A musician born almost 100 years ago recently emailed:

When I was accepted at Harvard in 1935, with a nice telegram from James Bryant Conant on the night of my HS graduation, I had an IQ between 147-152. No longer. Did not receive my expected scholarship at the last moment, and accepted one at Eastman School of Music. Harvard tuition in 1935: $400.00 per year; Eastman School of Music: $300.00.

Fast forward to the mid 1970s, and Harvard’s tuition was around $4,000 per year.

Fast forward to now, and it’s close to $35,000, with total costs for the year (room, board, and supplies) approaching $50,000.

How did tuitions go up so much? Lots of factors, among them (1) competition among schools to outdo each other, which requires fancier facilities and perks that drive up costs; (2) supply and demand — education has become a commodity with a significant payoff for future earning — schools can afford to charge more; (3) high-priced prestige items sometimes sell better when they’re priced higher (“look at me, I can afford it and you can’t”); (4) availability of government loans, which allow students to pay tuitions that otherwise they couldn’t afford.

Harvard tuition has gone up almost 100-fold since 1935. This is way more than inflation. It makes you wonder how long this can continue…