Saturday, September 5, 2015

The High Cost of Learning

A phone call came in the other day that reminded me of just how much it costs to pursue one's intent of educational improvement. Perhaps they call it "higher education" not so much for the attainment of rarified intellectual prowess, but for the cost involved in clutching and clawing one's way toward the top of the academic ladder.

"Dad," the plaintive voice whined through my husband's cell phone, "Can you help me with something?"

That is often the opener for many questions posed by our daughter. This one happened to come broadcast from inside the college bookstore, where said daughter was facing the price tag posted above the economics textbook she needed to purchase for a class later that same day.

Your undoubtedly sharp memory may have been jostled by that scenario. Wasn't it only last May, you might be wondering, when I mentioned that said daughter was finally graduating from college? With that thought, you would indeed be right—if only she hadn't decided to add yet another minor to her anthropology major and political science minor. After all, to achieve status as an osteoarchaeologist, one may need to have completed a doctorate in the subject. And a political science degree can qualify you to get a swell job at Starbucks.

Clearly, something else was needed as Plan B...just in case.

So we are enduring one "last" semester while our soon-to-be perennial student secures her job insurance, just in case the candidate grows weary before reaching that terminal educational status.

So it was an economics textbook she was staring down at that bookstore display. And she was not liking what she saw: a budget-busting price tag well over one hundred dollars. For a book.

Lest you get carried away with college nostalgia and memories of having to buy door-stopper tomes, let me disabuse you of that notion. The book over which she was suffering sticker shock was a mere paperback of barely three hundred pages—hardly the stuff of volumes rivaling the unabridged Webster's Dictionary. Unfortunately, though her normal frugal shopping method would be to order through the lowest-priced online outlet, she needed the book to complete a class assignment due that day; no chance to wait for online purchases to be shipped home. Our gal at college was a captive audience.

That vignette served to remind us of how expensive a proposition learning can be. The cumulative effect of a college education is to drain the coffers of every diligently-saving parent—and often to mortgage the future of the bright college graduate, too.

But college is not the only type of learning with a price tag. No matter what discipline you choose in which to polish your skill, there will be a cost associated with that goal.

Genealogists-in-training know that all too well. I was reminded of that fact when I saw the "Save the Date" announcement for the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree—the annual conference I attend each June. To attend such an event can become a pricey proposition. But the conference planners bring in some of the country's most respected speakers, the venue is accommodating, and the event pulls in a wide variety of attendees every year. Next year's theme, "Giving to the Future by Preserving the Past," promises to place the 47th annual Jamboree right up there with the many successful events the SCGS has promoted in the past.

When you factor in the cost for registration for each day of the conference—including an extra day's registration if you wish to get educated on the use of DNA testing for genealogy—plus banquets, hotel room and parking fees, travel expenses and incidentals, you are looking at hundreds of dollars.

And that's just one conference. What if you also wish to attend the "big" events like the National Genealogical Society's conference, or the cruise-and-conference recently hosted by the Federation of Genealogical Societies?

It's events like these that put local genealogical society's annual seminars in perspective—perhaps a day spent augmenting genealogical research skills closer to home might be more cost effective. But who can resist a great party? The sparkle and draw of a conference can be mesmerizing. There is sometimes as much to be "learned" outside the classroom as in. Yet every lesson comes with some sort of price tag.

Of course, not every student can call home and ask Dad to foot the bill. Sometimes, those of us who are ever-learning need to pinch our own pennies. Perhaps that's why Thomas MacEntee's offer of a free download—this weekend only—of his latest e-book, The 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists, caught my eye. Sometimes, we just have to grin and bear it over having to pay the big bucks. But when we can, it's helpful to know how to cut costs and still be able to stay in the genealogical research game.


  1. Osteoarchaeologist...good for her!! Books are expensive! Everything is expensive:(

    1. I guess it's a good thing we are book lovers, or that kind of money would make no sense at all.

  2. I think I would have tried to photocopy the pages in question and bought the book online...

    There are ways... :) And $100 is far too much for any book.


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