February 13, 2011

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE: In response to yesterday’s post on Rick Perry’s $10,000 B.A. proposal, reader Steve Schroeder writes:

While visiting with old college friends on New Years’ Eve we did a back of the envelope calculation on the cost and value of our BA degrees in Accounting from 1981. We attended a small well regarded Midwestern liberal arts college from 1977 to 1981. Tuition, room and board was between $3,000 and $4000 per year so around $16000 for our BA. As entry level accountants in public CPA firms we earned a salary of around $17,000 per year. So we earned in salary an amount equal to the cost of a BA degree in our first year of employment. Now that same college, which my youngest daughter is looking at attending costs $42,000 per year. If she earned her BA in Accounting it would cost her $168,000. Her possible first year salary as a CPA? Not even close to $168,000. Maybe around $45,000. What a change in 30 years in the value of that BA in Accounting.

Indeed. Many degrees have seen a similar decline in their return on investment. It’s because the return has (more or less) kept pace with inflation, while the required investment has run wildly ahead.