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College tuition too high? Tune in, drop out, and learn!

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(Read caption) Graduating students wait for the start of Harvard University's 358th commencement exercises in Cambridge, Mass., on June 4, 2009. If college tuition seems too high, especially for an Ivy League education, here's an alternative: Drop out and read.

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Wonder why university fees are so outrageously high? The question comes to us at least once a year. We’ve had at least one child in college for the last 14 years – often two. Year after year, tuition costs rise. A study reported in The Economist shows tuition rising at two to three times faster than household income over the last 40 years. For Ivy League schools the excess was 14 times income.

We haven’t noticed any increase in the quality of education. So why have costs gone up so?

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Outside of government itself, America’s universities probably shelter more zombies than any other industry. Of course, there are the millions of students who spend some of the best years of their lives doing little or nothing useful – study loads have dropped from an average of 24 hours a week in the ’60s to just 14 hours now. The professors, administrators and hangers-on are even more zombified. The students eventually have to leave this sanctuary and go out into the real world – or the government. The employees stay zombified for life.

Harvard increased its administrative staff by 300% since 1993. And the typical professor at an Ivy League university now takes a sabbatical every three years, rather than every 7 as the word implies. And according to The Economist, 20 of Harvard’s 48 history professors are on leave this year.

Come to think of it, we don’t know why they bother to teach history at a university. Anyone can read it on his own. And if you want to know what the professor thinks, just buy his book. You can get it for…what, $29?

Which just goes to show what a zombie business higher education is. You could get a fine education in history, law, politics – or dozens of other specialties – just for the price of a library card. But the public library doesn’t give you a degree.

Take this Daily Reckoning challenge: drop out of college. Set up a reading and discussion group… Spend four hours a day, two hours reading…one hour writing a critique/opinion on what you have read…and one hour challenging each others’ thoughts. Do that for 4 years at negligible cost…or spend $160,000 and 4 years fulltime at Harvard.

Let us know how it works out.

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