If you're actually interested in building something like this, check out http://www.cockeyed.com/incredible/solardish/dish01.shtml which documents the process he went through to build the "light sharpener." For spoilers of it setting things on fire skip to the last page.
I graduated in 2008 with a BS in CS from a large state university; probably a middle of the pack program. I got a job offer right out of school for 63.5K. -- So the figures don't seem particularly outlandish to me.
Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?