Today's Lesson

John Belushi in Animal House (Universal, 1978)
John Belushi in Animal House (Universal, 1978)

A recent article about college tuition caught our eye (and not for a good reason). Here's what it said:

"In the past three years, the number of colleges and universities charging over $50,000 per year for tuition has increased by 2400%. During the same time period, the average wage of the American worker grew by a paltry 2%." (You can read the full article here.)

By putting these sentences back-to-back - and using percentages in both - it seems like they're trying to compare the two figures. The problem is that they represent two completely different things.

The second percentage - 2% - is the increase in a dollar amount (wages).

But the first percentage - 2400% - isn't the increase in the cost of college. It's the increase in the number of colleges that charge over $50k. We appreciate the effort to raise awareness about the rising cost of higher education - we just wish they didn't (clickbait) use such misleading (clickbait) tactics (clickbait) to do it.

Yes, the cost of college is going up - but only between 9% and 18% depending on the type of institution, according to The College Board.

(We say "only" in comparison to the outrageous 2400% figure from the article - not to mock any parents of college students who probably get a heart attack when the tuition bill comes.)

The lesson? When you're looking at comparative data, make sure it's truly the same type of data.

Class dismissed.