How Much Did You Pay For That Education?!?!

By Tyler Morrison, ARB Student Worker

Oh, the things you can find when you go to an auction.  Even the typical items that you find for sale, such as books, sometimes contain a surprise for the unsuspecting buyer.  That’s exactly what happened to Linda Sheets of Jonesboro, Indiana when she bought a box lot of books and discovered a University of Cincinnati tuition receipt dated October 1, 1917.  The strip of paper has yellowed with age, and fortunately Ms. Sheets realized it might have historical value for UC, and was kind enough to share her discovery with the Archives and Rare Books Library.

Jordon Alcott, the student from the 1917-1918 academic year, probably thought that $63.50 in tuition for one semester here at the university was expensive.  That total comes from a $5 library fee, $50 for tuition to the College of Liberal Arts, a $ 1 registration fee, $2.50 fine to use the gymnasium, and a $5 contingency fee.

Receipt for Tuition

To put that into perspective, let’s look at tuition from the 2012-2013 school year.  One term at UC’s uptown campus was $5,392, and that is not including resident hall costs, program fees, or mandatory health insurance if you don’t carry your own.

What a difference 96 years make in the cost of attending college.  Then again, the majority of working- class America in 1917 only made between $1,000 and $2,000 each year, so $63.50 every term would not be very cheap to the students of that time.  That amount would be about 19% of their annual income  and that is only if they were working full time during autumn and spring semesters of school.

In 2012, the working individual in Ohio made an average of $40,471 for the year.  With modern day school costs, about 27% of a full-time, average wage earner’s income would be going towards tuition.  Even taking inflation into consideration, school fees have still increased.

Another very interesting part of this receipt is the statement at the top: “Do not lose this receipt.  It must be shown to Instructor when requested.”    No lecture freeloaders allowed here!  For a broader view of what UC campus life was like during that year, have a look at the 1918 Cincinnatian, one of the digitized University of Cincinnati yearbooks available from the Libraries.

Next time you go to an auction and buy a book that catches your eye, make sure to take a look inside to see if you find a surprise, too!