I got a letter recently from the Stanford Alumni Association, encouraging me to join. In addition to telling me what activities my membership would support, and what services I will enjoy, the envelope contained a letter telling me how the SAA was founded. Apparently, members the class of 1892, Stanford’s first graduating class, “ponied up $1.25—a considerable sum back then—to support ongoing contact with their fellow grads.” These days, the Alumni Association has an annual membership fee of $75, or $440 for a lifetime membership.
A quick Google search finds The Inflation Calculator, which informs me that $1.25 in 1892 dollars is worth $24.60 today. So, at $75, it seems like the price has gone up a bit. Not to mention the fact that I’m not particularly interested in any of the member services listed in the letter. Everything I care about the Stanford Alumni Association providing seems to be available free on their Web site. I suppose paying for membership would help support those services, but the price still seems a little steep.
To be fair, the inflation calculation above is based on the CPI, which is only one measure of relative value. EH.net tells me that $1.25 in 1892 dollars could be worth anywhere from $22.40 to $904 today, depending on your choice of metric. So perhaps the Alumni Association is a steal after all. I’m still not planning to join.