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There's got to be a better pun than "Class War," right?
December 16, 2011 5:14 AM   Subscribe

The Face of Student Debt: Natalia Antonova stopped paying when she realized that it was the loans or her child. (The response has been telling.) Kristin Rawls demands solidarity. Glenn Reynolds says colleges should pay for defaulters.
"The proportion of freshmen and sophomores at four-year colleges who will default on federal loans over their lifetime is estimated at between 19 and 31 percent, depending on the type of loan and when it was written, the [DOE's] Office of Inspector General wrote in a 2003 audit."(doc)
posted by anotherpanacea (221 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
What happened to the whole 'income based repayment' plans?
posted by delmoi at 5:20 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe they only implicate future student loans.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:22 AM on December 16, 2011


I’m an American success story: immigrant family, great education, international career, husband I adore, fantastic baby who wears little hats with ears

I know this is terribly, terribly shallow of me, but now all I want is to see a picture of the baby in his little hat!
posted by Harald74 at 5:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [18 favorites]


What happened to the whole 'income based repayment' plans?

They're "income based" in name only, if I recall correctly (unless i'm confusing them with the "graduated repayment" plans). You play lower the first few years, when your income would be lower, and then they step up the size of the payment over the years as your income, in theory, grows.

Of course, if, like me, you LOSE your job due to a cutback when you have two more years to go on your repayment, then those high monthly payments really sting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Student loans are pure intergenerational exploitation.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 5:30 AM on December 16, 2011 [31 favorites]


They're "income based" in name only, if I recall correctly (unless i'm confusing them with the "graduated repayment" plans). You play lower the first few years, when your income would be lower, and then they step up the size of the payment over the years as your income, in theory, grows.

Of course, if, like me, you LOSE your job due to a cutback when you have two more years to go on your repayment, then those high monthly payments really sting.


They're not available for all student loans, but the current income-based repayment plans are truly income-based. They use your last years tax returns, and calculated at (I think) 15% of "discretionary income" after looking at the number of people in your household, etc. It's working well for me right now, since my ten year repayment number is something like $1500, and I only pay $700.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:33 AM on December 16, 2011


Student loans are pure intergenerational exploitation.

Nah, they're a natural outgrowth of a system that views citizens as consumers. You are just something for others to profit from. See the American health care or banking system for further examples.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:38 AM on December 16, 2011 [32 favorites]


Read the comment by Glenn, a law school professor who thinks we take in students who may find no jobs when they graduate...but hey, that doesn't include law students?
Loans a huge debt but then you have to ask why so much money needed...well, seldom if ever answered but the percentage of administrators added in the past few years to colleges has shot way up while other costs have been kept down via fewer tenure slots, use of more and more part timers without benefits, and prof salaries that have hardly jumped way up.
To cut loans, cut costs for going to college as a starter.
Have you gone to college? Ask your school what percentage of its endowment it actually
uses toward student financial support.
posted by Postroad at 5:41 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK, now I'm back from reading the articles and feeling a bit glum. I'm currently trying to make sense of the US student loan system. As I understand any lender can provide a student loan, which is then backed by the federal government? It seems to be part of conventional wisdom that student loans are great loans to have (according to about.com and other top Google hits), but the articles certainly does not buy into that.

And what are the consequences of defaulting? Shot credit record, I understand, but for how long does that stick? And will the borrower have to go into personal bankrupcy?
posted by Harald74 at 5:48 AM on December 16, 2011


Nah, they're a natural outgrowth of a system that views citizens as consumers. You are just something for others to profit from.

True for some universities, but part of the big reason for the increases at state universities is the anti-tax stances. Since politicians have become unwilling to raise taxes and spread out the cost of the state run colleges across both students, their families, the people that will eventually employ them, and the community at large... Much more of the burden gets carried by the student (and in some cases, their families).
posted by drezdn at 5:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Kids today. I was an amateur, a dilettante, compared to them, graduating in the late 80s with a whopping $11k in debt, none of it from private loans (were those even available for education back then?). Of course, $11k seemed whopping to me back then, and I managed to default, thanks to a combination of inadequate employment and depression. I had no idea how good I had it.
posted by rtha at 5:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some people kill themselves after defaulting on student loans.

I've read stories about people killing themselves because they can't afford their healthcare bills in the US, too.

And then I hear even some moderate Americans toss spittle-flecked invective my way because I live in "socialist" France where taxes are astronomical and I'm a slave to communist brainwashing and something about frogs or surrender or what have you...

I'm alive and healthy. Paid 11% in taxes this year. ALL taxes combined: income, property, and "inhabitant" (basically city taxes). I can take any bus or tram I want in a 50-mile radius for 50 cents/day. And there are trains. I can't be fired without damn good cause. There are laws for a liveable minimum wage based on the 35-hour workweek, which is itself enforced by laws on the maximum number of hours a week you can work, mandatory rest time, and mandatory vacation (on top of which more vacation can be given by employers, but it can never be reduced).

Oh and I paid 400 euros in tuition for my Masters degree. They don't have Teaching Assistantships here for Masters degrees. You don't need them. Undergrad degrees (in public universities) are even cheaper: 200-300 depending. For the entire year. I'm sure someone will come along and say "but" about something, but seriously? I don't know anyone who is committing suicide over student loans or healthcare! This seems to be an overriding benefit!!

I write my rep and senators, sign petitions left and right, talk with friends in the US, and support the Occupy movement. Damn, things need to change.

On preview, Harald74 asks:
will the borrower have to go into personal bankrupcy?

This is the reason people are committing suicide over these loans: bankruptcy laws in the US do not cover student loans. On purpose. Student loans are with you FOR LIFE. (This is illegal in all EU countries, IIRC.)
posted by fraula at 5:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [134 favorites]


And what are the consequences of defaulting? Shot credit record, I understand, but for how long does that stick? And will the borrower have to go into personal bankrupcy?

It is incredibly difficult (almost impossible if you haven't become disabled) to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. So, the consequence of defaulting is that it shoots your credit rating, and then they keep coming after you for the money, including wage garnishment, etc. It's basically the worst possible outcome.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harald74: And what are the consequences of defaulting? Shot credit record, I understand, but for how long does that stick? And will the borrower have to go into personal bankrupcy?
Defaulting in the context of a student loan does not mean the debt goes away. Defaulting means they start garnishing your wages and tax refunds.

The hit to the credit report is ongoing as long as you're failing to make payments on the student loan.

Finally, student loans can not be discharged in bankruptcy.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:56 AM on December 16, 2011


And what are the consequences of defaulting?

Well, for one, if one of your parents had to co-sign on the loan, they become liable for the debt.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:57 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Student loans (and it's really inadequate to talk about them without talking about the inter-related phenomenon of rising tuition costs) are a way for today's institutions to lay yet another claim on tomorrow's income.

FWIW, I totally agree that something fundamental and scary happened when everyone started referring to citizens as consumers. We're all just marks now.
posted by gauche at 5:58 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


hey Harald74,

I think its worse than that. The loans are not actually expunged in cases of Bancruptcy. Further the act of defaulting will then incurr additional fees, and can allow the lender to increase the Interest Rate.

(not i'm Australian, and i'm glad I managed to pay off my HECS debt, although luckily it was a government system and pegged to inflation rather than incurring interest.)

Some of these loans appear to be charging 9+ % p.a. which is horrific. the current interbank rates are at, what ~1% and these banks are just are making a killing on students. I presume its next to impossible to borrow from another bank at current market rates to repay.
posted by mary8nne at 5:59 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


To clarify for Harald74, student loans are not literally not covered by bankruptcy laws. They can be discharged with a showing of undue hardship, which is so difficult to make as to be basically impossible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:01 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heck, I defaulted on $5000 of student loans back in the '80s. Paid them back eventually but not before the IRS started taking money out of my paycheck directly. Killed my credit score for a while but that's all been cleared up by now.
posted by octothorpe at 6:01 AM on December 16, 2011


something about frogs or surrender or what have you...

Go surrender to some frog legs. Freedom Fries.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:01 AM on December 16, 2011


Student loans are pure intergenerational exploitation.

They used to call it indentured servitude.
posted by empath at 6:04 AM on December 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


I had four years at a private liberal arts college and graduated with about $1500 of debt, which I paid off in a lump sum 6 months post-graduation.

Not saying that everyone can get scholarships, jobs, etc, but it can be done. School is expensive, but it isn't impossible.
posted by litnerd at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2011


This thread needs some IBRinfo.org. Sallie Mae loans like the person in the post has are not directly eligible for the new IBR, ICR and PLSF programs. She would have to consolidate first, possibly at a substantially higher rate, since 2006 was the era of 2.0% loan rates. This person is getting incredible bad advice (or overreacting and not asking anyone for advice at all). She only has 35k? That's it? If she has a job, she needs to consolidate into the Direct program and apply for IBR. 35k is completely manageable and nothing to wreck your credit over, plenty of people are getting by on far heavier debt loads.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will probably never say this again in my life, btw.

"I agree with Glenn Reynolds."
posted by empath at 6:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


It makes perfect sense for student loans not to be discharged in bankruptcy.

First, consider what sort of credit would be available if student loans were readily discharged. You would expect interest rates akin to credit cards, maybe higher (20%+) and you would further expect rigorous underwriting of your income prospects and bankruptcy risk -- lots of loans for people who want to get an MBA, no loans for people who want to get a BA in social work. (I support some intelligent curtailment of student loans to impose some cost discipline on colleges and universities, but I think we want this to be a careful policy decision, not one made by the same computers that calculate FICO scores and car insurance rates.)

Second, more generally, non-discharge analogizes student loans to mortgages, car loans, and other debt incurred to acquire (and secured in) productive assets: you don't get to keep the asset unless you satisfy the debt. The productive asset financed student loans is you, and unless you want debtors prisons back, you can't be seized for non-payment -- making non-dischargability the least-bad option.
posted by MattD at 6:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


The feedback loop on student loans is fundamentally broken. There's no incentive for the service provider (the colleges) to lower costs or provide competitive services, so they can keep jacking up the prices. Society in this country says "No degree? Have fun flipping burgers!", so there's enormous pressure to go to college. The loans are at usurious rates, and there's no getting out of them if you don't get that job you were promised you'd get after college, or if it doesn't actually pay as much as it takes to cover those loans.
When I was growing up the bogeyman was the Red Menace. Nobody seems to recognize that now that we've gotten past that we're doing just great screwing ourselves, and especially our children. We're not eating our seed corn, we're eating our young.
posted by Runes at 6:15 AM on December 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


First, consider what sort of credit would be available if student loans were readily discharged. You would expect interest rates akin to credit cards, maybe higher (20%+) and you would further expect rigorous underwriting of your income prospects and bankruptcy risk -- lots of loans for people who want to get an MBA, no loans for people who want to get a BA in social work.

Yes, less money would be available for student loans. And fewer colleges would be able to sell worthless degrees at extortionate prices to gullible 18 year-olds.

I think this is a good thing.
posted by empath at 6:17 AM on December 16, 2011 [28 favorites]


There's no incentive for the service provider (the colleges) to lower costs or provide competitive services, so they can keep jacking up the prices.

Is there really that much waste at colleges that costs could be cut 25 or 50%?
posted by smackfu at 6:18 AM on December 16, 2011



I was lucky. For undergrad I attended State Schools at about $360 per semester. I didn't even know that loans were an option. I was too ignorant to get in debt. Instead I worked full time while going to school and paid in cash. The only reason was because the tuition was manageable. I got as many books as I could out of the library and I would frequently sit on the floor in the aisles of the Student Bookstore doing homework in books I couldn't afford.

The same crappy state schools (Arizona State and San Francisco State) now charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $12,000 per year. In the past 25 years, I don't think inflation can account for such a large jump in cost.

The Student Loan bubble is the next catastrophic economic shock on the horizon. What if EVERYONE defaulted?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:18 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


What happened to the whole 'income based repayment' plans?

The catch is that, for qualifying loans, it changes the terms to a 30 yr repayment... you can do the math on how much more you end up paying for the loan. Plus, since they are rewriting your loans, depending on which era your loans come from the general terms, conditions, and protections will likely be different. You are going to have to read (and understand) some very fine print to figure out what you are agreeing to going into IBR.

And, the conditions for income based forgiveness are unlikely to be met.

If everyone stopped paying, the industry would have to change. Since these loans are essentially nondischargeable, this is the only tool borrowers have to renegotiate.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:21 AM on December 16, 2011


Oh and I paid 400 euros in tuition for my Masters degree. They don't have Teaching Assistantships here for Masters degrees. You don't need them. Undergrad degrees (in public universities) are even cheaper: 200-300 depending. For the entire year. I'm sure someone will come along and say "but" about something, but seriously? I don't know anyone who is committing suicide over student loans or healthcare! This seems to be an overriding benefit!!

Yeah, but you need to be able to speak French and willing to live in a foreign country to get an education in France, don't you? I'm sure most students would rather kill themselves.
posted by sour cream at 6:22 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]



The same crappy state schools (Arizona State and San Francisco State) now charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $12,000 per year. In the past 25 years, I don't think inflation can account for such a large jump in cost.


The cost hasn't inflated that much. It's a direct result of deliberate decisions to defund public higher education. Thank-you Ronald Reagan.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:24 AM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was reminiscing with a fellow graduate of state public schools (him, U Montana) who told me that when he graduated seven years ago he was paying $1K a semester.

Oh, times have changed.
posted by Vhanudux at 6:25 AM on December 16, 2011


Yes, less money would be available for student loans. And fewer colleges would be able to sell worthless degrees at extortionate prices to gullible 18 year-olds.

I think this is a good thing.
Exactly. Schools have been jacking up tuition rates exorbitantly over the past few years, because they know students will be able to 'afford' them with loans, whether or not they can actually afford to pay back the loans or not.
The Student Loan bubble is the next catastrophic economic shock on the horizon. What if EVERYONE defaulted?
Student loan debt is federally guaranteed for the most part, so lenders wouldn't even lose anything.
posted by delmoi at 6:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I graduated from High School in the '70s-- and there were no student loans because credit was much harder to come by. I had a financial package from a private University that included grants, scholarships, and $1000 a year to be covered by my mother. She said "No" and that was it. I didn't know there was any other alternative. So I lived at home and went to CSULB-- which I hated. But at least my mother and I did not end up with a mountain of debt.

Our society as a whole has become twisted by easy credit. New homes, new cars, fancy electronics all financed and it has hurt the middle and lower classes hard. Who has savings any more? The big financial goal for families these days is just to pay your credit cards off. I wish there was some way to end easy loans for college without hurting everyone-- but maybe if we all just stopped the borrowing there would be more on-the-job training and college tuition would be forced to come down.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:29 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there really that much waste at colleges that costs could be cut 25 or 50%?

In the 12 years since I was a freshman in college, the tuition at my alma mater (a private college) has increased by over 100%. It is still a fine school. However, it is not worth twice as much as it was when I attended. Frankly, if I were a high school senior today, there is no way I'd even consider it. And based on the facilities and what the school provides, I can see pretty much no reason why it should cost that much more.

The question should not be, "is there really that much waste?". The question should be, "what improvements have schools made that justify a doubling (or more) of tuition in barely a decade?".
posted by tocts at 6:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I graduated from High School in the '70s-- and there were no student loans because credit was much harder to come by.

Whaaaa????
I graduated high school in '76 and I most certainly took a Federal student loan to cover college.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 AM on December 16, 2011


It does kind of sound like she has had a cascading effect of some bad advice and imperfect decisions, plus maybe some unrealistic thinking. (If I was sitting on $35k of loans, I doubt that "freelance journalist" would be my first though, you know?) I graduated with about half of that in loans almost 20 years ago and lived super lean, including working two jobs, in order to pay it off within a couple of years. So, yay me? That's an approach that works great for some people in some situations; it's not a solution to the entire problem of student debt.

I also think it's 100 percent shitty that we expect uninformed 18 year olds to make a key financial decision (how much to borrow for a degree) that will structure the rest of their life. There should be some kind of feedback mechanism for the institution -- a school whose graduates get jobs and repay their loans should be rewarded, and a place that graduates a bunch of defaulters should have its access to loans cut off.

And if that is 100 percent shitty, I think it is an order of magnitude worse that older generations, who benefited from large public subsidies to have cheap access to good schools are now supporting lower taxes and less public support, which fucks anyone younger.
posted by Forktine at 6:33 AM on December 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


The first person profiled (with the child) - originally owed something like $37,000. She has paid $23,000, but still "owes" 35,000.

This is pure, blood-sucking usury. We need interest-free student loans.
posted by jb at 6:34 AM on December 16, 2011 [58 favorites]


I think most people have the cause and effect of high student debt balances and high tuition rates backwards. Debt balances are not high because tuition is high. Tuition is high because debt balances are high.

In other words, the governments willingness to fund or guarantee tuition allows university's to raise tuition rates because the ability of the student to pay a higher amount is increased. For example, without a government guarantee or subsidy, a school might be only able to charge $8000 per semester and hope to fill every class. With a $4000 government subsidy though, the school might be able to charge $12000 per semester and fill every class.

The same thing happened to housing prices not too long ago. Government loan guarantees (or the lowering of interest rates through the purchase of mortgages) flooded the housing market. The ability of home buyers to pay a higher price increased and sellers adjusted their prices higher. The same thing also happens on a macro-scale, it is called inflation. Printing more money raises prices.

Student debt is high because tuition is high. Tuition is high because the government will pay for it (but only in the short term.)
posted by otto42 at 6:35 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Really the Federal Government is subsidizing a couple things at once through unlimited backing of student loans. 1) making up for the drop in state contributions to higher education by allowing school an unlimited source of funding 2) granting yet another 100% garunteed income stream to financial companies with student loan divisions and companies like the Washington Post Kaplan which creeped up to take advantage of the torrent of unlimited federal dollars.

The cost of those subsidies is locking in a perpetual stream of payments from low information borrowers who happen to be 18 year old art history students.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The faulty assumption underlying all of this is that everyone needs a degree.
posted by unSane at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [21 favorites]


Like others have said most public universities are having to increase direct costs to consumers because that's the only party willing to actually pay for the cost of running universities.

Most states have slashed their contributions to state universities in the last couple of decades while the cost of doing business at those institutions is incredibly expensive. Even if your school's primary focus is churning out liberal arts students that's not cheap. If you are actually a research institution trying to compete for top notch researchers and grants then those costs are stunning.

Is there waste in the system? Yeah of course but to think that you could slash tuition costs at a state system like California or Texas, etc without having a negative impact on the quality of education and research coming out of those universities is ludicrous.

So you have 3 real options: a) let the public university system go to shit, b) increase the share of government spending on higher ed through broad taxation or c) increase the burden on consumers.

We've generally chosen option C but there is only so much you can squeeze consumers especially when those jobs at the end of a 4 year degree aren't necessarily there.

Of course there are definitely problems around the margins with stuff like for profit universities basically becoming credential mills but that can be tackled by imposing triggers on institutions that limit federal backed loans if certain repayment levels aren't met.
posted by vuron at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Once you get to the point of having higher education predominantly paid-for via federally-guaranteed, non-dischargeable loans with income-based repayment plans you're uncannily close to just paying for higher education via some opt-in taxes, except that, increasingly inexplicably, some middle-men are getting a cut.
posted by hoople at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


It makes perfect sense for student loans not to be discharged in bankruptcy.

This is utter nonsense. Student loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy until 1978. In 1979, the bankruptcy code was amended to provide for a five-year waiting period before student loans could be discharged in bankruptcy. Each subsequent reform of the bankruptcy code has made it more difficult for student loans to be discharged.

What should strike you about this is that this timeline is approximately the same as the timeline for the higher education bubble that is discussed in the post. Discharge of student loans is a vital piece of information for those underwriting such loans. Absent such information, it is very easy for a bubble to form, as it has in this case, because institutional lenders -- who are in the best position to price risk -- have no incentive to price the risk accurately, since they bear a tiny portion of it relative to the (invariably unsophisticated) borrower.

If you look at the condition of higher education tuition in 1978, and the condition of higher education tuition now, you would be a fool to prefer this situation to that one. The difference in dischargeability is a key component in the difference between these two conditions.
posted by gauche at 6:40 AM on December 16, 2011 [32 favorites]


The faulty assumption underlying all of this is that everyone needs a degree.

I don't have a degree and I'm making plenty of money, I rent my place, and have no debt. I could be making another 20-30k a year if I had a degree, but I'm not sure it would have been worth the cost..
posted by empath at 6:43 AM on December 16, 2011


Ugh. that should be "Student loans were dischargeable ... until 1976." I don't know why I can't read today.
posted by gauche at 6:49 AM on December 16, 2011


A woman in my office recently celebrated paying off the last of her student loans. She's 54 years old.
posted by weinbot at 6:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


The woman in Russia is misreading her Sallie Mae statement, I think. Her original balance wasn't $37k, it was $46k, because it includes that capitalized interest; part of her loans were probably unsubsidized, which they would have informed her of at the time. She's paid $23k and paid off about $10k of what was in the balance on day 1. That is not markedly different than what would happen with your house payment. Your payment starts off being mostly interest, it eventually goes to being mostly principal. At that payment rate, her average payment has been a whopping $319 a month.

You get a degree, that is like getting a house. They can't repossess your degree, though. The world is not the same as it was in the 1970s. There were manufacturing jobs available in the 1970s that aren't there today. There are probably things that don't need a degree that are starting to require them now, but often with good reason--low-level managers are also now responsible for having more skills and financial acumen than they used to. There are some people who should never go to school, but lots of people still need this system.

The trouble is that people want college to lead to a markedly better lifestyle, still, even when most everybody is doing it. Then when they start getting the bill, even after they've known for years what it was going to be, they don't like the idea that it's going to take a long time to pay off and that they're going to have to do without that whole time. When I finished undergrad, after my loan payments came out, I was making about $200/mo more than when I started undergrad. That was still an improvement, but it was lean living. I did not, at the time, think that I was entitled to default just because I couldn't afford a house or a nice car. I still don't think that. If you've got two professionals both earning a living and you can't afford $300/mo, then you have made some very poor lifestyle decisions.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:51 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is pure, blood-sucking usury. We need interest-free student loans.

For real. I have a credit card with a lower interest rate than any of my student loans. I would have a much easier time of things if I hadn't gone to college. It's the biggest regret of my life.
posted by never nice at 6:52 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


The faulty assumption underlying all of this is that everyone needs a degree.

The reply to this is: it depends.

My husband has a high school diploma. He's worked for 20+ years for the same company (a good, nationally known company with good benefits and an excellent working environment) but he still makes less than $25K a year. Although he's been looking for -- quite literally -- years for a different job, it's been impossible for him to find any work with a higher wage because he doesn't have a degree. We could, at this point, have him enter some kind of technical or trade school, but we'd be back to the same issue: those things cost money, and we'd need to go into debt to finance it (not to mention the loss of his income and the amazing-for-this-day-in-age health insurance benefits his company has). So does he need a degree - no. He's been gainfully employed for many years without one. But his income is barely over poverty level for our family of three, and it would be impossible for us to live on his salary alone - I have to work. We don't live a lavish lifestyle, but it would be nice to be able to be confident we're going to be able to pay the oil bill all winter.
posted by anastasiav at 6:53 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not everyone needs a degree but unfortunately for most people operating without one limits them on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

Yes there aren't a lot of jobs for recent college graduates but there are even less for people without a college degree. Further without a college degree you are much more likely to go through long periods of unemployment in your life.

For people that are coming from an environment where blue collar jobs that can support a family are scarce the promise (real or imagined) of getting a degree and being able to get that promising job in a new career or to get that promotion is incredibly alluring. Alluring enough that they don't read all the fine print and do a cost-benefit analysis on what they are getting.

Should people be more selective in their decision-making process about higher ed? Of course but to say that people should be content with a high school education just because some people manage to succeed without a college education is denying a lot of people a critical tool for personal advancement.
posted by vuron at 6:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder what would happen if there was a way to convert student loan debt into public service. Be on the hook for $x, or reduce that amount by donating your time and skills to something for the public good.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:55 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no mercy or compassion for her; she wanted to go to a name school and required loans that have to be repaid. If she repudiates her loan, she should repudiate her degree.

I do feel for people who cannot afford higher education, but you know what? There are a bunch of great community colleges where you can get a reasonably priced education.

Another great idea is to bust your ass in high school, get good grades, and apply for merit scholarships; it worked for me.
posted by Renoroc at 6:55 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


gracedissolved, try $2,000 a month between two professionals, only one of whom was working for two years -- and not, I hasten to add, for any lack of trying on the other's part. It's not like a car. It's not even like a house, because with a degree you still have to pay for a house if you don't like sleeping in the rain.
posted by gauche at 6:55 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another shocking thing about student loans is that there is no statute of limitations. Stop paying your credit card? Credit card can't collect after six years.* Stop paying your student loans? They can come after you until you're 90.

*In New York State, subject to actions that trigger the SOL.
posted by Mavri at 6:56 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I graduated high school in '76 and I most certainly took a Federal student loan to cover college

I meant private loans and credit cards. I just remember my mother said she wasn't going to sign any loan documents and I would have to forget about moving away to college. I sure could have used the internet back then to help me figure things out, but I really was in the dark.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2011


I have no mercy or compassion for her; she wanted to go to a name school and required loans that have to be repaid. If she repudiates her loan, she should repudiate her degree.

I do feel for people who cannot afford higher education, but you know what? There are a bunch of great community colleges where you can get a reasonably priced education.

Another great idea is to bust your ass in high school, get good grades, and apply for merit scholarships; it worked for me.


Ah yes, merit scholarships, which will be used by the school to justify reducing your finanical aid award (the grants, not the loans, of course). Of course, we wouldn't people pulling themselves up by free bootstraps would we?

To drop the sarcasm, your attitude is disgusting.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2011 [55 favorites]


I have no mercy or compassion for her; she wanted to go to a name school and required loans that have to be repaid. If she repudiates her loan, she should repudiate her degree.

Ooh! Ooh! Is that on the table? I have a nice juicy J.D. from a nationally known school that I would give up in a heartbeat for loan forgiveness.

Oh, you were just being snarky and unhelpful.
posted by gauche at 6:59 AM on December 16, 2011 [49 favorites]


If she repudiates her loan, she should repudiate her degree.

Ha, yeah, I'm with gauche. I'd happily tear up my JD in exchange for my money back.
posted by jedicus at 7:00 AM on December 16, 2011 [22 favorites]


Especially since JDs can sometimes be a negative on a resume, thus exacerbating the problem.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not everyone needs a degree but unfortunately for most people operating without one limits them on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

You can get an IT certification for a few thousand dollars which will get your foot in the door. After that, not having a degree is going to limit your options to an extent, but you will be comfortably middle class.
posted by empath at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


For people that are coming from an environment where blue collar jobs that can support a family are scarce

My husband barely graduated from high school (his English teacher gave him a D rather than the F he deserved) and started working for the Post Office at 21 just like his father and uncle and cousins. He makes well over $50,000 a year. Unfortunately the future is not so bright...
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2011


I do feel for people who cannot afford higher education, but you know what? There are a bunch of great community colleges where you can get a reasonably priced education.

As otto42 points out above, higher education would be a lot more affordable if student loans were done differently. As I point out above, we can actually know empirically this because, when student loans were dischargeable, higher education was cheaper.
posted by gauche at 7:03 AM on December 16, 2011


"know empirically this" what is wrong with me today?
posted by gauche at 7:05 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a bunch of great community colleges where you can get a reasonably priced education.

In California, community college tuition - excuse me, I mean fees - are going up up up and it's getting harder and harder for students to get the classes they need to get their degrees or the credits they need to transfer into the UC or CSU systems, where fees are going up even higher and faster, and where it can also be difficult to get the classes you need to graduate in some reasonable period of time.
posted by rtha at 7:05 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


A woman in my office recently celebrated paying off the last of her student loans. She's 54 years old.

I am currently scheduled to pay off my last loan at age 64 (I am fortunate that they are at low rates, but that means no incentive to pay early). That'll be what, ten or fifteen years before retirement?
posted by exogenous at 7:06 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a bunch of great community colleges where you can get a reasonably priced education.

Most community colleges will only allow you to get an A.A.-- you then have to transfer to a four year college to get a B.A. These days it is even tough to get into a community college because they are all so jammed with students who have the same idea. I know because I have an 18 year old daughter.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:06 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


IT certificates and working at the post office and such might be the smart choice, but you won't get that advice out of anyone, will you? Fresh out of high school all adults you know will urge you to get a degree (with debt). Hard for someone that young to go against all advice.
posted by Harald74 at 7:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


exogenous, you won't retire and neither will I!

Some friends were having a conversation abouthow the MegaMillions jackpot was like $120 million. I said that if I won, the very first thing I would do is pay off my student loans. And then I realized how sad that is.
posted by weinbot at 7:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


A woman in my office recently celebrated paying off the last of her student loans. She's 54 years old.

Isn't the normal term for a student loan 10 years?
posted by smackfu at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't the normal term for a student loan 10 years?

Only if you borrowed less than $10,000 at ~3%.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 7:11 AM on December 16, 2011


Fun thing I learned a few months ago: most jobs that require security checks won't clear someone with a lot of debt because they are a possible information leak risk (capable of being bribed is the thought, I suppose).

So you go into debt getting the degree(s) that these high-level positions require and.....
posted by troika at 7:12 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can get an IT certification for a few thousand dollars which will get your foot in the door. After that, not having a degree is going to limit your options to an extent, but you will be comfortably middle class."

Possibly but in my experience more and more IT shops look for degree and work experience. Certifications seem to be the gravy on the top.

I'm not saying that someone can't get into a decent job with a mix of work experience and certs but that for someone coming out of high school with no experience plunking down a ton of cash on a CCNA or an MCSE isn't a guaranteed payoff by any means.
posted by vuron at 7:12 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also think it's 100 percent shitty that we expect uninformed 18 year olds to make a key financial decision (how much to borrow for a degree) that will structure the rest of their life.

I don't know why the parents aren't more involved. Do they just see the bill that says $15k in loans per year and their child's desire for a humanities degree, and just go "Oh well, Johnny is fucked, eh?"
posted by smackfu at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2011


And if that is 100 percent shitty, I think it is an order of magnitude worse that older generations, who benefited from large public subsidies to have cheap access to good schools are now supporting lower taxes and less public support, which fucks anyone younger.

I'm starting a list of things my parents' generation had that my kids won't.

Natural resources, the liveable environment, retirement accounts, home ownership, health insurance, functioning local, state, and especially Federal government, walkable cities, neighborhoods, sensible copyright terms, higher education.
posted by gauche at 7:15 AM on December 16, 2011 [39 favorites]


Visualizing Bureaucracy
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:15 AM on December 16, 2011


Possibly but in my experience more and more IT shops look for degree and work experience.

Still, a state school tech or engineering degree is definitely much more financially prudent than a private school humanities degree. It's generally a terminal degree for practical purposes and there are jobs out there. And the debts to income ratio should be reasonable.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 AM on December 16, 2011


Fresh out of high school all adults you know will urge you to get a degree (with debt). Hard for someone that young to go against all advice.

Oh, I know. But we should be encouraging trade schools for the vast majority of people leaving high school, imo, and stop treating it as low class or a backup option. It's entirely an honorable choice.
posted by empath at 7:16 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


smackfu: My experience and that of many of my friends (late 20s) is that our parents were able to pay for their own education so we should be able to, too. They don't realize that tuition inflation is such a problem.
posted by troika at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do they just see the bill that says $15k in loans per year and their child's desire for a humanities degree, and just go "Oh well, Johnny is fucked, eh?"

I don't know if it's still the case, but for many people, the belief is still that it doesn't matter what you major in, it just matters that you have a degree. This isn't true anymore, and it was only true for a brief while (basically back when degrees were just a class marker), but for those parents who still think that their snowflake will do just fine as long as they have a piece of paper, the loan scheme is pretty dangerous.

Oh, I know. But we should be encouraging trade schools for the vast majority of people leaving high school, imo, and stop treating it as low class or a backup option. It's entirely an honorable choice.

Beyond honorable, it's often a flat-out wiser choice. Many trades pay better than white collar work. If you're willing to miss out on the College Experience™, it would be a much better idea to get your feet wet in a trade, and then to do night school for a bachelors (or bach + masters) some years down the line.

Of course, that's my adult hindsight and overblown superego talking. Being an 18-year-old who needs to get the hell out of town now is a powerful urge.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:20 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


There's actually a lot more to this than has been discussed here. One of the biggest problems, in my opinion, is that for lenders there's not really that much incentive for them to make it possible for borrowers to pay back their loans once they've had some difficulty. The loans are guaranteed anyway, and, worse, there's a whole secondary industry that makes all its money off of collection fees for those which are recovered. This is, I suspect, part of why it's often so amazingly onerous to rehabilitate a defaulted loan.

I had a friend whose payment was, I think, something around $100 a month when he defaulted. To rehabilitate it—which was necessary for him to be able to, believe it or not, qualify for a forebearance or deferment—he had to pay almost $700 a month for eighteen months.

In my case, I defaulted a good long time ago and I can probably get the amount forgiven due to my permanent disability (though this is more difficult to prove than it was to get social security disability). Right now, they're garnishing my social security benefit down to what I presume is the legal limit it can be garnished (it's suspiciously a nice, round number). I don't mind this so much compared to any money going to collectors, because this goes straight to the Dept. of Education. Anyway, what really bugs me, however, is that interest and penalties on the outstanding amount has, as of early this year, almost tripled the balance. Apparently, this will just keep going up forever unless I repay it, which isn't going to happen. I'm pretty amazed that there's no limit on this. This kind of thing happens with other debts, of course, but other debt doesn't live on forever in the US the way that student loan debt does.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:21 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


anotherpanacea, it looks like Katehi is still banging the same drum. More funding for Universities! (So I can hire more middle managers whose job it is to ensure that tenture-track positions go the way of the dodo).

The Beast That Swallows Its Young
posted by Yowser at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2011


This woman left for Russia because she felt that was the best thing to do for her unborn child.

I am trying to wrap my head around that decision. Brain explodes.
posted by ocschwar at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


" As otto42 points out above, higher education would be a lot more affordable if student loans were done differently. As I point out above, we can actually know empirically this because, when student loans were dischargeable, higher education was cheaper."

Costs for higher education have increased for a ton of reasons since the late 70s. To assume that the bulk of the cost was associated with the change in being able to discharge debt seems to be a bit of stretch.

Does the fact that the lack of dischargability encourage lenders to loan bigger amounts at smaller interest rates? Certainly but I'm not sure anyone would like to pay 20%-30% consumer credit interest rate in order to finance their education either. And that's assuming that there would even be access to that good of rates.

High School graduates without a parent to cosign would be utterly fucked because no bank in their right mind would lend money to someone without a steady source of income or collateral which most students from lower socio-economic brackets don't have.

Now we could go back to a system where most people just had high school degrees and only the privileged elite got to go to higher ed but honestly that system sucked and we don't live in that sort of economy anymore.

So you have to assume that for us to be competitive a certain percentage of the workforce needs to be college educated. The trick is how to pay for that.
posted by vuron at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2011


Clearly a Duke education isn't what it used to be.
posted by litnerd at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd happily tear up my JD in exchange for my money back.

Hell's yeah! The university can have my MLIS back. Didn't do shit for me.
posted by Anima Mundi at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2011


My college has more than doubled in price since I started there 15 years ago and now costs over $50,000 per year for just base tuition and room and board. Each year, they boast about how they are honoring their commitment to students and beating the national average because they “only” raised numbers by 4 percent. And rather than aggressively controlling costs there has been a construction boom on campus – a brand new arena (that replaces a perfectly good one just next store) just opened, a shiny new rec center is less than a year old, and new buildings are going still. In the meantime, it is hoarding cash through aggressively trying to build its endowment, which is around $5 billion.

Nearly all colleges - including private schools - are non-for-profit and therefore are tax exempt. Though private foundations have to spend 5% of the market value of their endowment per year to maintain their tax exempt status, colleges do not. If they did, schools like U of Chicago, Duke, Rice, and Northwestern would be required to spend over $200,000,000 per year. Harvard would be required to spend over $1.5 billion per year. That would be a good start to bringing down costs.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't know if it's still the case, but for many people, the belief is still that it doesn't matter what you major in, it just matters that you have a degree. This isn't true anymore, and it was only true for a brief while (basically back when degrees were just a class marker), but for those parents who still think that their snowflake will do just fine as long as they have a piece of paper, the loan scheme is pretty dangerous.

No this isn't true. We went through this a few months ago. There was a study that examined median incomes by major for people with terminal undergrad degrees and the only majors that were statistically significantly different from the other majors on the high side were some STEM majors that were generally terminal degrees as undergrads. And people who had education Bachelors as terminal degrees on the low side (but that seems a weird cohort as most teachers have Masters as terminal degrees).

The Humanities vs STEM argument is just a diversion from the real issue of college cost inflation (Which is a function of high inelasticity of demand and increased availability of funding in the form of loans and mortgage equity withdrawal by parents)
posted by JPD at 7:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


This woman left for Russia because she felt that was the best thing to do for her unborn child.

I am trying to wrap my head around that decision. Brain explodes.


Honestly, I've had some pretty horrible moments of near-primal panic over the prospect of dealing with my professional loan sharks and usurers for the rest of my life. I can see how one might be driven to make a poor decision if they think it will even just lighten the load slightly.
posted by IAmUnaware at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2011


"Still, a state school tech or engineering degree is definitely much more financially prudent than a private school humanities degree. It's generally a terminal degree for practical purposes and there are jobs out there. And the debts to income ratio should be reasonable."

Yep, there are definitely degrees that offer a better return on investment than others. And people looking to finance their education through loans should look at the availability of jobs in their chosen major. Of course not everyone is particularly well suited towards tech or engineering degrees.

That isn't to say that a humanities degree is worthless but that it is definitely possible to overpay for one. Hell in many cases I'd rather hire someone with a humanities degree than yet another marketing degree.

But fundamentally we are still getting back to the situation where people need degrees to advance socially and that expecting people to be able to compete out of high school with a couple of certs is not realistic.
posted by vuron at 7:31 AM on December 16, 2011


Oh hey! How convenient! I just made my first student loan payment ever... fifteen minutes ago. And I wanted to cry. I still might. It's look staring down a long hallway of sad monthly payments I can't afford and ramen, years of ramen, and I'll never drink again and why do I have a gym membership again? Can a box be comfortable?

I had no idea what I was getting into at eighteen—and I'm sorry, but eighteen-year-olds can't make the kind of long-term financial decisions that college implies. In the grand scheme of things, of average loans, my loans aren't even that much (I was lucky to have parents that covered most of my college), and it's still got me quivering in my booties.

So yes. Yes, I would tear up my degree to get rid of my loans. I'd throw that sucker in the fire if it got me forgiveness from Wells effing Fargo.
posted by good day merlock at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


On the trade-school issue, I would just be worried that, if that became the norm, kids would be shuffled off into vo-tech without much thought for their actual aptitudes and interests.

I think the same thing happens (or at least used to happen) in reverse; I had a neighbor who wanted to go to the local vo-tech. She was strongly discouraged from it because she got good grades and therefore was "too smart" for vo-tech. Pish.

This was 30+ years ago, and I would guess that there was some administrative sexism in the way of her chosen path. And she would have faced the same sexism in her chosen field - not that she wouldn't have faced it 30+ years ago, say, in law school. But I found it so odd at that time that she wouldn't be encouraged to take the course of study that appealed to her most.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:35 AM on December 16, 2011


Have we reached Peak Education®?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 7:36 AM on December 16, 2011


Welcome to the club, good day merlock. Just wait until some spoiled rotten trust fund kid casually mentions that they're getting their Masters in their home city because they "don't want to go into debt." You'll want to kill the world.
posted by Yowser at 7:36 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


eighteen-year-olds can't make the kind of long-term financial decisions that college implies. In the grand scheme of things

Yeah, and keep in mind that they start sending credit cards at the same time, so a lot of kids run up credit card debt AND college debt they can't repay.
posted by empath at 7:37 AM on December 16, 2011


The faulty assumption underlying all of this is that everyone needs a degree.

unSane, while that is a faulty assumption and is underlying (heh, lying & underneath), there's also the faulty assumptions that:

(2) Having a college degree will enable one to pay off one's college loans in a reasonable amount of time.

(3) College degrees that are paid with loans need not be career-oriented. While I'm not arguing for 'eliminating the humanities', as some would read that, there are probably many students moving through their college years without of clue of how to make money with their degrees, and possibly some not caring at all. That's fine if you can afford it, but if you can't, it's economic suicide.

(4) 18yos are emotionally and intellectually capable of making life decisions of this magnitude. IOW, we treat adulthood as an all-or-nothing proposition:
* Fuck a child on the eve of their 16th birthday = sex crime/fuck the same kid the next day = perfectly legal. (Adjust as necessary for local majority age.)
* Drink on the eve of your 21st birthday: illegal.
* 18yo signs contract for thousands of dollars, that will take decades to pay off: legally binding, without even the potential of bankruptcy.
While legally simplistic, and the law loves simplicity, it's not a valid evaluation of humans. I'm not advocating for more lax laws; I'm simply stating black-and-white age qualifications inevitably produce unsatisfactory results.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:38 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


a state school tech or engineering degree is definitely generally much more financially prudent than a private school humanities degree.

(And I say that as someone with a fancy private school humanities degree who would have never gotten an interview for my first post-college job if I went to a SUNY)
posted by JPD at 7:38 AM on December 16, 2011


Well they can always get jobs as legal assistants sucking sick.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


dick...
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2011


For those who would throw away your degrees, what changed from the time you decided to take out the loans?
posted by smackfu at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2011


What's the yearly DOD budget again? I'd think the U.S. military can afford to fall a year or two behind relative to its current state.
posted by Behemoth at 7:40 AM on December 16, 2011


These degree threads always terrify me. I dropped out of college because I was out of money and terrified of taking on debt. (and no sections I needed to advance in my major were being offered the next semester due to budget cuts). Turns out it's real hard to get a job without a degree. Harder still to get a full time one with advancement possibilities. Now if I go back, I have to redo a bunch of credits. It's a paralyzing decision.
posted by Garm at 7:40 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


High School graduates without a parent to cosign would be utterly fucked because no bank in their right mind would lend money to someone without a steady source of income or collateral which most students from lower socio-economic brackets don't have.

I'm a lot older than students of today- I graduated high school in 1996- but I got student loans right out of the gate with no work experience and no income and no cosigner. Government loans, not private.
posted by Leta at 7:43 AM on December 16, 2011


Nearly all colleges - including private schools - are non-for-profit and therefore are tax exempt. Though private foundations have to spend 5% of the market value of their endowment per year to maintain their tax exempt status, colleges do not...Harvard would be required to spend over $1.5 billion per year. That would be a good start to bringing down costs.

No, that would be a good way to see new buildings built in half of Cambridge.

Besides, you can't really argue that Harvard is saddling low-income families with massive student loans. If your family makes under $60,000, Harvard is free.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2011


They used to call it indentured servitude.
Not quite. With indentured servitude you had to work at the job your lender gave you, rather than having the freedom to pick any job that allowed you to repay the loan.

On the other hand, with indentured servitude your lender had to give you a job. I bet there's at least a few unemployed ex-students who would have preferred that deal in hindsight.
posted by roystgnr at 7:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


They're "income based" in name only, if I recall correctly (unless i'm confusing them with the "graduated repayment" plans). You play lower the first few years, when your income would be lower, and then they step up the size of the payment over the years as your income, in theory, grows.

That sounds a lot like mortgages with an initial interest-only period to me. If I remember right, a lot of people were sold on those by reasoning that when they had to start paying the principal their income would have gone up.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:50 AM on December 16, 2011


Median Weekly income for someone over 25 with a bachelors degree is about ~1000 week, for someone with just a HS diploma its ~730/week. Unemployment for people with a bachelors degree is 4.2%, High School Diploma only - 8.4%. Not to mention real wage growth has been negative over the last 35 years for the HSD crowd, while its been marginally positive for the B crowd so the spread is growing.

Do the math on what that equates to in terms of premium, and then factor in the lower life expectancy and health outcomes for people with High School diplomas only (because health insurance generally comes with jobs people with Bachelors degrees get, but do not come with the jobs High School grads get - which is you know very fucked up and one more reason for single payer, etc, etc) and I really have to wonder where the "college is a waste of money" crowd is coming from other than via anecdote.

The problem isn't college or major its cost. But its easy to see how we got here.
posted by JPD at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


On the trade-school issue, I would just be worried that, if that became the norm, kids would be shuffled off into vo-tech without much thought for their actual aptitudes and interests.


Oh, for fuck's sake, enough hand wringing about vo-tech. If you have enough vo-tech under your belt when you leave high school, every decision you make from that moment on is that much less fraught with anxiety.

Look at Germany. Vo-tech central, that country. And hardly lacking for educated people. Vo-tech isn't the problem. The stigma on vo-tech is the problem.
posted by ocschwar at 7:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


" I'm a lot older than students of today- I graduated high school in 1996- but I got student loans right out of the gate with no work experience and no income and no cosigner. Government loans, not private."

I was referring to returning to a 1978 model in which unbacked student loans could be discharged. To think that lenders would look at the applicant pool and the high rate of default and charge less than what consumer credit cards cost (and in many cases much more) seems unrealistic.

I personally don't want a scenario where if you are poor, or a minority, or don't have 2 parents willing to co-sign for a loan then you are basically excluded from higher education because you can't get a loan or a full scholarship.

In theory the states and federal government could subsidize education (g.i bill, states contributing higher amounts to universities, more grants, etc.) but it seems like direct subsidies of that sort have dramatically diminished over the last 20 years while the real tangible cost of educating students has gone up dramatically.

I'm not a big fan of the current system but it seems like most of the other ways of paying for higher ed are either unworkable from a political sense or result in a decrease in the quality of education and a likely decrease in accessibility.
posted by vuron at 7:54 AM on December 16, 2011


Costs for higher education have increased for a ton of reasons since the late 70s. To assume that the bulk of the cost was associated with the change in being able to discharge debt seems to be a bit of stretch.

I'm assuming that costs have increased, at least in part, because lenders have been willing to lend ever-larger amounts to students, due to being shielded from the majority of the risk by the bankruptcy code. As I understand it, that was otto42's point above.

Costs will increase to fill whatever the available space is. Dischargeability is one way to constrain the space. Maybe not the only way or even the best way, but it seems like one of the less radical things we could do.

Does the fact that the lack of dischargability encourage lenders to loan bigger amounts at smaller interest rates? Certainly but I'm not sure anyone would like to pay 20%-30% consumer credit interest rate in order to finance their education either. And that's assuming that there would even be access to that good of rates.

I'm not assuming either way. I'd like to see what happens if we constrain -- in some fashion -- the ability of lenders to lend massive amounts with minimal risk to themselves, eighteen-year-olds to borrow massive amounts without accurately pricing their own risk, and schools to count on more and more tuition dollars coming out of their students' future income. Dischargeability seems to me like a fairly elegant way to do that.

Yes, what I've described is completely foreign to the current higher ed system. I don't think of that as a problem.

High School graduates without a parent to cosign would be utterly fucked because no bank in their right mind would lend money to someone without a steady source of income or collateral which most students from lower socio-economic brackets don't have.

This doesn't especially resonate with me because I'm not convinced that HS grads from low socio-economic backgrounds without a credit-worthy co-signer aren't utterly fucked already for a whole other host of reasons that have little to do with getting them to college.
posted by gauche at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another party of the problem is that people don't just want a degree, they want the experience of living in a dorm far away. This is an expensive addition.

It seems to be changing with the news about debt burdens, though.

I am not sure what is objectionable about people who didn't go into debt for undergrad making choices to avoid going into debt for a master's degree.
posted by jeather at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2011


I don't know if it's still the case, but for many people, the belief is still that it doesn't matter what you major in, it just matters that you have a degree. This isn't true anymore, and it was only true for a brief while (basically back when degrees were just a class marker), but for those parents who still think that their snowflake will do just fine as long as they have a piece of paper, the loan scheme is pretty dangerous.
***
No this isn't true. We went through this a few months ago. There was a study that examined median incomes by major for people with terminal undergrad degrees and the only majors that were statistically significantly different from the other majors on the high side were some STEM majors that were generally terminal degrees as undergrads.


Yeah, of COURSE it's not true- of COURSE it matters what you get a degree in, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that high school and college counseling offices still give that "follow your bliss" bullshit advice. Just like they dispense the even ranker "college experience" bullshit.

Example: the state university that my husband works at is, I think, the only uni in the state that also offers vocational certificates and associate's degrees. One of their blockbuster programs was an LPN degree. (They offer RN, BSN, MSN, and NP degrees as well.) Waiting list, grade requirements, the whole deal. We are in a rural, remote area, and when we first moved here, I was surprised at how many LPNs were employed in doctor's office and the like. (I was a public health major, so I look and notice the letters on the name tags.) They are cheaper to employ, but still start off at $12-$15 per hour and max out around $30/hr. More often than RNs, LPNs work part time, which a lot of working parents absolutely love- having one parent work fewer hours but still making a decent wage, plus health insurance.

So it's really win-win. Brief time in school, lots of jobs locally available in that field, high job satisfaction, high employer satisfaction because they can shave a few bucks off their hourly nursing staff wages, and it's work that is vitally important.

They've eliminated the LPN program, starting fall 2012. Because the RN program makes them more money, which they can funnel into the English department. I wish I was making this up.

There is no excuse this sort of behavior on the part of schools. Shame on them.
posted by Leta at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not quite. With indentured servitude you had to work at the job your lender gave you, rather than having the freedom to pick any job that allowed you to repay the loan.

Also, roystgnr, the term was limited; 7 years was typical, after which the employer had to set them free with the means to support themselves (tools, land, etc).

Pretty good deal, as jail sentences go, really. Fucking humane compared to the US sentencing guidelines.

And I mean that without a trace of humor.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


*for this sort of behavior. Sorry.
posted by Leta at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2011


This is one of those threads that makes me want to quit my job, find a park bench, and put up a sign saying that I will teach math in exchange for tips. The pay's not as good as teaching for an actual university, but I wouldn't be part of the problem.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:59 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Disclaimer: I work in Higher Ed. In the state governed by the guy with the great idea detailed in the article I link to below. In our state and surrounding states, Higher Ed funding has been cut severely because (at least for Missouri) it was based on federal stimulus money which has dried up. We cut quite a few positions (faculty and staff positions) to save money and are doing relatively well with dealing with state budget cuts. We aren't super top notch by any means, and I know a lot of our students are financing everything with student loans.

I believe that a lot of our students (the ones not making a 4.0 GPA and building up their resume experience so that they will be competitive in the job market) are in college because they have been taught "it's what you do". I have talked to many of them who go on to graduate school because they don't know what to do with themselves after graduation. It seems like they don't really have a direction or a passion for a certain career. I think those are the ones who are most likely to find themselves in real trouble with student loans...they borrow as much as they are allowed to borrow, with no clear path and no thinking about the future. They are here for the "college experience" and have the magical thinking that it will all work out "later on". Granted, the private student loan business is a racket in my opinion, and the government backed ones aren't a whole lot better. I also think incoming students aren't educated on the "big picture" and no one stops to think about how to pay back the loan and what that might look like.

Here's the article I mentioned: MO Governor considers asking Missouri Universities to loan money to the state. I don't know what crack he is smoking but if this kind of thing happens, you can bet the expenses for students will get a lot higher. The universities mentioned in the article are not 'wealthy' by any means (Mizzou probably has a quite sizeable endowment, but the rest of them...not so much).
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:00 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I graduated 5 years ago from a small private liberal arts college. Since my freshman year, tuition has increased from $24,000 to $48,000.

$24,000 is doable if your parents are poor. I know a number of people who took out $50-60k in loans, got good jobs, and have mostly paid them off. Sure, it's a big problem if you major in something useless and can't get a decent job, but it's not an impossible situation.

$48,000 just completely screws low-income students though. I don't care what kind of job you get, paying even the interest on $100k+ in loans right out of college is just not possible.

And what have they spent the money on? Four shiny new buildings: an athletic complex, a parking garage, a dormitory, and a small classroom building designed by expensive internationally-renouned architects. Not on better instruction, or more financial aid, or anything else that improves academic results.

It makes me incredibly angry.
posted by miyabo at 8:00 AM on December 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


For those who would throw away your degrees, what changed from the time you decided to take out the loans?

When I was about a quarter of the way through my degree. The payments had been structured such that I made the biggest payments first so I was already about 50% into the full amount. They had a rule that f I took a semester off to work I would have had to pay a penalty fee of about half my tuition, that would not go towards my outstanding balance, until I resumed my full time student status. They even charged me full tuition when I was doing a co-op work term.

Now I work in a professional capacity that has some cachet among graduates of my program. I frequently am asked for informational interview and I always advise prospective students to not take that program because it is tantamount to usury. Some still enroll though.
posted by dobie at 8:01 AM on December 16, 2011


I paid for my 4 year state school BS in engineering 12 months after I graduated from school. I had paid a good portion of my expenses off during school by co-oping for a semester in Raleigh Durham, working for the housing department, and a second job for a fortune 500 doing desktop support. Instate, school had cost me roughly $20,000 for four years - living expenses included. Four years after I graduated from there, I decided to do a 1 year culinary associates for $28,000. I never refinanced, kept it at a 10 year repayment schedule, and used every ounce of savings I had had to get as much of it paid off as possible. I think i've paid $38,000ish so far. The only way to keep up with the payments (and have a family) was to switch back to some technical skills (I do the fun end of business analytics) and drop cooking. I now owe less than $1,300 because I was aggressive with my repayment and fucked my dreams over to avoid debt. Fallback math skills from engineering were handy...

Of course, now I have spent the past 6 years doing analytics, and have a solid grasp of a mess of things at the graduate level economics side of things... what I lack are the undergraduate courses in economics. Two schools have pretty much told me it would be a waste of an application to apply to them since I don't have the undergraduate background in economics - experience be damned. Its cool though, I do actually get it from their perspective. So instead I looked around, found a very solid tier-2 MBA program with solid project work and a good angle to it. While I think of an MBA as a degree so overpopulated and as such - diluted in value, I will be pursuing one -that as it is at least relevant to my job. Is it useful within my organization, yes. Is it useful if I move on, probably less so... but hey - it should help get me out of a Sr. role and help claw me into middle management.

Expected payoff for that (payoff determined as salary differential minus school debt): 8 more years of subsisting. It will move back a home purchase by at least four years, barring any rich (haahaha) relatives leave me something - nor is that the way I wish to get ahead. On a positive note: after that, I should be able to own a home 20 years later... at that point, i'll be thinking about the fact that my dad retired at that age...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:01 AM on December 16, 2011



Yeah, of COURSE it's not true- of COURSE it matters what you get a degree in,


no it really doesn't. I matters far far more that you graduate from college than anything else. It doesn't even really matter where you graduate college from. Part of why Private colleges are only a good idea if you get into the top tier, and even then its pretty marginal.
posted by JPD at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2011


7 years was typical, after which the employer had to set them free with the means to support themselves (tools, land, etc).

Holy shit. 7 years?

I can't believe this is happening, but I want everyone to know that I am saying this without the slightest hint of irony: I really, really want to trade my current situation for indentured servitude. That would be an immeasurable improvement for me.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2011 [20 favorites]


Fewer suicides, more murder.
posted by aramaic at 8:05 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


And people who had education Bachelors as terminal degrees on the low side (but that seems a weird cohort as most teachers have Masters as terminal degrees).

That makes sense, though. If they have a Bachelors in Education, but they either didn't or couldn't get to a position where they'd have a school pay for their Masters, then there's a serious problem with that person's employability.

Either way, while I'm glad to hear that salaries don't vary all that much between majors except for those professions where the BS is the terminal degree, the battle's not over. I still wonder what the flexibility is like between those who get degrees in some fields versus others, as well as job satisfaction and such. I've found a nice fat report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, but I don't have the time to comb through it in detail right now.

Still, I see interesting tidbits, such as how humanities majors are employed full-time at a rate of 80%, with 7% unemployment. Given that 58% of humanities majors are women, I wonder how much of the relatively low full-time employment could be attributable to women taking fewer hours because they take on more responsibilities at home. This also doesn't say very much to people graduating right now, as opposed to comparing them to people who graduated 10-20 years ago.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:05 AM on December 16, 2011


For those who would throw away your degrees, what changed from the time you decided to take out the loans?

Do you remember being 18? I do. At eighteen years old I was:
A.) pretty sure I was completely invincible
B.) very sure I was the smartest person alive
C.) completely positive I was going to retire wealthy to my private island by age 30
D.) told by all of the adults in my life that going to college was the right thing to do (I was actually considering taking a year off to work and make some money first, and was convinced it would be harder to get into places/get scholarships after a year off than it would be to apply fresh out of college).
E.) surrounded by peers who were also going to college
F.) absolutely sure everything would work out

In hindsight I don't think I was a particularly unique eighteen-year-old. [Also, in hindsight, I'm still working as a real estate title examiner (a job I learned to do via apprenticeship in the summer between high school and college) and I think went to college full-time while the real estate bubble was a-boomin' and any idiot could make a ton of money in anything even slightly real-estate-related, and then graduated just in time to work for a couple years and then have to ride out the real estate market crash, but that's fairly specific to me. Hey, it's not like I was the only one who dreamed the real estate bubble would never burst.]

Look, the reason student loans are a problem is because they are taking advantage of a well-known flaw in human psychology: everyone thinks they are above average. When someone asks you, at an inexperienced age and long before you've gotten your ass kicked by the world, whether or not you can afford to go into $[massive amount of debt] to pay for an education that will hopefully get you an awesome job later, that's a question that realistically you cannot possibly know the answer to. Professional economists have no clue what the economy's going to look like 20 years from now, but you're supposed to know whether you'll be making enough money to pay back a loan 20 years from now? It's absurd - and so your only basis for answering the question "Will I be able to pay back this money?" is an evaluation of your own self-worth - which, unless you're depressed, is probably unrealistically high. Asking the parents isn't much better - by then they've been out in the world long enough to have more perspective on their own life, but how many parents think their kid is below average?
posted by mstokes650 at 8:06 AM on December 16, 2011 [21 favorites]


Another party of the problem is that people don't just want a degree, they want the experience of living in a dorm far away. This is an expensive addition.

This is an important point as well. Students want better living arrangements...private bathrooms, nicer "suites", etc. It costs money to maintain the newer residence halls and to replace/clean carpets that students mess up each year. That cost gets passed on to students through room and board charges. While it's great to have a nice living arrangement, sometimes I think students need to decide to live in the old cinder block, community shower res hall so that they can put more of their money towards the tuition (I made that choice when I was in school). However, universities are competing for business so they have to have the "latest and greatest" in order to attract students, which brings in the money. It goes back to viewing the student as a "customer/consumer" (which drives me bananas).
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


How I beat debt while getting my B.A.
1. went into army during tail end of a war and got 1.5 years of schooling via G.I. Bill
2. got called back into service for another war and got 2.5 years of schooling via G.I. Bil.
3. Worked one summer and paid my own money for one semester.
Who needs loans when we can have wars?
posted by Postroad at 8:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is an important point as well. Students want better living arrangements...private bathrooms, nicer "suites", etc. It costs money to maintain the newer residence halls and to replace/clean carpets that students mess up each year. That cost gets passed on to students through room and board charges.

Except that it doesn't, because those charges are time-deferred like all credit is. If students had to pay up front for these amenities, they would demand fewer of them. The total cost of these things is hidden from the student, and is borne by a young family instead.
posted by gauche at 8:12 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


While it's great to have a nice living arrangement, sometimes I think students need to decide to live in the old cinder block, community shower res hall so that they can put more of their money towards the tuition (I made that choice when I was in school).

Is this really how it works at some schools? I lived in an old-fashioned dorm with communal bathrooms and cinderblocks (and 2 people crammed into a 9'x 11' room) and I paid the same as the people who lived in nicer dorms. I didn't have a real choice, I just got put where housing told me to be.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:20 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


IAmUnaware: If you want to trade your student loan debt for indentured servitude, you could do what I did: join the Army for student loan repayment. Sure, you're stuck in the Army for a set term (minimum for SLRP was 3 years). I had a merit scholarship for undergrad, but took out a ton of loans to go to grad school abroad. The army paid off all the principal, leaving me with a hefty but still manageable left-over chunk of interest which I was able to pay off after another 4 years or so. On preview, I'm surprised that it took 127 comments for the first mention of going the military route...
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Education for necessary and useful degrees (STEM, nursing, education, medicine, etc) should be free. Every other type of degree should cost money. We need to stop encouraging young people to "follow their hoped and dreams" when those hopes and dreams spell out unemployment and debt at the end of four years. We need to start thinking about what the country needs, and align incentives with that. I can't possibly think of something more important to the economy than education, and we need to start throwing money at that problem. But we need to be practical adults about it, because young people don't know a goddamn thing, and if all you do is tell them to "follow their hopes and dreams" they'll wind up with a pile of anthropology degrees and failure.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2011


Gauche, that's where I think students don't really look at the costs with a critical eye and think about the big picture. They simply see "oooohhhh carpet!" or something like that and go for it. I have had students who deliberately choose to live in the older halls because it saves them money. My point is that students are wanting nicer things but they aren't getting anyone to fully educate them on how much it will cost them, now and in the future.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2011


This is an important point as well. Students want better living arrangements...private bathrooms, nicer "suites", etc. It costs money to maintain the newer residence halls and to replace/clean carpets that students mess up each year. That cost gets passed on to students through room and board charges. While it's great to have a nice living arrangement, sometimes I think students need to decide to live in the old cinder block, community shower res hall so that they can put more of their money towards the tuition (I made that choice when I was in school). However, universities are competing for business so they have to have the "latest and greatest" in order to attract students, which brings in the money. It goes back to viewing the student as a "customer/consumer" (which drives me bananas)."

Also keep in mind how many decisions especially about Athletics are driven by Alumni. Even though only a small number of schools actually make money off of college athletics (especially college football) the idea of no continually upgrading facilities or even cutting back big ticket programs and coaches salaries is pretty much going to cost universities alumni support and giving.

New and remodelled stadiums get high priority as do new dorms (for a ton of reasons beyond just recruitment).

But the cost of a new 30 year dorm is a fraction of the cost of what a new 100 year academic building costs (especially research oriented buildings). So while it can be frustrating to see schools build 4-5 new dorms over a 10 year building (pretty common) while maybe only building 1-2 academic buildings those costs can often be quite similar.
posted by vuron at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gauche, that's where I think students don't really look at the costs with a critical eye and think about the big picture.

Right, because that's not how the human brain works. We will _always_ choose to pay later if that's available to us.
posted by gauche at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2011


Bulgaroktonos: At the institutions that I have worked at, there were different housing costs for different residence halls. The earlier you got your housing contract submitted, the more choice you had in where you lived. That probably isn't the case everywhere though (my experiences are with schools who housed 2,000-3,000 on campus for comparison).
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2011


Education for necessary and useful degrees (STEM, nursing, education, medicine, etc) should be free. Every other type of degree should cost money.

Yes, by all means, let's start a never-ending debate about what is necessary and useful, that will almost certainly be motivated by what groups of people politicians dislike, rather than any kind of actual reasoning. If the side effect is that anthropology, history, or literature become solely the domain of the wealthy and privileged, so much the better.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also, trade schools should be free. Dear god, we need people in the trades. But we (as a culture) makes those jobs out to be lowly and unglamorous, so kids wind up on a college track, even if it isn't something they need or want.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:28 AM on December 16, 2011


But we (as a culture) makes those jobs out to be lowly and unglamorous, so kids wind up on a college track

So they can sit in cube farms doing administrivia formatting Excel spreadsheets?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole point of Federal-backed student loans was that educating young people was a shared investment in the nation's future. Unfortunately, it got twisted into a short-term profit center for banks and schools.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


anotherpanacea, it looks like Katehi is still banging the same drum.

Katehi is still employed? Pathetic, UC Davis. PATHETIC.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I went to a private school in the 90s the bulk of the dorms were all old school cinderblock with big communal facilities and pretty lame ammenities, dorms with suites where unusual and were still pretty much limited to 2 shared rooms linked by a common bathroom (70s style suites).

For the most part they've all been torn down or remodeled to follow the more common model of 2-3 single rooms sharing a living room and a bathroom. The university I work with follows this same model. I venture that just about every university without major space issues follows a similar model because it's seen as absolutely critical for recruitment. Some top tier schools might be immune but that's mainly because they already turn away the bulk of applicants.

Depending on building codes most of the old cinderblock and concrete fortresses are being replaced with wood structures designed to have a functional lifespan of 30 years. That's because building them for longer is simply not cost effective. They are easy to build and relatively easy for universities to finance.

So administrators tend to choose them because they've been told they need to in order to compete for fickle applicants and because in comparison to upgrading a liberal arts building or building a new science and technology center they don't nuke their budgets.
posted by vuron at 8:35 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absolutely, Mister Fabulous. You think the boards of higher education gives two shits about students, OR professors? They want MONEY. And Katehi brings in the benjamins. The saddest part is that because of all the attention UC Davis has received, their applications for next year will probably increase. As will tuition because of higher demand.

Just like how disaster areas attract the eyeballs of millions of speculators on our television sets, now that I think about it.
posted by Yowser at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2011


vuron, the old-style cinder block dorms are awesome for socializing. I can see why some students would still prefer them (I sure did). Apartment style is sterile and boring.
posted by Yowser at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2011


That gives me something to think about, Hal Mumkin. Thanks.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2011


There is a much fairer loan system currently in use in Australia. The government issues the Loans and the interest is fixed at CPI. (HECS / HELP http://studyassist.gov.au/sites/StudyAssist/ - These USA student loans are all federally backed anyway - so the US Gov is kind of on the hook for them.

with the HECS/HELP system in Australia at least you don't have all these 3rd party loan sharks (I mean companies) sucking huge profits out of student loans.

It also helps that the Australian Gov, still supports the Universities a little (its getting worse with time and following the USA..).

The one difference I suppose is that in Australia the loans can only cover the actual course fees. (not living expenses / board / rent etc.)
posted by mary8nne at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2011


This is an important point as well. Students want better living arrangements...private bathrooms, nicer "suites", etc. It costs money to maintain the newer residence halls and to replace/clean carpets that students mess up each year. That cost gets passed on to students through room and board charges.

The state university I went to charges $7144 for housing for 9 months. That's to share a two-bedroom "suite" four ways with no kitchen. In the real world, would you pay $3200 for a two-bedroom apartment even with all utilities included?

In addition, you are also required to pay at least $1770 per 14 week semester for a meal plan. That works out to about $20 per the seven meals that are included. For basic buffet food.

It certainly feels like someone is making a killing.
posted by smackfu at 8:43 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I forgot to mention that the housing rates are standardized, so you pay the same whether you are in brand new construction in a suite, or in a mid-50's building in a double. I would never have lived on campus if I knew then what I know now.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on December 16, 2011


Students want better living arrangements...private bathrooms, nicer "suites", etc. It costs money to maintain the newer residence halls and to replace/clean carpets that students mess up each year.

That is an arms race the universities brought upon themselves. Once one school upgraded the dorms in order to attract students, they all had to get on the train, or risk losing heads.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


fwiw, a new law in California for 2012:

Employers can no longer request credit reports for Californians unless they are working or seeking work in a financial institution, law enforcement or the state Justice Department.
posted by mrhappy at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


can everybody whos like TRADE JOBS DOGG-HOMIE take a look at the state of the trades in america before proceeding




thnks
posted by beefetish at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dorms! Oh man. My alma mater REQUIRED students to live on campus the first two years. $$$$$.
posted by troika at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It certainly feels like someone is making a killing.

...and that would be companies like Sodexho (they're just one of many).
posted by aramaic at 8:53 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Fun Fact about GWU housing: one of the dorms is actually called "Ivory Tower." Fun fact #2: the dorm I lived in sophomore year cost about same, but to get the light in the elevator to work you had to hold two wires together.)
posted by troika at 8:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


can everybody whos like TRADE JOBS DOGG-HOMIE take a look at the state of the trades in america before proceeding


Dude, if you got your trade school learning in high school, without putting yourself in hock to DeVry or other con jobs, you're no worse off than anyone who is unemployed AND without a trade.
posted by ocschwar at 8:57 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This woman left for Russia because she felt that was the best thing to do for her unborn child.

I think she was talking about how she gambled her childbirth situation; she chose to pay Sallie Mae instead of paying for a Russian maternity program that could ensure decent hospital care.
posted by zennie at 8:59 AM on December 16, 2011


JPD: I really have to wonder where the "college is a waste of money" crowd is coming from other than via anecdote.

You are absolutely correct with your numbers, and I agree with you in principle. For the vast majority of people, having a college degree is better than not having one when it comes to wages, and the numbers agree with your argument. The issue is that there are always going to be cases in the margin where the opposite is true.

For example: me. I dropped out of college with no degree, and I haven't gone back. I work in IT (telecom, specifically) and make $40k/year. I have received offers for jobs paying 25-50% more if I were to move back to the Midwest. Compared to my high school classmates, I am doing better than most of the pack. There are a few people who make significantly more money than I do, but I am doing better than most of the people who went to college and got a degree. But here's the important point: I am a fringe case. I don't see the value in going back to college to finish my degree and spend another $10-15K in tuition when jobs in my specific field aren't paying significantly higher for the degree.

The issue that the "college is a waste of money" crowd is seeing: there are more and more fringe cases appearing. The cost of higher education continues rising at a unbelievably high rate. The wage gap between having a degree and not having a degree isn't moving nearly as quickly. If you don't go to college at all, you have a minimum of four years work experience that the college student doesn't, give or take. As a result, the difference in lifetime earnings is shrinking, and this will result in more and more fringe cases where not having a degree is a benefit.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:59 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Besides, you can't really argue that Harvard is saddling low-income families with massive student loans. If your family makes under $60,000, Harvard is free.

first point: perfect price discrimination. The reason that elite colleges are free for "poor" families is because, at every income level, the college is trying to extract as much wealth as possible from, at the undergraduate level, the parents. Financial aid minimizes consumer surplus, maximizing monopoly rents for "school administrators".

SOLUTION I JUST THOUGHT OF WHICH IS BRILLIANT: divide all U.S. non-profit accredited 4-year undergraduate revenues per student equally between all non-profit accredited 4-year undergraduate colleges.
posted by The Ted at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2011


The issue is that there are always going to be cases in the margin where the opposite is true.

Oh absolutely - but when you make a generalization about a population its the median that mostly matters not the tails.
posted by JPD at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2011


"Dude, if you got your trade school learning in high school, without putting yourself in hock to DeVry or other con jobs, you're no worse off than anyone who is unemployed AND without a trade."

Unfortunately High School education in most location is completely structured towards catering to college prep only and they are doing a mixed job at that. There is still vocational training in some schools but it's at a dramatically reduced extent because educators have been forced to make sacrifices in order to keep up with increased demands. The old model of different paths for different aptitudes seems to have been abandoned and I can only vaguely remember it from when I was a student.

Going back to a model where you could get HVAC training or plumbing training, etc in high school and be prepared to enter a trade after high school might be something worthwhile but I'm not sure we'll ever go back to that model and if that model would even be advantageous.

I think one of the primary concerns beyond cost of adopting a multiple path model in education beyond the current model is that in many cases those systems seem to lock people into specific paths based upon aptitude testing and that they ability to transfer between those paths after assignment into a group can be problematic.
posted by vuron at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real change is in government subsidy of tuition. The real price of tuition has not dramatically outpaced inflation over the years. However, the cost to the student is now much higher because the portion of the tuition subsidized by the government has shrunk. That's just about the whole problem right there. That, and students still choosing to attend college despite its crushing cost.
posted by gonna get a dog at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2011


I have two small children, and at this point I'm just banking on the whole system crashing and burning so that something better can emerge sometime in the next 12 years. The current system is ludicrously untenable. At least right now our local community colleges accept anyone with 12 months of residency and a high school diploma, as long as you pass the english/math assessment. Tuition for residents is just shy of $1200 for a 15-credit quarter.
posted by KathrynT at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Education for necessary and useful degrees (STEM, nursing, education, medicine, etc) should be free. Every other type of degree should cost money.

So, people going into careers for which they are most likely to find well-paying work (I'm speaking mainly of STEM & medicine here, obviously not education) should have their degrees subsidized by the state, so they make a decent living and get to be debt-free? This does not compute.

It's one thing for the state to subsidize degrees for people who will or may work for the state, directly or indirectly - "We'll pay for your medical degree, but then you have to take on a lot of medicare patients," that kind of thing. But the idea of subsidizing engineers who'll go on to make $60K right out of school in private industry, that does not strike me as a good use of limited resources.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


"...really have to wonder where the 'college is a waste of money' crowd is coming from other than via anecdote."

Yeah, it's personal experience from people who don't realize that they're privileged in some respect. And that includes being very bright.

It was only recently that I had an epiphany on this point. It was while I finally got around to watching Freaks and Geeks. The whole "OMG, getting bad grades in high school will ruin your life" trope was really getting on my nerves, as it always does (because my 1-point-something high school GPA and nearly dropping out had fuck-all negative effect on my life), when for some inexplicable reason, I suddenly realized that I was wrong. Sure, for me it didn't really matter. For someone of average or less-than-average intelligence, it certainly does matter. Or anyone who for some reason is going to be almost exclusively judged and allowed access according to credentials.

I'm white, male, well-spoken, personable, very intelligent, and (importantly and relatedly) believe myself to be pretty much capable of most intellectual tasks I set my mind to. I can convince people of this. I have. Also, and because of these things, I don't really have much difficulty finding equally desirable alternatives when I encounter one of the barriers I can't surmount. So my high school performance didn't end up mattering. A supposedly vocationally useless classical liberal arts education didn't cause any problems, either. (And I find that I'm similarly impatient with fellow alumni who complain about finding jobs with this degree.)

It took me a good long while to realize that these are big advantages I was born with that most people weren't and that because of this, I'm not representative of most people, I'm only representative of the relatively small portion of people who are quite similar to myself.

This is the fundamental problem with privilege—it's largely invisible to the privileged and they therefore tend to assume, like George Bush, they hit a triple when they were actually just born on third base. If they could do something, pretty much other people can, too. If other people don't, then they didn't try hard enough. If they say that they couldn't, they're whining.

If you want to see whether or not a college degree is actually important in US society, then compare the current unemployment numbers for those with degrees against those without degrees. It matters, as a generalization. For a minority of people, it doesn't matter much, if at all. For most people, it does matter in a way that affects quality of life and can be, and is, quantifiable.

Incidentally, I 100% believe that my expensive, private, fancy classical liberal arts education was completely worth its cost. But not vocationally. But then, my school doesn't even bother to make any vocational claims about value. Until the last twenty years, it didn't even have a placement office as a matter of principle.

The value of an education is not only, or necessarily, measured by vocational value. Which itself is not only, or necessarily, measured by monetary compensation. That this is so, however, implies that calculating acceptable educational cost and therefore student aid as a function of expected future earnings is a flawed metric. Like health care, a quality education should be understood as a universal right in a wealthy, advanced economy.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [33 favorites]


Sallie Mae loans like the person in the post has are not directly eligible for the new IBR, ICR and PLSF programs. She would have to consolidate first, possibly at a substantially higher rate, since 2006 was the era of 2.0% loan rates.

Bzzt, wrong. Sorry, but 2001 was the era of 2% loan rates. I graduated college in 2006, and all of my loans at between a five and eight percent interest rate.

Currently waiting for my consolidation to go through so I can switch to an IBR and go from paying $200/month to $30.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:42 AM on December 16, 2011


I'm really interested in the intersection between this thread and the conversation we had a few days ago about the dreadful "If I Were a Poor Black Child" article. Specifically, as I read people in this thread ask questions like "Why do their parents agree to cosign these loans?" and "Why don't their guidance counselors tell them to major in something practical so that they have some hope of making their payments?" I think about all the kids who don't have adults in their lives who know these things, or would even think to ask about them.

One of the consequences of encouraging a lot more kids from a much wider range of socioeconomic backgrounds to go to college is that a lot more kids are entering college without getting the kind of advice that middle and upper class kids get from their college-educated adult role models about how to structure their new-found adulthood. That's not to say that middle class parents are giving their kids great advice about not taking on too much debt without a clear plan to pay for it. But poor kids are getting no sensible advice about how to manage college life far away from home with unlimited options; in fact, they're getting upper class white dudes like Gene Marks telling them that they're lazy morons if they don't do absolutely whatever it takes to get to college.

I'm not saying that we should discourage poor kids who are bright and talented and studious from going to college. But I've been to urban public schools whose stated goal is to send 100% of their students to college. And they're doing next to nothing to teach those kids how to make smart decisions about whether and how to pay for more school, other than "here's a FAFSA; get your mom to fill it out." There is no one in their life to suggest to them that engineering or chemistry are safer bets than psychology and communications. I had a high school senior actually laugh at me recently when I suggested that if he likes the idea of being a music producer, economics or business would be a good major that would give him lots of options. There's nothing that he knows from his life so far that suggests a path from here to there, and he's about to spend $30k on freshman tuition to major in something called "creative electronics" at a school I've never heard of

I have high hopes that middle class white kids will find some way to foment a revolution that will eventually make the student loan system more reasonable. But I also wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the result of that revolt somehow left behind a lot of the poor, first-in-their-family-to-go-to-college kids who have useless degrees from University of Phoenix or DeVry because we as a society decide they should have known better even though we were the ones who told them it was a good idea in the first place.
posted by decathecting at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you want to see whether or not a college degree is actually important in US society, then compare the current unemployment numbers for those with degrees against those without degrees. It matters, as a generalization. For a minority of people, it doesn't matter much, if at all. For most people, it does matter in a way that affects quality of life and can be, and is, quantifiable.

Sure. No doubt. The problem is that higher education lenders and schools have made the loan system such that they are the ones capturing a lot of the economic value of a college degree.
posted by gauche at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2011


Check out this Frontline Special on the the For-Profit College trend, and its abuse of the Education Loan System. I believe these predatory practices are also the mean at state and private universities as well.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/collegeinc/

And this is the link for IBR (Income-Based Repayment)

http://www.ibrinfo.org/index.php
posted by muchalucha at 10:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: for $48,000 a year, I'm pretty sure you could get a much better education a la carte. Just pay an English PhD to tutor you for a couple months, then a math PhD, then maybe a physics grad student. Take an unpaid internship in a biotech lab to learn basic biology, and take a trip for a couple months to learn a foreign language. Instead of spending $20k to take a couple of business classes, just start your own business and see how it goes. It would be expensive, but it's hard to imagine burning through anywhere near $192,000 in 4 years of self-study.
posted by miyabo at 10:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm really interested in the intersection between this thread and the conversation we had a few days ago about the dreadful "If I Were a Poor Black Child" article. Specifically, as I read people in this thread ask questions like "Why do their parents agree to cosign these loans?" and "Why don't their guidance counselors tell them to major in something practical so that they have some hope of making their payments?" I think about all the kids who don't have adults in their lives who know these things, or would even think to ask about them.

A few things people miss:

The college bills often don't come all at once. As a student who went to a competitive enough high school in NJ that I graduated with an A- average and still no access to state aid (that only went to something like the top 5% of my class, and I was in the top 7%), I managed to rack up $30,000 in debt. Not all at once, but in little drips and drabs. $2500 here, $5000 there. The (crappy) dorms are what killed me, though I lived at home the last year, and taking one semester off before I went to college to "save up money for college" sure didn't help. No one told me I'd be essentially permanently ineligible for aid because of that, that I should have just waited until the subsequent fall semester to minimize my own debt. My mother sure didn't know that.

Also, state school. Not all states have cheap public education. New Jersey is one that doesn't.

It makes me mad when people imply that me or my mother were stupid for this, though we sure lacked information. But that information is accessible only to a privileged population, and loads more than that narrow class feel societal pressure to send their kids to college.

We could, at this point, have him enter some kind of technical or trade school, but we'd be back to the same issue: those things cost money, and we'd need to go into debt to finance it

If you're serious about trades, look into a union apprenticeship. My husband (halfway done with a masters degree and unable to find work since he left his history program) is thinking of starting an electrician's apprenticeship in a few months. The local union has a program where you both get benefits and are paid for the five years it takes to apprentice. Not stunningly well, mind you, but in our state his pay would be more than what your husband is currently making a year.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is an all-too-familiar story. I just checked my account. I've paid $16,000 towards my student loan. I've been paying about $500 a month for the past three years. My principal balance is $4,000 less than the initial amount I borrowed. If I am late or, god forbid, miss any payments, my interest on a huge amount is going to sky rocket.

For extra fun, my parents made too much money to qualify me for any public funding, so these are all private loans. Even the fake income based repayment plan isn't a choice for me.

On the other hand, I've been explicitly told that I have my current job because of my education. Was it worth it? What can I do? The only option I see is to just keep slogging forward. I once calculated and even with a 3% interest rate, by the time I've paid off my loan in my 30s, I will have paid almost twice what I originally borrowed. FML.

I feel like I am type or person who should "foment a revolution", as decathecting says, but I'm so busy hustling 2 jobs to pay my rent and student loan that I'm not sure I can do.
posted by chatongriffes at 10:32 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was interested in what Natalia did, and went to look at my own SallieMae Loan. I consolidated back in 2004, and have a 2.75% interest rate, but I *still* owe more than I started with.

Original Principal Balance: $42,022.74
Capitalized Interest: $2,558.51
Current Principal Balance: $43,812.93
Accrued Interest: $29.68


Total Amount Owed (as of today): $43,842.61

I won't give you the whole boring payment history, but I entered transaction info back to 1995, and here's how it breaks down:

Total Payments $13,297.82

Of those payments, this is how they broke down:

Total Pmts to Principal $6,581.25
Total Pmts to Interest $6,616.04

And of course, capitalized interest over the years that they tack back on to the principal:

Total Capitalized Interest $3559.30

Make of these numbers what you will.

Note : I was on deferments for some of this time, either in-school or financial based.
posted by HopperFan at 10:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, state school. Not all states have cheap public education. New Jersey is one that doesn't.

Well, it's all relative. Rutgers or the other state colleges are around $12k a year in tuition. If you live at home and work in the summers, you can finish college with a pretty small loan, even if you don't qualify for any scholarships or anything. In contrast, many private universities are up to $37k in tuition.
posted by smackfu at 10:41 AM on December 16, 2011


Technically, it's not Indentured Servitude. It's Debt Peonage.

I've been reading about the Roman Empire of the 4th century, and how Constantine's reforms, which were intended to stabilize imperial revenues, ended up placing much of the burden on the Coloni (tenant farmers and smallholders). A factor in this was the movement towards collecting rents and taxes in kind, rather than coin- wealthier landowners could insulate themselves from poor harvests or other disasters (using stored wealth) while poorer ones could not. Additionally, wealthier landowners and bourgeoisie could use their political influence to insulate themselves from official demands for taxes and other service in ways that the poor could not.

The movement to payment in kind occurred primarily in response to the disorder of the 3rd century, in which ill-considered imperial monetary policy, payment of bribes to invaders, payment of foreign troops, and the hoarding of coin by private individuals. This led to a general decline in the use of money, which was especially evident in the western part of the empire. Constantine's reforms allowed large landowners to prevent their tenants from leaving the land, guaranteeing a revenue stream for these landowners in order to pay taxes in kind. It also made several classes in society (including colonus) hereditary. Additionally, when small freeholders found themselves unable to pay taxes (in kind, at rates that were fixed and not tied to commodity prices, and thus highly susceptible to fluctuations in agricultural yield), they would often have to turn to the larger landowners (with their cash reserves) and would likewise be bound to the land.

These changes in Roman society, as well as the general weakening and decentralization of imperial governance (in which collection of revenues in kind also played a role), continuing throughout the 4th century, are thought to have laid the groundwork for medieval serfdom and the feudal system.

When I look at the US economy today- the massive debts being incurred by the middle classes, the stagnation of real wages, and the lack of insulation from disaster felt by both working and professional classes; as well as the increased inability of the government to fund itself; not to mention the increased hoarding of wealth by individuals and corporations at the top, as well as their ability to manipulate the political system to exempt themselves from taxation and restrictions on their financial activities- I start to see some worrying parallels. If someone were actually trying to dismantle centralized government while simultaneously triggering a state of social collapse, in order to re-establish feudal privilege, they'd be doing a damn good job of it.

Now of course, some might say that a reversion to a metal standard might prevent the decline now, as the resurgence of imperial coinage did to slow the collapse in the 4th century, but they fail to see the point. The actual use of coin was a secondary phenomenon, but one that allowed the small farmer to preserve his wealth or transfer it more freely. The withdrawal of coinage contributed to the Coloni becoming un-free, but it was the ability of large landowners and imperial agents to capture the productive capacity of those farmers, combined with imperial policy supporting those efforts, that fixed the new class (or rather caste) system into place. In a modern context, reversion to metal-backed currency (rather than fiat, or even FIAT currency) would actually add additional burdens to the poor and middle class. They would be less able to take on debt, but there would be less money available to them in general. The movement of additional wealth to the rich and the suppression of wages (abetted by a captive government) would continue, and you would likely see the Kochs and the Waltons start to build giant storehouses like Scrooge McDuck.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:43 AM on December 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


Our society as a whole has become twisted by easy credit. New homes, new cars, fancy electronics all financed and it has hurt the middle and lower classes hard. Who has savings any more?
I must agree with this. I graduated from high school in 1977 and while there were college loan programs in place at the time, I vividly remember several different assemblies held during junior and senior year specifically for the "college-bound" students explaining how much the various Michigan schools charged at the time, and how that it was better to secure a scholarship or else work enough hours to pay for your tuition and necessities (if your parents didn't have a tidy college nest egg set aside for you, which was the norm in our blue collar area). We actually had overhead projector presentations breaking down interest and such on loans and charting how long it would take working at X wage to repay Y loan. Our counselors would assist us with applying for loans, but they did make a concerted effort to explain all the other payment alternatives. (Me, I was fortunate enough to land an office job at a Fortune 500 company as a high school co-op that took me on full time after I graduated, and which paid for full college tuition and books and other fees IF you worked full time and went to school on your own time. Took me just under seven years to get my BS, but at least I didn't have a mountain of debt to pay off.)

I agree that the cost of college tuition has outpaced the cost of living and is insanely expensive, but on the other hand, students should take some personal responsibility before going so far into debt. Work somewhere in your field along the way and gain some experience. Don't expect just a sheepskin to get you a job - most businesses also want experience. And choose a viable field of study, otherwise don't whine when you sink $35,000 into a Masters Degree in Puppetry and then can't find a job that pays as much as your previous union salaried teacher's job with benefits.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:44 AM on December 16, 2011



Right, because that's not how the human brain works. We will _always_ choose to pay later if that's available to us.
posted by gauche at 8:25 AM on December 16 [+] [!]


When I took out my student loans, I looked at my minimum wage job and said "no amount of hours worked at this is going to cover tuition, rent and food and still leave me time to sleep and study."

I gambled that my loan-funded education would get me a better paying job. If that failed, my theory was that you can't get blood from a stone... although looking back that was a scarier gamble than I'd intended to make, but it worked out for me.

It ONLY worked out for me because I was lucky, but seriously, faced with a choice between debt and minimum wage, what the fuck are you supposed to do? I'd make the same decision again, desperation is funny that way.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:47 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, it's all relative. Rutgers or the other state colleges are around $12k a year in tuition. If you live at home and work in the summers, you can finish college with a pretty small loan, even if you don't qualify for any scholarships or anything. In contrast, many private universities are up to $37k in tuition.

And if you want to live in a crappy dorm because your parents are kind of abusive, you pay twice that.

Living at home isn't a realistic option for everyone (I still did it my last year, but it probably wasn't the best choice for my mental or emotional health).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


(Oh, and I worked every summer and during school.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:57 AM on December 16, 2011


And choose a viable field of study, otherwise don't whine when you sink $35,000 into a Masters Degree in Puppetry and then can't find a job that pays as much as your previous union salaried teacher's job with benefits.

I'm working at a university, and even here that attitude is far too prevalent. As we see government funding cut, we increasingly say, "well what departments bring in cash?" Apparently MBA programs. That's a very dangerous road to walk down though.

Do we really want to allow $$$ determine what we as a society value? Is that in our interest as individuals, or as a society? Will it lead to academic integrity and quality, unbiased research?

I see absolutely nothing wrong with people choosing to take degrees that don't seem to offer an immediate economic return. There's great value to having a diversity of skills, knowledge and backgrounds in society, and we can't all be welders and plumbers. We sure as hell don't all need MBAs.

If you don't think that a degree in "puppetry" is worth 35k, then how about turning that ire on the universities that are selling them at those rates?

The institution I work at has been steadily starved for funding by the government, and would without a doubt raise tuition through the roof if the same government didn't cap it at a number that I still think is despicably high. It's a rock and a hard place, and the students are the ones that suffer for it. Increasingly universities are being run not as collegiate institutions, with the power in the hands of academics, but as businesses, with business degrees at the top and profit incentives. I can't begin to describe how poisonous that is.

Education should be affordable, and it's up to the government to ensure that it remains that way. It's very hard to overstate the good that it returns, socially as well as economically.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:59 AM on December 16, 2011 [19 favorites]


Well, as I pointed out above, living in the dorm is a terrible idea if you want to save money. You're paying $1000 a month to share a room with someone! Get a roommate (who has their own bedroom) and cook your own food, and you will pay half of what room & board costs, and you'll have somewhere to stay in the summer too.
posted by smackfu at 11:00 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, I had trouble moving off campus (because my college didn't process my loan money in time to pay for it when I wasn't making enough money to pay the deposit out of pocket, and I two roommates pull out right before they signed leases to move in with people they had crushes on). It didn't happen for me, and I didn't have the knowledge or the resources to figure out a lot of the nuts and bolts of how to do that at 18. You still need considerable savings to move into an apartment on a lease, which I didn't have, and I had a parent who was pushing me to have a campus experience, too, because that's what she did.

Anyway, the moralizing and lecturing about what my 18 year old self should have done isn't really appreciated. I'm not denying that I was a book-smart, life-stupid kid who made mistakes, and I've done the best to fix those mistakes since then. But there were reasons behind those mistakes, and many of them were situational or economic, issues of privilege that couldn't, at the time, have been helped. And the $6400 I made (before taxes) working while taking 18 credits a semester still wouldn't have been enough to pay for tuition alone, anyway, much less things like gas from commuting two hours a day.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, as I pointed out above, living in the dorm is a terrible idea if you want to save money.

My undergrad (Case Western Reserve Purple Money Dishwasher University in Cleveland) required you to live on campus until senior year. As I recall, it was very hard to get out of this requirement even for people who already lived in the city.
posted by gerryblog at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2011


Ironically, there are things I would have done differently (waited until the fall semester to apply to the school I attended to maximize financial aid, for instance), but I wouldn't throw away either my useless undergraduate humanities degree or my apparently equally useless MFA. I work part time at a job now that I needed that graduate degree for, and I make enough money to have plenty of time to write. Without that, I probably wouldn't be as far in my writing career as I am today, even if, on paper, it was a stupid decision that I wouldn't necessarily recommend others make.

(Best decision I've made: marrying a guy from a wealthy family who has never wanted for tuition money and who is helping pay off my private loans. It wasn't a financial decision, but it's worked out well for my finances. I wish everyone could be so lucky, but if they aren't, I'm not going to tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and just look harder for a sugar daddy.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:18 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd make the same decision again, desperation is funny that way.

Right. And schools and lending institutions know that. They are counting on it.

Just like a casino, the whole system is designed to make it easy for you to make decisions that aren't in your long-term interest.
posted by gauche at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: for $48,000 a year, I'm pretty sure you could get a much better education a la carte.

But nobody is out there offering this a la carte education.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2011


Do the "cheap" state schools also have cheap room and board? Or is it just that you pay $2k or something for tuition and $12k for room and board?
posted by smackfu at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2011


Many colleges have policies in place that force you to live in dorms the first two years (and have at least a minimal meal plan) unless you are living with parents within x number of miles for exactly those reasons. Not everyone has the support structures in place to just move to a new town at 17-18 and rent an apartment and find decent roommates on top of the challenge of being away from home and being expected to go to school in a self motivated manner.

Yeah many schools probably overcharge in comparison to local rates but how many landlords are willing to let you pay for a year's rent over the course of 10 years? Not everyone is going to have ready access to the local job market in order to help pay for their education.
posted by vuron at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do the "cheap" state schools also have cheap room and board? Or is it just that you pay $2k or something for tuition and $12k for room and board?

At my alma mater (Willy P), tuition and fees are currently $5,732.00, room & board for one semester is $3400, and everyone living on campus is required to buy a meal plan that costs $1700 a semester.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2011


...a meal plan that costs $1700 a semester.

Holy crap, I don't spend that on groceries, and I eat ridiculously well. That's a lot of money for chicken fingers, soggy fries and sour milk.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:34 AM on December 16, 2011


"Do the "cheap" state schools also have cheap room and board? Or is it just that you pay $2k or something for tuition and $12k for room and board?"

The room costs at the school that I work for aren't completely out of line with the surrounding market but that's because we were traditionally a commuter school with a fairly small number of on campus residents relative to our enrollment. As such the ability to charge rents dramatically in excess of the going rate isn't really there.

I think the problem typically gets problematic in towns where there really isn't a big rental/apartment market and the school is effectively the only game in town for the majority of underclassmen.

Of course for some schools in major cities like NYU or UC Berkley the idea of being able to negotiate a fairly reasonable apartment without university controlled housing seems problematic
posted by vuron at 11:35 AM on December 16, 2011


Holy crap, I don't spend that on groceries, and I eat ridiculously well. That's a lot of money for chicken fingers, soggy fries and sour milk.

What I always thought was interesting / terrible was that the school wouldn't charge for meal plans by the number of meals you were entitled to, but instead by the average number of meals that someone on that meal plan typically used. So if you had 7 or 10 meals a week, you probably were going to use them all, and so you paid the full $20 per meal. If you had the full 19 meal plan (every meal they offered), you probably were only going to use 12-14 due to eating out or laziness, so you were only charged for that many. If you actually used all 19, it was a steal, like $10 a meal.

So... I guess I learned how to take advantage of the system in college.
posted by smackfu at 11:43 AM on December 16, 2011


"Holy crap, I don't spend that on groceries, and I eat ridiculously well. That's a lot of money for chicken fingers, soggy fries and sour milk."

The platinum plan at my school is about $1700 a semester but that includes $200 worth of money that you can spend on the little grocery store, or snacks or other institutions that can process the transactions. The bulk of that cost is for 300 or so all-you-can-eat meals at the cafe which while it's not great food is not ridiculously crap either. Assuming that you eat all 300 or so meal that works out to be roughly $5 a meal which really isn't ridiculously out of place when fast food can run more than that.

The school that I went to back in the 90s was a pretty wealthy private school and you had ala carte style dining and could get all sorts of interesting things. Prime Rib, lobster tails, etc were occasional options for instance. Quality was close to restaurant quality in many ways and costs were probably less.

Of course plenty of people also got/get the minimal meal plan if required and live on ramen, cheap pizza and crackers for 4 years like good students should.

The point is that not everyone wants the minimalistic college experience where you are hunkered down in a drafty cinderblock dorm with shared bathrooms and your caloric intake is mainly cheap carbs. Private dorms kinda hit big in the 80s and 90s on some of big campuses and schools have been scrambling to upgrade facilities ever since.
posted by vuron at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2011


My long and storied college education included a public city college, a state university (which I attended as an out-of-state student), a second-tier private university, and an Ivy. Here's what I know:

-There is no reason that student debt should be treated any differently than any other form of debt. Period.

-Not everyone can get a Merit Scholarship, by definition. Not everyone has financially-savvy parents, or parents who can cosign, or non-abusive, non-addict parents with whom they can live while going to school. Not everyone goes to college as a spry 18 year old with no health or other expenses. We need educational solutions that work across the board.

-"Federal" loans are administered by private institutions that can and will fuck with you.

-While workstudy was once a viable option for defraying college costs, the current pay scale, coupled with limitations on hours, make them a joke for the majority of students. The Ivy estimated my living expenses at over $50,000 a year, and offered me a $10-12/hr job for 10 hours a week. Said job would not have covered the cost of a single, one semester class. The only institution at which workstudy would have made even a dent was the city college. Both workstudy and federal-backed loans need to keep pace with rising costs. The very fact that they haven't makes me doubt that they're the major impetus behind rising costs, as was suggested above.

-While having a fixed rate is a nice idea, people who received government subsidized loans after 2006 are paying way the hell more than people who I know who took out loans prior to 2006, and doing so without the ability to consolidate. My personal experience was that my loans were fixed at over double the rate of those of my friends who graduated before 2006.

-While there may not be much of a difference in quality of education between the state university and the private universities, there is a huge difference in the quality of attending a city college and the rest—not because the teaching staff is any less qualified, but because of structural problems. Classes at the city college were massively overfull (prerequisites especially), major administrative errors were the norm, and correcting any problems and seeking good advice became a full-time endeavor. If city and community colleges are the solution, they need to receive a much larger amount of funding, and do so now. (Bonus: a friend went to the city college's well-regarded grad social work program. Rather than offering graduate students health care of any sort, the school told them to try to get on Medicaid. Talk about hands-on instruction!)

-Avoid most for-profit schools. You won't learn as much, and you will be put into an unsustainable amount of debt. I briefly worked a freelance job at a for-profit institution. They had exponentially more people working in admissions and financial aid than they did in teaching or counseling. The financial aid department spent most of their time reading people's credit reports, and trying to figure out how to help students to fix their credit just enough to take out more high-interest private loans.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you actually used all 19, it was a steal, like $10 a meal.

I don't know where you went to school, but I've eaten at a fair number of dorm cafeterias, and there's not one that, today, I'd consider to be serving a meal I'd pay $10 for today. Even eating out way too often, I often spend $10/meal, and I eat way better than I ever did in the dorms, on both taste and nutrition.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:15 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Another consideration: In the UK, you get your BA/BS in a strict three years. It's almost unheard of to have a four-year course unless you study for a year abroad. Three years. I've heard of full-time students in the US taking seven years to do the same thing.
posted by katiecat at 12:59 PM on December 16, 2011


I am trying to wrap my head around that decision. Brain explodes.

My wife's sister, married with one kid, just moved into a new house they and her father built. It's three stories high, one of which ( unfinished inside) belongs to my wife. When she had her child, medical care was free and she got a few thousand dollars from the government like any other young mother. They live in a tourist town and work just during the tourist season, the rest of the year they pretty much have off. Dad drives a taxi, they do some random shit like tours and finding places tomstay for the tourists. Financially, they aren't doing as well as other people I know, or as compared to how they were before my mother in law got cervical cancer. All the treatments and my father's in law depression after she died put a huge dent into their finances.
We, on the other hand, are having to stay with my parents while I'm trying to get into a residency somewhere. Because without it, my MD is just a useless piece of paper. I couldn't even get my old job as an EKG tech that I had right after high school, because they know that I'm gonna leave soon. That's the same with pretty much every other job I've applied to. So right now we can't even afford to go to the dentist. Oh, and when I actually get into practice, I'm looking at about $60k a year take home pay working 50-60 hr weeks untill I'm in my 60 s.
American dream my ass.
posted by c13 at 1:02 PM on December 16, 2011


It's very hard to overstate the good that it returns, socially as well as economically.

It sure is, but let me try anyways: if everyone in the US had a good liberal arts education, FOX News would go out of business.

Despite what I said earlier, while I would certainly rip up my degree to have my debt disappear (and really got massively lucky to have as little debt as I do!) I absolutely do not regret getting the education I got. My degree didn't have anything to do with getting me a job -- but it made me better at thinking critically, better at writing (really, better at communicating in general), and better at evaluating the quality of information sources (look at the news media around you and think about how important that is). It may not have done much to make me better at my job but it definitely made me better at life. It made me a better citizen, to bring up a really old-fashioned idea.

But hey, maybe that kind of education should be a privilege reserved for the rich. Everyone else only needs to be trained to be better at producing capital and solving practical problems for their masters -- "thinking independently", good heavens, why would you want to teach them to do THAT??
posted by mstokes650 at 1:22 PM on December 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't know where you went to school, but I've eaten at a fair number of dorm cafeterias, and there's not one that, today, I'd consider to be serving a meal I'd pay $10 for today.

Well, relative steal, I suppose. I looked it up, and it's currently $8/meal for the cheapest plan, and $17/meal for the most expensive plan. I never thought the food was terrible, but OTOH it wasn't any better than a typical Hometown Buffet, and I think those are around $10 a dinner. So the dining hall charging $17 is crazy.
posted by smackfu at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2011


Another consideration: In the UK, you get your BA/BS in a strict three years. It's almost unheard of to have a four-year course unless you study for a year abroad. Three years. I've heard of full-time students in the US taking seven years to do the same thing.

I have too, but only back in the day (80's - mid 90's), when the financial consequences didn't seem as severe to many. Sometimes people switched majors at the last minute. I knew one who changed majors every year, until he got tired of it. Some worked a lot to afford college without loans at all, and that equated to going to school half time. My department had a legendary student who stretched things out by taking one class per term, for 20 years. This was all at a public university.

These days, said university is probably much stricter about graduating in a reasonable time frame. And with tuitions going up and jobs scarce, I imagine students are much more focused (I hope).
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:34 PM on December 16, 2011


I hear a lot of talk about "useful majors" these days, and a lot of hating on the liberal arts, but I never hear anyone reflect on how what is Useful can change very quickly (often before you can even finish your degree). Engineering, CS, and STEM seem to be the fields that everyone now agrees are self-evidently "useful," but when I was a kid becoming a lawyer was the obvious, foolproof way to be successful, and look where I'd be if I'd followed that advice and graduated recently (miserable, unemployed, and buried in debt). Hell, my fiance has his BA in philosophy and Spanish, and we still get tons of people (almost always baby boomers) extolling the virtues of law school to him - we just smile and shake our heads. He's thinking about speech language pathology instead.

I also hear a ton of moralizing from people who graduated between, say, 1995 and 2002 about how everyone should do exactly what they did and everything will be fine, but they seem to not understand that these majors might have been perfect for that economy, but certainly aren't "sure bets" anymore. CS & engineering are increasingly flooded with recent graduates and under pressure from globalization and H1B visa competition, and while people who accrued work experience during the tech boom might be doing alright with just some certifications, most recent graduates I know are still having lots of trouble finding full-time, decent-paying jobs, even with good grades & internships and what have you. Some STEM fields are still OK, but I know lots of biologists who are in a world of hurt on the job market right now (apparently biotech isn't the infinitely "useful" field everyone thought it would be, because everyone I know who graduated within the last 10 years and worked in that industry has since been laid off and is now hopelessly unemployed).

Another factor missing from these discussions is that employers no longer seem to do hardly any on the job training anymore, and now expect all employees to come to them fully formed with a perfect credential for the job they are expected to perform. I see this all the time in job listings - "must have postgrad certificate and two years experience in (extremely obscure subsubdiscipline)." To some extent, it's a natural result of the employer's market we've been in for years now, but you can also see it in the whiny WSJ editorials about how terribly "unskilled" American workers are nowadays. When you look into the specifics, it's almost always the case that the company just a) refuses to pay a competitive wage, and b) expects extremely specialized skills, probably along with an expensive credential, and is totally unwilling to spend even a dollar on training. This trend is also driving the explosive growth in masters degrees (especially non-thesis professional master's programs, which are major cash cows for the universities); I hear advice from grad students almost weekly that the master's is the new bachelor's.

But when you combine those two trends together - a rapidly changing employment landscape + employers demanding increasingly specialized (and expensive) credentials - it's no surprise that people are losing a lot of money and time chasing credentials which may or may not even turn out to be useful in the next few years.
posted by dialetheia at 2:16 PM on December 16, 2011 [14 favorites]




I hear a lot of talk about "useful majors" these days, and a lot of hating on the liberal arts, but I never hear anyone reflect on how what is Useful can change very quickly (often before you can even finish your degree).


I began university during the IT bubble and said, "hell, there won't be jobs in IT when I get out."

Now I have a masters of arts and an IT job.

What the hell. Given a time machine I still wouldn't know what to do differently.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:25 PM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, ThinkProgress has a great little infographic depicting the explosive growth of student loan debt since just 1990. I was really surprised to see how much it blew up even since 2000. I suspect that many of us are thinking of this issue in the context of the 2000 numbers, not the totally insane 2011 numbers. What's more, I seriously doubt that this drastic increase is due to the poor choices of entitled lazy humanities majors, as many would like to claim (at the very least, surely kids were just as entitled and lazy in 1990 and 2000).
posted by dialetheia at 2:43 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Occupy Student Debt Campaign

(I signed and think it's mostly great, though I do have a problem with the faculty document's "these loans pay our salaries" framing: pay for instruction is a steadily decreasing proportion of university budgets, and an ever-increasing share of instructors are desperately impoverished and under- or un-benefitted, and working on temporary contracts. Anti-student-debt organizers should be more explicitly allying their economic struggles with those of faculty, whose lives and livelihoods are also being destroyed by the same corporatizing of the university system.)
posted by RogerB at 3:13 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the whole world needs a jubilee year.

How can this many people be in this much crippling debt? Someone has to own all this debt. I say we just erase all of it and start over.
posted by empath at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


As a biochem senior, as far as I can tell the only really "useful" degrees, that is, degrees that are likely to land you a well paying job: business, accounting, engineering, computer science. Biology, chemistry, physics, biochem, and even math are not among those. A biochem BS qualifies me to run gels and clean glassware in a lab for $13 an hour. Sweet. And even that's better than the prospects that typical bio or physics major has.

I have little interest in business. Engineering is cool but the day to day reality of an engineer is dry as hell, and although I have great interest in electronics I can safely say I'd rather off myself than write code all day for a financial institution.

I choose biochem because I found meaning in it, not because people in science make money (they sure as hell do not). For this reason I do not share the same obnoxious disdain for humanities majors that many of my peers seem to have. The problem is that the barrier to entry level positions are too fucking high because everyone is "supposed" to go to college....consequently a BS is the new HS diploma and a graduate degree is the new BS.

There is no reason you should need a B.S. to work as a lab tech. It is a job that a typical high school senior could perform admirably.
posted by WhitenoisE at 3:46 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


A biochem BS qualifies me to run gels and clean glassware in a lab for $13 an hour.

Heh... I went to grad school in the biological sciences because at the time I was living on about $8500 a year and the stipends in PhD programs were almost twice that. I figured cool, I could do that and get a sweet job at the end (yeah right), or instead get a job feeding the animals at the zoo.
posted by exogenous at 5:43 PM on December 16, 2011


When I started college, tuition at a top notch public university was $4.00 an hour, plus books and misc fees. When I was in grad school, it was $16.00 a credit hour. That same school (after the Texas Leg deregulated the university system) is now $80 an hour for undergrad and $120 an hour for graduate. Plus...if you're taking less than 12 hours, they up the tuition by another $40 an hour...so, part time students are paying $120 and $160 an hour.

If the University gave fuck all about education, they would dump football, or give the advertising money to the students who are paying for the alumni to show up and fuck coeds. Stop hiring world class architects to design pretty but useless buildings. Fire everyone in the administration making more than $100k a year.

Deregulating the universities was a disaster. The loan sharks that surround universities should be nuked from space. The whole system is broken and needs to be destroyed and rebuilt.
posted by dejah420 at 5:59 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fire everyone in the administration making more than $100k a year.

Hallelujah!
posted by mikelieman at 7:15 PM on December 16, 2011


Fire everyone in the administration making more than $100k a year.

This would probably not save money.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:52 PM on December 16, 2011


You know what? I got accepted to Carnegie Mellon out of high school in 1998. It would have cost $12k a year to go and I had no way to pay for it, so instead I went to a state school in town where I got a full ride. Judging by my peers, going to a lower-ranked school actually did cost me a year or two of career development - mostly because "higher ranked" schools had much better career placement centers and could get you an internship at a big company.

I have no student debt, but I do not for one second begrudge people who think they need to walk away from their student loans. It's clearly indentured servitude, and an incredibly unfair system. It's too bad more people can't claim citizenship outside the US and escape the trap before it eats their lives.

As of 2009:
Unemployment for high school grads - 10%
Unemployment rate for college grads - 5%

Despite the clear economic advantage that education gives you, I hate that conversations about education always seemed to be framed from the point of view of an individual making an investment. We as a society benefit when all of us have the opportunity to be educated to our full potential. A college education is a risky investment - will the skills you learn be in demand? Will the school actually teach you something valuable? It's a difficult decision, but for some reason we choose to have 18 year olds take that risk before they even enter the workforce, and then shackle them for life with the consequences.

I work in software now, and we're having a damn hard time finding qualified people. Everywhere I know is recruiting aggressively. Amazon is building datacenters and recruiting in India not just because it's cheaper, but also because they can actually find people.

How many people in the US didn't study computer science because they couldn't afford tuition, and weren't lucky enough like me to get a full ride? What art history major in their right mind is going to go back to school to learn computers when they're already $90k in the hole? By placing all the risk in investing in higher education on the individual, we've crippled the mobility of our labor force. And it shows - some sectors have record, persistent unemployment, and others have an extreme shortage of qualified wokers.

The problem isn't that everyone feels like they're "supposed" to go to college, or that they choose frivolous majors. The problem is that, as a society, we just don't invest in higher education any more. The result is graduating high school seniors rationally choosing what's best for them with very limited information and resources, and the market as a whole not being able to find the skilled workers it needs.
posted by heathkit at 12:26 AM on December 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Still, a state school tech or engineering degree is definitely much more financially prudent than a private school humanities degree. It's generally a terminal degree for practical purposes and there are jobs out there. And the debts to income ratio should be reasonable.

This is what everyone tells you, and yet, what if you can't get through third level calculus? What if none of your talents lie in the engineering areas?

I'm contemplating trying to get into the computer science dept. here at my university. I've never wanted to do anything but teach literature at a college level, and write, and my health is too bad to gamble on that, so I'm looking at comp sci. I actually worked at low-level tech support for five years, so you'd think I could do ok. But programming bores me, and the math _will_ kill me. I'm still at 2nd quarter precalc, and I dropped it this quarter because I didn't think I could pass.

People always loftily tell you to do something "lucrative." What is that exactly? I'd be suited to librarianism, teaching adults, or selling books, and none of these are jobs with a good outlook. My mother was a nurse, and that's not a field I can go into, both because it's physically brutal, and because I'm on immune suppressants for life. I'm terrible with teenagers, and schoolteaching doesn't pay.

So tell me, exactly what lucrative field should I choose?

Then you see people asking how to get into something like comp sci and nine million people speak up and say snottily, "Don't do it if you don't love it" in direct contrast to the other advice. What's a person supposed to do?

And by the way, as someone who did low level tech support until all those jobs went to India, certifications (which used to be the uneducated peon's way out of low level support) will not get you a "comfortable middle class income," as someone stated upthread. That used to be true, but not anymore, unless you get very lucky, have the right connections, and managed to swing the right experience and really, really love what you do. You can probably find a job, but at best you'll be lower-middle class income bracket, which is one disaster away from being really poor.

The problem here is with the fact that jobs with the same effort, and in some cases the same education requirements (or more) are undervalued and underpaid. Try making a living as a secondary school teacher.
posted by thelastcamel at 12:48 AM on December 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, I was a scared kid with abusive parents who were kicking me out every other day. In high school I went to boarding school were you were tortured, sometimes physically if you acted smart (bullying was not only completely allowed, but encouraged by some of the teachers), my biology book was two inches thick and talked about how the earth was only 6000 years old and God hid the dinosaurs here to confuse us. We only read one "Great Book" the entire time I was in high school "The Scarlet A", and I think I did two book reports. We were offered one language, and not allowed to take it (spanish) until our sophomore year. You're living in the dorms and you have no outside contact with normal people until you get out. You don't know that normal people are applying for things called "grants" and "scholarships."

No one told us about grants or scholarships, though my education was too shitty for me to get scholarships anyway. I found out about the military and I tried to join right out of high school. They wouldn't take me because I had a skin condition the size of a dime on my scalp. I appealed, and lost. They were right not to take me in the end. That skin condition had an infinitesimally small chance of presaging a more serious disease. In the end, I got it, just over ten years later. By then I would have been out of the military and back in school, with the assistance I needed.

Unfortunately when I developed the disease I was in school with no assistance but loans. I had to drop out to try to find medical care, and once I got that halfway sorted, another ten years later I'm fighting to pay off the original loan, which has ballooned, and taking on more loans to finish college.

So think about my story when you glibly say "get a scholarship in high school." Also think about the fact that many avenues of financial aid are closed to older, nontraditional students.

I did a stint at a community college, and took a few networking classes. I got As, but learning _nothing_ and no portion of the learning was hands-on. That was wasted money for sure.

Many of us are left with no good options and no realistic way to pay this off afterward. If I get a good job, even with insurance my medical care will still eat up all or almost all surplus income.
posted by thelastcamel at 1:04 AM on December 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have $50k in student loans, and no job prospects now or in the foreseeable future. I'm beginning to think that suicide is the only way out. Of course, that's assuming that my lenders won't come after my parents to make good on my loans once I'm dead. In the current system of student loans, it wouldn't surprise me if they'll still try to collect from my surviving relatives. Anyone know the answer to that?
posted by tzikeh at 1:26 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forgot to add - I have no health care, either, since I have no job--I'm pretty much fucked regardless.
posted by tzikeh at 1:28 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


First of all tzikeh, if your reference to suicide was not just a rhetorical flourish please read ThereIsHelp at the MetaFilter wiki.

With respect to your current loans, you can apply for deferment on the basis of hardship. There are details here and at a lot of sites on the Internet; Google "student loan deferment hardship." It won't strike the loans, but it could give you some breathing room.

You don't mention why you have no job prospects either now or in the future, and the reference to health care makes me think you might have serious medical issues. If this is the case, and you have become disabled, you can potentially have the loans discharged.

Other people who have dealt with student loans personally may have more immediate suggestions as well.
posted by gerryblog at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2011


Do the "cheap" state schools also have cheap room and board? Or is it just that you pay $2k or something for tuition and $12k for room and board?

Ding ding ding! The university my husband works at is the cheapest four year college in the state. They have flat rate tuition, meaning anything over 12 credit hours is the same price.

Right now, tuition is $4200 per semester. (In 2005, it was $2500.) Room and board is $1000 per month. And then you get to figure out where to live over the summer.

You have to live on campus until you are 21 and have 56 credit hours. So your first two to three years are about $17,000 per year. For a second tier public education.

This is really criminal, especially considering how cheap real estate is in this area. By comparison, our 1500 square foot (plus a basement) house costs us $620 per month, which includes mortgage, taxes, insurance, natural gas, electricity, water, wood heating pellets, and high speed internet. I spend less than $400 per month to feed five people. So room and board in a comfortable, private home costs right around $200 per month, rather than $1000. Students could save $25,000 (more if you include summer housing) over four years of college if they just knocked down the dorms and let kids rent on their own.
posted by Leta at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


tzikeh, I hope this helps:

I am in IBR. I had to fight with Sallie Mae, but I won, then I ended up consolidating them all with Direct Loans anyway.

IBR works like this: They take your income and family size, and from that compute what your disposable income is. This is their math. They decide how much disposable income you have.

From this, they compute 15% of that disposable income. That is as much as they can charge for your payment. It doesn't matter what you owe, it matters what you make.

In my case, my husband's income is $32,000 (I am an at home parent), family size 4, and my payment is $0. Our friend who makes the same wage as my husband but is single, no kids, has a payment of $30/mo.

From the day you enroll in IBR, you have 25 years. At the end of 25 years, whatever debt is left is discharged. I tell all our student friends, enroll in IBR as soon as you graduate. As soon as possible. For most of them, this means that they will have no more student loans before they turn 50, and they will spend their 25 years making payments that don't interfere with the rest of their lives.
posted by Leta at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you don't think that a degree in "puppetry" is worth 35k, then how about turning that ire on the universities that are selling them at those rates?
I'm not saying the degree isn't worth $35K, I'm saying it's not worth going into debt for that amount to get it. This is a person who already had a bachelor's degree and a good job with benefits. He thought getting a Master's would fast track him to salary increases and such as a teacher, which it would had he stayed employed with the school district and gotten the degree while still working. Perhaps they didn't offer puppetry classes in the evenings or on weekends, and that's why he quit. Nevertheless, this wasn't an idealistic 18-year-old high school senior, it was a 30-something adult who knew he'd be going in way over his head. Blame the school? Such "fun" degrees are obviously an attempt to get more people to enroll, but humans have to assume some responsibility for their own choices. Much like the great deal no money down drive now pay later Cadillac the local dealership is trying to sell - it's a carrot that the consumer is supposed to carefully consider and weigh before grabbing. That the consumer doesn't isn't the fault of the seller.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Students could save $25,000 (more if you include summer housing) over four years of college if they just knocked down the dorms and let kids rent on their own.

I imagine people responsible for the dorm system and 'campus life' are always looking out for how to capture part of that money for themselves. "Campus Life" sells the school, and requires a captive audience, and dorms are a huge part of that, requiring their own money pool.
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:19 PM on December 17, 2011


I'm not saying the degree isn't worth $35K

I'll say it: a degree in puppetry is not worth $35,000.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:28 PM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Students could save $25,000 (more if you include summer housing) over four years of college if they just knocked down the dorms and let kids rent on their own.

Depends on where you're from, and/or where the campus is. Dorms can sometimes be a good way to go in 'spensive urban areas (NYC), or areas with a housing crunch (Santa Cruz during the dot-com bubble). Plus, commuting comes with an opportunity cost, both in terms of on-campus research, studying, and activities, as well as in terms the hours you can spend working.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:08 PM on December 18, 2011


The other great thing about the Australian system is that you pay it back at an amount determined by how much you earn, and it's taken straight out of your wages as a higher tax rate. At the moment, you don't pay anything until you earn over 45k, and then it's 4% rising to 8%.

Uni fees have gone up since I started (It's standard across the country, though some degrees are more expensive than others), but I think this still means that most people pay it off by the time they're in they're early 30's, in a fairly painless manner... I honestly didn't notice until I finished paying it off, when my income went up by $100 a week.

There's also assistance from the government for low income students and older students. I'm not sure whether they do this any more, but you also used to be able to declare yourself independent from your parents income if you had earnt more than a certain amount within 18 months, which meant you could get assistance based on your own income only, not your parents.
posted by kjs4 at 10:58 PM on December 18, 2011


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