Man walking on campus or university
Man walking on campus or university

Wealth & Poverty Review TVs Versus Degrees

Originally published at Gale Winds Substack

If colleges had been as innovative as TV manufacturers since 1997, a four-year degree would only cost $150.

In 1997, Sharp and Sony introduced the first large flat screen TV. It measured 42 inches and sold for more than $15,000. If you entered a public university at the time to get a four-year degree it would also cost you around $15,000. Today you can pick up a new full HD TV at Best Buy, Amazon, or Walmart for $150. Nominal wages have increased around 97 percent since 1997, so after adjusting for wages, you get 197 TVs today for the time it took to earn the money to buy one in 1997.

Today a public university four-year degree will cost closer to $40,000. Adjusted for wages, a degree costs 135 percent more than in 1997. Why has a degree gotten so expensive relative to TVs? Government heavily subsidizes demand and restricts supply in higher education. We should not be surprised when this translates into much higher prices.

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Gale Pooley

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Gale L. Pooley teaches U.S. economic history at Utah Tech University. He has taught economics and statistics at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Boise State University, and the College of Idaho. Dr. Pooley serves on the board of