We took a break this week from our “House of Cardio” and discussions of Steve’s upcoming bypass surgery to talk about the other “C” word that has consumed our household for the past four months: College.

The news of acceptance or rejection at the schools Jennifer has applied to are arriving, in addition to the financial award letters.  So allow me to rant a little about the current state of higher education.

One of the schools that Jennifer applied to and was accepted at is Chapman University in Orange County. This is the school that her sister. Valerie goes to and will be graduating from at the end of May.

Inside the glossy envelope covered with photos of smiling students – smiling because they haven’t had to start making payments on their student loans yet – was a letter on ivory linen paper with gold embossing telling Jennifer that she had been selected as a Chancellor Scholar and as a result, would be receiving a scholarship of $20,000 a year.

Wow! Twenty grand a year – that sounds great! Jennifer flips through the brochure and sees a block of numbers with the tuition and room and board costs totaling $30,000. Jennifer does some quick math in her head (all the math she ever needed, she learned in third grade not Calculus) and figures that the she only needs to come up with $10,000 a year to make up the difference. That’s doable. She can work part time and borrow about $30,000 in student loans – which is pretty much the average amount of debt that most students graduate with today.

The only problem is that in Jennifer’s haste in reading the numbers, she didn’t notice that $30,000 is the cost to attend Chapman per semester, not per year. So she really needs to make up a difference of $40,000 times four years. There is no way that Steve and I will support her borrowing $160,000 for an undergraduate degree.

The interesting thing is that because her sister goes to Chapman, I was able to pull out the same brochure that Valerie got four years ago and compare the numbers. What I discovered is that tuition has gone up by $8,000 and room and board has gone up by $2,000.

Valerie was able to go to Chapman because she got a bigger scholarship, tuition/room and board was $10,000 less and she also got a Cal Grant. That all said, she’ll still graduate with enough student loan debt to make my stomach sink every time I think about it.

How can an undergraduate education be worth $60,000 a year? That means a three unit class costs $7,500. Unless they are teaching 18 year-olds how to spin straw into gold in English 101, that’s just a ridiculous amount. Colleges have gotten so greedy and we’re all so willing to borrow to see that our children get a college degree. Our family included.

If you’re still with me at this point, you must be thinking, “What about doing two years at the JC?” Our thoughts exactly.