Would you rather spend four years plodding toward a diploma, or networking with Wall Street CEOs and diplomats as a member at US president Donald Trump’s exclusive “Winter White House” resort in Florida?
For some people, the latter would be far cheaper.
Trump’s 20-acre Mar-a-Lago estate, prominent in the news these days, doubled its initiation fee after the president’s inauguration in January and is now charging aspiring members $200,000 (plus tax), with another $14,000 in yearly dues. Perks of membership include access to a mansion with more than 100 rooms, a beach club, tennis courts, restaurants, pools, and Trump’s infamous chain of golf courses.
You’ll find a similar price tag on some of the US’s top colleges and universities. According to newly updated US News and World Report data, there are now more than 40 schools in the US that charge more than $250,000 for a college degree. And that’s just the cost of four years of tuition and housing—don’t forget about other fees like personal expenses, supplies, and those dreaded $200 textbooks that go out of date every two years.
Schools like New York University ($56,787 yearly tuition), Harvard ($52,650), and Bates College ($55,300) are among the most expensive schools when looking purely at tuition costs, according to US News and World Report. But the bill rockets up for many other schools when outside costs are factored in. Here’s the breakdown for Columbia University, for example:
|Columbia’s total attendance cost, 2016-’17||$71,690|
|Tuition and fees||$55,161|
|Room and board||$13,244|
|Books and supplies||$1,223|
While it is certainly possible to attend college for under $10,000 a year—if a student were to, say, live at home and attend an in-state public university—such a decision comes at the cost of certain opportunities. In the US, many young people choose to travel far from their hometowns in an attempt to get the best academic and social experience possible. Cross-country flights, housing supplies, and accommodations for family visits all add up.
Americans are already borrowing from their grandparents to go to college; research reveals people over 60 have racked up $67 billion in student debt, mainly to help younger relatives. And College Board data show college tuition has risen some 10% to 20% every five years for the past several decades, across both public and private universities, even after adjusting for inflation. Even more ominous is an analysis released last month by investment company Vanguard, which suggests that if tuition rises 6% annually—a not-unrealistic estimate—public colleges in 18 years will cost an average of $54,070 a year and private colleges will cost $121,078. That would put the cost of a college degree at around $500,000.
While it’s true a college degree has become incredibly important in the post-recession economy, Trump’s lavish Mar-a-Lago club also has a lot to offer a young up-and-comer. The resort, after all, is arguably a better networking venue than most university alumni clubs (most of which also charge their own entry fees after graduation).
Mar-a-Lago’s 500 members currently include the likes of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, bestselling fiction writer James Patterson, retired Coca-Cola CEO Douglas Daft, New York Knicks co-owner and Madison Square Garden Company owner James Dolan, and Debbie “White Dove” Porreco, a descendant of Pocahontas.
Mar-a-Lago is also a favorite of many real estate moguls, Wall Streeters, and now some domestic and foreign politicians too, thanks to the president’s insistence on doing government business there. An Ivy League education may get you a few lectures with well-known historians, but a Mar-a-Lago membership card could get you much further—at least in terms of hobnobbing with the rich and powerful.