Today? At $10 an hour you’d have to work 1,250 hours to cover the UW’s $12,500 tuition (more, once you take out taxes). In a 12-week summer, that’s more than 100 hours a week.
What really made me feel ancient is that the 1981 UW student guide shows the Med school charged only $1,029 a year back then. Today: $28,040!
Now, I didn’t go to the UW. But I’m going down Husky memory lane because last week The Seattle Times featured a crop of harried UW students looking rueful and broke. The story said skeptical state legislators often say how “they worked their way through college. And then they ask: Why don’t students do that today?”
Of all our delusions, we old farts cling to this bootstrap one the most. We worked our way up on sweat and chicken grease, we say. Can’t this generation? What’s wrong with them?
What’s wrong is that after we got ours, we cut it off for them.
The reason a summer at KFC could pay for a year of UW med school in 1981 isn’t that we were so hardworking and industrious. It’s that taxpayers back then picked up 90 percent of the tab. We weren’t Horatio Algers. We were socialists.
Today, the public picks up only 30 percent of UW tuition, and dropping.
How we milked the public university system in this state and then starved it will go down as the great badge of shame of my generation and the one before mine, the baby boomers. Affordable college made us. Once made, we wouldn’t pay even a two-cent per can soda-pop tax to give that same gift to anybody else.
So why isn’t higher education free?