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January 29 2016

Worst Ride Ever

Patrice J. Lee

Any of us would just about have a heart attack if we received a  $640 bill for a ride to the airport.

That's what happened to Bonnie Lieb who took a 30-minute Uber fide to the airport in the blizzard and received a bill for that amount.

In a case like this, Uber should have made it crystal clear upfront that the cost of the ride would be in this price range. It is unconscionable that the driver and the company did not do this.

However, Lieb herself made some fundamental financial management mistakes, according to what financial expert Michelle Singletary writes in the Washington Post.

 Lieb had heard from her neighbors that the ride would cost about $50 to $70. Although we can see why nobody on earth would expect a bill of the magnitude she received, she should have checked on an Uber app that allows a potential passenger to get the price of a ride in advance. That is just good sense. Also, she opted for the SUV service, which is more expensive than the usual service. The base price ended up being $144.76.

She furthermore didn’t do the math to calculate how much surge pricing would add to her base fare. At 4.4 times the base price, the surcharge added nearly $500 to her bill.

While SIngelatry applies this to teaching kids about finances, we can apply this to calls for free college from President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. If you think Uber took Ms. Lieb for a ride, you should see what colleges do with regard to tuition costs.

First, nothing is truly free when it comes to promises of the government giving us free stuff. Taxpayers are on the hook for the short-term and long-term costs of those goods. That bill is just distributed across everyone – even if you don't have a kid to send to college. And politicians have a habit of promising stuff up front but kicking payments down the road while interest continues to accumulate. "Free" tuition just pushes the costs down the road for young workers to pay through higher taxes and a greater national debt burden.

Second, federal dollars are the reason college has grown more unaffordable. The cost of college has skyrocketed 500 percent over the past few decades because of the ease and availability of federal aid.

As I explained in the New York Post last year:

... Since 1995, tuition at four-year public universities has more than doubled. Meanwhile, student debt has more than tripled over the last 10 years — from $363 billion in 2005 to $1.3 trillion today. Not even credit-card debt reaches as high.

But the government’s growing role in higher education hasn’t just correlated with rising tuitions — it’s causing it. A July report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York demonstrated that each additional dollar in federal financial aid caused a 65-cent hike in tuition.

In this way, Clinton’s plan to spend another $350 billion on the same policies is like trying to cure your chicken pox by scratching with a corrugated knife — it may feel good at first, but will only make your situation worse. Students end up paying for it either way, whether through higher tuition costs or higher taxes later in life to pay off the massive new government entitlement.

And just what kind of free education are we getting anyway? Think K-14 or K-16 Public education. Generation Opportunity’s education analyst explains in U.S. News makes the point that when we say free college, do we know what we’re actually paying for? In many cases, failing education continued for another two to four years:

... Warren's and Obama's proposals, like many others before them, neglect a key principle currently missing from higher education: choice. Rather than focus on how students pay for their education, these policymakers need to ask why they're paying so much, and what they're paying for.

Millennials like me need more ways forward in higher education than the standard two or four-year degree path. There are options that can reduce the cost of higher education and even provide quality alternatives.

Traditional college degrees are not only increasingly costly but also increasingly less valuable. More than 43 million Americans have taken on debt to pay for college, yet one recent survey showed that over 40 percent of graduates at "top" schools could not find careers in their chosen field.

Yet rather than empower students to pursue alternative paths, most federal lawmakers put more faith in the status quo. 

 A $640 Uber bill is nothing compared to the $30,000 or more, which is the average amount 2015 graduates owed upon leaving college.

The vendors, whether Uber or a university, aren't going to give you a heads up.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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