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Student loans suck. What more needs to be said?
February 11, 2003 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Ted Rall says that college loans are killing America. I'm inclined to agree. At just $14,736, I'm on the lighter-side of college loan debt, but being a single father, I have a hard time making a dent. Ted makes some salient points about young adults who are struggling to make money in a recession. They don't work for the Peace Corps, they don't volunteer, etc. Even China criticizes America on our insistence that students endebt themselves to corporations just for education.(via fark)
posted by taumeson (94 comments total)

 
I think it's mighty clever. It keeps the educated people in line, lest they do some of that thinking and start messin' up the Republicrats' plans...
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:14 PM on February 11, 2003


I just hit 30, and I'm halfway through the 10 years of payback, but still owe about 14k on 20k of loans I took in undergrad and grad school. Interest is a bitch, as I'll end up paying about 35k or more on my 20k loan.

It's a bummer, but if your parents don't think to save anything up for you, and you spend your teens going out to the movies instead of making bank deposits and reading at home, what other option is there?
posted by mathowie at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2003 [1 favorite]


I went to a state university. I worked and didn't need to take out any student loans. My parents helped me the first of 5 years a little, but mostly I paid my own way.

This was 10 years ago. I know education keeps getting more and more expensive each year, but there were plenty of people taking out loans then, and I never saw the point of it.

Granted, I never slept, but I was 18 - who needs to sleep when they're 18?
posted by willnot at 3:19 PM on February 11, 2003


I, too, have student loans, but I don't feel like I overpaid for my education at a big state school - I wanted a liberal education, and understood the consequences. I also worked the whole time I was there (although I still had to take out loans.) I think that lower income folks who work hard can get grants, etc. and end up w/out loans - that's what my wife did. I do wish that I understood exactly how much I was paying for each of those classes that I skipped, but that's my fault.

Anyway, I think the argument that people can't join the Peace Corps or teach in inner cities b/c of their loans is a poor one. I don't think the Peace Corps is hurting for volunteers, and student loans are structured such that you only pay what you can afford - so if somebody is crying that they had to take a high paying job instead of going off to do something good for a couple of years, they are making excuses. There are even programs that will let you defer your student loans and pay you in exchange for teaching in inner cities (Americorp)

The same goes for volunteerism. Nobody gets paid to volunteer, so while you volunteer, you are probably doing something else to make money. It doesn't matter if you are making a lot, or a little - your loans are structured to fit your income. If you aren't volunteering, it's either because you don't care, or don't have time, not because you are paying off your Student Loans.
posted by drobot at 3:27 PM on February 11, 2003


Yes, compound interest is not your friend when you're on the debtor side.

Of course there are people on the net who have taken to desperate measures.
Paymystudentloan.com
posted by jeremias at 3:27 PM on February 11, 2003


i also borrowed some money for college but have no plans on honoring that particular agreement.

this is just between u and me. shhhhh.
posted by poopy at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2003


It's a bummer, but if your parents don't think to save anything up for you, and you spend your teens going out to the movies instead of making bank deposits and reading at home, what other option is there?

That comes dangerously close to blaming the victim, doesn't it? How many of you out there have taken advantage of student indebtedness to hire a less experienced employee, simply for the security of knowing that you have a trapped lackey? Come on, show of hands. You, the one looking at his feet, I see you.

Selling our futures for the needs of the Present is the American way. As long as there is profit to be had, this will not change. Its not a trade off, that your parents mortgage their future to pay for yours, as an alternative to you doing it for yourself. The former keeps us rolling along (Lets Roll!); the latter increases the disparities of wealth distribution, but I'm glad somebody is livin' large.

Personal stake defined: 30 big. I'll pay it off by the time I'm in my mid-50's, and no, it won't be on the 10-year plan.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2003


My monthly payments are about $550, but I opted for the 10-year payment plan to minimize paying so much interest. It was well worth the 5+ years of good times I had in college. Otherwise, I'd probably be spending that money on something stupid, like a car.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:32 PM on February 11, 2003


How many of you out there have taken advantage of student indebtedness to hire a less experienced employee, simply for the security of knowing that you have a trapped lackey?

Huh? I've hired plenty of folks and this has never entered my mind. Isn't it illegal to ask somebody about their debt?!
posted by drobot at 3:36 PM on February 11, 2003


If a nation cannot afford to educate, yet arm itself and have enormous hidden budgets for the military-industrial complex, then that country is going to have serious problems.
posted by skinsuit at 3:36 PM on February 11, 2003


That comes dangerously close to blaming the victim, doesn't it?

Well, I'm saying that Rall doesn't really answer the "what should be done about this?" question aside from saying tsk, tsk, all the other civilized nations give this away for free, what's your problem, America?

But the flip side is my parents pissed away their savings before my eyes, when I was a wee lad. By the time I was 18, I was still told I must go to college, but aside from offering room and board during that time, they gave me little other help. I worked two jobs, and used the loans to pay my state school tuition (which is dirt cheap by national standards). I know it sucks, and I wish it were different, but I'm curious to know what alternatives exist between "make school free" and "put every kid in debt for life."
posted by mathowie at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2003


I don't think it's joining the Peace Corps that is at issue in this article, but innovation. The kind of self-abnegation that effectuates social change or helps in a small way to broaden culture or make a small dent into poverty, to do the unthinkable things that might fly in the face of greed and capitalism. But how is self-abnegation possible when a student loan creditor is breathing a waft of harassment up your ass?

And let's not forget the Almighty Credit Report. Miss a payment, even when you are unemployed and you cannot afford it, and it will show up, thus skewering you out of a loan to start a small business, buy a home, or borrow money to start a career or launch a dream. I love it when the U.S. Department of Education go hogwild over low loan default rates and fail to mention anything pertaining to education. Talk about skewered priorities.
posted by ed at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2003


Isn't it illegal to ask somebody about their debt?!

Yes, it is. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:38 PM on February 11, 2003


I'm currently grappling with this as well - I am back in school [law] and am looking at adding another $150k to my $20k from my undergraduate institution. Not that big of a deal if I follow the majority of my classmates and work for a big firm and make a six figure salary starting off - but I actually left a similar salary for school solely for the purpose of going into human rights work. Luckily my school, along with an increasing number of law schools, has some type of loan forgiveness program for the few of us that want to go straight into 'public interest' work immediately after graduation. It won't cover all my loans - and I'm sure there's going to be some lean times ahead - but it atleast makes my future career feasible.

I wonder if undergraduate institutions could something along these lines as well - I'm sure that the Peace Corps and Americorps aren't exactly struggling for volunteers, but there are a lot of other non-profits out there that could use the perspective and energy of recent graduates who just can't afford to spend a few years with them because they're burdened with too much debt. Another byproduct is that often the people that do go into this non-profit work tend to come from communities outside the ones they are working in (generally coming from more well-off families and being able to absorb some of that debt) and I think that can lead to a gap between the "helpers" and the "helped" (I'm not knocking those people - I'm going to be one of them - but I do think that there would be something positive in having a system which allows members of underprivileged communities more freedom to work and give back to the places they came from).
posted by buddha9090 at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2003


The world needs ditchdiggers, too.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:42 PM on February 11, 2003


but being a single father, I have a hard time making a dent

You could always sell the kid. Is it cute?
posted by jonson at 3:42 PM on February 11, 2003


Evan Izer made this journal entry.
posted by JohnR at 3:43 PM on February 11, 2003


I was born exceedingly wealthy, and this seems to me to be the single best way to avoid paying college loans. I highly recommend that everyone get rich, and then provide for their kids. Otherwise it is just a big pain in the ass. And free education, are you mad? Do you take us for a nation of Vodka-swilling Swedes?
posted by cell divide at 3:44 PM on February 11, 2003


As someone who will find out what it's like to have to repay student loans in the very near future, this topic is of a very interesting nature to me. I am looking forward to more posts on this subject. My impending graduation and the aforementioned loans, loom quite large in my thought processes these days. I do have loans but, due to my financial circumstances I was able to qualify for the very low interest rates. Still its a very scary prospect especially considering(and as I have mentioned previously) the degree is in the IT field.
posted by SweetIceT at 3:44 PM on February 11, 2003


There are many reasons I haven't gone, and don't intent to go, to college, but this is one of the big ones. I've seen people making far more than me living with their parents at 25 because their paychecks are being garnished and they never see any of their money. No, thanks.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:47 PM on February 11, 2003


The student loan interest tax credit helps to some extent, but alas, one year of paying off a shitload of interest only added about $200 to my refund, or less than what I pay back in a month.
posted by ed at 3:51 PM on February 11, 2003


I studied at a community college and just finished my Bachelor's degree at a university. I had much better teachers and more flexible class offerings in the community college, at $13 a unit - roughly $40 for a typical 16-week class. Even after books, supplies and rent, I was self-sufficient with a part-time job.

Three years in university and $25K in students later, (even with a 3/4 time job), I'm not sure I made the right decision to return to school for my Bachelor's degree. What the hell, though - I got introduced to the concept of a Christ-centered fraternity. The "Fraternity for Eternity." That's worth at least $10K, right?
posted by letitrain at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2003


I think that lower income folks who work hard can get grants, etc. and end up w/out loans - that's what my wife did.

good for your wife, drobot, but my husband, who came from a blue-collar background and was the first in his family to attend college, had parents who were in no way equipped to help him pay or borrow for college. he ended up burning through his meager savings from high school far before graduation, couldn't get a job while in school that paid enough to keep up with the bills, started paying tuition with credit cards, and when he maxed those out, still a year a half from graduation, he joined the fucking navy. because he knew he was too damn smart to flip burgers for the rest of his life, and who the hell else was going to pay for his schooling?

of course, being in the military means it's next to impossible to attend school, due to the vagaries of work scheduling, so it wasn't until the end of his 6-year enlistment (cuz you can't be an officer without a degree, natch), that he even had time to begin working on his degree again.

my point: it's especially difficult to climb the socioeconomic ladder when you start on the bottom rung and your best route upwards is joining the military.

myself, i've lost track of how much i owe for my 4 yrs at syracuse, which my parents helped pay for. (as did grants, but that barely put a dent in the total cost of going to SU). something like 17k these days? i'm one of those people who, should i ever come into a large sum of money all at once, intends to repay my student loan in pennies.
posted by damn yankee at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2003


mathowie, short of the same national commitment to higher-ed that we have shown K-12, I'm not sure there is an alternative. (And trust me, I work in higher ed environs and I've thought about this a lot). Politicians have questioned whether its a good idea to make sure that every family has a computer (tied to the Internet hopefully). Why not make damn sure that children can afford higher education as a way to bolster the strength of the country, rather than:

1) Assuring that the Military has a fresh supply of meat recruits.

2) Increasing the personal wealth of contributing benefactors.

3) Bolstering political strength by fluffing the interest income of portfolios, (consider that most student loans come from the dept. of education) with guarantees of support, that also guarantee interest profits to those who underwrite the percentages, and come up with the actual cash.

The student loan system is a profit engine. That's all. (For what its worth to those who would say I'm just bitter 'cus the govt. didn't buy my skoolin': I worked at least 20 hrs. a week while in school for my Bachelors. I worked full time tryin' for the post-bachlauriete.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:54 PM on February 11, 2003


>>The world needs ditchdiggers, too.

All ditch digging jobs are taken by people with B.A.s in archaeology.

As someone who will be a new parent any day now, I will be putting away money for my kid's college education from day one.

For those who have never done student loans, you're missing out. Getting that check is like winning the lottery. Ahh, the fond memories of money squandered.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:04 PM on February 11, 2003


Default on your debts, en masse, and bankrupt the loan companies. It's a start.
posted by riviera at 4:09 PM on February 11, 2003


buddha9090, couldn't you first go work for a big firm until your loans are paid off, and then switch and go into human rights work? At a six figure salary I assume you could pay off the loans pretty quickly.
posted by homunculus at 4:14 PM on February 11, 2003


I don't think the Peace Corps is hurting for volunteers, and student loans are structured such that you only pay what you can afford - so if somebody is crying that they had to take a high paying job instead of going off to do something good for a couple of years, they are making excuses.

Excuses? I don't think so. I always wanted to do volunteer work (the Peace Corps, as a matter of fact) but I had no way to do it.

My personal story is that my parents filed bankruptcy two years before I went to school. They still made way too much for me to get grants, but couldn't get the loans to pay for my schooling (not to mention that my step-father was way too selfish to not get a new car every year)... Blech....the system is NOT set up so that you pay only what you can afford.

It's set up so you pay AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. That's what the FAFSA is for...keeping track of the debts that they can't ignore...i.e. they count retirement funds as an asset, but they don't count food as an expense. wtf?

Yes, yes my kid is cute. But I'm not going to sell her.

Is there an answer? I'd like to think so. I went to public institutions in New Jersey...which are like 10 times more expensive than public institutions in Florida, where I live now. The reason Florida's institutions are cheaper (not counting your general cost-of-living stuff) is because there is a lot of money in the lottery system that goes to students. New Jersey recently defeated a ballot initiative to open up the lottery proceeds to state educations...not sure why.

But I know that my sister will get to go to USF for free... because she'll be able to get a 75% grant from Florida for high grades, and like $1000 or something from USF itself for the same reason.

I would have gotten even more than she, but instead I had to not get anything more than $1000 a year from NJ because of my PSAT score. That was enough for books for both semesters, perhaps food for a few weeks. Not tuition and car and room and board. I had to work 32 hours a week to afford all of the above.
posted by taumeson at 4:20 PM on February 11, 2003


One thing I'd like to add to this discussion is that unless you're a minority, getting a scholarship is near impossible. I can't get anything with a 3.8 GPA, an ACT of 33, and a SAT of 1490.

And financial aid? I don't know who gets it, but they must be worse off than I am, because I don't. Despite the fact that one of my parents is dead and the other had NO INCOME AT ALL when I filled out the application, I get jack. I guess they're expecting my mom to pay for my college with my father's life insurance. Beautiful.

As for working my way through, well, that didn't work. I went and got a CCNP, of all things, to hopefully make a decent amount of money in college. Well, now I can work at McDonalds, or I can work at... McDonalds! The highest paying job I've ever had paid 7/hour, and after they jacked me on the raise they promised, I gave that up.

So I'm probably going to have to take out loans, after all the work I went to to avoid it. Dammit.

Loans are almost impossible to avoid, in my opinion.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2003


taumeson: This is ironic beyond belief. So, the state of Florida is selling lottery tickets (which are of course a tax on people who are bad at math) to raise money which goes to send kids through college where they will hopefully take enough math to find out what a scam lotteries are (if they haven't done so yet). Self-defeating in theory, but... is it really?
posted by blindcarboncopy at 4:28 PM on February 11, 2003


Yes, it is. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*
Seriously, I've never heard of this practice, and you know, I can't believe anybody *would* ask that question. One, it's irrelevant, and two, asking illegal questions in interviews can get you into a lot of trouble.

good for your wife, drobot

I don't want this to sound insulting, but my wife didn't receive any help from her parents (both blue collar workers). She worked, studied hard to get good grades so that she could get grants, rarely partied, and paid her way through by spending two years at a community college and her last two at a state school. I think that this is still a valid option for anybody without money to go to college who doesn't want the burden of an expensive loan.

I think part of the problem is that school is expensive and loans are a bitch, but a bigger problem is that people think that they are somehow owed an education and the right to pursue their dreams. The world doesn't need more aspiring lawyers, artists, and writers - if that is *really* your calling, then you'll do what it takes to make it happen.
posted by drobot at 4:36 PM on February 11, 2003


all the other civilized nations give this away for free

Well, with the exception of Canada...no, actually, you're right.

The world needs ditchdiggers, too.

I dug ditches one summer, in my last year of uni. It was good for the soul, and taught me the value of an education. No, wait, it didn't. It taught me that a degree means diddley unless you pimp yourself. Did give me big, pickaxe-swingin' muscles, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:43 PM on February 11, 2003


I got introduced to the concept of a Christ-centered fraternity.

Do their hazing rituals involve crucifixion?

::ducks::
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:45 PM on February 11, 2003


It's a tricky question. I work as an advisor at a very large US public university, and lots of my students deal with the $$ squeeze by taking fewer credits each term so they can work more hours and hence not have to take out as much loan; but it means they take longer to graduate. This lowers the 4-year graduation rates, which vexes the university, so they're pushing hard to get students to take more credits (which means working fewer hours and taking out more loans) by pointing out the lifespan opportunity costs of staying longer in school, thus diminishing the number of years you're a full-time wage-earner.

I really don't know how to advise students in this situation; basically, I support the impetus to pay as you go and avoid piling on debt, but at the same time I know that in general students who work more hours and take fewer credits are less likely to ultimately finish their degrees. (There are exceptions to this, of course.)

What I *really* wish is that we hadn't gotten to the point where having a bachelor's degree is seen as essential to having any shot at dignified, interesting work and a comfortable life. I value education, but conflating college with "line up and pay your dues for a ticket on the gravy train" is just screwy, and causes no end of hassle for students who are bright and ambitious but not at all academically inclined.
posted by Kat Allison at 4:47 PM on February 11, 2003


I think Ted makes a very valid point, albeit in a kind of half-assed manner. Granted I have my own student load story which I'll break into bullet points, then rant on "higher" education later.

*Decided to go to college after 2 years making (for the age/education) really good money
*Parents made too much to qualify for grants
*Parents couldn't/wouldn't contribute $$$ for school
*Small loan for me, large one in parent's name/credit
*Went to a state school: tuition $1250 a semester, room/board = the other $13,000
*Quit state school because they cared more about research than education (at least in the comp sci. program)
*Went back to work to actually learn useful things
*Economic bubble bursts, now everyone asking for some sort of degree even though i've learned more through experience than i ever did with "professors"
*Paid off my loan, still paying off parent's loan

Um, yeah. That whole "deducting interest" deal only works for about the first 4 years after you start paying back the loan. Then you can't ever deduct that interest. Now granted the rates/terms are pretty good, but it's still money leaving my pocket that can be used to, oh i don't know: move out, buy a car (earn equity), payoff other debt (yay bubble-burst!), save for my retirement/next layoff.

[education rant]
in my opinion, people look to a college degree as a job training. it's not that, and it was never meant to be that. college was intended for the wealthy to become well-rounded individuals. vocational schools were for job training. but now every kid thinks that just because they have some damn sheepskin they're entitled to a porsche and 6 figure income. well i cry bullshit on that one. seems to me that there's a glass ceiling on people lacking degrees, totally ignoring any real-world experience. maybe i'm just taking it personally, but i know more people without any college that could fly rings around most of the kids i see fresh out of college. why? because they work hard and they know their stuff.
[/education rant]

education and the economy:
boomers are saving up their pennies, trying to kill their debt and save up for their impending retirement.
gen-x/y is working its collective ass off to try and actually be able to afford a house. i know for a fact that my peers and i are probably making twice what our parents were at our age, and most of us live in shitty apartments or at home.

where does the fault lie? actually on all of us. why does johnny have to go to afterschool daycare? mommy and daddy both work full-time to pay the rent (and pay off the Navigator, the big screen, the gym membership, the vacations, the computers, the video games, the credit card debt). they have *no time or money* to save for johnny's (possible) college dreams.

it makes me sad to think about this. not just for me, but for everyone. there *are* talented kids out there that can make a difference if they get a chance. but we're all too busy chasing the almighty dollah to take notice.

sorry for the complete lack of structure or coherence, but i wasn't an english major (want some fries with that?).

p.p.s. Re: personal debt in job interviews
they don't ask you, they run a credit check. as far as i know, it's standard practice in some companies. what better way to tell if someone is going to stick around and deal with your bullshit work standards (ask someone who knows this...oh yeah, me).
posted by raygun21 at 4:52 PM on February 11, 2003


In spite of all this (and in spite of China's complaining), we have the greatest university system in the world. Sure, it's expensive and enriches corporations, but the opportunities far outweigh any drawbacks.

And unless someone has a better idea......?

In a strange coincidence, 3 minutes before I saw this post I was putting away a book I purchased yesterday, which is the place this article was originally published.
posted by charlesv at 5:00 PM on February 11, 2003


And financial aid? I don't know who gets it, but they must be worse off than I am, because I don't. Despite the fact that one of my parents is dead and the other had NO INCOME AT ALL when I filled out the application, I get jack.

Mitrovarr, no kidding -- I have a friend who is a first generation American whose father died his senior year of high school, and his mother had negligible income. He got almost straight As in high school and had every extracurricular activity and honor in the book. He got no aid, and had to drop out this year to work the night shift at Target. It's fucking ridiculous.

But on the other hand it's totally awesome that we have tens of thousands of $150,000 missiles to use whenever we need to.
posted by Hildago at 5:03 PM on February 11, 2003


You could always join the army.

*listens for sound of collective Metafilter convulsing in fear/loathing/anger*
posted by owillis at 5:06 PM on February 11, 2003


Many interesting posts here. But very depressing too. Surprised no one has mentioned the G.I. Bill--that makes wars fun--a way that educated a lot of Americans and gave them a shot at college they otherwise would not have had. In my case, I had the GI Bill cover costs for all but one semester (I was in the military twice and alas missed some out cause the nation decided to take a break from war).

Nor has anyone questioned why colleges cost so much. Aftrer all, from what I recall, the yearly rise in tuition far exceeds nearly every year the cost of living rise.

As for saving money by not going to college: there may well be some things to do in life that one is not able to do without the license to drive (degree) in hand, and though you can argue that when everyone has the under grad degree the person with the M.A. is in better shape, this driving upwards of requirements has long been in place.
Not really that many years ago you could, for example, get a teaching job at a community college with the B.A. or M.A.--now, the Ph.D. is nearly always required befause the market can demand it.

Finally, though, the article implies that something is very wrong with the system--New Zealand, for example, is practically free in schooling at the college level--and this is probably ture, but why not then come out and state What Needs to Be Done...should the tax payers without higher degrees foot the bill for you so you can get a better job than they have?
Ps: ditch digging now done by illegals.
posted by Postroad at 5:06 PM on February 11, 2003


couldn't you first go work for a big firm until your loans are paid off, and then switch and go into human rights work?

I think the problem is more of one of self control. Even with loan payments, there'll still be plenty of money left over. After living with a big salary for a few years, will you be willing to give up the $3k apartment, the Italian suits, the expensive gadgets, nice meals, etc.? Some people can, but for most people their standard of living tend to rise proportionately to their pay increase.
posted by gyc at 5:12 PM on February 11, 2003


...should the tax payers without higher degrees foot the bill for you so you can get a better job than they have?
not to get snippy about this, but um....why the hell pay social security? all i'm doing is ensuring that someone other than me gets a monthly check. oh yeah, it's insurance; hoping that one day someone will take care of me too. that whole "village raising a child" thing strikes again.

And unless someone has a better idea......?
just because something is the norm doesn't mean it's the best. i refuse to take darwin into account when it comes to anything other than biological adaptation. even then it's kind of iffy.

man i sound like a jerk today. must be because i just sent in my loan check.
posted by raygun21 at 5:17 PM on February 11, 2003


Fuck college. We all know how to read already.
posted by wobh at 5:47 PM on February 11, 2003


regarding tuition rates, I recall an interview with the chancellor of the school, who had just signed on. When asked how he'd improve the school, he replied that he'd raise tuition to match that of the school which was one place higher in the rankings. Yeah. Improve quality by charging more money.

Incidentally, he was a chemist - obviously not an economist. Heh.

disclaimer: I was a lower-middle-class kid whose '70 Impala didn't fit with all the rich kids' M3's, and despite working 20 hours/wk and taking 20 credits/sem (uhm, I skipped around majors), I still have 20k in debt. Luckily, my loan servicier is decent about letting me go while I'm unemployed. yay!
posted by notsnot at 5:50 PM on February 11, 2003


couldn't you first go work for a big firm until your loans are paid off, and then switch and go into human rights work?

I definitely could - and that's the way a lot of people are headed - but I'll be 29 when I graduate law school - I spent four years after my undergrad whoring myself out to Viacom so to me, the choice between having a financially tough time doing something I love and feel good about versus doing work I don't believe in or care about while getting older is fairly easy.

I'm not really complaining (okay, I'm kind of complaining) - part of working for social change is getting used to the idea that are a number of barriers towards achieving any of that change - including even being able to start the work - so for now I'm going to truck along and stay with the plan...and secretly hold out hope that this whole earnest leftist thing will land me a doctor wife...
posted by buddha9090 at 5:54 PM on February 11, 2003


Anisa Brophy, the would-be cartoonist, is in for at least $880 a month...over $70,000 in student loans...

WTF? I'm sorry, but aren't there entrance exams to weed out people who think that they will be able to make a living as a cartoonist and pay off their SEVENTY-THOUSAND DOLLAR student loan? Off the top of my head, I can think of maybe - MAYBE - ten or twelve cartoonists who make enough money to live on & support a family.

Personally: enlisted in the AF, used some of my education benefits coupled with about $10K in student loans...and wound up getting commissioned as an officer, with a sharp increase in pay (and responsibilites, etc.) -- more than enough to cover the $155 in student loan repayments. I knew going into it that there would be a cost to the loans, and to the education, and have no qualms whatsoever with paying it back. The benefits (short-term and lifetime) of the loan far outweigh the costs.

Another thing: CLEP tests are wonderful time & cost savers. Highly recommend them to all students.
posted by davidmsc at 5:54 PM on February 11, 2003


raygun: what postroad meant, I think, is that one problem with making college "free"=entirely-taxpayer-funded is that you end up with the taxes of 5 families making $25,000 a year being used to send the kid of a $150,000/year family to college. I for one see something a bit odd-to-objectionable in that.

But even if I waved my magic wand and forced all state universities to charge a tuition of exactly $0, that wouldn't change things *that* much. In most states, the tuition at Directional State U is going to be a minor ($1500-4000) part of the cost of going to college. Room and board ($6-10K) is the obvious killer, and I'm uncomfortable with the idea of taxing everyone to rent apartments for kids from well-off families.

personal stake: my father was killed before I was born, and there was enough blood-money to pay for college. I'd still rather have met him.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 PM on February 11, 2003


Excuses? I don't think so. I always wanted to do volunteer work (the Peace Corps, as a matter of fact) but I had no way to do it.

taumeson - I don't get why you didn't, or haven't signed up. You could have deferred your student loan debt, if they were interested in having you (they are pretty selective). And why did it have to be the Peace Corps? What kind of volunteer work do you do now?

they don't ask you, they run a credit check

My employer does this, but does not divulge the results of the check (or the background check) to hiring managers unless there is a reason not to hire somebody as a result of that check, which is very, very rare. I work for an institution that works very closely with credit cards and fairly sensitive personal information, so these things are done as a measure to show that we are doing everything we can to secure that information, even though an employee's credit rarely (if ever) would be a reason to deny somebody employment. I still can't believe that anybody would hire somebody b/c of student loan debt. Maybe you should look into working for a more ethical company?
posted by drobot at 6:12 PM on February 11, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe: what about the taxes of the $150k/year family? or the $50-60k/year families? i suppose there would be nothing odd-to-objectionable in that? and we already tax everyone to pay for (subsidize) apartments, food, etc. albeit it's a more warm-and-squishy cause.

sorry, digressing into a rant there. plenty of sources for making education more affordable exist already other than taxes. the problem is, too many people don't want to deal with changing the way this country spends it money. take the florida-state lotto fund for example. where does all that interest for the 20 year payments on the $10 million that's already there go...anyone?

maybe we should all start looking at our taxes the way we look at our credit card statements, with intense scrutiny.

is a bachelor's degree the new high school diploma?

drobot: i'd love to work for a more ethical company, you hiring webdev guys? just to let you know, i don't have a degree so i'm no better than a fresh-faced teen out of high school. 6 years working and learning notwithstanding of course! <-----sarcasm
posted by raygun21 at 6:27 PM on February 11, 2003


It's not just an American issue, either. The problem in this country (New Zealand) is that the switch from free to fee-based public education happened within living memory (1989), to partially fund a 50% tax cut for the top income bracket (who had, of course, disproportionally benefited from the free university education previously available).

So the beneficiaries of the student loan scheme (in addition to the banks, that is) are very visible -- high-income, mainly pakeha (ie. white) earners born between 1946 and 1968. They're our managers and CEOs. They staff the ministries which develop policy. They make up the vast bulk of politicians.

So not only do those of us unlucky enough to have been born after the baby boom ended have to (i) pay 10-15K for an average undergraduate degree (which I should add will be inferior to one gained in the '60s or '70s, due to chronic underfunding in the tertiary education sector), and (ii) shoulder the opportunity costs involved in being outside the full-time workforce during the time it takes to complete a degree, but (iii) it's bloody difficult to get a well-paying job on graduation because (a) high-paying jobs are disappearing overseas, and (b) those that remain are typically held by a fucking baby boomer who's been there since 1972 and is damned if they're going to leave until they're 65. Which brings me to (iv). We'll have to pay for these bastards' superannuation. How? Oh, probably through a large tax increase, somewhere down the road. Forget, you know, having savings or buying a house.

It gets worse. Even blue collar industries are demanding some form of credentialling for new workers. Apprenticeships have largely been scrapped. If you want to become a skilled tradesman, you'll have to go to polytechnic and get a degree in, say, plumbing or carpentry. I should add that these 'degrees' tend to be somewhat shonky and theory-based rather than hands-on. Meanwhile, the industries are steadily losing skills because knowledge isn't being passed down in the traditional and most effective way -- master to apprentice. And they wonder why our buildings are falling down.

Even getting a job in the only growth sector in the NZ economy -- unskilled service work, particularly in tourism and hospitality -- may require credentialling. Certainly 'private training facilities' exist which issue these credentials, in exchange for several thousand dollars. Students at these facilities are, of course, eligible for student loans.

Currently, the government has dibs on around NZ$8 billion dollars of future student income. This will increase steadily. The debt is counted as an asset rather than a liability, and currently makes up about a third of the government's net worth. It just sucks.

[/end rant]
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:31 PM on February 11, 2003


I fear eighteen years from now, when my son is ready for college how much it will cost.

Great link and good discussion.
posted by Macboy at 6:46 PM on February 11, 2003


I would be interested in exploring a mandatory civil service for young adults (exempt could be those who chose military service, completed successfully 2 years of college and want/can afford to fast track to their degree, or completed technical training and are employable, etc...). Those who need financial assistance for continuing education could put in an extra year, say.

Personally, I found it offensive that at the age of 23 and applying for financial aid it was necessary to provide the financial records of my parents (who hadn't claimed me as a dependent since the age of 16). Suddenly I was penalized for their ability (but not their compliance) to pay for my education.

Fast forward some years-- Now I am facing $42K+ for the next 15 months for tuition/books alone. So far I've been successful at rescheduling my appointment with the financial aid department.
posted by G_Ask at 6:51 PM on February 11, 2003


what about the taxes of the $150k/year family? or the $50-60k/year families? i suppose there would be nothing odd-to-objectionable in that?

Indeed not. I have nothing against well-off people paying for their kids' educations through taxation. It's the reverse subsidization -- having poor people band together to send a rich kid to college with their sales- or state income taxes -- that irks me a bit.

plenty of sources for making education more affordable exist already other than taxes

Where is the money going to come from, if not from tax revenue of some sort? Monkeys? Even if you shift spending priorities around, you're still talking about spending people's state income taxes or sales taxes (or property taxes in NH, I guess).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:55 PM on February 11, 2003


i also borrowed some money for college but have no plans on honoring that particular agreement.

um, how? i thought you couldn't declare bankruptcy on student loans anymore.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 7:10 PM on February 11, 2003


People pay for college? *blink*

Hmm, sadly (or fortunately) to say, I was largely spared from the curse of student loans. (I abhor ever owing money to anyone or anything) Being 1 of 8 kids in a pretty poor family, my parents are more of a liability than a financial asset. So I joined the Navy right out of high school. This June, three years after high school, I will have a BS. I haven't touched a dime of my GI bill (I used now 100% tuition assistance) so that's waiting for me when I get out. My college going friend was rather perturbed when I complained about paying a whole $75 for a text book and said normal school, like my military school, should pay me.

I know not everyone has the ability, the situation, or the social inclination to join the military, but now-a-days it can be a pretty good education deal. [disclaimer: I said can]

1) Assuring that the Military has a fresh supply of meat recruits.

I proudly serve as my countries meat.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:13 PM on February 11, 2003


Of course, if I learned anything in school, it would be that countries should be county's.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:14 PM on February 11, 2003


um, how? i thought you couldn't declare bankruptcy on student loans anymore.

I hate to be the one to tell you this sirmissalot, but poopy was killed in a tragic car crash. It went right into the ocean, and they never even found the body.
posted by Hildago at 7:19 PM on February 11, 2003


My wife stands to inherit a substantial (though by no means huge) amount of money, if my mother-in-law doesn't need it for terminal care. Presumably it'll be used for our son's college or university. Right now it would easily pay for school at most places in the US, but in another ten years, given current trends, I wonder if it would be enough to see him through.
posted by alumshubby at 7:20 PM on February 11, 2003


I'm half way through my 10-year sentence, but my loan payments are manageable thanks to the interest rate drops. My wife's loans, that's another story. She's a special education teacher and gets a discount on her Pell Loans, but the big ol' Stafford loans will have to be paid off in full.

One thing about the student loan interest deduction. The one problem is that it's a deduction, not a credit. A deduction only lowers your Adjusted Gross Income and only reduces the tax you pay by a small percentage. As I understand it, a credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your the amount of tax you pay. So, if the student load deduction were a credit that would be a start. Also, they should extend the eligibility to deduct interest to the first 10 years of repayment, not five (that was the rule up until tax year 2001... not sure if that's changed.)
posted by MediaMan at 7:26 PM on February 11, 2003


buddha9090: Luckily my school, along with an increasing number of law schools, has some type of loan forgiveness program for the few of us that want to go straight into 'public interest' work immediately after graduation.

I'm sorry for not emailing you but I don't see an email address in your profile. Can you drop me a line about the loan forgiveness program you mentioned? If all goes well, I will be in a similar situation starting this fall. Thanks!
posted by jennyb at 7:36 PM on February 11, 2003


The world needs ditchdiggers, too
I musta missed that one. Where do I apply? (After 18 months of nothing, I've taken to applying for anything.)

All ditch digging jobs are taken by people with B.A.s in archaeology.
D'oh! Lost another one...
posted by AstroGuy at 8:08 PM on February 11, 2003


To those of you complaining that it's unfair to have $20K-income families paying taxes to support $60K-income families' kids' college: you're right, but that's already the case. Public universities are as 'cheap' as they are because they do receive scads of tax money. Tax money from people like me, who couldn't afford to go to college if they mortgaged their first-born.

Not that I would want to. If employers are idiotic enough to value rote education dumbed down to the lowest common denominator over experience, I'm happier not working for them anyway. And, contrary to popular opinion, not all employers are that idiotic; it is possible to make a decent living without a degree; and I've seen far too many people with good degrees (including one of my parents) working at McDonald's/running out of unemployment after a year or two of looking for a job to waste my money on that particular scam. Personally, I'd like to be a librarian; that takes an MLS. I recently heard about a library director retiring after X years of service — at $12,000. The median income for MLS graduates is ~$30K. Am I going to pay upwards of $50K for 5-6 years of school to make $30K a year? I could buy a house free and clear for that much.

A B.[AS]. is not the new high school diploma. Only a quarter of adults over (IIRC) 26 have four-year degrees. The other 75% of us with better sense are generally doing fine. Does Joe College Graduate make a little more than me? Definitely. OTOH, the sum total of my debt at the moment is a $9.56 power bill that needs to be paid before the end of the month. And trust me, it's nice not being owned by the Department of Education.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2003


Kat said: This lowers the 4-year graduation rates, which vexes the university, so they're pushing hard to get students to take more credits (which means working fewer hours and taking out more loans) by pointing out the lifespan opportunity costs of staying longer in school, thus diminishing the number of years you're a full-time wage-earner.

I also work in higher ed (community college, not 4-year) and was in a meeting recently where they were discussing something similar to this, since something like 60% of our students work and many have young children as well.

which may say something to the problem of what's thought of as positive in the school environment, esp. as compared what is happening in the real world.

I'm personally troubled by the duality of both a degree as a requirement for a real life/job (not withstanding comments by IshmaelGraves & others, I think that's where it's going) and as something that's not available for many except by mortgaging one's own future.

my stake: went to a very expensive private college, not really realizing it was so expensive. had some inheritance from a horrid alcoholic great-uncle and a father who died young, a couple of grants, and about 3-4 grand in loans.

also, my honey has additional thousands left on his loans, which are in deferment because he's back in school, where we're taking out more loans....

one of his loans got so badly fscked up that when we got our mortgage, it showed up something like four times on the credit report. (the loan officer said that was nothing, compared to other things he'd seen.) on the other hand, the perkins lady at his old school is practically a friend of the family. ;)

oh, and my sister got kicked out of school this winter because a loan that mom applied for to cover room & board showed up late & she got evicted from student housing.

these people are bloodsuckers.
posted by epersonae at 8:46 PM on February 11, 2003


Mathowie (re: "It's a bummer, but if your parents don't think to save anything up for you, and you spend your teens going out to the movies instead of making bank deposits and reading at home, what other option is there?") that depends on your political sensibilities. The US middle class (of whom, I'd say, you are nominally a member) is fast disappearing. Jobs which are not - almost literally- chained in place are migrating from the US and the rich industrialized nations to the developing world. This trend - which is probably now unstoppable - will only accelerate, and so the only mitigating solution (to dampen the social dislocation of this process) would be a national policy which either raises taxes or shifts federal spending away from the US military industrial complex and towards human needs - for example, education.

It is ironic that the technology behind Metafilter is also driving this global income redistribution that we are (ultimately) discussing.
posted by troutfishing at 8:48 PM on February 11, 2003


Does Joe College Graduate make a little more than me? Definitely. OTOH, the sum total of my debt at the moment is a $9.56 power bill that needs to be paid before the end of the month. And trust me, it's nice not being owned by the Department of Education.

There's something to be said about education for education's sake, though. I'm an English major, and I know my degree isn't going to be winning me huge salaries anywhere, but I feel like the instruction I've had from several professors in particular has been invaluable.

Well, ok, there's invaluable, then there's $20,000 a year invaluable. I'd still rather have post-secondary education provided for free, like in certain very cold countries. The merits of a college education are obvious to anyone until they start costing an arm and a leg, aren't they? At the very least, investing in a better-educated electorate should be a priority of any decent Office of Homeland Security, in my opinion.
posted by Hildago at 8:59 PM on February 11, 2003


Troutfishing: Amen.

It's the massive job dissolution that is scaring the crap out of people--they desperately hope that a B.A. will insulate them from this.

I'm 50k in the hole after 13 years of school.
posted by mecran01 at 9:03 PM on February 11, 2003


I have nothing against well-off people paying for their kids' education through taxation. It's the reverse subsidization -- having poor people band together to send a rich kid to college with their sales- or state income taxes -- that irks me a bit.

Why the double standard? The family making $200k/year generates significantly more tax revenue than four families each making $50k/year combined. Why should the higher income family not be allowed the same benefits as the lower income families?

The educational system is already significantly subsidized by the wealthy due to the way financial aid packages are offered. It's a slim minority of students who are actually charged full tuition and are not offered any need-based aid to discount the cost of education.

The last thing that the wealthy need are additional penalties assessed for being wealthy. Aren't their higher tax rates punishment enough for their success?
posted by mosch at 9:05 PM on February 11, 2003


Where is the money going to come from, if not from tax revenue of some sort? Monkeys?
Damn, you played the monkey card. Where is the tax money going now? I don't think this is a rich v. poor issue at all. I think it's a citizen v. government issue, whether it is county/state/federal our money is not necessarily going to where it could serve best. And remember it's *your* tax dollars that are paying for all sorts of things that I'm sure would make your skin crawl.

I have nothing against well-off people paying for their kids' educations through taxation.
Eat the rich mentality, I like that. However, wouldn't it be more likely that the rich families would send their kids to private school (bypassing tax-funded programs) and yet their hard-earned tax dollars are still paying for somebody else's education? Of course they could send their kids to a tax-funded institution, but who wants to send their future hostile takeover bandits to a....*gasp*....public school?

and on the "is it necessary?" question:
nope it's not, but it's nice to be exposed to new and different things. especially in an environment "dedicated" to learning.

slim margin my ass.
posted by raygun21 at 9:08 PM on February 11, 2003


mecran01 - thanks. I'm trying to figure out how to surf the coming wave of dislocation...but to sledgehammer home my point:

The US middle class (of which I am a member too) is now feeling the bite of globalization. US income equality (Mefi post) (at the family level) hit its' highest point around 1968-1970. Since then, it's gone downhill, and much more steeply - I now suspect - during the current GW Bush administration. In the 70's and 80's, industrial jobs migrated from the US to the developing world. Now, the white collar jobs - IT, customer service, even financial analysis - are leaving the US. Call this "colonialism's revenge": surprise! - the Chinese, Indian, and other developing world educated classes are just as capable as their counterparts in the US... but they will work for much lower wages.

So, in response, the US educational system will bifurcate into a two tiered system - the "finishing schools" which imparted a cultural polish to the turn-of-the-century US dynastic economic elites, and the "trade schools", which were geared towards the vocational needs of the struggling lower classes....

(* recycles earlier post comment *) ...

...globalization will lead to the rapid decline of the current leading industrialized world middle classes - the middle classes of the US, the EU nations, Japan, etc, - with a corresponding, mirror rise of somewhat less affluent middle classes in the developing world. The wealthy elites around the world will benefit most from these economic shifts, for they are the ones who are negotiating the terms - the individual contracts, and the overall terms of globalization.

BUT.......we may well expect a sort of "acting" out, on the part of certain currently leading industrial nations as their middle classes begin to realize their fate.....

... In the backdrop, also, is accelerating global environmental decay and, also, the "Singularity"...... and before this occurs we will, of course, witness the emergence of "Gattaca'd" super-elites.............*yawn* if only for something unexpected...alien landings, perhaps...
posted by troutfishing at 9:36 PM on February 11, 2003


Do their hazing rituals involve crucifixion?

They've got it spelled out in their anti-hazing policy. Number one on the list of forbidden acts is: Paddling or striking the body of a pledge with any object in order to cause pain or discomfort.

I think that covers crucifixion.
::ducks, too::
posted by letitrain at 10:34 PM on February 11, 2003


Why the double standard? The family making $200k/year generates significantly more tax revenue than four families each making $50k/year combined. Why should the higher income family not be allowed the same benefits as the lower income families?

That's not what I said. If well-off people want to fund their kids' college educations with something they call taxes instead of something they call tuition, I would have no problem with their semantic games. But of course that wouldn't happen given the incidence of state taxes.

I object, mildly at any rate, to the idea of well-off people funding their kids' college educations from money (partly) derived from less-well-off people. Why should poor Haitians in Hialeah help chip in to send suburbanites from West Palm to UF for free instead of for cheap?

Eat the rich mentality, I like that.

WTF? All I said is that I think free state university tuition and/or subsidies for student room and board would end up with poor people paying for well-off people's fun at college, and that it would therefore be a bad idea.

It's a slim minority of students who are actually charged full tuition and are not offered any need-based aid to discount the cost of education.

At private universities, sure. But if people rack up a whopping debt going to a private school instead of Big State U or Directional State U, well, that's them making their beds to lie in later. You'll see a lot fewer people getting need-based financial aid at a school with $1500/year tuition than at Haverford or Oberlin, unsurprisingly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:52 PM on February 11, 2003


Public universities are as 'cheap' as they are because they do receive scads of tax money. Tax money from people like me, who couldn't afford to go to college if they mortgaged their first-born.

You can almost certainly afford the tuition... if you can afford a car, you can afford tuition in most states. What would be hard to swallow would be the reduction in living standards (ie, living in a cheap hovel and eating lots of ramen) and the foregone income while you were there.

If employers are idiotic enough to value rote education dumbed down to the lowest common denominator over experience, I'm happier not working for them anyway

The standard line is that they don't necessarily care about your education as such, but that education serves as a useful screening tool to separate "types" of workers. The models get a lot more complicated than this, but the intuition is that if Bad Workers find education particularly distasteful and oogifying and Good Workers have a greater tolerance for it, then if you restrict your search only to people with degrees you'll have much better odds of avoiding a Bad Worker -- even though the "education" doesn't make anyone a better worker.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 PM on February 11, 2003


If employers are idiotic enough to value rote education dumbed down to the lowest common denominator over experience, I'm happier not working for them anyway.

Perhaps it is the effort that the employers are rewarding? Getting into a respectable university and graduating with good grades requires patience, determination, concentration, endurance and a lot of other good qualities that most employers find appealing.
posted by cup at 12:47 AM on February 12, 2003


You could always join the army.

*listens for sound of collective Metafilter convulsing in fear/loathing/anger*


Why not professional killer? I hear that can pay rather well, though there are some occupational hazards.

While the army worked for Thomas Sowell and many others, it seem like there's something wrong with suggesting that at least you could take a job which, at the core, involves killing or being killed. And I recognize occupational risk for the U.S. army for the last two decades may well have been lower than truck drivers, warehouse workers, and maybe public school teachers, but still.... if you sign up for the armed forces, you'd better be sanguine about being asked to kill and or die as part of your job, and it doesn't seem right to ask someone to accept that as the terms on which they can receive an education, simply because they have no other means.
posted by namespan at 2:08 AM on February 12, 2003


The last thing that the wealthy need are additional penalties assessed for being wealthy. Aren't their higher tax rates punishment enough for their success?

So why do you assume that they are "successful"? Look at George Bush, was he succssful or just lucky? Average student who partied his way through his youth, but still managed to get into Yale (uh, no student loans). Unexceptional University student, but still accepted into elite and secret student organizations. Disastrous businessman without a clue who nonetheless made an enormous amount of money. How did he become "successful"? Why being BORN George Bush Jr., son of a powerful millionaire politician with all the right connections. This myth that the rich are all self-made is just that, a myth. The vast majority of the truly rich in the US, and the world, are the idiot-children inheritors of vast wealth. You can point out a few isolated examples of self-made millionaires, but believe me the people who own and run this country inherited it.

So when you talk about how the ultra-rich's hard-earned tax dollars are still paying for somebody else's education remember that the vast majority of these silver spoon babies have never worked in their lives. Collecting interest from vast inheritence and getting handouts from powerful friends is NOT hard work.
posted by sic at 3:40 AM on February 12, 2003


Ted Rall can take his Gaul and socialize it!
posted by hama7 at 5:15 AM on February 12, 2003


There's something to be said about education for education's sake, though.

I agree — but I don't think that's why most people are going to college these days. Your average student sees it as a glorified vocational school — it has been drilled into the skulls of middle-class kids since grade school that all civilized people go to college, and that those who don't work at McDonald's, and they are terrified. The really unfortunate part is that schools are fitting themselves to these students' expectations, and those who do go to school simply because they want to learn for its own sake get screwed out of a decent education as a consequence.

That having been said, I still think that education for education's sake is better accomplished at one's local library anyway.


You can almost certainly afford the tuition... if you can afford a car, you can afford tuition in most states. What would be hard to swallow would be the reduction in living standards (ie, living in a cheap hovel and eating lots of ramen) and the foregone income while you were there.


I've never owned a car and don't expect to any time in the forseeable future. And many dorm rooms are larger (and nicer) than my apartment.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:32 AM on February 12, 2003


The vast majority of the truly rich in the US, and the world, are the idiot-children inheritors of vast wealth. You can point out a few isolated examples of self-made millionaires, but believe me the people who own and run this country inherited it.



So do you have any hard stats to back that up besides trying to extrapolate George W. to all rick people out there?
posted by gyc at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2003


gyc - OK. I'm still trying to dig up the studies Krueger refers to, but I'll post this anyway

Quoth Paul Krugman "It has always been good to have a rich or powerful father. Last week my Princeton colleague Alan Krueger wrote a column for The Times surveying statistical studies that debunk the mythology of American social mobility. "If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries," he wrote, "it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement." And Kevin Phillips, in his book "Wealth and Democracy," shows that robber-baron fortunes have been far more persistent than legend would have it.

But the past is only prologue. According to one study cited by Mr. Krueger, the heritability of status has been increasing in recent decades. And that's just the beginning. Underlying economic, social and political trends will give the children of today's wealthy a huge advantage over those who chose the wrong parents."

For one thing, there's more privilege to pass on. Thirty years ago the C.E.O. of a major company was a bureaucrat — well paid, but not truly wealthy. He couldn't give either his position or a large fortune to his heirs. Today's imperial C.E.O.'s, by contrast, will leave vast estates behind — and they are often able to give their children lucrative jobs, too. More broadly, the spectacular increase in American inequality has made the gap between the rich and the middle class wider, and hence more difficult to cross, than it was in the past.

Meanwhile, one key doorway to upward mobility — a good education system, available to all — has been closing. More and more, ambitious parents feel that a public school education is a dead end....Also, the heritability of status will be mightily reinforced by the repeal of the estate tax — a prime example of the odd way in which public policy and public opinion have shifted in favor of measures that benefit the wealthy, even as our society becomes increasingly class-ridden.

It wasn't always thus. The influential dynasties of the 20th century, like the Kennedys, the Rockefellers and, yes, the Sulzbergers, faced a public suspicious of inherited position; they overcame that suspicion by demonstrating a strong sense of noblesse oblige....But today's heirs feel no need to demonstrate concern for those less fortunate. On the contrary, they are often avid defenders of the powerful against the downtrodden."


Krueger is taught at the Harvard School of Economics, by the way (he's well regarded in the field, that is to say).

Here's a primer: Sociology 230 (chosen at random, not to buttress my argument, but it does link to pieces on class stratification and social mobility in the US)
posted by troutfishing at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2003


gyc - And here it is: "...Perhaps the only legitimate use of the intergenerational correlation in income is to characterize economic mobility. The data challenge the notion that the United States is an exceptionally mobile society. If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries, it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement. ...Anders Björklund of Stockholm University and Markus Jäntti of the University of Tampere in Finland, for example, find more economic mobility in Sweden than in the United States. Only South Africa and Britain have as little mobility across generations as the United States." from the NYT, 11/14/2002, "The apple falls close to the tree" by Alan B. Krueger. Krueger cites a range of studies on intergenerational income mobility in this article.
posted by troutfishing at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2003


Pro Debt. Against Debt. Uhm sounds much like Reps vs Democrats. That's pointless.

Would somebody please explain how do they know how much is their education worth ? How can one talk about debt without even knowing how much is the education worth ? It's like saying "Hey I've just bought an house and I'm full of debts, but I don't know how much my house is worth"
posted by elpapacito at 9:34 AM on February 12, 2003


troutfishing: I've read studies about income mobilities that corrolates to the conclusions in the article (I'm not sure if it's the same study), but I still remain unconvinced how we can extrapolate that there is less income mobility in the U.S than previously thought to the assertion that the vast majority of the super-rich inherited it. Just looking at just the top 10 of Forbe's list of the world's richest people, there seems to be a fairly even split (4-6 or 5-5) of people who made the bulk of their wealth and people who inherited the bulk of their wealth.
posted by gyc at 9:38 AM on February 12, 2003


gyc - you're right about that. That's a different question (but not an altogether different one) - I got carried away. You've piqued my curiousity though, and I'll have to look into it...another day.......on second thought, maybe I'll just go off and carve some pencils...
posted by troutfishing at 10:27 AM on February 12, 2003


Why not professional killer? I hear that can pay rather well, though there are some occupational hazards.

Bleh. That's as much of an argument against police officers as members of the armed forces. Both have ocupational hazards, and both have the possibility to end a life. I don't see anything innately wrong with serving your countries military forces, and its nearly crucial for a country to have one. Though it is not for everyone, as was pointed out in my first post. Don't like guns? Join the Navy or Air Force. Hey, I just help power ships. This is true, I am supporting an organization that could cause someone's death, but that's why you guys exist, to keep the govenment sane and ensure needless war doesn't start. As much as corrupt police officers cause shadows to fall on the normal duties of normal officers, a few bad policies should not try to showcase that members of the military are akin in morality to professional killers.

I think I lost my point somewhere in there. . . Ah, well, yes, education. . .
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2003


Perhaps it is the effort that the employers are rewarding? Getting into a respectable university and graduating with good grades requires patience, determination, concentration, endurance and a lot of other good qualities that most employers find appealing.

Or a really good jump-shot. Most employers, I don't think, are looking at your GPA necessarily. They just look for a degree. So you could get by with a 2.5 maybe, snatch a degree (with no extra-fancy Latin words behind it) and *boom*, you're (apparently) miles ahead of someone with relevant work experience. Not to mention most classroom activities are *nothing* at all like real-world situations. So you get a bunch of theory, very little practical application.

And from all I've seen, college doesn't separate the hard workers (or learners) from the ones who just want to get by, it just makes it easier for all involved to get shitfaced.

You guys ever stop and think that not every doctor could be in the top 10% of their class? That leaves about 90% of the really sucky ones with your life in their hands. Okay, I admit this really has nothing to do with it, but it's scary anyway.
posted by raygun21 at 10:31 AM on February 12, 2003


gyc - I couldn't resist...here's one study of the question

"...Many Forbes 400 members made their money the old-fashioned way. They inherited it. "Born on Third Base," a study by the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy, shows that a majority of the Forbes 400 inherited their way onto the roster, inherited already substantial and profitable companies, or received key start-up capital from a family member.....According to United for a Fair Economy, 42 percent of the Forbes 400 were Born on Home Plate. They inherited sufficient wealth not just to make them rich, but rich enough to make the Forbes 400 lineup. These include older billionheir dynasties like the Rockefellers and duPonts, and newer family fortunes from companies like Wal-Mart and the Gap. The Waltons of Wal-Mart hold positions 9 through 13 on the Forbes 400, with a combined $32 billion."
posted by troutfishing at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2003


Well said, Lord Chancellor. I'm glad you're here to contribute your perspective on these things.
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on February 12, 2003


troutfishing: That's pretty compelling information. However, I certainly don't deny that a large portion of the rich inherited their wealth, just that a large portion of rich worked for their money. The 42% you cited of course don't include people who were born into wealth (but not super-wealthy) but where do we draw the line in saying "yep.. this guy inherited his wealth but this other guy didn't." Just to take the most well-known example: Bill Gates was born into a wealthy family where his father was a partner in a large law firm. However he vastly increased his wealth from maybe millions into tens of billions. Do we say that he was simply a spoiled rich kid born into a rich family or do we say he's one of the people that worked hard to become super-wealthy?
posted by gyc at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2003


It struck me as I read through all these comments that no one ever mentioned studying part time. I did a two year community college program immediately after high school. It wasn't that expensive as schools go and it gave me skills enough to get a job that I liked and that at least paid enough to live on ($10/hour in 1994). Then I did my B.A. and a bunch of other college certificates part-time, paying as I went. I'm 29 and I'm still going to school two nights a week, but I see education as a lifelong, enjoyable process instead of a hurdle to be gotten over by age 22. I own my own home while my friends are still trying to pay off their debts, even though so many have made as much or more money than I and I have as much or more education than most of them.

If I were asked by someone just starting out, I'd say get one relatively cheap, short program or set of skills onto your resume and do the rest part time. It's not possible for everyone, but surely it's at least one alternative.

Chinese government included it in its 2001 report of American human rights violations

Did no one else find it really, really funny that China would have such a report on the U.S.?
posted by orange swan at 3:02 PM on February 12, 2003


All I can say is, I started my 6-year-old's college fund when she was still in utero, and fund it at the rate of a car payment a month. The goal: For her to pick a school, any school at all, and graduate debt-free. (Things aren't looking good at the moment -- we're backwards with market downturns -- but we have 12 years to recover.)

I'm amazed at how many of my peers think this is crazy, that working one's way through school is character-building. I point out that most of them did so when you could buy the whole four years for a mid-four-figure price. Listening to all you folks convinces me I'm right.

So, thanks.
posted by nance at 5:54 PM on February 12, 2003


Lord Chancellor:

There's lots of good reasons to join the armed forces or police or fire department or life flight team or whatever job where you will likely end up dealing in matters of life and death, will likely put your life on the line for the sake of principles: the security of your state, the enforcement of the law, and saving the lives of others. In that sense, you're correct, professional killers are certainly different.. they kill for economic reasons (and maybe socio/psycopathic reasons too) and nobody cries or hails them as a hero for putting their lives on the line. So boiling down the armed forces to a simple last resort economic option for those who don't otherwise have a means to be educated is only almost the same thing.

Maybe a closer analogy would be prostitution (whether out'n'out street walker, escort, stripper, phone line). You could say to someone "hey, you can always make money in the sex trade -- sometimes good money" and suggest that as a way to pay for college. And the truth is they could -- people have done it, and it worked. Bottom line would still be that it could mess people up, and simply wouldn't be an option for some people -- but you wouldn't incriminate them for not having picked it as an option, would you?

I really don't mean disrespect to professions where you put your life on the line for something of worth. I have friends in the armed forces and I respect the fact that they're willing to put their life on the line and willing to kill for things they believe in. But that decision has to be something other than an economic decision -- and suggesting the army as merely a way to pay for college is kidding yourself. I also knew people who kidded themselves in exactly this manner 13 years ago -- and then got called to go to Iraq in 1991. Most of them came back fine, but all of them had the stark reality of the decision to join the armed forces brought home: the army ain't just about being all you can be and paying for school. You sign your life away. That's asking too much to simply pay for an education, even as a last ditch just like asking someone to rent their sexuality out to pay for school is.
posted by namespan at 6:19 PM on February 12, 2003


I'm amazed at how many of my peers think this is crazy, that working one's way through school is character-building.

Nance, I respect you for thinking of your child's future at such an early stage. I also agree, however, with your peers that working one's way through school is character building.

Student loans and money from parents come relatively easy for the student. Easy come...

If a person works before university and earns their own tuition, they are less likely to squander their time or money by not studying.

If I may be so bold, perhaps make your child work for their tuition and, when they graduate, you can take the money you are saving now and invest it into their company when they are ready to start their own business. I hope everything works out well for you and your child.

Peace.
posted by cup at 8:16 PM on February 12, 2003


gyc (re: "Do we say that he [Bill Gates] was simply a spoiled rich kid born into a rich family or do we say he's one of the people that worked hard to become super-wealthy?") - Why not say that he was born into a rich family, had lots of initial advantages, and also worked his butt off?

From what I've read, Bill Gates has an excellent work ethic. But he did enjoy some considerable initial advantages. To his credit, he is now opposed to a repeal of the inheritance tax on (at least) the basis that increasing income inequality is bad for American society overall.

Orange Swan - your practicality is way ahead of the curve....meanwhile - China is always making these little digs at the US, but will soon, I fear, be "feeling it's oats" (funny phrase, that...."oats"?).

Namespan - I'm not suggesting that this is fair, but haven't the lower classes always born the brunt of war?
posted by troutfishing at 9:48 PM on February 12, 2003


I know what you're saying, Cup, but there's a question of degree. My best friend worked full-time summers and part-time during the year, and borrowed the rest to cover her tuition and expenses.

She graduated in 1978 with a $2,000 debt. Contrast that with the mortgage-size loans a kid of my daughter's generation can expect to be carrying if they do the same thing. Rall has a good point -- people servicing huge debts can't afford to work for satisfaction or social betterment, only for the benjamins.

My kid's going to work, believe me. But when she gets out, she's going to have the ultimate gift money can bestow: Freedom.
posted by nance at 4:55 AM on February 13, 2003


Ah, I see, and I do understand you now.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:34 AM on February 13, 2003


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