Doing some thinking about recent threads about whether high EFC families can (should?) pay for top schools, I see a couple of dominant schools of thought on CC:
1) Go to the best (usually highest ranked) college you can afford because both the long term advantages and experience during college are "invaluable".
2) Don't take on debt to go to college (or at least no more debt than the federal limits), so if you can't afford to pay what the NPC says out of current income, don't apply there, apply instead to schools that offer enough merit to make them affordable.
(Accompanying these two sentiments is sometimes what I perceive to be an undercurrent of "if you had changed your lifestyle and prioritized saving for education then you would have enough money to afford your EFC for a top college" which I find distasteful but is not really relevant here).
So I often see threads where a parent (or sometimes a student) is realizing they can't afford their EFC and needs help redirecting their kid's focus towards more "affordable" schools.
But what I rarely (never?) see is a parent saying "yes I could afford a top school but I don't think it's worth paying $70K for (say) Georgetown when Berkeley is $30K or Alabama is free". In fact any comments along those lines are usually the exact opposite, e.g. "I turned down a full ride at X to be full pay at Stanford" (this is not to single out any individual, I could pick multiple other similar examples). There are a few commenters who note that (say) for engineering, salaries don't differ much between higher ranked college Y and lower ranked college Z, but did they pick Z because of that or because they couldn't afford Y?
Why is there no rational debate about the ROI associated paying more to go to a particular college? The usual pushback is that supposedly college is an "experience" so is "invaluable" or "immeasurable". It's apparently "ridiculous" to compare it to buying a more expensive car (despite the fact that this is often a trade off people make by driving an older car to save money for college). But plenty of other experiences can be weighed against cost. For example do I want to go on vacation to the Taj Mahal or to the Grand Canyon next year? And almost no one appears to think much about what your kid could do with $100K or $200K extra if it hadn't been spent on college.
So is there anyone out there who'd like to volunteer that they spent less on college and their kid didn't go to as highly ranked school as they could, not because they couldn't afford it, but because they just didn't see the value for money? If not then I think that would tend to suggest there's very little stopping top colleges from continuing to push up their sticker prices almost indefinitely.