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Consumer Confidential: College too pricey, more will fly, Mickey D's going high tech

May 16, 2011 |  9:04 am

Gradpic Here's your pass-the-Mylanta Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

• Is a college education worth the expense? Not at these prices. A majority of Americans say college is unaffordable and not worth its skyrocketing price tag. But graduates say the investment does pay off. College grads say they are happier and more satisfied with their jobs, with 86% saying college was a good investment, according to data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. A college degree translates into $20,000 more in earnings per year and remains the goal nearly all parents set for their children, the report says. Yet despite the potential monetary gains, 75% of Americans feel college is unaffordable for most people and 57% say it's not a good value. College grads leave school with roughly $23,000 in student debt after paying tuition that has roughly tripled since the 1980s, according to Pew.

• Speaking of things that are pricey and increasingly not worth the hassle, you can expect air travel to be a little more crowded this summer. The Air Transport Assn. says it expects 206 million passengers will travel on U.S. airlines in June, July and August, a 1.5% increase over the same months in 2010. If the forecast is right, travel will still remain below pre-recession levels. In 2007, U.S. airlines carried a record 217 million summer travelers. Major airlines have increased fares seven times since the start of the year as fuel prices rose.

• Ronald McDonald, meet George Jetson. Mickey D's is going high-tech by replacing cashiers with touch screens. McDonald's says it will make the move at its 7,000 fast-food restaurants in Europe. The change is part of the chain’s efforts to woo cash-strapped customers by making its restaurants more convenient and convivial. It's refurbishing stores, and introducing longer hours of operation and new menus. The company says that by automating the order process, it will make life easier for consumers as well as improve efficiency, with average transactions three to four seconds shorter for each customer. McDonald’s European stores serve 2 million customers a day. You can be sure if the touch screens catch on overseas, we'll get a taste of Robo Ronald in the United States before too long.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Is a sheepskin worth it? Maybe not at these prices. Credit: Mike Keefe / Denver Post / Cagle Cartoons