College Shopping List: Now vs. 1987

Female roommates moving into their dorm room.
Female roommates moving into their dorm room.

Well, it's back to school time, and you know what that means for parents. Freedom!

And bankruptcy!

Don't mind me. I'm just a little sticker-shocked this year because my daughter starts college soon. One semester at the Princess's school costs more than my first two cars put together. Admittedly, both vehicles were used -- and complete, utter pieces of shit -- but still, the numbers don't lie. One semester = two cars.

Hold me.

Equally as alarming as the tuition bill are the college and dorm supply lists she came up with not long ago. Emailed to me at work in Amazon links, the Princess made it easy as pie to shop for her lengthy roster of items, which included "needs" like:

"Deluxe Lighted Makeup Mirror."
"Relaxing Sleep Mask."
"Soothing Lumbar Pillow."

Aw. Isn't she "cute?"

When I got home from work that night, I talked to her about her "college needs."

"I got your list today," I said. "Haha! You're so funny."
She glanced up from her iPhone with a frown. "Don't you want me to have everything I need for school?"
"Of course I do. But it's college -- not a day at the spa. Grandma sent me to school with four ratty towels and a broken typewriter."
"Well that was 25 years ago," she said, rolling her eyes. "Things are different now, Mom."

Different indeed.

Now, I love her, and though I may not be able to get her everything she "needs," I did buy her all the things she requires. Also, I have to give credit where it's due: she and I compromised on her list. I bought some of the requested day-spa, er, dorm items, and she worked this summer and purchased the rest.

And surprisingly, as we visited schools and watched the students meandering about on campus, I realized her registry wasn't too far removed from reality -- at least by 2015 standards. Though I certainly don't question anyone else's choices, it soon became abundantly clear that things are, as she said, very different these days.

With that in mind, we here at the Center for Back-to-School Bankruptcy have comprised a handy comparison of college needs now, vs. college needs then.

Communication:
2015
"Here's your new iPhone 6 Plus, darling! Be sure and Facetime us every other day. We got you the $100 per month/10 gig data plan. Let us know if that's not enough!"

1987
"Call me collect. From the phone in the hallway. After 9 p.m., when the rates are cheaper. Once a week, but no more than that -- I have bills to pay, you know. This tuition is killing me."

Housing:
2015
"Be sure and fill out your housing questionnaire so we can find you a suitable roommate. Now, would you like the two-person suite with private bathroom? Or would you prefer a three-bedroom townhouse with off-street parking? Whatever you want, sweetheart!"

1987
"Four beds. Four total strangers. Cinderblock walls. Filthy, communal bathroom. Despair. Yep. That's what makes up dorm life, so stop complaining."

Technology:
2015
"Do you like your new MacBook Pro, honey? I got it on sale -- only $2,495! Sure, you have that Dell we bought at Christmas two years ago. But, hey. Everyone knows you need the very latest technology to open up a Word document and surf the web during class!"

1987
"Take this. It's my typewriter from 1963. The "N" and "S" keys don't work, but you can make do. It needs a ribbon -- they have them at the office supply store, but you'll have to buy it yourself. This tuition is killing me."

Furniture:
2015
"I just ordered your throw pillows, deluxe bed-in-a-bag set and coordinating easy chair from Pottery Barn. I sure hope it all matches, and that you'll be comfortable and warm! Oh, I worry about you!"

1987
"I guess you can have that blanket the dog gave birth on a few years back. A chair? I don't know why the hell you'd need a chair, but I think there's one in the basement. Dust off the spiders, and it's yours."

So there you have it, the Center for Back-to-School Bankruptcy's guide to college "needs," now vs. then. I plan to show this handy dandy guide to my daughter, and tell her that college is not all knowledge and fun and soothing lumbar pillows. Nope. College is about poverty and sacrifice. But I know she won't buy it.

I'll be the one "buying" it.

I tell you, this tuition is killing me.