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OP-Ed: On the value of a ring

Disclaimer: I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you got a Cobber ring. I promise, I’m not.

“Why don’t you have a Cobber ring?” It’s not a question I field often. I typically shrug and say I’m uninterested. Last week, during the Cobber Ring hullabaloo, I answered a bit more honestly: the rings are simply too expensive to expect college students to purchase them. The response wasn’t what I expected: “Wouldn’t your parents get one for you?”

Let’s cut the pleasantries: a Cobber ring is alarmingly expensive — for parents as well as for students — and Concordia is doing a disservice to its mission by pretending it’s not.

I can beat the same drum we hear every year: the ring events make students who can’t afford one feel left out, the ring isn’t actually that useful for the job search, et cetera, et cetera. My point is more specific: Concordia should not celebrate this kind of spending. I have nothing against students or parents who buy rings — spend your money on whatever you want. Yet there is something dishonest about a liberal arts college extolling this kind of spending, and I think we should all note how much of an expense these rings are.

A Cobber ring for a man costs between $690.95 and $1,102.95. All students think this is personally expensive, but they don’t relate that expense back to typical society. (Fun fact: according to recent Department of Education data, the average family income at Concordia College at Moorhead is nearly 150 percent that of a family sending students to Harvard University. Yes, that Harvard.) So what does a Cobber ring look like to regular Americans?

For most Americans — let alone people in other countries — the price of a Cobber ring is an exorbitant amount of money. According to an October 2015 Google Consumer Survey, 62 percent of Americans have under $1,000 saved. This is not just young people, not just students, but all Americans. A more representative May 2015 Federal Reserve study found 43 percent of Americans would not have the savings to meet an unexpected expense of $400 — less than half the price of some Cobber rings. This fragility of most Americans’ savings has at least one Nobel Prize winning economist “startled.” Pop quiz: how many Cobber rings are in your savings account right now? How about your parents’? Keep in mind, the answer you hear is less than you’d hear at most places.

I just made it through my fourth Ring Day. I shrug, smirk, roll my eyes and move on. But for some reason, I am finally fed up. A college dedicated to producing thoughtful, responsible students should not celebrate something this ostentatious. Not only is the premise promoting wanton consumerism, but expecting a purchase this substantial is incredibly elitist. Any college that prides itself on sending students into the world would not encourage families to spend more money on jewelry than most Americans have in savings. A Cobber ring is not expensive for students, it is expensive — prohibitively so — for most Americans. There is no nuance here, no room for discussion. Either Concordia is committed to service or it’s committed to sheltering students from how much money is worth outside of the Concordia Bubble. I have a feeling we’ll get its answer when Jostens puts up its banner in the campus center next year.

This article was Zach Lipp, contributing writer.

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