Thursday 29 Sep 2016

College Costs
Matt Seinberg

In the last column, I talked about how President Obama wanted the government to pay the cost, for any student, to go to community college for two years, and various ways to pay for it. I forgot to mention a couple of items. What about the other material, such as books, note books or a tablet, which students need during their college years?


A social science text can cost $150.

If you've seen the price of textbooks in college bookstores, you understand what I mean. A social science text, say, for Sociology, can easily cost $150 or more for a text used in one or two semesters; almost double that price for texts in the hard sciences. The other option is to rent books for half the purchase price; if you don't send it back on time, the cost goes up and it's almost as if you've bought it.

Another alternative to buying new or renting is to purchase a used textbook. This semester, Michelle, my daughter, might only need two books and I already bought one used from e-bay for $25 last night. That book new is around $140.

She also needs a Texas Instruments calculator, model 83 or 84; at least that's what she wrote on the piece of paper she gave me. I bought an 83 on e-bay, but then she complains that she really needs an 84. Then why did you write 83 at all! Then Melissa chimes in that the 83 sucks; another word from the peanut gallery.

Now, I must contact the seller, ask her to cancel the sale, which she can relist and give the bidder behind me can get a second chance on his or her offer. In her first message back to me, she refused. Since I'm in sales, I persevered and sent her several links on how to relist and offer a second chance to another bidder.


One click and I was free to buy what my daughter needed.

She finally cancelled the sale. I had to click a link to agree. I was free to get what Michelle really wanted. I made an offer to somebody else and am still waiting to hear back. In the meantime, I'm still looking at other ones to buy, since she will need it very soon, since school started this week.

Two weeks ago, I sold two of her books from last semester on Half.com, which is the e-bay sister site for fixed-price selling of books, music and movies. One book sold within an hour, of listing it; the other sold a few days later. Within a week of selling the first book, I heard from the buyer, who asked of my return policy. I replied that I didn't accept returns.

Ironically, I think it was a bookstore that purchased the book, but it bought the wrong one. Sorry, that's not my problem once it's in your possession. If you want to cancel, before it ship, that's fine, but once you have it, you own it.

Last semester I bought what I thought was a math book she needed. Turned out I bought the wrong book; I didn't ask the seller to take it back. I'll just try to sell it myself. What I bought was the edition for teacher, which I thought would be helpful. Turned out I was wrong.

Like anything else, we want to find the right thing at the right price and textbooks are no exception. These days, we have to save wherever we can, but still get the correct book or other item so our kids will do well in school.


Finding new ways to fund higher education.

Just today, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced yet another plan for student loan forgiveness, with lower pay offs for students working full time and making less than $50,000 a year. He calls it the Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program.

I call it just another way for government to do things ass backwards. Instead of having students take out loans, for state schools, why not give them that money when they need to pay their tuition, as part of a grant or scholarship?

In New York State, tuition to a State University of New York (SUNY) college can start at $20,000 and go up. That includes classes, room and board. I don't know many people that can afford that without loans. Not everyone has a rich relative who is willing to front the costs of a college education.

Here's how the programme, offered by the Governor, would work. A New York graduate with $20,000 in student loans making $35,000 a year would face an annual debt of $2354 in a typical 10-year student loan. The federal program could cut that cost to $1225 a year; the state program would eliminate that payment completely for the first two years.

Come on! Use some common sense here! Give that $2450 to the student up front to help pay for tuition. After all, it is a state school.

In Florida, they have a great programme for parents and students. A fund is set up to pre-pay tuition at a state school at that current rate; in 18-or-so years, the student goes to college, with tuition prepaid. Now that's a programme built on common sense. If New York had that, I certainly would have done it.

Either that or I would have moved to Florida a long time ago.


Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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