What should learning cost?

  • Nothing? Even in a barter economy, you'd give something in exchange for the work of the teacher. So no, not nothing.
  • A crippling lot? We've seen how destructive the system of government backed student loan programs is. We've seen how it creates a massive bureaucracy. We've benefited from it and yet our society is sick because of it. So no, not so much that you have to borrow against the next 30 years in order to enroll.
  • "All ya got" (to quote D. J. Duncan, The River Why)? Those who give all they got to learning are the ones who get the most for it. So yes, all ya got. But what is all ya got? Not all your money, surely, nor all your future earnings. You know the absurdity here, right?

A Lesson in the Logic of Maximal Loans
Go to the school with the best reputation you can get into.
Go to a college that costs a lot, because with high cost comes an assumption of high value leading to high reputation.
Take out loans to go to this costly college.
Major in something (whether you like it or not, whether it's important or not) that leads most logically to a profession that will pay a lot.
Work so you can pay off the loans you took to go to college that cost a lot where you majored in a field that promised to pay a lot so that you can pay off the loans that paid the high cost ….. Vicious circle. Despairing circle.

At Corvid there is no need for you to borrow money to study. We don't cost much because there are only teachers, no non-teaching administrators.

At Corvid, instead, we ask for your sincerest decision, your fullest commitment, and your intangible gifts: presence, energy, inventiveness, affection.

A lesson in Minimal Oikonomic Logic
And yet, students ought to pay something monetary. All ya got includes something monetary. Teachers living in monetary systems have always needed money to live. In the early years of Corvid College, in the Conviviality that was our beginning, we accepted barter, but we would have starved and been homeless on what was offered. So we went and got other jobs, thereby taking away from what we had to give to Corvid. The problem in most colleges is that a large part of the salary and wage money goes to those who do not teach. The students pay the janitorial and landscaping staff, the bursar, the record keepers, the executive administration, and ironically, the student loan officers and work-study and coop-experience program managers. All of them want salaries. Each administrator and staff member increases the cost with very little benefit, even if some of those administrators are there to help you find the money to afford that ridiculously expensive college. Students thus pay for this and that and the others, pay for luxuries and reputation and worst of all administrators and their pet projects, and in that system, only a small portion goes directly to the teachers, the ones that the students enrolled in order to work with.
The ONLY SOLUTION to this contemporary problem of higher education is to get rid of ALL the non-teachers. One thing that would happen is there'd be no one to launch their ridiculous superfluous distracting programs and reform movements or to care about accreditation. Another thing is, we'd do together or for ourselves what needed doing, and only that, and this would decrease the pathological activism that increases the costs of going to college.

What then would it cost to "go to college?" Only as much as the teacher needs to live. So the cost demanded goes down when non-teachers are eliminated, and the student pays much much less, but since all that goes to the teacher, everyone benefits. Also, not having to come up with so much money, you could afford to devote more attention to getting your highest education.

My opening figure in the negotiations: $1000/year. What's your counteroffer?

When might you make payment? To whom might you be indebted?

  • Now, as in, "as you go"? Sure, nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with paying as you go, that is, at each meeting. What better way to keep alive the discourse about money?
  • Ahead of time? That's a little harsh, at least. It's easy to be taken advantage of this way.
  • Later, as in, after you're done and gone elsewhere? There are two possibilities here not considered or used by contemporary world-system institutions.
    • To be indebted directly to the college for a predetermined amount for each period of study. The conversation about money might arrive at this.
    • To be indebted to the college for an amount determined by your heart, your loyalty, your affections and your Vow. A vow is a serious thing, only to be entered into with Nietzsche's idea that only the strong and noble make promises because only they can make the words also an act. The Vow kind of promise is defined by liberty, not by threat. Threat is the only means to make the loan approach work. What sort of men and women are we if we use coercion to guarantee payment? Shall we not be naturally vulnerable to one another? And yet, don't we need to eat? Doesn't that need flow in both directions?

Oh, how difficult is the discursive economy. It's only for the faint of heart, for only the faint of heart will discover their own doubt about money.

(By the way, the other major cost, that of the campus, would also go down, as educational life contracted and concentrated. In addition, the other problem of higher education, the pedagogical one (which is really the dual problem of content and method), is solved with the exile of administrators, for once it's only teachers and students, the answer comes through their living into the problem.)

Keep in mind that paying tuition supports the provision of education in two ways. First, teachers may be covering expenses for the course, room rental, promotional materials and events out of their pockets. The course fees will cover some or all of that. Second, teachers may wish to source their livelihood strictly in Corvid, to find their life's work here. The college could be a site of supportive economic exchange, even while its general style of economics is different from the mainstream. A teacher whose income comes from the work she does in Corvid is a more attentive teacher than a teacher whose income must come from outside jobs.

So … for eleven months of intense, close-attention, important teaching, what is a reasonable cost? Is $500, $1000, $2000 too much? At Corvid negotiation will determine the student's cost. Presently, the cost is $0. Should you wish to contribute to the teachers' livings, here are some ideas, common and unusual: finding the money for costs.

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