Paying for College

Great Moments in College Cost Savings

The invention of Google's search engine is right up there with the wheel and fire, as far as I'm concerned, although it won't keep you warm or facilitate a run to the store. It will, however, take you on an intriguing, serpentine sojourn through the world of information.

Today, for example, I wanted to see what news stories there might be about college students who come from well-off families. So, I typed in “college students with money." After being chastised for my careless use of a preposition—“'with' is a very common word and was not included in your search."—I found this article from The Dallas Morning News:

Texas lawmakers look to rein in cost of higher education

After a lengthy listing of sobering facts and war stories about the devastating one-two punch of the economic downturn and skyrocketing college costs, I noticed this addendum at the bottom of the page:

Higher-ed agenda . . .

“A look at some of the higher-education bills that lawmakers filed for their new session in January," which included this exciting proposal:

Sales tax on textbooks: College texts would be exempt from sales tax year-round under a proposal by Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would create a sales tax "holiday" for college students who buy required books during 10-day intervals before classes begin each semester.

Now, the Texas state sales and use tax rate is 6.25%. “According to a 2005 GAO report the average cost of textbooks in 2003-2004 for a full-time student at a four year institution was $898." Now let's do some math. We'll round up that $898 to $900. I know; I know. Some of you out there may be spending $9,000 per year on books, but I'm sticking with the GAO here, FWIW.

Taking .0625 times $900 gives us a stunning $56.25! In other words, $28.13 (rounding up again) per semester! I can see the breathless emails now, after this bill gets signed into law: “Hey, Mom and Dad! Don't worry about that $50,000 you lost in the market. I just saved 30 bucks on textbook sales tax!!!"

Gimme a break. Do you think these fat-cat legislators could do something even a slightly bit more helpful for hard-pressed college kids and their parents? I won't get into lawmaker perks here, but apparently it's okay for college kids and families to tighten their belts but don't dare to put out one less crueller in the Austin Senate cafeteria. Geez. Typical presumptive arrogance.

“Let 'em read Cliff Notes!" What's wrong with this picture?

Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.