Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Listen up, snowflakes

I'm seeing a lot of yik-yak banging around the media and the Internet regarding student loan debt.  Said yik-yak usually involving some Special Snowflake who has racked-up five or six figures worth of student loans getting a (less-than-useful) degree.

Seems these folks want the loans they got for their poorly-chosen degree plan forgiven -- which is Socialist-speak for "Everybody else needs to pay for my degree in Gender Studies/ Sub-Saharan Basket Weaving/ Puppetry Arts/ WhatTheHellEver".

It has apparently become such a brass ring for the Media that a significant part of Bernie Sanders' campaign is about Student Debt; and a great deal of the allure of the Nordic Model to the Usual Useful Idiots is the "free college education".

Setting aside the fact that abso-damn-lutely NOTHING is free, we here at The LawDog Files do actually have some sympathy for those poor students who have racked up stupid amounts of debt in pursuit of a useless degree, but -- unlike the politicians or the media -- we have discovered that there is an existing way to not only take care of that crippling debt, but to be actually socially useful.

Seriously.

Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, if you serve honourably in the military for ten years, or as Law Enforcement for ten years, or as a fire fighter (ten years), or serve ten honourable years in any of a number of public service jobs ...

... You can have your entire debt forgiven.  Minus 120 reduced loan payments during that period.

As a "for instance", take this person:

I am sure that the above person will be ecstatic to learn that the Los Angeles Police Department is hiring!  Ten good years street time and that debt goes away.


I am pleased to inform all three of the above that the United States Army is still recruiting.  Honourable Discharge after ten years -- or more -- and all that debt is written off.


Good news, young ... Thing ... The New York City Fire Department is hiring.  Ten years of running into burning buildings, saving kittens, and other karma-improving activities, and your $80,000 parchment receipt will be forgiven.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Granted, you have to be useful for ten years, but it is there.

LawDog

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Useful beyond serving as an example of piss-poor planning? You funny!

LibertarianRN said...

I have a hard time having any sympathy for them. Worked night shift 32 hours a week as a CNA while I went to nursing school. Graduated with three grand in debt. Paid it off promptly. I have no interest in subsidizing their bad decisions.

Sherm said...

You can also, as my daughter did, teach for five years in a Title 1 (low income) school and have up to $17500 forgiven.

Zundfolge said...

Do we really want to encourage these dregs to populate the institutions charged with public safety?

Not sure I want someone with a Masters in Lesbian Basket Weaving pulling my unconscious backside out of a burning building or off in foreign lands slaying Mohammedans on my behalf. Sure they can make me a cappuccino or sell me a MacBook but I'm not sure I want to rely on such people for my life or safety.

And as someone who works in law enforcement do you really want to have to deal with these people in your agency?

Diane said...

Many of the "public service forgiveness" clauses on other than Direct Loans (Perkins, Nursing, Health Professions) give greater forgiveness for working in "underserved" (code for undesirable) areas. Give some of those niche degree holders a lesson in real life.

Peter said...

Heh.

I have three university degrees and a post-graduate diploma. Every single one was earned through part-time study, either through correspondence or by attending night school. Every single one was paid for by me, out of my salary. I didn't have to rely on my parents to support me, or take out study loans. I earned every penny of those fees by the sweat of my brow, and every course and study module was paid in full before I started it.

There are a few professions where you can't do that - medicine, engineering, that sort of thing. For those qualifications, yes, you need to study full-time and have access to very expensively equipped facilities. For most other degrees, you don't. Those who shell out tens of thousands of dollars to live high on the social hog while completing such degrees (particularly the more worthless ones with meaningless 'qualifications') get no sympathy from me. What's to stop them earning their own living while studying?

Anonymous said...

Not a bad proposal, but limit it to a standard eight-year military commitment.

For one thing most student debt is underwritten by gov so mil service can be directly compensated by it. And the rest are just jobs, with more and more of recruits being attracted to le for instance, for reasons not so altruistic, and are actively being psych-eval'ed for the type of us/them mentality that has turned peace officers into trons...I have no interest in subsidizing that.

OTOH if mil service prepares and matures some for jobs in pd's and fd's, the stupid that infects the general population will provide them fulfilling and remunerative job security. But again, those are just jobs, no better or worse, no more or less honorable, and no more or less contributory to the general good than any other.

Bibliotheca Servare said...

My only objection/issue with the way student loans are handled here in the US (idk how they're handled elsewhere) is the fact that student loans are not affected by filing for bankruptcy. I don't find any of the arguments that I've heard in support of that situation very convincing. If it's too risky for a lender to offer student loans to students who might file bankruptcy...then those lenders shouldn't be offering student loans. Simple. Getting a loan to go to school is a fairly stupid idea for most folks, but debt is debt. I'm too tired to elaborate any further, but I hope this is at least moderately coherent... :-) God bless!

Mishi said...

My little sister is doing much the same - teaches severely disadvantaged kids in a remote location because she loves it, and will have the added bonus that her debt is forgiven after a certain amount of years. I'm looking at studying part-time even though it takes longer, simply because I hate being in debt and would rather save up (but I'm lucky to have that option).

skidmark said...

The fly in your ointment is that these individuals believe that not only are they "entitled" but that it is the actual moral obligation for "somebody else" to take are of them. They bought the story that the way to get ahead is by getting a college degree (as opposed to a college education) and that afterwards life will magically drop riches, fame, and the good life into their laps.

It's the "service" in public service that keeps them away in droves. Service is menial. Service is beneath their exalted position of kollidge graduamate. Service is what others do to support them so they do not have to support themselves.

It's days like this that bring out the altruism in me, wanting to hand them a cinderblock to help them learn to swim in this big, nasty pool we call real life.

stay safe.

celeste said...

Except not everyone is physically capable of serving in those occupations. I'm not. I have a bad case of asthma that would preclude me from military and police/firefighting service. And jobs with loan forgiveness programs are extremely hard to find.

I think the thing that gets lost in a lot of these articles about how millenials allegedly want free education is that this... isn't actually true. Millenials want affordable education. We'd be willing to work hard to pay off our loans if it were actually possible. But with the way college tuition has been rising even in just the last ten years, when wages haven't risen accordingly, it's effectively impossible. I think people look at someone with $100k in debt and assume-- based on the fact that well, they got out of college with no debt (thirty years ago) that person was an idiot, or profligate, for going for a degree that costs that much. Unfortunately, that's what basically all degrees cost now. Yes, you could go to a community college. Unfortunately, nobody's going to hire a community college graduate when there's someone with a good state school degree to their name. Half the time they won't hire someone without a master's. It's a catch-22, and it sucks.

For the record, I don't have any college debt, because I was lucky to have a combination of grandparents who set up a college fund, a scholarship, and a job forgiveness program. Unfortunately, most other people my age didn't have my luck.

RollsCanardly said...

I may be wrong, but I've read that the compassionate folks at the IRS treat the loan forgiveness as taxable income. So, just as the happy loan-holder gets notified that the loan has been paid off, they are hit with a huge tax bill. What fun!

IMHO, any degree with the word "Studies" in it is worthless...

I managed to combine some scholarships with working nights full time to graduate debt-free with a BS in 3 1/2 years, starting at age 35. If I can do it, anybody can.

Anonymous said...

It strikes me that some (many?) student loans end up being a form of subprime lending. We have had eight years to mull over the success of that strategy, yet are shocked (SHOCKED!) when the same strategy applied to student loans yields the same result. What did Einstein say about that......?

Anonymous said...

From Anonymous again (will no one shut this guy up?)

So I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Since sociology deals with social mores, what good were all those political science classes? Young and stupid. I won't bore you with the neurobiological explanation for that (he said to a standing ovation).
Time passes. I end up sitting before the Fire Chief in an interview where he politely asks if I have had any Fire Science classes. Since he had my transcripts in hand, I have to give kudos for his poker face. I replied that I had not, but that the physics, chemistry and math I had picked up along the way (perhaps I was not entirely stupid) would hold me in good stead for understanding the nature of fire and the principles of its prevention and extinguishment. Got the job.
Not sure how I would have used classes in Interpretive Dance as an Expression of Gender Identity in a Maoist Context to further my cause. OK to pursue the dream, but life is not a dream.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"I think the thing that gets lost in a lot of these articles about how millenials allegedly want free education is that this... isn't actually true. Millenials want affordable education. [...] But with the way college tuition has been rising even in just the last ten years, when wages haven't risen accordingly, it's effectively impossible."

If you want an affordable college education for the most people, the first thing to look at is why tuition has risen the way it has - and the reason is that the government has been handing out "free" money to every special snowflake that wants to go to college, and the colleges have been raising rates to take advantage of it.

"I think people look at someone with $100k in debt and assume-- based on the fact that well, they got out of college with no debt (thirty years ago) that person was an idiot, or profligate, for going for a degree that costs that much. Unfortunately, that's what basically all degrees cost now."

People don't think they're idiots for "going for a degree that costs that much", it's that people think they're idiots for going for a degree that won't actually help them get a job with an income that allows them to repay that much. Seriously, what kind of job do these "women's studies" majors think they're going to be able to get?

"nobody's going to hire a community college graduate when there's someone with a good state school degree to their name"

I don't know about you, but I'd rather hire someone with an Associate's Degree from Itty Bitty Community College in a field relative to my business than someone with a Master's Degree from Ultimate State University in something irrelevant like Women's Studies. And any company that would choose the latter over the former is a company you don't want to work for, anyway - their priorities are way out of whack, and they'll probably go bankrupt in a couple of years.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

The thing is that, like most things the Progressiv s have taken over, higher education has turned into an expensive clusterfuck. Since the same Progressves have done their damndest to make it absolutly necessary for a lt of jobs, and made people believe it necessary for even more, this is a big problem. Look for a whole lot of attempted distractions from the fact that most degrees are objectively worthless in the coming years.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

I find it amusing that since graduation, my pilot's license has gotten me far more jobs than my degree - and none of them were for flying jobs!

But then, as one boss pointed out, these days a pilot's license means that I'm a motivated self-starter who can work independently, memorize and consistently follow large chunks of rules and routines, and have a drive for safety. A college degree - not so much.


CDH said...

The thing I always see left out of these discussions is the option for trade schools. The VAST majority of kids getting liberal arts and similar degrees would be better served by 2 years in a trade school.

Want to be an artist? Learn to be a welder and weld art pieces in your spare time, or apply your artistic abilities to multi axis machining or CAD designs. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation. You can pursue your dream AND work at a meaningful job at the same time!

But no, our culture says college degree or bust. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

For the record, 8 years in college here, engineering degree, much work instead of much study time (poor grades but got the degree), paid my loans off in 4 years, living large 20 years later.

celeste said...

and the reason is that the government has been handing out "free" money to every special snowflake that wants to go to college

The availability of loans does feed into the raised prices, yes. However, it's not the originating cause. The real cause is that it's effectively impossible to get a job without a college degree these days. At least one that pays more than poverty wages. Colleges know they have us by the short hairs and they raise their prices accordingly.

"it's that people think they're idiots for going for a degree that won't actually help them get a job with an income that allows them to repay that much

You're working from the assumption, like most people in this discussion, that the only people complaining about not getting affordable education are the people who have been majoring in so-called irrelevant degrees. That one photo notwithstanding, unfortunately, this isn't true. Even those who have majored in good degrees can struggle significantly to find a job after college. (It's getting a little better now that the economy is rebounding, but those who graduated in ~2008 got screwed ten ways to Sunday.) And even when they do find good jobs, those still may not be enough to repay the absolutely insane prices of some degrees. My dad is a doctor-- he still has 100k in student loans left despite making very good money.


Jake, I understand that it's comforting for people on the outside of the situation to assume that the people complaining have gotten into their situation by being idiots. Schadenfreude is pleasant. It's just that in this case, it's not accurate. It's a shitty situation all around, and a lot of people are getting screwed through no fault of their own.


(Here is a list, incidentally, of companies that have advertised in the past seeking individuals who have majored in Women's Studies: https://www.pdx.edu/careers/what-can-i-do-degree-womens-studies . They include companies such as the Red Cross, Frito-Lay, and the Girl Scouts, none of which are likely to go out of business in the next two years.)

celeste said...

@CDH:

I agree that some people would be better served by getting a trade degree than a college degree. However, it also means they are likely forfeiting a lot of their lifetime earnings. This is about 2 years old at this point, but it mentions that someone with a college degree will earn on average $1.1 million over their lifetime, whereas someone with a trade degree will earn just under $400,000. That's a lifetime loss of $700,000.

For the record, 8 years in college here, engineering degree, much work instead of much study time (poor grades but got the degree), paid my loans off in 4 years, living large 20 years later.

I'm really sorry to say this, but your experience 20 years ago is not actually relevant to the discussion. Anything more than about 10 years ago is irrelevant, actually, because that's when prices started rising at an exponential rate. College costs have risen ~50-100% percent since 1996 whereas net household income has decreased about 7%, and the minimum wage has basically stayed flat. This link, although not perfect since it only covers one school, gives you an idea of how much it has risen. A year's tuition in 96 was $2,000-7,000 (resident vs non), whereas in 2015 it was $10,000-28,000. This is clearly an insane jump. Here is another article that has good graphics showing how much tuition a summer's worth of minimum wage work could have paid for. In 1996, about 600 hours of work could have paid for an average in-state college. In 2012, it would take 1,100 hours of work.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I would love to know how a person with a bachelor's in English who spends his life working at McDonald's as a cashier and pumping gas at the local station makes more money than a guy who owns his own plumbing business.

The reason why the price of an education is rising is the SAME REASON the price of houses were rising during the recent housing bubble. The government thinks that everybody needs a big, fancy one, regardless of what would actually benefit their situation, and so it takes over large parts of the loan process in order to allow predatory companies to charge more for less. The resulting glut of demand drives up prices with low supply... that, and colleges, like mortgage companies ten years ago, know that they can charge more and *it will still be paid*, because the government is increasing the amount of debt that someone can take on.

See, it wasn't just people who couldn't afford a house without a subprime loan who took them. Suddenly, someone who could afford a $120K house before could afford a $150K house now. Someone who could've had a $200K house could now have a $230K house. More land, more house, more amenities... "same price"! (Same monthly price until the 'no-interest' part of the term was over with, you see.)

That's *exactly* what's happening with college education. Instead of being satisfied with Pell Grants and private loans which could cause a student in poverty to afford a 2-year community college degree, they had to have loans that could cause a student, in poverty or not, to "afford" a 4-6 year private university degree. They fudge the numbers until the monthly payments 'appear' to be the same!

And as supply of college degrees go up, the demand is less in comparison... if you have five people who wanted to be a bank clerk, you might consider the guy with the degree. If all five have degrees, that metric is now useless... and, if the only job available is as a cashier, the degrees are liabilities, because you can't afford to pay a 'degreed person wage' and because the degreed person is more likely to vanish the moment he can find a better-paying job.

I finished my degree just as rising costs started to become a real problem. I didn't spend four years at MIT or WPI like some of my peers did. I got my associate's at a community college, used it as extra leverage to pick up a good-paying part-time job in my field, and graduated from my state university with a Bachelor's in Computer Science... at which point I was immediately hired on by the company at which I'd been working part-time. That job experience during my last two years frankly did more for my employment prospects than the name of the college on my paperwork...

...and yet people are still insisting that a four-year degree in basketweaving MUST BE AFFORDABLE and that it, furthermore, MUST give you a leg up over all the other guys with four-year degrees in basketweaving when you're looking for a job, because you are 'owed' $1.1 million on average over your lifetime.

And that's just not how it works now, and it's not how it worked back then either.

Tirno said...

I'm not sure about the military service part, as stated. Part of the problem is that people with college degrees can go in as officers, and thus screw things up for everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean "tout le monde" everyone.

Officer assessions are usually broken down to differentiate between technical and non-technical degrees, so as long as the annual quota for non-technical degrees is filled first by Academy and ROTC cadets and prior-enlisted OCS candidates, and whatever is left over available for off-the-street OCS candidates, I think we could deal with it.

Ten years enlisted for grievance studies majors would be good for them. I think I could get behind larger world-wide peacekeeping activities just to give them the opportunities to help oppressed people of the world up close.

Or, maybe, if we just set up an American Foreign Legion, we'd have a ready built channel for all those college loan defaulters, illegal aliens and other immigrants that want to skip over the immigration queue.

I also think the other way to cut down on useless degrees with excessive loans is to make the receiving university a co-signer on the loan. After all the beneficiary of many of these loans is not the student, but the university and their bureaucracy. Make the university run the actuarial numbers on chances to default for students with such-and-such degrees from their institution, and we'll see how willing they are to hazard some of their endowments on bad risks.

Old NFO said...

Now, now Lawdog... You 'know' these special snowflakes can't actually DO a job that might cause them to break a nail, or actually sweat... Sigh...

Rick Street said...

+1 Old NFO

Kristophr said...

Old NFO: They can be made to do a job.

A ten year indenture, perhaps? Then sell it to the highest bidder.

Chad said...

The part that astonishes me is that while there are many jobless and barista college grads, there are openings to be had for apprenticeships in the skilled trades. Granting that initial wages aren't in livin' large territory, they aren't bad, either, and assuming they finish the apprenticeship, can make respectable wages. It isn't easy work, for the most part, but it's a hell of a lot more lucrative than Starbucks or McDonald's.

Unknown said...

@ Chad

Getting in the skilled trades apprenticeships isn't all that easy. I know that to get in the Electrician one first you have to do a competitive exam of which they might decide to accept only those in the top 3 percent. Then you have to go through a interview where they narrow the field even more. Then there has to be openings in the apprenticeship school. So that by the time its all done you might see only 20 apprentices accepted every 4 years.

CDH said...

@celeste, what part of working your way through college is irrelevant? It is still possible, and since I also have pre-teen kids (planning to pay at least half their schooling at a 4 year state school) I am quite familiar with current college costs. Implying that college is too expensive to pay your way through 'these days' does a grave disservice to all those actually doing it right now, and I know several! Yes one is doing the military (chaplain) path, another is doing it part time, but it is worth it for both of them.

I also take exception to your lifetime earnings numbers. They don't pass my smell test, so let's break out the math neurons. The average experienced rig welder in this blue collar town (Texas) makes over $50/hr. Similar wages exist for master electricians, plumbers, etc. Even assuming increasing wages (averaging) it is safe to assume a skilled laborer is making over $35/hr for 30+ years. That is $2.1 mil (2000 hours X 30 years X $35), retiring at 50 from starting at 20. Work to age 60 (40 years) at an average of $35/hr for 2000 hours a year (most tradesmen work much more) and you made $2.8 mil. Your $400k over a 40 year career (age 20 to 60) would average to a mere $5/hr. That is below burger flipping wages, not tradesman wages. Basic math folks...learn it, use it before you spread totally false data like it's fact.

Colleges should be viewed through a free market lens. They are providing a service. If you are paying more for that service than it's worth, bad investment, live with it, learn and do better next time. It isn't hard to see the job market prospects for various degrees...the basic problem with the whiners bitching about college costs is that they don't want to work at a real job. Period.

ScribblersDad said...

Students have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to college. During the 60's the notion was that college grads get all the good jobs - so let's make sure everyone goes to college and they'll all get good jobs! Classic liberal schism between wishes and reality. Supply goes up, demand stays the same, prices fall. I'm a doctor, which (guess what, folks!) does not pay nearly what everyone thinks it does. My partner and I used to wonder - if you became a plumber at 18 and were willing to work like a med student or resident (100-110 hours a week in those days), and willing to be "on call" and available 24/7, what could you make? Compare that with getting your first paying job at 30. OK, residency technically pays... but less than $4 per hour for someone with a doctoral degree.
Nonetheless the sheer unwillingness of millenials to sacrifice is astounding. Where is it written that you can borrow money without paying it back? I told my parents thanks for the help with college, now I'm on my own. My wife and I had 77 grand in med school debt, some at 14%. Paid every penny back by eating a lot of mac and cheese and rice-a-roni and working like dogs.

Jon said...

I agree that some people would be better served by getting a trade degree than a college degree. However, it also means they are likely forfeiting a lot of their lifetime earnings. This is about 2 years old at this point, but it mentions that someone with a college degree will earn on average $1.1 million over their lifetime, whereas someone with a trade degree will earn just under $400,000. That's a lifetime loss of $700,000.

I have no idea where this math comes from. Since there's no link to the actual article. But whomever write it apparently can't do basic math.

I am 34 years old. For better or worse I never finished college. It and I didn't get along. I had student loans, but not large ones, and may parents had saved some for me, so most of that got paid off. I paid off the rest by working.

I have worked jobs ranging from Food Service and Retail to Construction, and all the way up to fairly deep IT, I've been a computer nerd my entire life so IT is and always has been a good fit for me. Now, I do work with people who are a good ten years younger then I making almost as much as I am.

But I make almost 50k a year. Granted, not a huge chunk of money, but I live in a relatively low cost of living state. It would take me 8 years at my current wage to make 400k total - Gross. To only make 400k in one's entire career, assuming you started working at say, 20 (2 years after high school for a trade school, and lots of trade school graduates do *way* better then 50k a year after a little experience) and retired at 65 (45 years of work) You'd have to make 8,888 dollars and change a year. If you're working Full time, you're working for the princely sum of 4.27 an hour.

Which unless you're working as a waitstaff and terrible at your job (not getting any tips), isn't even really possible.

Now, If I had finished my degree I would probably have gotten to where I am *much* much sooner. I'm not going to tell you that doing things the way I've done them is the wisest. But some people really need to go back to high school.

And take basic math. Until they can add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Joe in PNG said...

The more cynical would think that the rise of the various Fluffy Studies departments was originally just a sinecure for unemployable college grads.

Sadly, the little dears got it into their little pointy heads that the institutions were all about them and their fluffy headed nonsense. The fact they had time for institutional politics meant they eventually could take over- the STEM faculty were too busy pulling all-nighters at the cyclotron or similar.

So, you get more and more fluffy studies classes and staff- what's the point in being the Prof of Woolly Thinking if you don't have a bunch of TA serfs, or a Department of Woolly Thinking to lord over?

So, the whole thing has mushroomed like the mold in the Delta Kegger's frat house bathroom. And like most uncontrolled growth unchecked by natural predators , we have past the saturation point of Fluffy Studies grads.

What next? This bubble is beginning to implode on it's own. Why spend 6 years and six figures to become a barista if you can do it for free? And why do you never see the former party boys from Delta Kegger holding up whiny signs?

Wombat said...

@Celeste, it is possible to get a job that pays more than poverty level wages without a college degree. I have some college, but no degree (I thought I wanted to be a nurse, but realized later it wasn't for me; I figured it would be best to get a paying job until I knew what I wanted). By the way, I paid off my student loans early. I ended up working as a corrections officer, which I loved (I'd still be doing it if not for being disabled in a freak accident). It was no get rich quick scheme, but it paid the bills and I was able to save money towards future goals to the tune of 30k in 3.5 years. I certainly earned my money, but that's what you're supposed to do. As soon as I was able to work, I got a job and saved for college. I worked hard in school and earned scholarships. This was in the last 10-20 years. I have no sympathy for people who take on debt without thinking through how to repay it. Dreams are great, but should be tempered by reality. I would also point out that if one has time to stand about waving signs in a protest, perhaps that time could be better employed looking for work. I have had many jobs over my lifetime. None were glamorous, but all were honest. The attitude I dislike intensely is the attitude that because one has some education one should be immune from "drudgery". If it pays the bills and is honest, go for it. Nobody is above honest work.
To cut my rant short, I'll sum up with the following:
1) It is possible to avoid crushing college debt, though it will require planning and hard work.
2) A college degree is useful, but not necessary to survival.
3) If you can't do the time, don't do the crime, or in this case, don't incur a debt that you don't have a realistic plan to pay off.
4) TANSTAAFL.
5) The American dream is about the opportunity to succeed, not a guarantee of success.
6) Hard work may kill you, but idleness is almost guaranteed to ruin you.
7) Nobody is above any form of honest work, though individuals may be unqualified for certain jobs (i.e. if you're blind, bus driving is not for you).

CarlS said...

It seems that a majority of those defending their decisions to go into debt for degrees believe it's the job market that's the cause of their continued indebtedness.

Let me quote one of the most prolific - and financially successfulo - writers of our time, Spider Robinson, who tells this story:

"I finally graduated from college one day with a Bachelor's Degree in English. And all of sudden -- you know, one of those V-8 moments -- I slapped myself on the forehead and went: but I don't wanna drive a cab. And there isn't much else you can do with a Bachelor's Degree in English except teach English and I wasn't that desperate yet. So I ended up in the other profession for English majors: night watchman.

It happened that the county I lived in was constructing a sewer and the law said they had to have a watchman on any county construction project even if it didn't make sense. So I spent a year guarding a hole in the ground to prevent its theft. This was a slow year. Not a lot went on. So I read a lot of science fiction: it was the ideal job for me.

One day I'm sitting there reading a piece of science fiction that was just awful. I flung it across the construction trailer and said for the gazillionth time in my life: I can write better than that! And this time, for no reason that I can explain, a light bulb appeared here [he indicates the space in the air above him] over my head of about 150 watts and it shone brightly. There was paper in front of me that was free. [The construction company's] letterhead: if you just turned it over, it would look like typing paper. And there was a typewriter that wasn't costing me anything to run. So -- more or less in order to keep myself from going insane with boredom -- I pecked out a story about where I'd rather be: the ideal bar. The place where they let you smash your glass in the fireplace when you're done."

Thus was born Callahan's Bar, a book that became a series, and which generated a real-life effort to locate the actual Callahan's . . .

(get the rest of the story at http://www.januarymagazine.com/profiles/spiderrobinson2.html )

Janir said...

I actually do. If they can pass the requirements they should get the job. Then reality will quickly slap them in the face and they may realize they are not a special snowflake and we may actually convert that person into a productive human being.

Janir said...

I actually do. If they can pass the requirements they should get the job. Then reality will quickly slap them in the face and they may realize they are not a special snowflake and we may actually convert that person into a productive human being.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

One problem is the number of college kids who have no real idea what they want to do, they're just in college because they are told that they are supposed to go to college.

Knew one young man who was studying political scince and arabic languages. He was fascinated by the mess in. The Middle East and wanted to wade in. Now THERE'S a kid who will be writing his own ticket for decades.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"One problem is the number of college kids who have no real idea what they want to do, they're just in college because they are told that they are supposed to go to college."

^^^^THIS^^^^

One big thing in England / Europe is to take a year or two after finishing their version of high school before going to college. This is something that should be done everywhere, I think. Take a year to get real world experience, and to get to know yourself.

Library-Gryffon said...

By the time I finish my classes and sit my CPA exams (since I'm planning on doing those while I'm in the Master's program, and should be done by summer 2018) I will be looking at about $35-$40K of debt. On the other hand, that's less than a year's salary at entry level, and it's an expanding job market, meaning that I should be able to pay it off in just a few years (not the only family income, thankfully) and then actually get something put away for retirement. Although at my age, I'm assuming that I'll be working at least part time until I die. We didn't have a lot put away, but having the primary earner be unemployed for two years will put a real crimp in any savings plans.

I did try to convince my daughters that they really wanted to be plumbers or electricians and go to the local vo-tech. The kids who go through those programs get out of high school and have no trouble getting apprentice/journeyman type positions and within four years they're making more (and probably always will) than their classmates who went on to college can look forward to. Heck, most of them start out at better wages than their college-educated peers make at entry-level.

At least the one of them is attending the magnet school at the local community college, and will graduate high school with at least a year's worth of college credit, paid for by the state.

~Katherine~ said...

One issue is that while a lot of people of my generation (context: graduated college in 2011) have a "the world owes me everything" attitude, those of us who don't but who also don't have many resources still get pretty screwed.

My parents didn't help me with school. I worked 2-3 jobs simultaneously just to put food on the table, all of them either retail-type jobs, housecleaning, or basic construction. As you've no doubt guessed from the name, I'm a woman, and unlikely to be hired for big jobs, but I persuaded a woman contractor to hire me to sink fence holes one summer...in Texas...in August. Job from hell, but it did pay for my books for the next two semesters, so I wasn't complaining. Oh, and I'm still rather proud of the fact that I never, ever had to go on food stamps.

I did my first two years at community college to keep costs down, then transferred to a 4-year school. I lived in gang-territory neighborhoods to be able to afford both rent and food. $8/hour jobs, even if you work 2-3 of them, don't add up to much even if you're working 30-50 hours/week. Drove a 15-year-old junker. Ate a *lot* of rice and beans. Took course overloads several semesters to finish as fast as possible.

I don't think I'm a special snowflake. I still ended up with 25K in debt just to get a degree that would let me get a job that, frankly, had nothing whatsoever to do with the degree and in which I and my company would have been far better served by my being hired straight out of high school. If I hadn't put in those 4 years, I'd never have gotten that job. I worked my tail off the whole time I was in school, but that was just for basic expenses. I'd never have been able to pay tuition out of what I could make without a degree. I'll be paying almost $400/month for another 5 years yet to pay off that degree. I signed up for the loans, and they're my responsibility. I don't expect someone else to pay them off for me. I do think it's ridiculous that I'm looking at that long a commitment after working so hard just to be able to get a decently-paying job.

Oh, and I'm not physically capable of going into the military or law enforcement. My knees are destroyed; you do *not* want me to be the person chasing that felon down. Nothing but respect for those who do such jobs honorably, you understand, and believe me, DH and I will not pay for any degree for our kids except one with near-guaranteed jobs at the end of it, and we'll also be strongly encouraging any kids so inclined to go into the trades.

David said...

My sister is a nurse and her husband is an electrician. They're doing fine. My brothers are attorneys, one married to an engineer, one married to an incredible saleswoman. They're doing fine. I'm an undegreed programmer. I'm doing fine. We have a mix of papers, but we are all capable hardworking intelligent people. And we live in places where there is a market for our abilities.

Lowell Van Ness said...

Now, Katherine here makes sense.
Celeste, however, does not.
Here's why.
Just to give you an idea, the average indebtedness of a graduate of the University of Alabama is approximately $30,000 dollars. And, it should be pointed out, a lot of the debt incurred by college students stems from attempting to have the "college experience."
(By the way, I graduated two years ago, although not from UA.)
Furthermore, community college is an option--and, generally speaking, costs much less than a four-year college. As to the quality of instruction, it is not much lower, particularly in the gen ed courses.
And, finally, scholarships are a thing that most schools offer. If at least part of your way is not being paid, go somewhere else. This is not difficult.

Gothelittle Rose said...

Ugh. The "College Experience". They can keep it!

At my community college, a bunch of my friends (me included) started a sci-fi club because we discovered that the student government would give us money to see sci-fi movies in the theater and attend conventions if we made that our stated purpose, wrote up paperwork, and roped in a faculty member. We got our paperwork in on time to see Star Trek: First Contact and have pizza afterwards, all on the college dime.

Nobody got drunk, nobody had sex, nobody did marijuana, we didn't ditch class... we did attend conventions, watch movies, MST3K vintage stuff, eat pizza, and got our faculty member (who initially had agreed just because she hoped she wouldn't have to do anything to keep us straight) laughing and joking and enjoying it along with us.

My university had on-campus housing. I was a day student. No clubs... none of them interested me. I came in with the retreads, worked part-time, had my own rented living space, and found out how little I had to spend to amuse myself handily. Walks in the woods, quiet nights at home, keeping a cat.

The "college experience" is the thing that most of its participants think is expected of them in order to make them happy. It rarely satisfies.

Eboreg2 said...

Yannow, if I were president, I would make it so that every college student except for those taking useless degrees is exempt from the draft.

I wouldn't use the word "useless" however, something more like "non-critical to the military-industrial effort".

DiamondD said...

"I agree that some people would be better served by getting a trade degree than a college degree. However, it also means they are likely forfeiting a lot of their lifetime earnings. This is about 2 years old at this point, but it mentions that someone with a college degree will earn on average $1.1 million over their lifetime, whereas someone with a trade degree will earn just under $400,000. That's a lifetime loss of $700,000. "

If you believe these numbers then I fail to see the problem. You incur $100,000 dollars in debt and realize $700,000 extra so pay off your debt and quit saying we, as in those that didn't incur any debt, need to fix the system or help you out.

I couldn't give you a round number of how much I have made since I got out of the military 24 years ago. I opted to go that route instead of college and there were some lean years for sure. Sadly I don't have an actual trade degree either but I am happy to hear that I have more than doubled my lifetime earning potential in the last ten years. I do have a GED so maybe that is the key, oh and hard work may have something to do with it also.

Anonymous said...

Celeste said : "I agree that some people would be better served by getting a trade degree than a college degree. However, it also means they are likely forfeiting a lot of their lifetime earnings. This is about 2 years old at this point, but it mentions that someone with a college degree will earn on average $1.1 million over their lifetime, whereas someone with a trade degree will earn just under $400,000. That's a lifetime loss of $700,000. "

The problem with taking that to mean that a college degree --any college degree-- is worth 100s of thousands of dollars in lifetime earnings over a trade degree is the word "average". A college degree in English won't do much to get you a great job. But a MD or a JP or an MBA or an Engineering degree from a good school can make you literally multiple millions in lifetime earnings. All those doctors and lawyers and upper-eschelon managers and engineers skew the average horribly in favor of the college degree-holders. And the trade school numbers are skewed as well, but they're skewed low. Around here, a welder who knows what he's doing can make 20 or 22 dollars an hour right after he's certified, and find full-time work, too -- 40 hours or more a week -- for an annual income of 40,000+, assuming he takes two weeks vacation each year. He makes that "average lifetime income" in ten years. But he's not likely to stay in that job for 30 or 40 years. He may decide to start his own business, or retire early or just do something else after ten or fifteen years.

"Averages" are tricksy things. If you have ten dollars, and I have five dollars, and Joe over there has 1500 dollars, we each have 505 dollars, on average.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I've noticed an entire subset of people who seem to have a problem correlating cause and effect.

Sometimes it's justified. Apparently, for instance, offering a low-cost home to a homeless person can often engender the kind of responsibility that helps one keep a home. But liberals in particular make it ridiculous. People with health insurance seem to have better access to affordable health care, thus, they believe, if you give everybody health insurance, everybody will have better access to affordable health care... regardless of how much the health insurance actually *covers*. Now we're finding, to their shock and horror, that replacing a $300/month PPO with an $800/month plan that only covers 70% of your costs does not, in fact, make healthcare more accessible!

We saw the same thing in 'affirmative action' in colleges. People who attend the top Ivy League colleges tended to graduate with better educations. Thus, if you want inner-city kids to get a better education, you shove 'em into an Ivy League college, right? Problem is, the reason why those graduates got such a good education from the college was the exact same reason why they got into the Ivy League college in the first place... they had a good foundation already in place. If you lack that, you just wind up dropping out when the coursework gets too difficult.

We saw this most recently in the housing crisis, where they discovered, to their utter and unending amazement, that tweaking the rules in order to provide insane loans for people to buy houses they can't afford doesn't somehow result in them acquiring a more stable financial situation! Who woulda thunk!

As 'Anonymous' here has just said, the fact that someone who got a college degree back when it was used as a specialization for a lucrative job winds up with a lucrative job doesn't mean that you can just hand out a college degree to any random person for any silly reason and BAM, lucrative job. The college degree did not generate the lucrative job. The lucrative job had reason, as part of what the lucrative job entailed, to require a certain level of a certain specialization of knowledge that was fulfilled handily by *that* college degree.

Hawk said...

The thing is there is a large defiect in the labor pool for skilled trade jobs. Hell a welder can be making 6 figures out of tradeschool because the need is there. If Id were entering college today Id seriously consider trade or techincal school over the 4 yr college. I went to that took 6.5 yrs. If you read the link there are lots of other jobs such as working for a non profit charity or some of the other aid groups. In which cases you are sacrificing higher paying job for a few years to get the debt forgiven. -a fair trade. Also for people considering it Mike Rowe has an organization that is helping people get trained in skilled jobs.

Whenever you expect the govt to bail you out, which means the tax payers there is a big problem and that mindset is a large part of the problem.

Bayushi Midori said...

...Well, damn. I was proud that my student loan was going to be paid off two years early (eight years instead of ten) because of paying a little over each month. Maybe instead of working four years in retail before managing to get a job in my field, I should have been jumping up and down in front of a news camera and wailing about how entitled I am...

pitdoug1998 said...

African American lesbian studies seemed like a great career path but......

Lokidude said...

It is not impossible to get a good job without a college degree. Ask the journeyman electrician making 50k+ in my state (Utah) or a plumber making the same a welder making 6 figures. You have to be willing to work and get dirty but the pay and the openings are there. The mantra of the Master of Arts seems to be "Would you like fries with that?" The mantra of the licensed tradesman is "I'll be paying cash."

Lokidude said...

Maybe for the Brotherhood. That wasn't at all how it went for me as a non-union electrician.