The cost of college and health care are always on our minds, but no more so than during the months and days before an election.
I have had the opportunity lately to be a health care consumer in a big way. Four hip replacements and two breast cancer surgeries later, after hours of sitting in hospital rooms, doctors' offices or lab waiting rooms, I've come to have an inkling of why health care costs have risen so drastically.
Living in a college town, and having had two kids graduate from college with substantial student loans, has given me an inside view of the many reasons that the cost of college has risen so drastically, too.
I've come to the conclusion that we have double digit inflation in these areas partly because of our spiraling demand for more and better, a demand that colleges and health care facilities respond to in order to attract more customers and stay in business.
It's unfair of us to expect the cost of college and health care to rise at the same inflation rate as a head of lettuce.
Read this from a 2003 New York Times article by Greg Winter: "Students now get massages, pedicures and manicures at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, while Washington State University boasts of having the largest Jacuzzi on the West Coast. It holds 53 people.
"Play one of 52 golf courses from around the world on the room-sized golf simulators at Indiana University of Pennsylvania "” which use real balls and clubs.
"'An arms race,"¯ said Clare Cotton, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. "It's exactly the psychology of an arms race. From the outside it seems totally crazy, but from the inside it feels necessary and compelling.'"¯
Think it's only happening in other places? Check out what our local universities offer:
WSU "” Coed or a single-gender hall for women; a suite or a traditional residence hall room; a unique residential community based on the Ivy League model. All Winona residence halls offer rooms with phone hook up cable connection and Ethernet connections to the Internet and e-mail for every occupant, as well as a fitness center, 24-hour computer lab, and kitchen facilities.
SMU "” Upper class halls are coed, housing between 40 to100 students.Ā Living arrangements range from traditional, corridor-style residence halls to suites with bathroom, bedroom for two with bathroom, single room, and apartments with bath and efficiency kitchenette.
And how about health care. Disregard the amazing fact that we seldom die of childhood diseases because we have immunizations against them, or that our lifespans are extended because of better and more effective drugs and treatments.
When our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were having babies, they might have done so at home, or in a standard operating room at the hospital, and then spent time recuperating in a ward with five to seven other new mothers.
My daughter gave birth this month, and both mother and baby, after having been closely monitored and ultra-sounded during the pregnancy, were comfortably (well, as much as possible) situated in a private birthing room, hooked up to mother- and fetal-monitors to alert them to crises. After the baby was born, they were visited by childcare educators, including lactation specialists, who visited them in their private room that included a bed for the new Daddy "” all standard procedure.
It's not exactly the same head of lettuce, is it?
Be careful what you vote for. We all would like college and health care to cost less. But if we knock prices back twenty years, are we willing to settle for twenty-year-old health care treatments and college amenities?
Just remember, the more money government spends, the more it needs, and there's only one place to get it "” from you!