Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 16, 2013

John Cannon: When college was affordable: 7/17/13

ASHLAND — When my wife and I were married in 1976, I accepted responsibility for the payments on the loan she had taken out to pay for her undergraduate classes at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville.

Not long after we were wed, we came into an unexpected source of money that made it possible for my wife to pay off that loan several years early.

At first paying off the student loan early seemed like a great idea, but the more I looked at the numbers, the less appealing the idea became.

Here’s why: The interest on the government-backed loan was so ridiculously low it make sense to keep making monthly payments on the loan and putting the money we would have used to pay off the loan into a savings account where it could draw more interest than the cost of the interest on the loan. That’s what we did and I have never regretted that decision. It was the right one at that time.

But that was then and this is now. Times have changed, and what it was possible for a couple of newlyweds with modest incomes to do in 1976 would be impossible today.

Peabody now is a part of Vanderbilt University, making my wife a Vandy grad as the school regularly reminds her when asking for donations. It cost a whole lot more for my wife to attend Peabody College than it cost me to attend Morehead State University, which helps explain why I was able to graduate from Morehead in 1970 without being a penny in debt. For that, I thank my frugal parents, and a long line of market pigs and steers who gave their lives so my sisters and I could go to college.

Mom and Dad were smart. They planned ahead for college. They had to. There are just under five years separating my oldest sister and yours truly, the “baby” of the family. Mom, the first member of her family to attend college, not only expected all four of her children to attend college, she demanded it. The idea of not going to college was never discussed in the family, although Dad never went to college.

Mom and Dad realized from the time my sisters and I started school there would come a time when they would have three or four children in college at the same time, and they knew that would be expensive.

My sisters and I were all active in 4-H and showed animals at the Fayette County Fair each summer. Those animals were all sold at auction at the fair, and all the income from those sales went into a college savings account for us. Kids always get good prices for their livestock at the fair, but one year one of my sisters had the grand-champion market hog, and in a county that at the time led the nation in hog production, being the top pig at the county fair was a big deal. My sister’s champion hog brought a lot of money. And that money went into the college fund.

Money from livestock sales helped pay for the college educations of my sisters and me. I also was a work-study student during my four years at MSU, and during the year I was editor of the Trail Blazer, I earned a whopping $25 week. That money provided my living expenses at MSU, including money for dates, etc.

Two of my three children now have college degrees, and my youngest son is attending MSU. However, unlike me, they have all had to borrow money to go to college and they will be paying off their loans for years to come. They all borrowed far more money to attend state colleges than my wife borrowed to attend Peabody. In fact, the cost of a college education at Morehead today is about what my wife paid to attend Peabody almost 40 years ago.

I am constantly stunned by how much it costs to go to college today. I learned this lesson the hard way when my daughter asked me if I would pay for the textbook for a class she was taking.

“Sure,” I said, thinking that would be $30 or so. Instead, the book cost $117! I learned it is not unusual for books to cost students between $500 and $1,500 each semester! And to think I once complained because one of my textbooks at Morehead had cost $17.

College is worth the investment. While there were a number of classes I took at Morehead that were of little value as far as my job is concerned, they all helped make me what I am today. After Morehead, I went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University. Fortunately, because of a combination of scholarships and assistantships, my master’s program cost me nothing. Getting good grades in undergraduate school does have its benefits.

College did not make me rich, but it enriched me. I just wish today’s students did not have to pay so much to be enriched.

After all, most kids today can’t pay for their education by selling hogs and steers.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2649.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • In GOP South, pushback against Obama climate rules

    In the Republican-heavy Southeast, critics said Tuesday that a plan by President Barack Obama’s administration to cut pollution would raise electricity prices, result in job losses and may not significantly curtail the carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

    July 29, 2014

  • AK Steel posts smaller 2Q loss

    AK Steel Holding Corp. (AKS) on Tuesday reported a smaller loss in its second quarter, and topped analysts' expectations.

    July 29, 2014

  • ambulance.jpg UPDATE: Major impact downtown in accident

    A morning accident left an ambulance resting on its side Tuesday morning in front of the Paramount Arts Center on Winchester Avenue.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Jesse Stuart Foundation celebrates 35 years

    The annual Jesse Stuart Foundation Open House from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 will be a huge celebration.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • 0729hagerman.jpg Hagerman talks law with Rotary

    At Monday’s lunchtime meeting of the Ashland Rotary Club, Boyd County Circuit Court Judge C. David Hagerman summed up current local legal trends — and how cases, courts and criminals have changed during his 20-plus year tenure.
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • POLICE BEAT: Houseguest steals valuables, nabbed at pawn shop

    Fish and houseguests both stink after three days — and much less time when a visitor pockets valuables without permission.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • 0728bank5.jpg Iconic Gate City bank torn down after partial collapse

    This weekend, Catlettsburg’s downtown silhouette lost one of its longest-lived landmarks.
    Demolition workers began to tear down one of the Gate City’s oldest downtown buildings following the former Catlettsburg National Bank’s partial collapse.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Study shows room for parking improvement

    It has been suggested that the parking layout along Winchester Avenue should change, bringing the city’s main thoroughfare down to two lanes.

    July 28, 2014

  • Anti-smoking tour kicks off in Ashland

    A scan in 2009 that was supposed to show doctors what was causing Deborah Cline’s eye problems by chance revealed the cancer in her lung.
    Two years later, Roger Cline watched his wife die of lung cancer. Deborah Cline was 59 and had never smoked.

    July 28, 2014

  • 0728bank5.jpg Gate City landmark demolished

    The historic Catlettsburg National Bank Building was being taken down after the front dormer window collapsed on Sunday.

    July 28, 2014 4 Photos