Father Jenkins, the Notre Dame president, did not end up delivering those words, though. Earlier on, the featured commencement speaker, Vice President Mike Pence, stole his thunder by issuing a similar order. And Mr. Pence did Father Jenkins one better by explicitly noting how many checks most of their loved ones had written to the university.
Anyone contemplating the full cost of attendance at what is arguably the nation's most prominent Catholic undergraduate institution probably wonders just how big those checks are for four years here. Families with teenagers starting this fall can expect to pay close to $300,000 over four years, assuming costs increase three percent or so each year. Even families with incomes over $100,000 who qualify for financial aid will still probably pay a whole lot more than they would at their flagship state university — easily $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000 more.
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All of which invites an obvious question: In what holy book is it written that we owe anything like this kind of expenditure to each of our children?
Father Jenkins, 63, would seem like an excellent person to ask, and not just because of his priestly collar. While he is not a parent, he is a son, one of 12 children who grew up in Omaha. And while his father was a doctor, his parents put the dozen children through Catholic schools and then expected them to spring for half of their subsequent college educations, that way teaching them something about value on top of the lessons in values.
So Father Jenkins, a onetime prom king, went to work, starting his freshman year in high school. "I probably had to lie about my age," he said. He began as a busboy at an International House of Pancakes and then moved to a hospital job and a post office position.