To the People

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Monday, February 05, 2007

What's a Year of College Really Worth?

Tiny Oklahoma Wesleyan University boasts that it's "a Christian university rated #12 in comprehensive colleges and universities in the west by US News & World Report." It's wedged on that list in between academic powerhouses East Texas Baptist University (#11) and McMurry University (#13), and charges students $23,000 per year for tuition, room and board.

One purportedly lucky student, though, has a chance to cut that rate dramatically by buying a year's tuition on eBay.
The university on Saturday kicked off an eBay auction of a year of tuition, room and board at the private college. The bidding had reached $4,425 by 11 p.m.
Nine bidders have so far driven the price now up to $5,100.

The university says it launched the auction for publicity's sake. One might call this clever. One might also call it a case of the university slapping it's own face, considering that OWU is currently pulling in only 22% of what it regularly charges students who, presumably, pay the university's inflated tuition with a windfall of low-interest, federally subsidized student loans. (Full disclosure: I have taken out low-interest, federally subsidized student loans.)

Not to pick on OWU -- tuition inflation is rampant just about everywhere. But if a year of college is only worth on the open market one-quarter (or maybe a half by the time bidding closes on Sunday) of what the university is charging as a fixed price to every other student, well that, my friends, points to quite a bubble just waiting to pop. If not everywhere, then at least among those highest rated comprehensive colleges and universities in the west.

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