Grandma's New Financial Problem: College Debt
August 7, 2012 8:09 AM   Subscribe


 
We joke about paying for school until we die.

It's no joke.
posted by valkyryn at 8:11 AM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe now we'll see some this issue getting some traction.

I think it's a mistake to call it "student debt" because it's totally irrelevant while your'e a student. We should start calling it "young family debt."
posted by gauche at 8:13 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


We should start calling it "we've already agreed, as a society, that having an educated populace is a major win for everyone--why not just add 4 years to it, since we know that that's also very valuable".

Which is to say, free college education. For everyone. That party that does this wins for a generation and the liberal party (if one ever develops) wins after that.
posted by DU at 8:19 AM on August 7, 2012 [31 favorites]


Surely this.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:19 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you for taking the time to report your experiences with the System™®©
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:21 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, that's one surefire way to gut Social Security.
posted by blucevalo at 8:26 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


why not just add 4 years to it, since we know that that's also very valuable

Or we could just make high school, you know, one louder.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:27 AM on August 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


The article says that most of them are in debt for younger family members. I wonder if there was an expectation of being repaid? Clearly it is a broken system, but keeping grandma from being screwed isn't an easy fix.
posted by Forktine at 8:28 AM on August 7, 2012


Yes, are older folks enabling their spoiled children by co-signing for cars housing student loans?
posted by Melismata at 8:31 AM on August 7, 2012


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're already going to die $1 in debt, there is no additional downside to dieing $100,000 in debt. So if you know you won't have a significant estate (and most Americans won't), then you might as well take out as many loans as possible in your old age, and spend the money on your kids.
posted by miyabo at 8:36 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're already going to die $1 in debt, there is no additional downside to dieing $100,000 in debt.

The problem is that student loan companies are garnishing social security.
posted by gauche at 8:38 AM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Damn parents today, spoiling their kids by educating them! Keep 'em stupid and in the fields, I say!
posted by DU at 8:43 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're already going to die $1 in debt, there is no additional downside to dieing $100,000 in debt.

If you have no assets, I'm not sure you'd be accepted as a cosignor. My 96 year old grandmother had to cosign for me last semester. Were I to default, the government could not only garnish her benefits (apparently) but could likely attempt to take it out of her estate in probate--i.e. the value of her home.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:45 AM on August 7, 2012


Yeah, it can't be a problem to have a multi-decade financial investment slowly but surely become necessary signaling of competence for even the simplest, least academic careers while the price of that signal rises ever higher and attempts to give financial aid to the students are counterbalanced almost instantly by tuition hikes that don't actually improve the quality of education because they go to executives, athletics and cosmetic upgrades to the grounds.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2012 [26 favorites]


Furthermore, in some cases the death of a cosignor can throw a student loan into default even if the student is making current payments. Isn't that just awesome?
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if you know you won't have a significant estate (and most Americans won't), then you might as well take out as many loans as possible in your old age, and spend the money on your kids.

If you do that, you'll doom your kids to the poorhouse. Sounds like a great strategy to me.
posted by blucevalo at 8:50 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if there's no estate and they do not own their home? My grandmother just died owning absolutely nothing except furniture and books. Most old people I know are in similar situations: no savings, no income outside of Social Security and/or disability, and no property.
posted by griphus at 8:52 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If these serfs can manage to become bankers or war criminals, they can claim safe haven under the Look Forward, Not Backwards exemption doctrine.
posted by Karmadillo at 8:53 AM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Are there any simple to understand reasons why the UK was able to offer affordable higher education for so long? I understand that period seems to be coming to a close, but.
posted by samofidelis at 8:54 AM on August 7, 2012


Debt strike. Debt-strike. Debtstrike. Americans need to stop paying these vultures interest on something that should never have been so expensive in the first place.

"But it'll collaps the economy", you say. And I say "good, then we can build a new economy that isn't so silly"
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:54 AM on August 7, 2012 [23 favorites]


Are there any simple to understand reasons why the UK was able to offer affordable higher education for so long? I understand that period seems to be coming to a close, but.

I don't know UK politics, but I'm going to guess the question is backwards. You should instead be asking why it is coming to a close when they still can afford it. And the answer to that is probably "Rupert Murdoch".
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Looking at the long term, family wealth (or at least the ownership of property & acquistion of education) is what allows the working class entrance in to the middle class. The idea that mortgages and student loans would be relatively cheap and easy to get is due to the economic theory that this brings the lower third up to middle class consumption levels and runs our economic growth.

And yes it is broken. And the tricky thing is student debt is not dischargable in bankruptcy. At least those with underwater houses can declare bankruptcy.
posted by readery at 9:00 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which is to say, free college education. For everyone

Don't we have it close to this now? At my alma mater, which is an exceptionally good state school that is not particularly hard to get into, tuition, room and board is estimated at under $20k per year. Working during the summer and part time during the year, you would probably graduate with with around $40k in debt. The cost of that education, especially in a science program, is likely $100-200k, considering the huge costs in funding a massive research university.

Is it such a burden for a student to owe less than 1/3 the price of a house after graduating from college with (by global standards) an elite education? I think the big problem isn't affordability of college, it's the affordability of PRIVATE schools. Kids, just say no (to liberal arts colleges). I'm pretty sure that countries with socialized higher education don't cover expensive study abroad programs and provide every student with Ivy league level facilities...
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:02 AM on August 7, 2012


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you're already going to die $1 in debt, there is no additional downside to dieing $100,000 in debt.

The problem is that student loan companies are garnishing social security.


Even that may not be bad, depending on how cold-blooded people are about it: it may be cheaper for the kid to make up the (percentage capped) difference to Grandma than to make the (full) payments. Or Grandma may, by now, be in a nursing home with Alzheimer's with 100% of her social security going straight to them.
posted by tyllwin at 9:02 AM on August 7, 2012


Is it such a burden for a student to owe less than 1/3 the price of a house after graduating from college with (by global standards) an elite education?

There's this little thing called interest you might have heard of. One bad year/layoff/uninsured medical crisis and suddenly you're talking a lot more money. And if you're unemployed, 20k might as well be 20 million.
posted by emjaybee at 9:06 AM on August 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Don't we have it close to this now? At my alma mater, which is an exceptionally good state school that is not particularly hard to get into, tuition, room and board is estimated at under $20k per year. Working during the summer and part time during the year, you would probably graduate with with around $40k in debt. The cost of that education, especially in a science program, is likely $100-200k, considering the huge costs in funding a massive research university.
Sorry - in what universe is $40,000 worth of debt (assuming you can get jobs year round, which is a pretty big assumption!) the same as "free college education?"
posted by ChuraChura at 9:07 AM on August 7, 2012 [40 favorites]


Is it such a burden for a student to owe less than 1/3 the price of a house after graduating from college with (by global standards) an elite education?

What happens if this student gets sick halfway through? Or has his or her parents die, and needs to take some time off? Then they have $20,000 in debt and no way to pay it.

Try getting back into school if you are behind on your student debt. Remember, bankruptcy is not an option.
posted by Quonab at 9:10 AM on August 7, 2012


Something I have had painful occasion to think about in the recent past: if you owe $1,000,000 and you make $200,000, you can pay it off. Even if you have kids and take vacations. Not comfortably, but it's at least in the world of what's possible. If you owe $100,000 and you make $20,000, you will never pay it off ever.
posted by gauche at 9:11 AM on August 7, 2012 [28 favorites]


On top of the debt, how many degree-holders are pulling espressos or stocking the shelves in the electrical dept? And those are the ones lucky enough to have jobs.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:14 AM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think one distinction that people fail to make when quoting college costs and ultimately college debt is that a people are taking loans out for much more than tuition. They are borrowing for housing, books, meals and sometimes even a car for transportation.
If college tuition was 0, people would still be going into debt because they think they should not work while going to school or want the perks/growth of living outside of the family home
posted by mulligan at 9:16 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't we have it close to this now? At my alma mater, which is an exceptionally good state school that is not particularly hard to get into, tuition, room and board is estimated at under $20k per year. Working during the summer and part time during the year, you would probably graduate with with around $40k in debt. The cost of that education, especially in a science program, is likely $100-200k, considering the huge costs in funding a massive research university.

Is it such a burden for a student to owe less than 1/3 the price of a house after graduating from college with (by global standards) an elite education? I think the big problem isn't affordability of college, it's the affordability of PRIVATE schools. Kids, just say no (to liberal arts colleges). I'm pretty sure that countries with socialized higher education don't cover expensive study abroad programs and provide every student with Ivy league level facilities...


Well, when most young adults can't get a job that pays them $40,000 per year even after getting a college degree, maybe it's a burden.

The comparison to housing prices is completely unfair — mortgages are usually things that couples take out once they've acquired steady jobs and have stabilized their lifestyles. No 22-year-old that I know (and I know a lot, being 24) is really in a good place to deal with this much debt.

Be honest. The system has benefited the boomers tremendously, and my generation is left holding the fucking bag.
posted by spitefulcrow at 9:16 AM on August 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ah, indenture.
posted by Zarkonnen at 9:17 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry - in what universe is $40,000 worth of debt (assuming you can get jobs year round, which is a pretty big assumption!) the same as "free college education?"

It's not, just a highly subsidized one. And, for the record, I don't believe student loan debt should be undischargable in bankruptcy. But some of the arguments in here sound like "won't somebody (else) do something about paying for all the expensive education people are receiving." And my answer is, it's really not that expensive if you don't go to a private school and work part time during college. In the event you get sick or need to drop out, you should be able to declare bankruptcy (its ridiculous that you can't).
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:20 AM on August 7, 2012


The comparison to housing prices is completely unfair — mortgages are usually things that couples take out once they've acquired steady jobs and have stabilized their lifestyles. No 22-year-old that I know (and I know a lot, being 24) is really in a good place to deal with this much debt.

Comparisons to mortgages are unfair because if you pay the mortgage, that takes care of a large chunk of your housing costs. Mortgages are tax-subsidized and instead of rent. Student loans are no-deduction interest and on top of rent.
posted by tyllwin at 9:21 AM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]



If college tuition was 0, people would still be going into debt because they think they should not work while going to school or want the perks/growth of living outside of the family home

Last time I checked there wasn't a college or university within daily transport from every family home in the US. It isn't in Canada either. Many students have no choice but to live outside the family home to get education beyond highschool. Also every school does not offer courses in every single profession that exists.
posted by Jalliah at 9:23 AM on August 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Student loans are no-deduction interest and on top of rent.

There's an insultingly small $2,500 deduction on the Federal return. Every year since graduating law school, I have paid considerably (2x or 3x) more than that in student loan interest.
posted by gauche at 9:25 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


My son starts college in 3 weeks. Local 4 year school + Living at home = write a check for tuition and no college debt. (Assuming we can stay employed for the next 4 years - no sure bet in this economy).
posted by COD at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it such a burden for a student to owe less than 1/3 the price of a house after graduating from college with (by global standards) an elite education?

Is that more or less than the burden suffered by millionaires paying an extra percentage point or two on the money that would have gone to their second yacht?
posted by DU at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Unless you're at a small liberal arts college, the grant money science professors are taking in has nothing at all to do with educating undergrads, so I think that's sort of a red herring. I suppose you could argue that indirect costs from grants are supporting the physical environment, but that seems like a stretch. I'm not sure what's being subsidized, exactly, considering that states are cutting support to their state universities.

In-state tuition, fees, and housing at NH's flagship state university was $27,000 for the 2011-2012 school year. In-state tuition, fees, and housing at the kind of crappy state university was $20,000. That's over $100,000 for four years at a sensible state university that people should be making the right choices to go to. It's in Durham, NH - a small town which does not have jobs to support the entire student body of UNH. Kids who make the "right choice" and get a degree from UNH are still going to be responsible for upwards of $100,000. How is that their fault?
posted by ChuraChura at 9:32 AM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


The problem is that student loan companies are garnishing social security.

If I understood the article correctly, the 'companies' here are actually the government.

I understand that period seems to be coming to a close, but.

The door that it opened is all but closed, I think. The state paid for my mother's university degree. 30 odd years later, my cousins live in the same town, though in better financial circumstances. One got an offer from the university my mother went to and considered turning it down for financial reasons. Someone now who was in my mother's position would probably have turned down that offer. I'm pretty sure there's data showing that the top universities are becoming (once again) closed to the working class and possibly to the middle class.

(I'm a little biased. My parents met on the new student tour, so my existence is predicated on that state-sponsored education.)

My son starts college in 3 weeks. Local 4 year school + Living at home = write a check for tuition and no college debt. (Assuming we can stay employed for the next 4 years - no sure bet in this economy).

Mm... but odds are your son went to school with a kid whose family couldn't write that check now, never mind for each of the four years.
posted by hoyland at 9:39 AM on August 7, 2012


If college tuition was 0, people would still be going into debt because they think they should not work while going to school or want the perks/growth of living outside of the family home.

Leaving your parent's home is not a perk for spoiled entitled kids. It used to be considered a mandatory part of becoming an adult. Not to mention the many, many kids who do not benefit from having parents as wonderful as you, for whom leaving the house can be a question of survival.

I went back to school at 30. Should I have moved back in with my parents? Even working full-time while studying at a bargain price in-province university, I'm left with debt that will follow me to my retirement. It's not a matter of stupid kids making bad choices; the whole system is rigged and students (and their families) are left holding the bag.
posted by Freyja at 9:59 AM on August 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


This whole situation makes me sick.

I'm not paying the interest on my loans. I know the exact amount my degree "cost" in terms of dollars-per-credit-hour/books/fees, and I will happily pay that amount back. I won't, though, willingly pay the ridiculous interest. You want it? Come take it. Blood from a goddamn stone, you vultures.
posted by broadway bill at 10:11 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm definitely not hear to beat people up or judge over bad life choices. It's just that I think we have a pretty good educational infrastructure in place, but the perceptions about what's a good value in terms of education, ie, public vs. private and entitlement attitudes (yes, entitlement, I said it) about what to expect out of a college experience have become so distorted. The idea of college being a coming of age experience where you move into a quad, play sports, study abroad and drink beer every weekend were derived from the era when college was attended (or at least funded) primarily by elites. No one wants to go back to those days. I don't think there's a workable solution (within the current politic-socio framework of the US) where every kid can go full-freight to a beautiful, fall campus, without parental assistance, and come out with little or no debt. Factor into that the rising costs of providing secondary education, and it's even worse. There are huge problems with how we fund education, student debt, etc, but I think there's a bit of wanting to have one's cake and eat it too. And, yes, no system will work for each and every person for every single imaginable contingency (again, that's what bankruptcy is for).
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


//Mm... but odds are your son went to school with a kid whose family couldn't write that check now, never mind for each of the four years.//

He has friends that couldn't write that check for the local school, yet they are still going to school out of state and amassing ridiculous debt in majors that don't result in high paying jobs straight out of school. There is a tendency for parents that otherwise run a pretty smart fiscal life to make really dumb fiscal decisions when it comes to college. The answer to an 18 year old that wants to spend / borrow $45K a year on a sociology degree is a simple no.
posted by COD at 10:17 AM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sociology is a very practical major, especially if there is a strong statistical part to the program. PhDs in Sociology have a lot of options other than academia, and make very good money.
posted by jb at 10:24 AM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good enough to justify six figures of debt, though?
posted by Forktine at 10:29 AM on August 7, 2012


The idea of college being a coming of age experience where you move into a quad, play sports, study abroad and drink beer every weekend were derived from the era when college was attended (or at least funded) primarily by elites. No one wants to go back to those days. I don't think there's a workable solution (within the current politic-socio framework of the US) where every kid can go full-freight to a beautiful, fall campus, without parental assistance, and come out with little or no debt.

I never saw it put quite like this, and I agree that that particular fantasy is a part of that problem. A lot of people sending their kids to college today probably had that kind of idyllic experience and feel their kids should have it too.

But in fairness, most of the people I know who are struggling with student debt-- or still taking it on-- just wanted a 4-year degree, from an in-state, maybe commuter school, and they expected to work year round while getting it.
posted by BibiRose at 10:31 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


So let's reform the current socio-political framework! I think it's disingenuous to pin the problem of student debt solely on those shadowy entitled kids who want to spend $45,000 a year to study sociology (the horror!) while ignoring those people making what has been deemed the "right" decision to study something sensible at a local college who are STILL heavily in debt to punitive lenders. I suspect that those people are much more numerous.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:31 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend went to art school. I have an English degree. The current plan is to encourage any children we may have to become electricians or plumbers.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


//I never saw it put quite like this, and I agree that that particular fantasy is a part of that problem. A lot of people sending their kids to college today probably had that kind of idyllic experience and feel their kids should have it too. //

I had that carefree party time 4 years at a big state school, and it did take me a while to come to terms with the idea that it wasn't really that important. Many friends that also have college age kids have acted like we are somehow depriving our son because he is going to live at home and go to school. Which was his choice by the way. He had options - but they would have required taking on debt, something he doesn't want to do.
posted by COD at 10:46 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll have my loans paid off shortly before I turn 50. I had no idea I was ahead of anybody.
posted by srboisvert at 10:51 AM on August 7, 2012


The year after I graduated college, I lived in a small town with a super-low cost of living, waitressing. I paid about $400 a month on my loans.

Then I went to grad school and deferred. Then I was an adjunct for a year and got forbearance because I couldn't afford the payments. Now I just moved and am dreading when my forebearance runs out.

I had no idea that living in the small town waitressing would be the relatively "easiest" way to pay off my loans. I can't believe I was actually in a better position to make my payments as a waitress than an adjunct.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:58 AM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


"College for all" is absurd.

We already enroll far too many people who lack the intellectual capacity and/or ambition for a real college education. Most flunk out or drop out, some scrap their way through to a (worthless other than resume decoration) degree.

We already tolerate a higher education budgetary system which effortlessly absorbs into non-instructional costs every incremental dollar which governments, donors and tuition paying students and parents can come up with.

We already require or prefer college educations for all kinds of jobs which either (a) do not require any particular level of intelligence or work ethic (supposedly demonstrated by a bachelor degree) or (b) do require one or more of those things, but could far more easily and cheaply be assessed by a standardized IQ test before hire and performance evaluation during a post-hire probationary period.
posted by MattD at 12:16 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


But a "debt holiday" for student loans, or bankruptcy forgiveness, etc., is even more absurd. The person who will pay for that is YOU. Most student loans are guaranteed by the federal government, and defaults are charged to the taxpayers. Most of the remaining student loans are securitized and held by your 401k, or your grandfather's pension fund, or some charity's endowment.
posted by MattD at 12:19 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


But a "debt holiday" for student loans, or bankruptcy forgiveness, etc., is even more absurd. The person who will pay for that is YOU. Most student loans are guaranteed by the federal government, and defaults are charged to the taxpayers.

With the money I pay every month in student loans, I could buy two iPads. Every month. Or a high-end bicycle. Or, I dunno, a lot of other things. Every month. I'm not nearly the only one in this position and I don't have it nearly as bad as some, but surely this has some aggregate net drag on the economy.
posted by gauche at 12:28 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


And, maybe more to your point, that's why student loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy. The lenders have no incentive to apply downward pressure on tuition to schools, because they can't ever take a loss on the loans. If the lenders -- which are the sophisticated parties in the transaction -- bore the risk, you'd see serious tuition reform in a hot minute.
posted by gauche at 12:32 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Boy this is depressing to read. It all went sour pretty quickly, didn't it, and now the college-age kids among us are paying a horrific price. It is true as MattD points out that many jobs don't need 4 years of a liberal arts education but do require a 4 year degree. That is because it was possible for so long for the lower and middle class students to go to college. Now it isn't. The soaring tuition is a joke and the never-ending indebtedness is criminal. But by all means let us blame it on the young students who are so stupid as to want a sociology degree.

My daughter H.S. last year. She applied and was accepted into a local city college because I encouraged her to do that. Two years of city college will give her a chance to take some core classes at only a few hundred dollars per semester and then, if she wants to, we can figure out where she can finish her 4 year degree. Unfortunately, by the time her date came to enroll in classes, all of the classes she needed were filled. Lots of other parents have figured this is the best way to cut down on tuition right now and the city colleges are all filled to capacity. She is again signing up for classes this month. Keep your fingers crossed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


My daughter graduated from H.S. last year. I guess this topic causes me all kinds of angst because I managed to swallow a couple of words there.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:36 PM on August 7, 2012


So I hear education is just not affordable by society and there is nothing to be done.

My question is how was it possible to educate millions of people on the GI bill and not have society collapse into a black hole of financial ruin, but instead, spur an economic boom we still speak about in awe. Millions of people who were often the first in their family to have ever gone to college.

What happened?

What is this vicious bankrupting freedom stealing godless Communism, the G.I. Bill - just look at the utter HORROR:

"The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m), known informally as the G.I. Bill, was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). Benefits included low-cost mortgages, loans to start a business or farm, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to every veteran who had been on active duty during the war years for at least ninety days and had not been dishonorably discharged. Combat was not required.[1] By the end of the program in 1956, roughly 2.2 million veterans had used the GI Bill education benefits in order to attend colleges or universities. An additional 6.6 million used these benefits for some kind of training program. [2]
Since the original 1944 law, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service. Historians and economists consider the GI Bill a major political success—especially in contrast to the treatments of World War I veterans—and a major contribution to America's stock of human capital that sped long-term economic growth."

What happened? Why has everything degraded so badly? Why have even good programs gone shabby? Why were we able to afford this once and it was called 'investment' and now we can't afford it, and it's called 'cost'?
posted by VikingSword at 12:42 PM on August 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


The year I graduated from high school, in the mid-80s, tuition, fees, and room and board at the flagship campus of my state university was $3800. For out-of-state students, the total was $6400. It's now $23K and $36K, in-state tuition alone is $13K.
posted by rtha at 12:44 PM on August 7, 2012


IANAEconomist, but it has to make a difference that the GI Bill was just for veterans, meaning colleges could not respond with a tuition hike and still keep their non-GI students.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:44 PM on August 7, 2012


I had that carefree party time 4 years at a big state school, and it did take me a while to come to terms with the idea that it wasn't really that important. Many friends that also have college age kids have acted like we are somehow depriving our son because he is going to live at home and go to school.

You could madlib this into some kind of boomer creed. I had it, but now that I have had it it is of course not important and you don't need it.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:44 PM on August 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


I had it, but now that I have had it it is of course not important and you don't need it.

I keep saying.
posted by gauche at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2012


IANAEconomist, but it has to make a difference that the GI Bill was just for veterans, meaning colleges could not respond with a tuition hike and still keep their non-GI students.

Then could we make it for anyone for whom the tuition would represent more than X percentage of income? There's your "just for" group right there. At first it may be the very poor, then as colleges raise tuition so that the X exceeds the middle class it would automatically now include the middle class and so on until the only people paying full freight of whatever the colleges dream up will be the 1%-ers. And they can afford it.
posted by VikingSword at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I prayed to the gods above to get rejected from Harvard, because my mom thought it would be so great for me to able to live at home. The gods listened.

I still value my years in dorms and the occasional off-campus place. I learned a ton about myself, my ability to schedule, how terrific it was to come and go without asking (or telling) anyone, and so on. I'm sorry if this wasn't among the things you learned while living on campus and therefore think it's worthless for anyone else to do so.
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, two things happened, VikingSword.

We started using a college degree as the usual minimal "decent employment credential" that used to be a High School diploma, forcing people into college that have no real reason to be there. Different arguments may be made for why this is, but it has the effect of making demand much less elastic. People have to pay now, like it or not.

Then, we shifted from minimal grants to large loans, transferring the burden from society as a whole and onto the students , normalizing debt and further removing any downward price pressure.
posted by tyllwin at 12:59 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Then could we make it for anyone for whom the tuition would represent more than X percentage of income? There's your "just for" group right there. At first it may be the very poor, then as colleges raise tuition so that the X exceeds the middle class it would automatically now include the middle class and so on until the only people paying full freight of whatever the colleges dream up will be the 1%-ers. And they can afford it.

And that puts us right where we are now, where any tuition hike is met with an increase in subsidized financial aid which is met with a tuition hike. Infinite financial aid for everyone who wants to go to college and can't afford it is a very bad system if you care about the debt the graduates end up carrying, because the colleges know that they can set tuition at $infinity and not worry about pricing anyone out of the market.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2012


Well, that and the fact that every tuition hike at a state school is inevitably partnered with a reduced state subsidy. State schools aren't getting wealthy in this system.
posted by Quonab at 1:04 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've had my SSI I receive for disability docked for nearly two years to pay a feeble amount to my ever increasing student loan debt (it's 3x higher than the amount I actually took out).

I'm young, I didn't have a lot of years between attending University and receiving disability - my health issues had already begun to be a problem while in college. I'm permanently disabled.

I will never be out of debt.

There are programs to dismiss loans of the permanently disabled. However, dancing through the firey hoops required within the time limit is a bit much for the brain damaged. So, despite applying twice now for that option, I'm still accruing debt. I didn't jump the hoops correctly.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:10 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was about to write that one of you able folks with great insights into the nexus of absurd expectations of universal college degrees and fantastically increasing debt loads should run for office on a middle-class debt-reduction plank. And tell the rest of us, so we (who can afford it) could chip in a few bucks.

Rather, it occurs to me we need a political-campaign version of Kickstarter. Want a representative in Washington state who will craft legislation to relieve student debt? Support my campaign (w/volunteer time or money) with at least $x, and I'll run for office! When I get my minimum $x, I'll file campaign papers and you'll get invited to the launch party! Or something or equal or lesser value.

Seriously, can we find a way to recruit people who represent us?
posted by slab_lizard at 4:00 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


@slab_lizard I'm actually working on building exactly that: makeyourlaws.org. Kickstarter-type earmarking is one of the questions we're talking with the FEC about right now. (Literally, I got off the phone w/ their lawyers earlier today about our AOR draft, though we didn't talk about that part of it today.)

Don't want to threadjack, so ping me elsewhere (eg G+ - profiles.google.com/saizai) if you'd like to discuss or help.
posted by saizai at 4:35 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I keep thinking we should start a Metafilter PAC. I'm not kidding.
posted by samofidelis at 4:37 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although, to be honest, that's also because I want to be elected God Emperor.
posted by samofidelis at 4:37 PM on August 7, 2012


Also, take a look at Jeremy Hansen and Phil Dodds (running for Vermont state senate and US House, N. Florida 3rd district respectively) - they're campaigning on a platform of direct democracy. They promise that if enough constituents tell them to vote X, they vote X.
posted by saizai at 4:38 PM on August 7, 2012


samofidelis: "Although, to be honest, that's also because I want to be elected God Emperor"

Needs more Spice.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:00 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be on the committee if I can float naked in a vat of intoxicants for the next few millennia.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:31 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetafilterPAC: The PAC it's okay to like
posted by gerryblog at 8:26 PM on August 7, 2012


MetafilterPAC: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion...

MetafilterPAC: is as useful as you make it...

MetafilterPAC: Everyone needs a hug
posted by frimble at 10:20 PM on August 7, 2012


MetaFilterPAC: Running pantsless so you don't have to
posted by rtha at 10:27 PM on August 7, 2012


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "Yeah, it can't be a problem to have a multi-decade financial investment slowly but surely become necessary signaling of competence for even the simplest, least academic careers"

The standard repayment plan for student loans is 10 years. One decade.

Jon_Evil: "Debt strike. Debt-strike. Debtstrike."

My interest rate is 2.25 percent fixed, which is maybe a .75 percent above what the US govt borrows for ten years at. My rate was actually based on the 91 day treasuries plus 2 percent, which have been basically hovering at zero forever. The year I graduated they reformed this system to a 6.8 percent fixed. I have no fucking clue why, but it makes a boatload of sense to turn back the clock here. Even fixed rate mortgage rates are anchored by wsj/libor/us treasury rates; enshrining a specific number in law seems braindead.

However, I get the impression most people are more angry about the principal balance than the rate they're paying. Law school in particular seems to get a lot of play on the blue in posts about student debt. For those people I guess I want to ask: is the school debt problem a law school thing, or a more general problem?
posted by pwnguin at 11:45 PM on August 7, 2012


Related post: Student Loan Debt Suicides
posted by homunculus at 11:56 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]




I find it somewhat ironic that higher education is supposed to increase your income but somehow student loans must be cosigned "just in case" you can't pay them.

(I went to college 1991-95 without a credit rating and no cosigning was necessary. Of course, my loans were only 5k a year.)
posted by miss tea at 4:27 AM on August 8, 2012


Law school in particular seems to get a lot of play on the blue in posts about student debt. For those people I guess I want to ask: is the school debt problem a law school thing, or a more general problem?

Law school debt is just particularly emblematic (in a number of ways) and the unemployed young lawyers saddled with it have been trained to attack problems in an adversarial system.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:20 AM on August 8, 2012


I get the feeling in the U.S. that we've more or less accepted our new position as a nation with a shrinking middle class. During the period of the 1960s-70s many people moved from working-class backgrounds to the middle-class by acquiring degrees, largely government-subsidized by state university systems.

This seems to me the same process in reverse. More people in the next generation or two will be less likely to attend college, knowing that its costs are spiraling out of control, and, meanwhile, opportunities for white-collar jobs have diminished and many with degrees are out of work indefinitely. The magical promise of high income and government-sponsored class mobility will eventually fade as generations of experience erode the faith in the old ways. Since we've already shipped away most of the traditional working-class jobs – steel work, factory labor, assembly line work, manufacturing and textiles, future working-class Americans will work service-sector jobs. Renting will be common, and social class mobility will be much lower than it is today. Maybe that's what it will take to open the path to a new American labor party.
posted by deathpanels at 6:03 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is so wrong with staying home for a couple of years and getting your basics done at community college? Or even online? Most big universities, public and private, use TAs to teach the first two years of core classes anyway. My son got a 3.5 GPA in high school (not that hard, people, he's not a genius) and that qualified him for a 50% tuition scholarship at a state university near our home. A lot of his friends are going to community college, at least for the first 2 years. I pay about $2500 per semester, totally doable since I've been saving since he was a baby. You don't have to go into deep, tragic debt for college. Unless going to college after high school was something you realized on graduation day, when you looked at your zero bank account and mediocre GPA and trotted off to the loan officer.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:36 AM on August 8, 2012


What is so wrong with staying home for a couple of years and getting your basics done at community college?

Nothing is wrong with it, but the assumption that a 19-year-old and their parents can live in the same house while the 19-year-old goes and does 19-year-old stuff (mainly in the "drinking" and "screwing" arenas) assumes a lot about the relationship between the two parties, the size of the house, the availability of transportation, etc. etc.
posted by griphus at 9:39 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


since I've been saving since he was a baby. You don't have to go into deep, tragic debt for college. Unless going to college after high school was something you realized on graduation day,

Saving for college is something that is far more common for middle class families. My family saved nothing for my university expenses because at first we were on welfare and we were not allowed to save any money (if you did, you would be cut off), and even when not on welfare we didn't have much left over each month to save. In my province, there were registered education savings plans when I was a teenager where the government would put in some matching funds, but if your children did not attend university by the age of 21, you lost all of the interest and the matching funds, I believe. Considering that my brother never finished high school and I did not attend university until I was 21 (and I could have easily been older), my mother didn't want to risk that. Those programs were essentially welfare-for-the-middle-class. A lot of poor people don't set up college funds, because going to college is just not part of what they see as certain in the future.

Also, you can thank American movies for the fact that I didn't even think that I could go to university until I was 18 or 19 --movies had told me that universities (aka Harvard) cost $20k per year for tuition alone and only the absolutely top students could get scholarships. Since no one in my immediate family had gone to university, I had no way of knowing that Canadian universities were MUCH cheaper. It probably didn't help that our guidance counselor was crazy and told our class that only 5% of us would go to university (not true since about 1950), and that the only university to visit my high school was upper-middle-class dominated Queens University, whose recruitment people not only quoted all of the costs to include room and board in their dormitories, but also told my mother that if I didn't go to university IMMEDIATELY after high school that I would probably never go.

Suffice to say: I didn't even think that I could go to university until I was in grade 12, and that was the moment when I started working towards getting the grades and saving money (and I had to take a full year off to make my first year's tuition). I made it through without massive debt only because I live in Canada where state universities continue to be affordable, because I just happened to live in a large city and could be a commuter student and because my mother is an awesome person who supported me living at home (being supported past age 18 is not necessarily expected in a working class/lower class family -- and even I had to start contributing to our rent after two years when our finances worsened). Those are circumstances not all poor students have.

If we want to make tertiary education "even more the cabbage patch of the middle classes and upper middle classes" (Charles Clarke, ex-student radical, later tuition promoting UK education secretary - ref), then by all means, we should have high tuition and expect people to be saving from childhood.

But I think that a country is better when children from other families have a chance to go on to tertiary education even if they only decided to on graduation day, or a year later, or ten years later or whatever -- because that improves the human capital of the whole of society as well as their individual earning potential.

Also, I took my "zero bank account and mediocre [high school] GPA" and turned it into a 4.0 average and an admission to graduate school. BUT that was only possible under a low-tuition regime where I could study without worrying about where I was going to get next year's money from.
posted by jb at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


My son got a 3.5 GPA in high school (not that hard, people, he's not a genius) and that qualified him for a 50% tuition scholarship at a state university near our home.

That's great for your son, but I'm from a rural town that doesn't have a state university near my parent's home. My high school GPA (which was much higher than your son's, by the way, and I also routinely obtained the highest standardized testing scores in my class) also got me a 50% tuition discount at a state school, but I was $40,000+ short of being able to attend. (A dependent student can only take out $5000 or so per year in stafford loans.) The university expected my parents to pay the $40,000+, but my parents refused to do so. I tried talking to the financial aid office, but they told me that if I didn't cough up the money (or get my parents to do so) then I wouldn't be able to attend. I wasn't able to attend.

I've been living on my own since age 18, because moving out and away to a different city was cheaper than paying the rent my father would charge me for living at home. I'm now an independent student, but I had to wait half a decade to become one since even if you are self supporting, you have to be age 24. The 50% tuition scholarship is only available to high school seniors, of course, like 99% of the nice scholarship packages offered for my (now local) state university that I'm now ineligible for. I'm at a community college for now since it's all I can afford, but even that is expensive for someone in my situation. Even with consecutive 4.0s in college, I don't know if I'll qualify for enough aid (scholarships loans or whatever) to attend the state school when I need to transfer in 2013.

Most of the private colleges I've looked into that advertise meeting "full financial need" have told me that even if I will be age 25 when attending, I'll still need to provide my parents' financial information if I want them to consider me for financial aid. My father won't pay for my college and I haven't seen my mother in almost a decade since they divorced when I was a teenager. Obviously, I can't afford to pay the full price that I'd be charged for being born to a dysfunctional family.

I want a STEM degree, so it's not like I'm trying to get the government to pay for my art or english major or something. I'm smart and capable, but the US doesn't seem to care if I languish in low paying service jobs forever instead of getting the education I need to find work in the tech sector.
posted by Estraven at 6:28 PM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Most of the private colleges I've looked into that advertise meeting "full financial need" have told me that even if I will be age 25 when attending, I'll still need to provide my parents' financial information if I want them to consider me for financial aid. My father won't pay for my college and I haven't seen my mother in almost a decade since they divorced when I was a teenager. Obviously, I can't afford to pay the full price that I'd be charged for being born to a dysfunctional family.

I'd suggest you ask this question in AskMe. There were work-arounds for this problem back when I was in college, and I think there still are; you deserve more focused (and helpful) advice than what you have received so far.
posted by Forktine at 6:40 PM on August 8, 2012


What is so wrong with staying home for a couple of years and getting your basics done at community college? Or even online? Most big universities, public and private, use TAs to teach the first two years of core classes anyway.

All community colleges aren't created equal. I'm pretty sure the one where I went to high school couldn't have told you what you needed to do transfer. There's now an articulation agreement outlined in the course guide, but there wasn't in 2004 when I finished high school.

And, uh, by the way, the 'TAs teach all the classes' thing is, as far as I can tell, a notion advanced by colleges that don't have any grad students to make themselves sound more attractive (as apparently all grad students are incompetent?). And I say this as a grad student at a university where it's not super uncommon for grad students to lecture.
posted by hoyland at 7:09 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd suggest you ask this question in AskMe. There were work-arounds for this problem back when I was in college, and I think there still are; you deserve more focused (and helpful) advice than what you have received so far.


I really appreciate the sentiment. How recently did you graduate from college, may I ask? Any time I've talked to other people about my situation in the last 6-7 years I've just gotten "advice" like "if you do your own taxes, you'll be automatically independent!" despite the fact that this hasn't been true since 1992.

I've had any optimism just about absolutely crushed out of my soul by this point. The colleges just want money, and if you don't have any and can't get any, they'll pretty much tell you to fuck off.

I'm pretty sure the one where I went to high school couldn't have told you what you needed to do transfer.

Yeah, they really do have no idea. They only know what you need to do to get your associate's of whatever from the community college itself. They don't care what happens to you after you graduate, or if any of your courses count for degree requirements. They already have all of your money.
posted by Estraven at 8:09 PM on August 8, 2012


I really appreciate the sentiment. How recently did you graduate from college, may I ask? Any time I've talked to other people about my situation in the last 6-7 years I've just gotten "advice" like "if you do your own taxes, you'll be automatically independent!" despite the fact that this hasn't been true since 1992.

That's why I'm suggesting AskMe or another current source of info; I graduated long enough ago (though more recently than 1992) that I know better than to try and give "advice" based on my experience. My reading of the dependency status rules suggests that if you are 25, you are independent, but again, that's not what I'd call an informed opinion. Good luck, whatever approach you end up taking.
posted by Forktine at 8:37 PM on August 8, 2012


Well, yeah, I have independent status now, but that's not really the point. Private colleges don't recognize independent status on the FAFSA.
posted by Estraven at 10:12 PM on August 8, 2012




Why were we able to afford this once and it was called 'investment' and now we can't afford it, and it's called 'cost'?

I think we benefited from selling a shitload of weapons to Europe during World Wars I and II, and that money's gone now. But we still want to live the same way.
posted by Melismata at 8:45 AM on August 9, 2012


Melismata: "I think we benefited from selling a shitload of weapons to Europe during World Wars I and II, and that money's gone now. But we still want to live the same way."

Well, it's more like, Europe was in tatters after WW2, while the US manufacturing base was solid enough to help them focus on rebuilding. And defend against the Soviet Threat. By the 80s both of these factors had waned, and thus support for universities and research waned as well.
posted by pwnguin at 7:38 PM on August 9, 2012






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