School of Hard Knox


I have a kid going off to college soon, we hope. Or at least we think we hope he’s going to college.

He’s a really smart kid with decent grades, just not valedictorian great. He’s got what I call pay to play grades. He could easily get into some of the more prestigious schools in the country as long as we’re willing to pay 100% of the tuition. There will always be a desk and dorm for those willing to pay sticker.

The funny thing is, college wasn’t cheap when I went over 25 years ago. Back then, “not cheap” was choosing between 4 years of college or a new Pontiac Fiero. Today college costs more than separating conjoined twins or a Mars rover. It’s like holy fucking shit expensive.

Usually when the price of stuff spikes there’s some noticeable improvement. You know, like bars. A regular bar had one beer on tap, a pool table with all its balls, and a cigarette scarred Galaga.

Today, you throw in more hops, add pumpkin to the beer, serve fire-roasted something or other, and put the brewery where people can see it. Viola! It’s a gastropub.

College, on the other hand, has blown right past dive bar and gone straight to nightclub with bottle service. Kids have all these things we didn’t have. They have food courts, wifi, iPhones, friends with benefits.

We didn’t have any of that great stuff. When I was in college, nothing was brand new. You couldn’t even buy a dorm fridge. You had to rent a used one full of mold, and it kept everything at 73 degrees.

Every restaurant was a dump and dirty, but at least you could smoke in all of them. There was no where nice to go. When you’re parents came to visit, you didn’t take them on campus. You made them drive you to the edge of town where the normal people ate. Everything had kind of a college grunge to it, and we all liked it.

Does it really make sense to send your kid off to some gentrified pseudo city with Apple Stores and Starbucks, when that’s pretty much the world they’re leaving and most likely going to return to in four years?

As far as I can tell, the only thing that hasn’t improved in 25 years is the actual learning.