.

  19. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    Guaranteed student loans are one reason why tuition has gone up and up and up. Colleges were able to raise tuition because they knew students could get the money somehow. College students (and the current crop of meddling parents) wanted to go to the very best school possible (e.g. most expensive). And student loans are probably the one expense that is easiest in the mind to not worry about because when you’re 18 years old college graduations seem forever and a day away. Freshman Chemistry at NYU might be better than Freshman Chemistry at Bronx Community College but it’s certainly not 20 times better which is about the multiple of the cost.

  20. m1ek says:

    The computer comparison is bogus – in the early 1980s, nearly nobody had a computer; today, arguably, it’s a normal family appliance bordering on a need.

    That’s not necessarily a good thing – there are times when my stepson’s school’s assumption that not only does every family have a computer, but that it’s always available for schoolwork rubs me the wrong way when I think of the few poor kids at his school that probably lack one.

  21. fcastro says:

    Does anyone find it alarming the colleges charge what they charge and yet are tax exempt?

    • orlo says:

      @fcastro: As they build up billions of dollars in investments, and pay their their investment managers 10s of millions and their CEO/Presidents millions…. But college sports are totally worth it

    • BlazerUnit says:

      @fcastro: Colleges fill a sort of a civic/regional need much in the same way a church or a local charity does. So no, it doesn’t alarm me. And there are plenty of for-profit colleges around, too.

  22. Anonymous says:

    College tuitions are out of control for a couple reasons:

    1. The perception that you have to get one, no matter what the price;

    2. The easy availability of private loans to make up for any funding gap; and

    3. Schools hoarding their endowments.

    It’s going to be the next subprime crisis, except students can’t discharge their loans in bankruptcy, can’t short sell their house like homeowners can, and don’t really get any kind of meaningful tax deduction for student loan interest. Oh yeah, and did I mention that were in a recession/depression? Something has to give. Student loan defaults will be the next shoe to drop.

  23. Clobberella says:

    @frodolives35: I never said I couldn’t afford to go, though certainly not without loans paying for most of it. (Without loans, and without the sort of well-paying job that does not come to you with only a high school diploma, most people can’t save for it unless they live with their parents until they’re 30). I was only comparing the costs of public vs. private schools in my state, responding to the comment that privatization of schools would somehow magically make them cheaper. FWIW, I did go to comm. college to get my lower level classes out of the way before transferring to a (public) university. By the time I get out, I should owe between 25-30 grand in loans, compared to 100-150 grand for private school.

  24. DeeKey says:

    Cigarette’s only cost about 10-14$ a carton, if you make your own. Use “Good” tobacco (not the cheap stuff in the cans and in most convenience stores) and you can also avoid about 1000 extra addictive (besides nicotine) chemicals and “cough suppressants” they put in the commercial sticks. It is a labor well worth it for those that enjoy a real cigarette, with real tobacco in it, and nothing else.

  25. Chase Teschendorf says:

    Why didn’t they compare Vodka and Beer?