Why Colleges Are Going Down the Drain: A True Story


Her college sent this email to me and my daughter at the end of her second year.

Dear [X],

This in an IMPORTANT email reminding you of your debt to [ABCD College] in the amount of $16.92!

This amount is your damage fee you were assessed back in May.

It is VERY important that you submit payment in full as SOON as possible to insure your debt is not assessed further finance fees/late fees or WORSE… go off to a COLLECTION AGENCY the end of SEPTEMBER.

I would HATE for your debt to go off to a collection agency or ATTORNEY, which would cause you harm, so if you would like to call me and discuss possible payment plan arrangements I’m willing to help.

Please contact me ASAP!!

What? I thought. Cause her “harm”? Send to an attorney? Payment plan for $16.92?

A collection agency on my daughter? Would they really “hate” to do that?

Coincidentally, they had just called me the day before, asking for a donation.

What did she do?

So I wrote back, reminded them they asked me for a donation just the day before.

And I asked them what she damaged that cost $16.92. She would certainly pay.

I also reminded them of the $132,000 she had already paid for her education there and reminded them they should take that into account before threatening to ruin her credit.

They wrote back that they don’t know what the damage was and would ask the facilities department for a “detailed assessment.”


Dear [College]:

I look forward to seeing your detailed assessment.

At 5’1″ my daughter is known to cause quite a lot of damage wherever she goes.

I would keep in mind, though, your overall standards for sending out a communication like your earlier one demanding $16.92 “ASAP” or you would be forced to report her to an “attorney” or “collection agency.”

Those standards should take the following into account (my suggestions):

A) DONATION: You asked me for a donation yesterday
B) TUITION: She has spent $132,000–140,000 all in
C) HER OTHER OPTIONS: Your school has the same tuition as Harvard despite a faculty/student ratio of 9:1 versus 6:1 at Harvard.

Given you are spending less on education and facilities, your email underlines the question: WHAT ARE YOU SPENDING THE MONEY ON?

D) COMPARISONS: I took a similar college, with similar tuition, located close to you.

Franklin & Marshall College – average salary two years after graduation: $46,000.

Average salary two years after your school: $44,300.

The national median is $50,200.

Not that it’s all about the money but 70% of students say salary is their first consideration for post-college employment.

E) Your post college employment rate at 92% is also lower than the employment rate for adults WITHOUT A HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE (94.4%).

And there are no details, no documentation, no due process, and your messaging doesn’t seem aligned with your wish for more donations from me, etc.

Thanks very much,

-James Altucher


They wrote back:

Mr. Altucher,

Your daughter was charged a community damage charge that included all students on her floor.

The microwave on the floor was damaged and needed to be replaced.

Her portion of the overall charge was $16.67.

Thank you,

I wrote:

Thanks for this.

Do you have the receipt?

By the way, you said $16.92 earlier and now $16.67. Why the difference?

When are you reporting this to an “attorney”?

She will pay.

Please see my prior email. Your note says you value all feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.

– James Altucher

The college wrote back:

Mr. Altucher,

Facilities Management lists their costs on the website. Below is a link to those prices.


I clicked on the link.

They charged her floor $250 for the microwave.

The average microwave on Amazon is about $60.

So I wrote, “Thanks,” and paid.


This year she did NOT go back to college for her junior year.

She found a job related to her passion and also a valuable internship. She has made friends.

She refused to use my connections to get her a job.

She is using money from her job to get an apartment with roommates.

She is learning.

I am a very proud father.

The college has a brand new microwave.

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