Stanford was a choice. Our son took extraordinary advantage of Stanford, both spending almost two years exploring before selecting a major, and then diving into the upper division/graduate seminars in his political science major (IR) to learn how the world works from people who’d been there. If he had taken the Regents’ offered by our nearby UC campus he would never have had the chance for that kind of depth as an undergrad — and by the way, the UC’s are extraordinarily inflexible about major changes which would have been a real problem when he discovered that his intended chemistry major was simply inaccessible due to his chemical sensitivity disability. And I was imprecise: Stanford provided a roughly 10% discount based on our family’s upper middle class income and assets.
And yes, our son understands Davis’ programs for public service. The subsidy program cuts off at income just below what a California state attorney is paid (starting attorney pay is fixed by statute) and is carefully designed to support the people at nonprofits, particularly nonprofits which can only pay subsistence. He is counting on PSLF still being there in 2026.
I think your initial thesis that the pricing model for university these days, with a big sticker price which is usually administered to extract maximum revenue from each individual customer. (I believe economists refer to something similar as “maximizing marginal revenue”, fully understanding what by this choice of words I accuse the system as a whole of doing.)
The system in place when my mother arrived at Wellesley in 1946 was I think a better one: the more modest sticker price covered about 1/3 of the cost of running the school, with endowment and alumni contributions covering the other 2/3. No one got rich working there (it was a nonprofit after all), my grandfather still whined about what it cost relative to his income at the bottom rung of senior management, and the school was incented to have students who across their lifetimes valued their education and educational experience. Cost disease, same as US medical care.