Grinnell

Last weekend was Jordan’s 10th college reunion. We were happy to discover that the Back Table is still around, despite rumors of its demise. The Back Table is a bunch of folks who dine together and work hard to be over twice as eccentric as the rest of Grinnell College.

The table itself, situated in the Quad dining hall, is going away. Next fall a huge new building will replace both old dining halls, the mail room, and the old student center. It’s designed by a famous architectural firm, and it’s named after the Grinnell graduate and financial wizard under whose guidance Grinnell’s endowment ballooned to over 4 billion dollars. No expense is being spared on this new building.

When Jordan and I toured the new building, we couldn’t help but think “spoiled rich kids.” But that is unfair. Like always, most students will be getting financial aid. At the same time, even though the college doesn’t need to, they are raising tuition steeply next semester. Why? To bring tuition more in line with so-called peer institutions. Which is to say, they don’t want to look cheap. (Not that this would be an issue to anyone visiting the campus.)

Sometimes I think my chances of getting super-rich would be better if I lived in a socialist country. There, they just take 60% of your income.  Here, if your nest egg is smaller than your kids’ college tuition, the financial aid department takes it. And if current trends continue, soon you’ll have to be a billionare to avoid being at the mercy of financial aid.  Thus, everyone can just barely afford college.

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