Thank God they are only cheating this once!
Hard access trumps software access every time, and the example is quite clear in this instance.
There is always the opportunity for debt.
I'm in Florida, and I don't understand why people go out of state, but the tuition costs are something like 20K across 4 years. My degree (04-08) was ~300/class, 3 credits/class, 128 credits/degree. This is ~13K (minimum, no retaken classes or electives) for the degree cost. So you have to ask yourself: "how do people graduate with 50K in debt?". It is actually easier than you think.
1 - No job or other source of income/aid/scholarship
2 - rent - (4 bedroom apartment, 4 people, shuttle access to campus, utilities included) - 500/month = 24K
3 - car - $20 biweekly for gas, $1000/year insurance, $1000/year maintaining (my number, roughly) = 2K+4K+4K = 10K
4 - parking - 100/year =
5 - food - I'm being stingy ($5/meal, skip breakfast daily) - 250/month = 12K
Cost = tuition/fees (13) + rent (24) + car (10) + parking (.4) + food (12) = 59.4K
These numbers assume that the person is _very_ boring (no money on clothes/shopping/entertainment), cheap ($5 for every meal), creative (buy/sell textbooks online (way in advance, if possible) for net 0 cost during degree), and somewhat subsidized (no clothing purchases, cell phone, or non-car-insurance). However, you will note that most of these costs are avoidable if you follow a simple strategy:
1 - Get a job/internship. Even $7/hour for 20 hours a week monitoring a computer lab pays 29K over the course of the degree. Engineering internships are known to pay $20 or more. Mine engineering internship paid $12, and later $13, while my tutoring gig paid $10, and working in a restaurant paid $9. +29-54K (or more)
2 - Ditch the car. They are a luxury, and you don't need it. -10.4K
3 - Get a scholarship. Bright Futures in this state will pay all tuition costs (and give stipend for books!) for some fairly minimal high school investment. -13K. (and another 1.6K for books if you can grab it).
If you do all of this, you can come out at: rent(24)+food(12)-job(29) = 7K in debt/loans. If you can find a $10/hour job (or work 28 hours weekly), this is another 12K in income and you will have made 5K in college.
Jobs and scholarships for the win.
No one's delaying their release into the workplace to get a PhD so that they can make a better contribution to "the world," period. People pursue a PhD so that they can stay in academia, where they are comfortable and proficient, and make as much money in academia as an academic can.
I am working full time while obtaining my PhD. I am getting the PhD because it is teaching me to do the things that are required, and that I cannot learn elsewhere. While I have not delayed my entry into the workforce (I like money), one of the reasons that I am getting it is because I want to make a contribution to the world. Everyone has goals in life, and while some people have goals like "own box seats to the Packers", "pay for my grandchildren's college", and "backpack through Europe" others have goals like "make a difference in the world". These are what you want out of life, and I find your derision of "help the world" to be insulting.
Since academic institutions profit directly from the milling of PhD degrees
The idea that academic institutions make any money on PhD students is downright false. The fact of the matter (and I've spoken with numerous professors/advisors about this) is that "suckers pay for their PhD". This is a direct quote from Dr. Kapoor (http://www.nanovk.com/), who has had 40+ MS/PhD students. Nearly everyone obtains funding from a number of sources (I've only met one person who didn't, and they just didn't try), including:
1 - work on a grant project (if you do your dissertation on an aspect of the project)
2 - RA work (live in the dorms for free, get tuition comp'ed, and get little-$ for it)
3 - TA work
4 - the school itself
5 - their work (full time work/part time school)
6 - Work program (work pays you go go an get skills they are interested in, owe time afterwards)
7 - governmental aid program (non-loan)
8 - grant program/award (NSF or the like)
9 - outside agency help (NAACP or whatever)
10 - outside governmental involvement (foreign government sends people to America to be educated, brings them back afterwards)
Keep in mind that many of these program stack. You can sign up for RA work (free place to live and money) to have your tuition paid for (easy), get a NSF grant (not easy), work on funded projects for your major advisor (very easy), and get a bit of outside agency help (moderate). Of course you have to produce through this time.
Also, getting someone through their PhD is incredibly time-consuming on behalf of the professor and organization. Although the school is compensated for the classes, they have to compensate the student for project work. Then, they get to foot the uncountable-but-still-very-real cost of advising PhD students (~2 hours/week at ~$100/hour = ~$10K/year for 4-5 years) with professor time.
As an aside to the last point, I wonder why blackouts happen so regularly in the US while the are exceedingly rare in Europe. I am in Belgium and I get a "blackout" once every decade or something. I do sometimes experience glitches where you see the lights dim and computers with lousy power supplies reboot... once every few years or so. It suggests to me, whatever the problem is, it isn't technical...
Posting from Florida, most (all, I think) of the blackouts that I've experienced in my life (25 years) have been the result of a minor disaster tearing down a line. Usually this is in the "lightning hit a tree and it fell on a power line"-type of disaster, but includes the occasional tornado/hurricane. Keep in mind, we have significantly-above-average lightning strikes here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_lightning_strikes.png
I experience 2-3 blackouts yearly, which last no longer than 4 hours or so, and usually occur after 7PM (when the daily rainstorms come through). I get a power flicker (brown out, alarm clocks die) every month or so, related to the same issues as above.
Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling