Some Things I’m Learning About College Students’ Mental Health

  • Many are super stressed by their parents’ financial sacrifices.
  • Some parents from developing countries “don’t believe” in mental health challenges like anxiety and depression, so they discount its importance. They believe their young adult children can “will themselves” to feel better.
  • College is not as easy a time and place to make friends as is commonly thought. Loneliness is real.

Setting customary anxiety about academic performance aside, imagine worrying incessantly about your family’s finances and not having many friends to confide in. And then, not being able to talk to your parents about anything of substance.

 

College Math

I sat next to a fresh faced Seattle teen and her dad on the flight back from New York City. They were perusing a Columbia University brochure. “Shopping colleges” I asked and the father was off and running never mind that I really needed some sleep.

His story is deserving of a separate post, for our purposes today, he said a year at Columbia costs $73,000. The dad makes bank and the daughter is the best 16 year old archer in the country, but last I checked, archery scholarships weren’t too generous. Meaning the fam has to come up with at least $325,000 given projected tuition inflation, air travel, and NYC incidentals. A fan of dark humor apparently, he said, “And then they need a masters to get a job.”

She wants to “be a doc for professional athletes” so rather than a masters, she’ll have four years of med school tuition.

Compared to a degree from the University of Washington, will a Columbia degree (or Stanford or UCLA* or Berkeley where she’s also applied), increase the odds of her achieving her career objective, which of course, she’s likely to tweak if not completely change? Her older sis pays $11,000 a year to study public health at “UDub”, one of the top programs in the world.

If I was the dad, I’d make Younger Daughter a proposition. Follow in Older Sister’s footsteps and I’ll give you the money saved from Columbia that you can then use to travel the world and fund medical school, and/or start a business, or to buy a large luxe house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Here’s the final tally:

$325,000 – $50,000= $275,000 + 4 years earning 3% compounded annually = $309,515

What should she do, cash the check for $275,000 and allow it to grow to $309,515 by graduation, or take a very expensive bite out of the Big Apple?

*in this one case, the obvious answer is; yes, definitely

 

Good Morning Customers—College Is Now Half Off!

Add the Richmond, Indiana Quaker giant, Earlham College, to the list of endangered liberal arts species. You’ll find it right before Evergreen State College.

Paragraph to ponder:

“Nationally, the average tuition discount rate for first-time, full-time students climbed to an estimated 49.9 percent in 2017-18, according to a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. As a result, even as colleges have increased tuition, the net revenue per student has declined.”

If you’re shopping for a college, and they tell you tuition/room and board is $50,000/year, please understand that’s only the STICKER PRICE.

Only suckers pay sticker price.

If you’re an average negotiator, say half as good as St. Don, you should pay $25,000 out-of-pocket.

We should stop saying college tuition is going up and instead say where colleges are starting their negotiations with families is going up. Where will this ever increasing discount rate arms race end? Earlham and Evergreen are just a few of the growing number of canaries in the cave.

College Tuition Inflation

“Dear Parents” started the letter that arrived today from Eighteen’s college president. “To assist you in your planning, I am writing to provide you with information about fees for the coming year.”

Thanks.

A few short paragraphs in the prez pats himself on the back. “The comprehensive fee increase for the coming year (3.97%) is the second-lowest in a decade.” That makes me feel a lot better, except inflation, in 2010 in the U.S., was 2.3%. Why not just write, “We’ve hosed families worse than this in eight of the previous ten years.”

“In the months ahead,” he added, “we will continue to explore routes to reduce operational expenses while preserving the academic excellence for which Exorbitantly Priced College is justly known.” A promising sentence that deserves another like this, “I will write again during the summer to update you on the outcome of those discussions and exactly how we are going to reduce operational expenses while preserving academic excellence.”

Continue to explore. Classic higher ed speak.

One wonders, when it comes to comprehensive fees at private liberal arts colleges, is there a tipping point?