In Economics, the idea of “hedonic pricing” is sometimes used to study the determinants of prices, where the differences in qualities of products can be seen as leading to the differences in market prices. I thought of this recently as I watched a TV show following two families as they attempted to purchase homes in Charleston, South Carolina and in San Francisco, California. The family in Charleston bought a large, beautiful home for the same price the family in San Francisco spent on a two bedroom condominium, a condominium much smaller than my first home for which I paid a small fraction of their price.
The show was of particular interest to me because the family in Charleston consisted of an old college friend and his daughter. Although I had not seen him in twenty five years, watching the TV show brought back many memories. Only a month after airing, the impossible happened.
Cleveland is known as a city that people “fly over”, as illustrated by a scene from a recent movie in which basketball star LeBron James chides a friend for not visiting him in Cleveland as often as he visited him in Miami. Even so, that family from Charleston recently actually visited Cleveland, and I was able to meet them and finally meet his daughter. I found her to be an amazing teen, and had a great time reconnecting with my friend from my college days.
As we reminisced about our years in college, I found myself remembering what the college experience was like for me, over thirty years ago. In those days, at my college, almost everyone lived on or near campus. Many ate at the cafeteria, where the food was edible, if not terribly healthy. Discussions over meals in the cafeteria often revolved around world events, sometimes in languages other than English. Those were the days of President Regan, the Soviet Union and M.A.D. Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned and lively discussions arose over existentialism, the existence of God and “Trickle-down Economics.” The Falkland Islands were invaded, even as I discovered my love for Faulkner. An illness changed its name to more accurately reflect its means of transmission, from “GRID” to “AIDS.” Students gathered in TV lounges to watch and discuss “The Day After,” as most did not have televisions in their rooms.
As students, we not only worked hard, but also played hard, with fun that was often followed by long talks, sometimes encouraged by (perfectly legal) beer, lasting into the wee hours of the night. Students sat on the floors of dorm hallways to discuss topics that I loosely labeled “the meaning of life.” I am not sure if anyone ever did find that “meaning of life,” but the search for it was an important part of our growth into the adults we are today.
In the time since I last saw my visiting friend, we had each lived full lives. We had both married, had both become parents to our beautiful daughters, had changed addresses and jobs along the way, and, in the end, we had both experienced the tremendous grief of losing a close family member. He mentioned that his daughter would be choosing a college in only a few years, and I realized that such a decision is not all that far away for my own daughter.
As I think of this choice that my daughter will someday make, I am left with a question for my readers. Can we, in Higher Education, find a way to merge the experience of being a part of a community of young scholars with the modern means of delivering an education, including online classes? While I hope that, if at all possible, my daughter chooses to attend a college that includes instructors teaching her face to face, where she can become part of a community of young, idealistic scholars, I know that such a choice is not available to everyone. And, in the end, my hope for her and for other students is that, years after graduation, they can be reunited with people who traveled that educational journey with them and share with them the good places their own lives have taken them.
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