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In 1980, the average cost of tuition, room, board and fees at college was about $9,400, and the average annual salary for a waitress was about $9,000. Today, average salary for a waitress is about $27,000, and average cost for college is about $24,000. Then, as now, it cost about a year's wages as a waiter/waitress for a an average year of college.

I don't know about your analysis for the other items, but I'm not buying this.

First, if you look at Sandy's comment, there were extremely affordable options available in 1980 that are essentially non-existent today. $80/term at UCLA--I'll assume that was when California still had great in-state tuition rates.

The graph in this article I believe accurately reflects the situation. Tuition and fees are corrected for 2019 dollars and we see public schools are now roughly 4X more expensive than they were in 1980. Private schools even more so.
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/27/a-growing-number-of-colleges...

Meanwhile, real earnings for the bottom 90% have increased about 24% since 1979:
https://www.epi.org/publication/swa-wages-2019/

This also doesn't account for how the balance of grants vs. student loans has changed in the past 40 years. I don't have time to do the research right now, but my guess is that grants covered more then than they do now.

On a private note, people ask me whether I want my son to attend university in France (where my wife is from) or the USA. I looked up tuition at French public universities. 170 Euro per year. I think he'll do just fine with a French education.
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