The High Cost of College

The Price is Right” [Winter 2014 On Wisconsin] stated that earlier students could work summers and cover the entire cost of their school. I attended the university in the mid-fifties and was able to do just that. I was fortunate to get a job in a local canning factory during the summers. These earnings, along with an occasional gig as a bartender, covered the entire cost for my time at the university. Unless you have a summer job as a mutual fund manager, the days of being able to work summers and pay for college are long gone.

Dayle Winnie ’58
San Antonio, Texas

The series on college tuition in the Winter 2014 issue never asked why the cost of college tuition has increased so much for students and their families. With Wisconsin’s consistently declining investment in public higher education, the state is failing in its moral responsibility to support affordable education and opportunities for its citizens to prosper, abdicating the responsibility to overly burdened middle-class families.

Why has the state’s investment declined? The state has not held its corporate partners responsible for their part of the public education equation; corporations that directly profit from the Wisconsin Idea and students’ education, creative ideas, and labor do not in turn reinvest in public education. There is no doubt my education and career researching a cure for diabetes would not have been possible without the investment by the state’s taxpayers. Let’s therefore hold our elected officials responsible to make sure that all who profit from an educated citizenry reinvest in future generations.

Kirstie Danielson ’96, PhD’07

The Price Is Right” states that it is a “myth” that students cannot afford to attend UW–Madison. The facts are the following:

A student with no expected family contribution is left to borrow or come up with $13,794 per year to attend Madison. That’s after all grants and scholarships are applied. After doing work-study and agreeing to borrow $7,500 or more per year (for a total debt of at least $30,000 for the degree — likely more), that student still must contribute almost $4,000 a year. This means that people from the poorest families must borrow to the max and work in order to afford Madison. Is that “affordable,” and does it meet with alumni expectations?

Low-income students already live quite frugally at Madison, as the Working Class Student Union members demonstrate. They are already using food stamps, shopping at secondhand stores, forgoing books and other supplies, and missing class due to work. Even so, we have students facing food and housing insecurity.

At the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, we’re striving to help colleges and universities find the real “right” price to ensure that higher education levels inequality, rather than serving to simply reproduce it. See

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Published in the Spring 2015 issue


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