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We were recently sitting around the Easter dinner table discussing tuition, college and relishing the fact that we will no longer be paying tuition, since our daughter graduates with her Master’s Degree a few weeks from now.

My mom stated that she paid $110.00 for all three years of nursing school at the Beverly Hospital School for nurses. She graduated from Hamilton high school in 1953, so she attended nursing school until 1956. She is a registered nurse (RN). My daughter’s jaw dropped at that one, because she recently paid that amount for just one text book! Mom paid for the school herself. Neither of her parents had attended college. Her dad had an eighth grade education, and her mother had graduated from Beverly High School.

On my Dad’s side, he was the first to graduate college. Later his older brother graduated on a GI scholarship and became a teacher. My dad graduated from Beverly High School in 1952, and attended one year at Northeastern University in Boston, and then graduated from Boston University in 1957. Dad used to commute to classes on the train from Beverly. He switched his major from Chemistry (the influence of Sputnik) to Government and he wanted to go into the Foreign Service or teaching. He ended up in insurance. I didn’t know what he paid in tuition costs, so I emailed BU for the answer. To my surprise it was $800 for an academic year (two semesters!).

I went to Lesley College in the early 1980s. It was about $8,000 a year, including books, room and board in Harvard Square, our fair city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was an exorbitant amount of money compared to the tuition my sister paid for the University of Massachusetts. However, since it was a private school, the scholarships were extremely generous and I actually paid less for my education than my sister. Lesley was a private teacher’s college. I think I was paid about $18,000 a year when I graduated with a Master’s degree and began teaching in a public school.

Hubby attended MIT, also in Cambridge, and paid about $9600 a year, including expenses, and also received generous scholarship assistance. I remember that he worked part time his fourth year, but still in four years he earned a B.S. and his M.S. in engineering, saving us years of tuition payments. After graduation we married and he still worked the same job. On our first wedding anniversary he was offered a job in NH for about $25,000 and we thought that was terrific, Yippee! Both of his parents had attended college in Spain, his mother trained as a teacher, and his father attended a Jesuit Institution.

The year 2010 is a tough economy for recent grads. Our daughter also went to Boston and completed a five year program to earn a double major, double minor and Masters Degree. She was offered a full time job with benefits at a museum outside of Boston, so she grabbed it even though she still has one month of classes and a thesis to finish. Let me just say that her tuition was MUCH more than what we paid, and even more than my husband’s full first year salary, not including room, board, and books! I also realized as I wrote this that she is the third generation to graduate from an all women’s institute of higher learning. This is significant because they were common in my Mom’s day and becoming unpopular in the 1970s and 1980s when I went to college. Today there are only two women’s colleges left in the Boston area.

In my family tree there are teachers and ministers who attended Harvard and other New England institutions in the 1600s and 1700s, most never attending a formal school but learning “on the job.” However, in the past six generations, only the last three generations graduated from colleges. Tuition seems to be rising at a rate much higher than salaries. Harvard has become too exclusive and competitive for the average New England student. It used to be the equivalent of a local college, but now is considered a world class University, and educating scientists, lawyers and businessmen, not just small town pastors and teachers. It was a fun conversation, comparing tuitions, salaries and book prices. I wonder what Harvard tuition was in 1653?

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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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