Cost of college represented by Jenga blocks.

A major part of my goal as a physics teacher is to increase student skills at interpreting data and graphs.  The green jumpstart logo is actually a graph of cost by school year, to send my 2 kids to college.  It is 7 years long and there is a spike in the middle of the graph for the one year of overlap when both kids will be in school.  A more concrete, physical, real representation might better illuminate the cost of college.  Jenga blocks might just be the perfect medium, and so the picture above is the “Cost of college represented by Jenga blocks.”

The Stack.

Sixteen Jenga blocks are stacked strategically in the picture to represent my family’s upcoming financial obligation.  Jenga blocks have a mass of 17 g, and dimensions of 74 mm x 24 mm x 13 mm.  They are small, lightweight, have no sharp corners, and have never hurt anyone. Despite those meek characteristics, what each block represents truly terrifies me.  Each 17 g block represents a semester of college.  If both of my kids graduate in 4 years, 16 blocks must be paid for, over a period of 7 years. I am going to value each block/semester at 10,000$.  10k$ is a low estimate for a public instate school in 2017.  The blocks might cost a little more, and colleges are destined to raise tuition over the next 7 years.

Each block.

Let’s focus on just one individual block.  As a teacher I work about 180 days to earn a year’s salary of about 50k$.  With those numbers, I earn about 275 dollars a day. With this daily rate, I work 36 days to earn enough money to buy one block.  Taking into account, taxes and pay roll deductions,  40 days or 8 full work weeks is a reasonable estimate of my time to bring home the 10k$ to buy one block/semester.  Each individual millimeter of the 17 mm block takes 2.35 work days for me to earn.

Student ability to pay for a block.

Everyone’s salary and earning potential is different, but I would also like to equate a block/semester to my son’s earning potential.  Mowing lawns is the most lucrative job he has ever done.  If a lawn pays 25$ and takes 45 minutes, he must mow 400 lawns requiring 300 hours, in order to pay for one semester/block.  Yards are mowed about 12 times each per summer, resulting in 33 different yards he must mow, for the entire summer, to buy just one block/semester.  This lawn care scenario is ideal.  Most 20 year olds don’t earn over 15$ per hour, and JumpStart Jr. does not have 33 customers.

Once the high cost of each little Jenga block has become clear, and really sunk in, I am reminded, of the fact that I have 16 of those $&%!ing blocks to buy!

One Jenga block representing 10 grand might have been a poor a choice. Larger blocks like landscaping timber or railroad ties may have been more powerful. Maybe something larger like boxcars or a cityscape with just the right profile would make an impact.  Possibly I need a more valuable medium.  It is decided.  I need another picture of either a stack of 10 grand cash or a gold bar sitting beside the Jenga block. but Since I don’t have access to the cash or the gold, If anyone would like to help me out and loan either to me, just message me.  I’ll give you a drop location for the gold/cash. I’ll return it, as soon as I am done taking the photo.  I promise.

Posted in Paying for college..


  1. Maybe have each block represent a smaller dollar amount and stack them higher? You’ll be investing in Jenga blocks rather than education! haha But that might give your young students an idea of how many blocks they’d have to work off to pay for that education.

    • Gonna take a lot of pieces to make a young kid understand that much money. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it myself.

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