In an off-handed comment to a fellow student, my Marketing professor asked how much we were paying for the class, per hour. He estimated it at $45 per hour, and I, with a thirst for numbers that rivals the thirst of Tantalus, decided to actually do the math.
Congratulations to the two of you who are still reading after that intro, and have not yet been scared away by my obsession with math.
I did a rough calculation in class, based on the number of credit hours I was taking. But when I got home later, I started thinking about the other factors involved. Don’t I pay to take the final exam? Aren’t I really paying for the privilege to do homework and study?
The final question comes down to: How much do I pay, per hour, for school, and am I getting good enough grades to justify that price?
So I made a spreadsheet. In fact, I made it and posted it on this site, so if you want to download it, you can. You can download it just to see my calculations, or you can download it to calculate the rate you’re paying for your schooling!
The Hourly Cost of College – click to download!
Observations from my Own Data
As you can see if you grab the spreadsheet, I’m paying $52.51 per hour for my college education. This is based on doing only 5 hours a week of homework outside of class – which is pretty accurate for my current habits, and also a little sad.
The good news is that I can lower that hourly rate by putting in more hours of work. $52.51 sounds pretty high for my current B average – but if I put in more hours, I can pay less per hour for a B+!
Most professors have told me that each class is probably going to require twice the number of hours outside of class as homework and studying. For example, my 4-hour-a-week class should require 8 hours a week of studying and homework. That sounds a little crazy for my liberal arts classes, but it certainly was true of my film classes – plus some! So I guess it evens out.
So if I change the number of homework hours in the spreadsheet from 5 to the recommended number, 20, my rate drops to…. $25.93.
Obviously, this sort of number is extremely arbitrary. The total amount I pay for tuition has nothing to do with how many hours of work I put in. But the purpose of these numbers is really to re-frame my education in terms of finances – to trick myself into procrastinating less by telling myself I’m saving money by studying more.
Observations from a Friend
Everyone is going to use this spreadsheet a bit differently. When I made the “other” category, I was thinking of hours spent doing homework and studying outside of class. But when I sent the spreadsheet to a friend, he included all of the clubs and activities that he wouldn’t be doing if he weren’t in school.
This is an entirely valid way to look at it – not only is he paying to be educated, but he’s paying for all of the campus activities he engages in.
His rate, since he’s much more studious and active than I am, came to a sweet $23.44 an hour.
After calculating that, he did something else I didn’t do: he factored in his scholarships. I decided not to bother, because I knew if I started down that road, I’d start trying to factor in my loans and the interest I’d pay on them – and then there’d be too much math – even for me!
After factoring in his scholarship, his rate dropped down to $14.12 an hour. Lesson learned? Scholarships matter.
I would love to see what some other people get. I’m not very studious, and I go to a rather expensive school, some I’m interested in the rates others are paying. If you are comfortable sharing your rates in the comments or by email, I’d love it!