Why You Should Be Less Excited About Snow Days

Snow is really really expensive. In 2015 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials investigated the cost of snow removal in 23 states, and found that the overall cost was $1,131,651,978 (AASHTO). Simply put, snow is a financial burden on cities. But this is not the primary concern of students when it comes to cold weather. The only question that matters to a student, no matter how old, is whether or not there will be a snow day. The consensus among the student body here at UPS is that snow days are amazing, and that a break from school is fantastic. At any hint of snow, the student body becomes a small army of snow day activists, many students even going so far as to email school administration and beg for cancellations. But what most of us don’t consider is that cities running snow plows and salt trucks aren’t the only ones who have to pay. There is a cost for students as well. We still pay our tuition, we just don’t get anything for it.

But how much does a snow day cost a student? The cost of each day missed varies depending on scholarships and financial aid, so for these calculations my hypothetical snow day activist will be paying the full price of tuition. Tuition at UPS (excluding room & board, since students are still getting full value out of their room and board) for the spring 2019 semester is $24,755. Depending on cancellations such as snow days, and how far into finals week a student stays, students should be around for about 77 school days this semester. Since 24,755/77 is 321, each school day a student attends costs them about $321 in tuition.

This means that the two snow days caused by snowmageddon 2019 costed a student paying full price to attend UPS around $640. This is a high price to pay for two afternoons without classes. Perhaps a student with little to no snow experience could justify paying $640 for these two action packed afternoons, throwing snowballs and drinking hot chocolate. Presumably, however, the majority of students here wouldn’t have paid that price just to get a free pass out of two afternoons of classes. Acting rationally, the student body should be campaigning for professors to have to risk their safety driving to work even in hazardous conditions such as these, but instead they hope for an email with the subject line “Campus Operations Suspended”. Maximizing utility for the student body means maximizing what they get for the dollars they pay, but here we see an example of short term preferences for hot chocolate and long binges of TV shows overriding long run desires to be efficient.





American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials website: https://www.transportation.org/

About David Shireman

David is a third year economics major at the University of Puget Sound.

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