How Do You Spend Your Day? And Why College Is Expensive

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Here’s an interactive chart from the NY Times of how various groups of people spend their time over the course of a day.

Like many of you, I have fond memories of college. Here’s one reason why; The pie chart below shows the average full-time college student spends their day.

“Educational activities” only take up 4.5 hours a day (including studying!), and even if you add in work it totals only 6.5 hours a day. This paper says this is over 30% less than a few decades ago.

Full-time students allocated 40 hours per week toward class and studying in 1961, whereas by 2003 they were investing about 27 hours per week.

While college is more cush, like we discussed before tuition is growing more expensive at an alarming rate. And even while people say “tuition bubble”, this chart shows that it’s been going on consistently for a long time. Hat tip to Economix blog.

So it seems, we are either getting a lot less education for our money, or we’re just getting charged more for giving them more amenities for their paid vacation, or both. At this rate, my kids will just download course material directly into their brains from iTunes, spend the rest of the four years on vacation, and college will cost a full decade’s worth of income. That $100 auto-investment into a 529 just ain’t gonna cut it…

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  1. It’s insane how much education costs nowadays, and discouraging to see the apparent returns. (Philip Greenspun often writes about this )

    I believe that we’re going to see some fundamental shake-ups in the area of education over the next few decades, primarily leveraging the distributed nature of the internet, lowering the barriers and costs to entry, and removing geography as an anchoring concern.

    (By the way, Jonathan, I was trying to contact you about a financial application we are developing. If possible, would you mind contacting me at to discuss? Thanks so much, in advance.)

  2. You could always make your future kids pay for their own college… Problem solved!
    *goes to pay off private loan*

  3. What college student gets 8+ hours of sleep? I’d seriously question the NY Times source on this one. If you are a full time student you have more than 18 hours of school time a week, divided by 5 is 3.6 hours but that doesn’t account for hour to hour match of studying to class room time. Therefore, it should be 7.2 hours a day. Or maybe this study includes part time students and those who take more than 4 years to graduate.

  4. “That $100 auto-investment into a 529 just ain’t gonna cut it… ”

    I’m with Jon. Do what you can, make the kid responsible for the rest. I’ll encourage my kids to do their first 2 years at a local community college where tuition is the lowest. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter where you start, just where you finish.

  5. Is it 3.6 or 4.5 hours per day in ‘educational activities’? Average full time student would be spending about 3 hours a day in classes alone. Just 0.6 hours for study seems a little slim. Course I’m not sure I doubt it. I didn’t study much in college nor did the people around me.

  6. Duh @ Jon

    How much in private loans did you graduate with? I was fortunate to have some of my loans paid by my parents, but was left with $25k on my own.

    While I think it is a burden, I have friends that are under a lot more in loan debt making it difficult to spend money on anything else.

    Interesting Article, I’ve always wondered why cost of college got out of hand. I figured it was a barrier of entry into the job market, but now it seems everyone is willing to fork over the cash and jobs and salaries are limited when you graduate.

  7. @Robert
    Nice to know someone feels the same way I do. Both my kids went to Community College. They were in the Engineering program that guarantees a State college slot. The CC tries to wash them out of the program if they aren’t cutting it. Both my kids graduated from San Diego State and are gainfully employed.

  8. @Jenna – The study says it is for full-time students. Keep in time students don’t always go to class, I know I didn’t.

    @Jim. Agreed… studying would seem to vary widely based on my experience. I swear some classes were simply a test of how well you could bullsh*t. Maybe school is just easier now, maybe not.

    @nycguy – I took out about 30k in loans. I have no idea how much I will support the kids, I’d just not rather be completely unprepared.

    I think too much emphasis is put on getting *any* college degree, when it should be what useful stuff did you actually learn? I call many places “Did Your Tuition Check Clear” University since that’s all they seem to care about.

  9. I wouldn’t say this implies school is easy. I *should* have studied a lot more than I did. I studied little cause I was lazy, immature, busy getting drunk and wasn’t taking school serious enough. I studied little but my actual coursework really demanded more studying for sure if I wanted to do well.

    Low studying time means students aren’t working hard. (either due to choice or circumstances) It doesn’t mean their classwork isn’t hard.

  10. WashingtonSavingsBank says:

    College costs are definitely rising and whether you are paying for your children’s education or your child is paying for it himself, you need to make sure there is a solid savings plan in place. Work closely with your bank to develop a plan that works for your family.

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