educational articles
Educational Articles

Education and Tuition: even "free" has a price tag

University Degree

Education of any kind, whether basic elementary education or a university degree, has always come with a price. Ancient Egyptians paid high taxes, part of which paid for the privileged youth ages 5 to 17 to be schooled by the priests. Following an intense education in reading, writing and practical education in the office for which a student was being prepared, he entered the temple college where he studied under the supervision of the government and priests and became either a scribe or a priest.

tuition costsThe Romans, hundreds of years later, took a different approach, at least for what we would consider elementary and secondary education. A paid tutor often lived with the family. The master of the house provided food and clothes according to the ranking of the household. The teacher was also paid in denarii communes, which were notational currency that could be exchanged for coins made of precious medals. An elementary teacher would have received an average of 50 denarii per month while a teacher of rhetoric or public speaking—the equivalent of today's high school teacher—could have been paid as much as 250 denarii per month per student. This salary allowed the teacher to live comfortably although not extravagantly. It was also sufficiently expensive to ensure that only the wealthy upper class would have a thorough education.

The following chart is a brief list over time of types of schooling and the approximate cost at various points in history. Specific information regarding tuition is obscure, but costs appear to be minimal,being primarily the cost of living, until the 19th century. Colleges in Europe were supported by taxes, endowments, and benefactors. American colleges had tuition fees almost from their beginnings. The tuition is negligible by today's standards, but one must remember that a $15.00 tuition per year would be a lot of money to someone who might be earning only 15 cents a day for work.




Inca Indians School run by government and priests. Boys only. Government mandated and supported. Government took control of boys at age five, mandated each individual's position in society and directed the education accordingly. There was no personal freedom for the common individual.
Hindu / Ancient India Student lived with teacher for 12 years or more from ages 11 or 12; a student wanting additional education could remain as long as he desired. Boys only. Girls could have some education but it was provided in the parents' home. Education was free. Student worked for his preceptor and practiced rigid discipline. He dressed in simple clothing, ate plain food, slept on a hard bed, and practiced celibacy.
Classical India / 4th to 8th century AD Student lived with teacher for 12 years or more from ages 11 or 12; a student wanting additional education could remain as long as he desired. Boys only. Girls could have some education but it was provided in the parents' home. Free education to university students, but admission was very difficult. Revenues to support the universities were collected from more than 100 villages.
  Greece 496 - 399 BC Students recruited from the wealthiest families attended lectures universities. Tuition in the form of donations to the teacher. Plato taught that it was unseemly for a teacher to charge for his wisdom. Therefore, teachers needed to be independently wealthy or employed by a benefactor. Students were recruited from wealthy families because these people could afford to "offer" more money to the teacher. The more money a student could offer, the more likely he would be to sit at the lectures of a highly sought after instructor.
  Medieval Europe Universities were institutions of the Catholic Church operated primarily for training clergy. The universities did not charge tuition to the clerical trainees and junior priests. However, the cost of living books, food, prescribed uniforms prevented many individuals from attending.
  United Kingdom since 1998 Public schools as well as universities are indirectly controlled by the government. Prior to 1998, college education was free. Under the administration of Tony Blair the administration grant program was eliminated and students were required to pay up-front fees of 1000 per year. Currently, Great Britain allows students to attend university at no up front tuition cost. After graduation, and once the student is making at least 15,000 per year, the government starts drafting payments in proportion to the income. If a student has a drop in salary below 15,000, the payment stops temporarily.
  USA: 1770 Brown University $17.00 per year, tuition and room
  USA: 1870 Brown University / Harvard University $75.00 / $150.00 per year
  USA: 1894 Jewel Lutheran College $27. 50 for a 10 week semester; included tuition, room, and books. The college ran into difficulty at these fees; the following year they asked local citizens to help board the students.
  USA: 1928 Brown University $400 per year
  USA: 1960 Brown University $1400 per year
  USA: 1987

Private School vs Private school

$19,000 vs $6,875 per year (four year college, rates adjusted for constant dollar at 2007 rates of inflation.)
  USA: 2007 George Washington University: Private College First college in United States to raise tuition to $50,000 per year. Most students receive grants, scholarships, loans and various discounts.
  USA: 2008 Public four-year college About $6000 per year; parents are expected to take parent loans. Students receive grants and loans according to individual qualifications.
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