Why does student tuition for four-year, US colleges keep rising (at rates above inflation)? And where do all those tuition dollars go? Why do some students have to work and take out loans to attend the University of Virginia, when others don’t? What does “need-blind” admissions mean and does the University of Virginia meet full financial need for all students? How do they even calculate that? Does UVA really refer to students as “revenue generating units” (RGUs) in its bond prospectuses? Is it true that UVA’s endowment is largely invested in guns and fossil fuels? Is the university, often idiomatically referred to as the marketplace of ideas, a literal marketplace? In this 7-week empirical engagement, we will tackle the topic of higher education financing and its relationship to the mission of the university. We will draw connections and uncover relationships between the goods universities profess to convey (learning, credentials, social capital, cultural and moral development), their revenue sources (student loans, tuition dollars, state bonds, federal grants, and return on investments), and key costs drivers for higher education, including technology, debt service on construction, maintenance, infrastructure, salaries, lobbying, and (paradoxically) competition. By considering various case studies around the University—athletics, financial aid, construction, and federal grants—we will calculate, together, the dollars and cents that make the university make sense. Last, we’ll consider what it means to study at a public university largely financed by private dollars and how to follow the money to evaluate different narratives about higher education’s purpose, challenges, and burdens.