Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

University of Colorado Student Pays Tuition With $1 Bills

To protest the rising cost of education at the University of Colorado, economics major Nik Ramos paid his $14,309.51 tuition bill in $1 bills (and a 50-cent piece, and a penny). Three university employees spent three hours counting the money.

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I'm more impressed after watching the video. Rather than just a stunt to annoy the university (which was my impression from just reading about it), it was actually an eye-opening experience for the two young men, which seemed to give them a greater appreciation for what benefits they're receiving.

Posted by: christy | Jan 21, 2011 6:43:20 AM

They took the money didn't they?

Posted by: Nick Paleveda MBA J.D. LL.M | Jan 20, 2011 8:58:30 AM

Over $10k in cash, let alone small bills, may raise some government eyebrows. I doubt the school or the student are interested in being investigated by the government for dealing in more than $10k in cash.

$.02: from what I remember, I showed up at a window, signed my name, and left. I usually had to wait in line for a while to sign my docs so the school could get the money from the lender and I could owe tons of debt (and no one was paying in cash, back in those days they were paying on credit cards in full to get all the points/cash back because the schools neither charged fees nor set limits on the amount that could be charged).

And the Fed needs more stimulus action like this. It will increase the demand for cash which will increase the Fed's demand for money which will increase the money supply which will create jobs which will save the economy...won't it? Say no to credit, yes to George Washington!

Posted by: tax guy | Jan 19, 2011 5:45:30 PM


hahaha. so incredibly true. that just made my day.


nope. you can pay as much as you want, however you want. he could have paid the entire sum in pennies ($0.01) if he had really wanted to.

Posted by: Claire | Jan 19, 2011 11:50:57 AM

What's a fifty cent piece?

Posted by: Granus | Jan 19, 2011 10:39:03 AM

If the reactions of the spoilsports in the comments are any indication, this must have been an effective protest.

Posted by: Jim Rhoads a/k/a vjnjagvet | Jan 19, 2011 10:21:01 AM

If he wanted to twist the knife a little more, he could have written a check for the $0.51.

Posted by: Ed Nutter | Jan 19, 2011 10:20:38 AM

It would be real protest if he said he wouldn't pay until he got a job after graduating. But in the mean time this counts as an angry statement, not a protest.

Posted by: subrot0 | Jan 19, 2011 8:52:51 AM


Just thinking. I went to the same school [CU Boulder] 1969-1972. In-state tuition was $355 a semester, out of state was just south of $800. It was VERY possible then to earn your tuition, room, board, and books if you had a decent job over the summer and Christmas break. It cost half that at the State College I transferred to.

Subotai Bahadur

Posted by: Subotai Bahadur | Jan 19, 2011 8:44:45 AM

So what's the REAL cost of attending there?
e.g. Arizona State University touts $8,000 tuition ONLY for residents, but on campus in state student actually forks over nearly $22,000 a year to attend with room and board, and fees. They slap on a 'priviledge tax' of about $10,000 extra for out of state students, encourage students to take on student loan debt, and then hit up the state for subsidies, foundations for grants ... and aggressively solicit state residents for donantions. All that in addition to going after alumni to keep up the appellation of "Nation's Premier Party School."

State universities have morphed into financial black holes.

Posted by: wanumba | Jan 19, 2011 8:34:41 AM

Stan O: Confetti :) I like it.

Posted by: Deb | Jan 19, 2011 8:26:47 AM

Some 'protest.' The university got the money didn't it? Everything they demanded, he forked over, so they know he'll still pay the price, so no need to change anything. Had he gone ELSEWHERE, ah THAT's different! Declining enrollment gets their attention AND action. Competition lowers prices, not grumbling and paying up.

Posted by: wanumba | Jan 19, 2011 8:25:40 AM

The school could have refused the bills as payment; while dollars are indeed legal tender, the student does not yet owe a debt to the university (since the classes have not been delivered).

Posted by: Blue | Jan 19, 2011 8:11:57 AM

In Canada, this is illegal. The Currency Act limits coin payments to forty dollars, and $1 and $2 are coins. You could snow them with fives, though.

Does the US (or Colorado) have a limiting provision like this?

Posted by: Ed | Jan 19, 2011 8:06:01 AM

Wormme, I can see that you're wrong on both assertions. Plus disruption of 3 hours cost the college/university next to nothing, however, having a professor not show up for class costs everybody. If you say a TA cancels out the loss by teaching for him/her, why not use the TA all year and fire the professor! That would save $100,000 a year times the number of professors and add in the school administrators and you'd end up with the same level of scholarship we see in today's graduates.

Posted by: KellyFromMesquite | Jan 19, 2011 8:04:29 AM

The cost of higher ed wont fall until most students end up choosing schools on the basis of price, as often as they choose on the basis of reputation, or how good the dorms and student union look, or decide to save their money and not go to college at all. This process would be helped if higher ed prices were not artificially inflated by fed student loan subsidies.

Posted by: richard40 | Jan 19, 2011 7:54:52 AM

The university employees probably thought it was funny and broke up the day -- and they probably agree that tuition is sky-high. Now, if a hundred people did it, the in-house amusement value would decrease.

Posted by: Maureen | Jan 19, 2011 7:53:27 AM

Ramos is from California. If he wanted a less expensive education, he could go to one of the UC schools instead of paying out of state tuition in Colorado.

Posted by: JaimeRoberto | Jan 19, 2011 7:49:50 AM

Someone I knew in college in the 1970s did this then. It was a private college, and I believe it was about $8000.

As to why not pennies, dollar bills are legal tender and must be accepted. Pennies are not.

Posted by: Curt | Jan 19, 2011 7:30:46 AM

If it was a waste of someone's time then they wouldn't have bothered to count the money.

Posted by: thrill | Jan 19, 2011 7:30:10 AM

I'm with wormme. I'm sure that the university employees had nothing to do other than deal with this spoiled child's tantrum. Perhaps when he requests a certified transcript for his prospective employer, the university could send it in confetti format with directions on how to reassemble it.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jan 19, 2011 7:29:45 AM

It's probably good that the documented this ahead of time. Otherwise he'd probably have a bunch of federal agencies investigating him right about now.

Posted by: Stan Olshefski | Jan 19, 2011 7:28:46 AM

It's a protest and protests are meant to be disruptive. He didn't do anything illegal and he shook the system out of its complacency for 3 hours. Good for him. Want to be treated like sheep, act like sheep.

Posted by: Liz985 | Jan 19, 2011 7:20:06 AM

When your mode of protest resembles a strip club transaction, chances are you are not making an effective point.

Posted by: Matt | Jan 19, 2011 7:19:22 AM

Should have used 51 pennies.

Posted by: Ellen | Jan 19, 2011 7:09:40 AM

"So he protests the high cost of education by making it higher by wasting peoples' time, probably holding up other students waiting to pay by check, and making it likely that other people will do the same and compound the issue."

If the government did it, it would be called a jobs program.

Posted by: Michael Newton | Jan 19, 2011 7:00:40 AM

Somebody just landed himself on double-secret probation.

Posted by: jim m | Jan 19, 2011 6:38:08 AM

So he protests the high cost of education by making it higher by wasting peoples' time, probably holding up other students waiting to pay by check, and making it likely that other people will do the same and compound the issue. I would've gone to a less expensive school to protest, but then, I'm not an arrogant idiot.

Posted by: Borris | Jan 19, 2011 6:31:12 AM

Was he out of pennies?

Posted by: wormme | Jan 19, 2011 6:30:04 AM