GINNY: Hi, Kenji. This is my first economics course, and many of the concepts
discussed in class are really confusing. Today the professor explained that the true cost of going to college includes both the tuition I pay as well as something called the “opportunity cost” of going to college. I don’t understand. I pay $38,000 per year in tuition. The tuition is what I pay to the school, so it seems like that should be my true cost!
KENJI: Hi, Ginny. Many concepts in economics can be confusing at first. Let’s talk it through.
Economists think of costs a bit differently than just the dollar amount that you pay. To an economist, the true cost of college includes the total value of what you give up in order to acquire your college education. In other words, not only did you give up the tuition money that you paid, but by attending college, you gave up opportunities to do other things with your time as well. This is where the idea of opportunity cost comes from.
The opportunity cost of your decision to go to college is the value of the next best alternative that you gave up. Suppose that your next best alternative to college is to work as a cashier. By not going to college, and taking this job, you could earn $19,000 per year. Then your opportunity cost of college is______, and your total cost of a year of college is ____ per year.