Impact and Cost of College Degrees from the 1970’s until today

I just received an email of a WND post called “Vampires, video games, racial capitalism – education in 2017” that got me thinking–always dangerous lol. I do recommend you read it. According to the post, intersectionality is “a new wave of identity politics infecting higher education, playing directly into the hands of leftist administrators, professors, and students seeking to reach a new low in their victim olympics.”

After scrolling through a few hours of information, I concluded that the subject is much better handled and explained by those who have made life-long commitment to such studies. However, there are a few basics that are evident, especially as we have been seeing examples of deranged, out-of-touch, morally bankrupt, and dysfunctional illiterate college students in videos over the last year or two.

I. The standards by which schools and particularly colleges and universities grade and reward excellence have been reduced.

The Era of A Becoming Ordinary


shows the average undergraduate GPAs for four-year American colleges and universities from 1983-2013 author: Stuart Rojstaczer


In the Vietnam era, grades rose partly to keep male students from flunking out (and ending up being drafted into war).  But the consumer era is different.  It’s about helping students look good on paper, helping them to “succeed.”  It’s about creating more and more A students. 

As the chart below (updated from our 2012 paper) indicates, B replaced C as the most common grade and Ds and Fs became less common in the Vietnam era.  The consumer era, in contrast, isn’t lifting all boats.  Ds and Fs have not declined significantly on average, but A has replaced B as the most common grade.

As of 2013, A was the most common grade by far and was close to becoming the majority grade at private schools.  America’s professors and college administrators have been promoting a fiction that college students routinely study long and hard, participate actively in class, write impressive papers, and ace their tests.  

The truth is that, for a variety of reasons, professors today commonly make no distinctions between mediocre and excellent student performance and are doing so from Harvard to CSU.

Study author: Stuart Rojstaczer,



The study above is not the only one noting this same lagging principles, inability to face reality, and excellence by any means. For instance:

The Economist: “Higher education-Not what it used to be-American universities represent declining value for money to their students” 12/01/12.

Concern springs from a number of things: steep rises in fees, increases in the levels of debt of both students and universities, and the declining quality of graduates.

The cost of university per student has risen by almost five times the rate of inflation since 1983 (see chart 1), making it less affordable and increasing the amount of debt a student must take on. Between 2001 and 2010 the cost of a university education soared from 23% of median annual earnings to 38%; in consequence, debt per student has doubled in the past 15 years.

More debt means more risk, and graduation is far from certain…At the same time, universities have been spending beyond their means…

Despite so many fat years, universities have done little until recently to improve the courses they offer…

In 1962 one cent of every dollar spent in America went on higher education; today this figure has tripled [2012]…

Wherever the money is coming from, and however it is being spent, the root of the crisis in higher education (and the evidence that investment in universities may amount to a bubble) comes down to the fact that additional value has not been created to match this extra spending…

For example, a federal survey showed that the literacy of college-educated citizens declined between 1992 and 2003. Almost a third of students these days do not take any courses that involve more than 40 pages of reading over an entire term…

Moreover, students are spending measurably less time studying and more on recreation. “Workload management”, however, is studied with enthusiasm—students share online tips about “blow off” classes (those which can be avoided with no damage to grades) and which teachers are the easiest-going…

Yet neither the lack of investment in teaching nor the deficit of attention appears to have had a negative impact on grades. A remarkable 43% of all grades at four-year universities are As, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960. Grade point averages rose from about 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006.

II. A sampling of courses and degrees being offered is nothing more than a means to rake in money and radicalize students on particular topics.

A few examples of US Undergraduate degrees other than standard preparation for professional fields like science, business, education, or legal found in  curriculum lists:

  • Arabic and/or Islamic (complete grounding from language to history)
  • Collegiate Division – Interdisciplinary Courses
  • Fundamentals – Issues and Texts
  • Gender and Race Studies
  • General and Professional Studies Interdisciplinary studies/Diversity Studies
  • Human Rights
  • Interdepartmental (INTD)  Interdisciplinary Courses/Diversity Studies
  • Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities
  • Kinesiology – Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries
  • Tutorial Studies – Student Based when things studied do not fit within a given major
  • Urban and Community Studies – anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Economics, History
  • Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies – Sexualities, Activism, and Globalization, Activism

III. The cost of receiving a degree for fields of study has risen dramatically but the level of education in those topics are being lowered in order to get the students pushed out after grabbing their money. For the wonderful privilege of attaining a degree and its expected future earnings, there is a hefty price tag.

Collegedata: In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a moderate college budget for an in-state public college for the 2017–2018 academic year averaged $25,290. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $50,900. Costs per major will also vary. All include tuition with hidden costs like textbooks or parking and other fees. Some include housing and meals. Many do not factor in personal or transportation costs.

So a student interested in a specific major (which most have no idea of after leaving high school) have to shop around in-state or out-of-state (if one doesn’t mind additional fees) for the highest rated, best value for dollar, or easiest to enter (in some cases). Additional costs of off-campus or near-campus housing and a dozen other things also has to be weighed.

In 1970, the average yearly tuition was $358 for public four-year institutions and $1,561 for four-year private institutions. In 2010, the average tuition was $6,695 for public and $21,908 for private four-year colleges and universities. In today’s dollars calculator the figures for 1970 would be $2,292.64 for tuition for public and $9,996.69 for private.

According to Delta Cost Project,Tuition has far outpaced inflation; increased far faster than median family income; and, absorbs a larger proportion of income. Yet, as we saw above the value of that education has decreased even as the dollars have exploded.

IV. Finally, given the cost of receiving the education and that these dysfunctional future place holders in the work force are being told they are “excellent choices”, how the heck will the future of each of the critical fields of study look in the next five, ten, or more years?

US News: “College Grads Question How Much a Degree Is Worth” 02/10/15

A survey of more than 2,000 adults – 900 of whom were college graduates – released Tuesday by education technology company Greenwood Hall, shows more than half of graduates say those leaving college with a degree now will see a lower return on their education investment than those 10 to 15 years ago. Simply put, while the cost of college continues to rise and the economy is slowly coming out of the Great Recession, today’s graduates might not get as much bang for their buck…

Some say many students blindly take on debt without knowing if they’ll actually be able to pay it back later on. Indeed, more than half of the roughly $1 trillion in U.S. student loan debt was not being repaid, according to a 2013 analysis from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“The reality is a lot of students in K-12 are basically just encouraged to go to college and get a postsecondary education,” Hall says. “We really handle this like a one-size-fits-all type of situation where the goal is to just go to college and get a degree versus thinking about the investment of a college, what you’re investing in and what that return might be and how to really maximize that return at the beginning.”

The amount of time and energy being expended by our “so-called” higher learning facilities is staggering.

  • Many of these students have not received enough real information to function in a business setting without serious shocks to their “psyches”.
  • Many are unable to relate to historical perspectives, function by themselves in real life settings, have any degree of morals, civic identity, or goal-setting to be able to differentiate between what are considered “good” behavior or “bad” behavior either on a personal or group level.
  • Many are unable to accept that reality of long-term societal involvement requires their own strength of character and determination to achieve.
  • Many have been fed so many “shades of lies” that they are feeling cheated, bitter, shocked, and angry when placed out in the business world where they are expected to function.

Those who have been in business for years or have encountered millennials in the workplace know this is true. It used to be that older labor market citizens were on the outside and finding less in the employment market compatible with their experience. Now it seems, they are in higher demand more than in the past because of those years of personal skills and business ethics or habits simply because businesses can no longer count on a younger labor market ready to work and help the company grow for a variety of reasons.

What a sad indictment of education and serious reasons why we need to slash and burn socialist/communism and diversity training from our educational training grounds while we hold every one of the schools accountable for those they send out into the world.



About Uriel

Retired educator and constitutionalist
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5 Responses to Impact and Cost of College Degrees from the 1970’s until today

  1. Whitetop says:

    I was an education major for my undergraduate degree and took a shitload of education courses that amounted to nothing. Waste of time and money. After teaching high school for one year I figured there was a better way to make a living and went to graduate school. Problem with graduate school is many of the courses are self taught by the students and the tenured professor just gives assignments. Thinking back on it the professors didn’t know enough about the subject they were teaching to provide meaningful input. At least I didn’t leave the institutions with a lot of debt like today’s students. Worked my way through undergraduate degree and was supported by assistantships for graduate school.

    The universe system would do well to get rid of the professor early retirement system aka TENURE.

    • Uriel says:

      Having gotten my own undergraduate education degree, I tend to agree. Circumstance and my own choice stopped me from grad school. I have learned over the years a true teacher teaches from the heart not from books. I have seen many in different work areas as capable or more so than a string of letters who could inspire great things from their students never having attended college. Theirs came from real life experiences and their own road scholar thirst for knowledge. It was passed on and given more to trainees and work groups. Far better examples than puling so called experts in a discipline that never placed themselves outside of academia.

  2. Shar says:

    Good post and comments. I wouldn’t be surprised if education of the future will be done on line. Tenure does allow for laziness. Not like the old days where teachers were there for the children, not the perks.

    • Uriel says:

      Amen to that. The day they adopted scheduled visits to observe and tied teacher performance to standardized test scores is the day and forced all teachers to join teacher’s unions, they messed up. I witnessed how some scammed the tests and trained the pupils for weeks on the one day routine and I know the stress of teaching to tests rather than subject.