Food for thought

I was kicking around an idea to open a new type of restaurant. I’m not entirely sure the concept will work so I thought I’d just put my thoughts down on paper to see how it looks. It’s quite a unique concept. I must say that I’m pretty proud of myself for my “out of the box” thinking.

Anyway, here it is. Customers get their choice of appetizer and dessert which is included in the overall price of the entrée. And here’s the best part. All of the entrees would be the same exact price.

Great idea, right? But, I’m a little stuck on the price. The menu is quite varied entrée-wise with everything from filet mignon to grilled cheese sandwiches.

So, I’m going to have to make the price high enough so I don’t get soaked by everyone ordering steaks. As a result, the people ordering grilled cheese sandwiches will have to be charged far more than the value of their meal.

The problem with my idea is that it only works if I can convince half the customers to order the grilled cheese sandwich even though they will be overcharged for their meal.

So, anyone think my idea will work? Yeah, neither do I.

It is a terrible idea. Who would be willing to pay extra for a grilled cheese sandwich just so I can make money in order to provide filet mignon to their companion diners? I, personally, love a good grilled cheese sandwich.

But, even I would not be willing to pay for one that is over-priced. Really, how could any customer driven business justify charging the same amount of money for things that have wildly different values?

Oh, but wait, this is exactly how our college tuition system works. Colleges charge you based on where you go to school rather than based on the major you have selected. How is it possible that the tuition for a degree in Poetry could be the same as for a degree in Rocket Science?

I’ve been to college visits with my kids and have seen the money colleges drop on science labs for engineering, chemistry, and biology students.

College representatives brag about the substantial funds spent allowing students in these majors to have use of cutting edge technologies. I’m not against this. I think it’s great …. for the kids who have use of it.

But what about the Business and English majors … oh those poor kids getting a degree in English – they are literally footing the bill for everyone else.

The resources used by the different college majors and the costs associated with different degrees is simply not the same. So, why in the world would the tuition be the same?

Not only is the “cost” of delivering different degrees different, but the “value” of the degrees are very different as well.

The value of a degree is based on the earning potential associated with the degree.

No one would question that an undergraduate degree in Sociology has far less value earning potential-wise than one in Chemical Engineering.

If the associated costs and the value of different degrees from the same college vary greatly, why do colleges charge the same amount for every degree?

Well, there was a time when the cost and value of different college degrees from a college was pretty similar because you majored in either Theology, Divinity or Language, but that was when guys still wore white wigs.

Over the past 250 years or so, the types of degrees have grown exponentially, but the price tag on all of these different degrees of differing values and costs, remains the same.

Why do colleges do this? Because, unlike my restaurant, customers are willing to pay filet mignon prices for a grilled cheese sandwich, and I’m still wondering how they continue to pull off this business miracle.

Personally, I think colleges should put their 18th century tuition system firmly in the rearview mirror and join the rest of us in the 21st century. From what I’ve seen, not many colleges appear to be short on cash and could afford decreasing tuition a bit for some degrees.

Zicolello is a local attorney.

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