An Open Letter About Tuition – And What it Says About Marketing

Tickld – Spread Laughter and Cure Boredom.

This is a great letter. Likely phony as all hell. The best part are the incensed comments. Everybody has an opinion on the relative value of an education.

I mean, is it worth it to go into debt — lots of debt — and pay a full sticker price of tens of thousands of dollars a year to get a Master’s degree in, oh, I don’t know, Elizabethan Poetry?

I don’t know. I don’t know how you feel about Elizabethan Poetry. Or working at Starbucks. Or whether any of that matters.

No debt, home ownership, degrees that get you a job … those things are like Manifest Destiny and the Domino Theory: something to be disproved at a later date.

You can’t put an arbitrary value on someone else’s education. You can’t say that they paid too much and therefore are stupid. You don’t know. It’s not about you.

What I can tell you is this: if that’s a real letter from an actual alum, then his or her college’s alumni marketing department is filled to the brim with fail. You have to know what your former students are doing. Sending them a blanket flashy “gimme” piece is something you may have done two decades ago, but it’s certainly not how you interact today.

And, yes, your tuition is too damn high. Yes, the financial aid process is broken in this country. Yes, it’s hard to find a good job. Sometimes it’s even hard to find a bad job. Instead of wasting your money on flashy brochures, why don’t you invest in employment counseling or services for your alums? And Mr. or Ms. Letter Writer: get over yourself just a little bit, yeah?

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One thought on “An Open Letter About Tuition – And What it Says About Marketing

  1. As someone who has experience working in a variety of higher education institutions, someone who joined the work force right around the time the recession hit, and someone who has two graduate degrees in two different subjects and from different institutions, my view is that it is impossible to define the value of someone’s education, impossible for any educational experience to come with a guarantee of professional success and financial security, but it is accurate to say that the system we have in the US is unwieldy and expensive. As with the housing market, this model of high tuition, unrealistic expectations, and outrageous debt is not sustainable. There might not be a dramatic “burst,” but a generation of graduates in debt is sure to cause ripples in the economy as well as in the social and psychological makeup of our society.

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