Video Contest Lets Students Vent About Costs of College

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The idyllic college experience: meeting new people with shared eccentricities and fun hair, figuring out how to work a pick-up line at the School of Americas protest, making yourself shower at least four times a week, developing strategic ways to covertly gratify yourself when you share a cramped dorm room with another human being. Those lovely days, unfortunately, are long gone (well, people probably still do that last one). Now, paying for college goes way, way beyond the simple price tag of the tuition. The astronomical cost of actually staying alive while in college is absurdly high. Even a steady diet of instant ramen noodles and drinking water out of puddles in your driveway isn't really enough frugality to offset the crippling financial demand of attending college.

To help calculate the lifetime of unpayable debt students can look forward to, the U.S. Department of Education implemented a new policy for all college and universities to include a "net price calculator" on their websites so prospective students can get an idea of how many lifetimes they'll spend paying off their debt loans. Perhaps realizing that this wasn't quite enough to really get that message to sink in, the Department of Ed has created a challenge for high school and college students to help spread the word about how terribly expensive college is.

Oddly named the "College Net Price Calculator Student Video Challenge" (seriously, guys, you couldn't name it in such a way that it'd have a cute acronymic name?), the contest is an effort to use students' first-hand misery to help spread the word about just how costly it is to go to college these days. From the contest's website:

Net price provides very important consumer information to prospective students and their families, but few students and families know to ask colleges and universities about their net prices or to look for a net price calculator on an institution’s website. The Department of Education is announcing a prize challenge for the creation of a short (approximately 60-180 second) creative and informational video that tells viewers about what net price calculators are, why they are important, and where viewers will find them – both on college and university websites and also on the Department’s college search website, College Navigator (

Students have until January 31, 2012 submit their video that explains the deathly cost of enrolling in college. A panel of five independent judges will be selecting three winners, each of whom will be awarded a prize of $1,500. Wow, way to break the bank for kids, Department of Education. That sum wouldn't even cover 6 hours of credit at my state-funded alma mater.

In all honesty, they should reconfigure the marketing of this video contest and just use it as a platform to discourage people from going to college. How is a bachelor's degree even worth it anymore?