Student Loan Debt
May 14, 2003 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Is student loan debt destroying your life? Loan indebtedness has increased 66% since 1997. It's hard to feel too sorry for Yale Law grads making $100,000+, but I know real people with salaries in the mid-40s making payments in the range of $1600/mo. (And that's over 30 years.) When will policymakers realize that this is going to have substantial consequences for our economy and quality of life?
posted by MikeB (127 comments total)
 
When will students realize that they have to pay back money they've borrowed, or perhaps go to a cheaper school, or wait until they can afford the education?

I have little pity for those who get up to their neck in debt borrowing to pay for college, then whine about having to actually PAY IT BACK later once they have a career.
posted by mrbill at 12:22 PM on May 14, 2003


Wow. If you're paying $1600/month for thirty years at 6% interest, then you'd have borrowed over $266,000. In most US markets, you could get a pretty good house for that.

That's not a very wise investment, is it? Like mrbill said, go to a cheaper school.
posted by anapestic at 12:26 PM on May 14, 2003


well, aren't you spashul.
posted by quonsar at 12:27 PM on May 14, 2003


mrbill, while I too don't have much sympathy for people whining about loans they've already taken out, it's perfectly fine to ask the question why must we have these loans in the first place.

To get anywhere in america, you have to have a college degree, but it costs lots of money that parents (at least the last generation) don't have. When a large percentage of students are on loans (and ever increasing, as they are now), the graduates are like an indentured servitude.

My biggest problem is with all the companies that surround student loans. They exploit loan holders for as much interest as they can, making it as difficult as possible to pay extra or pay off loans early. If you take the full ten years (not 30, by the way) to pay off your loans, you'll typically end up paying three times the amount you borrowed.
posted by mathowie at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2003


Um, $1600 a month for 30 years is $576,000. Given that student loan interest rates are at record lows and annual tuition+room and board at top colleges is currently around $35,000 a year, these people you know must have spent way too much on beer when they were in school.

To you question however, yes, my massive student loan burden is a significant impediment to my life. If you apply early decision, the nice folks in financial aid rape you because they know you're contractually obligated to enroll. But my debt doesn't really bother me--It's knowing that other people with less merit and less need got more grants. And those bastards want alumni donations?
posted by shinnin at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2003


Americans in general could stand to learn not to borrow money they cannot pay back.

Sheesh.
posted by xmutex at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2003


What mrbill said. My best friend spent several years and several, several thousand dollars in loans on an anthropology degree, so that after graduation she can sell cosmetics at Macy's.

Sorry, but I don't buy into the whole "education for it's own sake" concept, she could have taken a few interesting courses and then spent some time at the library for the same effect. Instead, I'll be spending the bulk of the next few decades, patiently and lovingly listening to her bitch about the loans.

I've got my own perfectly useless degrees, and am just grateful that they cost me peanuts, because I'm painfully aware of just how much I "learned" in college was just sitting there for me to discover for free.
posted by padraigin at 12:29 PM on May 14, 2003


Your empathy's overwhelming mrbill.

I'm curious as to how people can pay $1600 a month when they make $40K or thereabouts. That comes to around $2600 or so in take home a month.
They're making rent, food, car payments, credit card payments and everything else on $1000 a month?

Oh wait, not everyone's got crazy rent to pay, do they? Oh yeah, that's how it works.

I'd just like for the pending legislation that allows student loanees to reconsolidate their loans more than once at lower rates. I got somewhat screwed by not knowing that it was a one time deal.

And no, I'm not whining about paying back my loan. I'm whining about the federal government not making it a little less painful. Maybe loans should be suspended if the government's run the economy into the toilet?
posted by fenriq at 12:29 PM on May 14, 2003




Sorry, I don't think so. That's 12,000/year in loan payments. Add 12K to what I make a year and you don't come close to 100K (before, during or after taxes) and I live a pretty damn comfortable life, filled with bills and mortgage payments and car notes.

So you leave school and have a 100K debt because of student loans. Land yourself a job and live meagerly for the first few years and PAY OFF the loan before you decide to start living the lifestyle you think you can afford.

I'm with mrbill. Boo Hoo already.

The quality of an education is not determined by the prestige or cost of the school but by the dedication the student puts into an education. Sure, medical school is extremely expensive and I want my doctors to have attended the best, but no one is forcing anyone into medical school and anyone taking a loan without understanding how it is expected to be paid back is a fool.

posted by archimago at 12:33 PM on May 14, 2003


I have student loans as well and they definitely have an impact on the choices that I can make in my life, but that's the risk I chose. College gave me opportunities that I wouldn't have had and I chose to take the loans to go through with it. I have no pity for people who go to college with no idea of what they want to study, who don't get a job to keep costs down, who don't plan for their careers while they are in college and then get out, get a crappy job, realize they have to pay off student loans and then bitch about how it's ruining their life.
posted by kookywon at 12:33 PM on May 14, 2003


but with a monthly debt payment of $1,000 for example, an annual salary of at least $100,000 would be needed to keep debt repayment manageable.

Sorry, I don't think so. That's 12,000/year in loan payments. Add 12K to what I make a year and you don't come close to 100K (before, during or after taxes) and I live a pretty damn comfortable life, filled with bills and mortgage payments and car notes.

So you leave school and have a 100K debt because of student loans. Land yourself a job and live meagerly for the first few years and PAY OFF the loan before you decide to start living the lifestyle you think you can afford.

I'm with mrbill. Boo Hoo already.

The quality of an education is not determined by the prestige or cost of the school but by the dedication the student puts into an education. Sure, medical school is extremely expensive and I want my doctors to have attended the best, but no one is forcing anyone into medical school and anyone taking a loan without understanding how it is expected to be paid back is a fool.

posted by archimago at 12:33 PM on May 14, 2003


(and I am a fool for trusting this computer)
posted by archimago at 12:34 PM on May 14, 2003


Not an excuse, but I *do* think it's hard for 17/18-year-olds to fathom what $30,000 a year (for four years) really means when most of them have never had an apartment, paid their own gas bill, bought their own food, etc. I didn't really understand money until I got my own place this year myself. (I have less pity for grad students.)

I'm getting ready to start incurring med school debt next year, and I think it makes much more sense for the government (or someone) to subsidize medical education so that doctors would be less concerned about earning a smaller amount of money (or less expectant). I believe that's the case in Canada, as well as much of Europe (and Canada's med schools *still* have more med school applicants per spot than US schools).
posted by gramcracker at 12:34 PM on May 14, 2003




What exactly are policymakers supposed to do about the problem? Fund free public colleges, like high schools?

Not to say that I don't understand the problem. I just completed my first year of school, and cost was one of the most important factors in choosing where to attend school. I managed to pull off a full tuition scholarship, and my parents and I split room and board expenses. A full summer's worth of work covers my half of the room and board, and modest living expenses for the year.
So with all that going for me I can avoid going into debt for school, but most people aren't so lucky.
But the reality of today's world is that college is an undisputable requirement for the fields most people are interested in.

With all that said though... where is this money supposed to come from?
posted by Wingy at 12:36 PM on May 14, 2003


There's some good discussion about student loans here (warning: Geocities site).
posted by maurice at 12:39 PM on May 14, 2003


I agree that students should be more careful about what debt they get into - but that said, a good society needs reasonable access to education and this is definitely an issue that needs addressing.

Shameless repost of my comment from the thread letitrain posted. 'Cause I thought it was good:

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.
posted by orange swan at 12:41 PM on May 14, 2003


orange swan, I agree. I floundered the first 2 years of college and wasted time and money because I was way too immature to handle it all. I only wish my parents would have encouraged me to travel, go out and work a little, discover what it was I really wanted to do. Kids going to college have no clue what they want out of life. We should have a national service law so that all 18-y-o's have to sign up like the military only instead of military send them to build houses and read to the elderly and provide govt. day care for two years, THEN make the decision whether or not to go to college. Teach them a little about helping your fellow man, provide a service to communities, AND have 2 years of living for yourself in which to decide if college is right for you.
posted by archimago at 12:48 PM on May 14, 2003


I'm fortunate not to have had crippling debt when I graduated in '93. I'm fortunate to be pretty much debt free at this point in my life.

However, I think all the spite I'm seeing about irresponsible students taking on stupid debt is missing the point. How does all of this debt affect our economy in the aggregate, not to mention all the credit card abusers?

I think it's a disaster waiting to happen. What will all of you smug yet short sighted champions of personal responsibility do when the hammer comes down and you're dragged down with those you look down your nose at?
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:50 PM on May 14, 2003


I wonder what percentage of all US consumer debt is student loans.
posted by alumshubby at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2003


I think part of the problem is thinking like this: To get anywhere in america, you have to have a college degree.

To me, that's pure bollocks. Of course, it depends whether your career will be specialized, but people spending money they don't have on BAs, BFAs, etc, have little excuse to whine. If you've got a head on your shoulders, the lack of the piece of paper will not hurt you.

Maybe I'm completely wrong, but to my recollection, the richest man in America (the world) doesn't have a college education. Either do many of the most successful people in the country.
posted by dobbs at 12:57 PM on May 14, 2003


The dept of Ed threw the banks a big fat bone when they set them up to be lenders with 0 risk of defaultto the nation's students.

Add to that the fact that banks actively seduce college freshman with credit cards in a campaigh torn right out of Joe Came's playbook, and teh greedy schools continuously raising the cost of higher education at unjustifiable rates, you end up pretty much with a scenario like the article posits.

Not a pretty picture at all.
posted by BentPenguin at 1:01 PM on May 14, 2003


And with states raising college tuition fees because of cash-strapped budgets (and no relief from Uncle Sam), the student loan totals and interest rates are only going to get higher.

The tax credit for student loan interest is a start, but if you want a true stimulus proposal, then why not have a credit on total paid principal and interest? This would be one small step to relieve borrowers of their obligtation and reward those who bit the bullet and paid most of their monthly income to one of the rapacious student loan companies. If the guys at the top want consumer confidence, then I'm sure that a modest increase in disposable income will do the trick -- assuming personal income isn't applied towards savings and stock (in which case, if we're going to offer dividend tax relief or balance out income bracket disparity, then why not remove dividend taxes for those who make under $60K a year, thus encouraging middle to low income workers to invest?).
posted by ed at 1:04 PM on May 14, 2003


They exploit loan holders for as much interest as they can, making it as difficult as possible to pay extra or pay off loans early.

Which companies are you talking about? My student loans are with two organizations and they have made it super easy to pay as much as I want on the principal. One gives me a book with each months loan amount printed on it - if I want to pay more, I just pay more. The other loans work in a similar manner. The interest rates are actually very low when compared to credit cards or consumer loans.

I'm w/ the other smug champions of personal responsibility - if you want to go to an expensive school, then you should understand that that comes w/ a price. I'm going to an expensive grad school right now part-time so that I can pay w/ cash.
posted by drobot at 1:05 PM on May 14, 2003


It seems to me that the problem lies not with the insurance companies or the Dept. of Education, but with the universities, parents, and students whose wildly exuberant valuations of top-notch college educations create a market in which the schools can charge $30K+

Those are demand-side prices (several top schools have large enough endowments to achieve budget surpluses without even charging tuition so it's not a matter of how much it costs to run such an operation). Colleges believe their lazy or absent professors, puke-stained dorm rooms, and admittedly impressive libraries and labs are worth it and they've convinced enough employers, children, and parents to pull it off. If you disagree, don't go to those schools. If you disagree, but didn't have such a clear picture when you were 17 (like me), chalk it up to a learing experience and don't you dare take out credit card debt or a loan for that new Jetta that lost 30% of its value when you drove off the lot.
posted by shinnin at 1:06 PM on May 14, 2003


I think a key point of the article that has been overlooked is the fact that excessive student loan debt effectively prevents most professionals from pursuing public service work. Hence the example early in the story of the woman who works for low pay as a public interest lawyer, only because she had the rare good fortune to not incur significant debt. Hers is an exceptional case, not a typical case, and that is extremely worrisome.
posted by cobra libre at 1:09 PM on May 14, 2003


Dobbs, there are fields in which you don't need university degrees or certification. Computers are one. But what if you want to be a teacher? Doesn't pay that well and requires a degree. Certainly I'd like to see the eighteen year olds think carefully before getting into debt and consider other options besides a degree. But we ALSO need reasonable access to education if we don't want bright but poor kids to be severely limited in their choice of careers.
posted by orange swan at 1:11 PM on May 14, 2003


I flunked out of college so I only had one year to pay for. Hooray!

College isn't a very good investment for me right now, especially if I had to quit my current job, because post graduation jobs are just hard to come by these days, no matter what your major/field of study.

Of course that is a doubled edged sword. While I'm relativly debt free, I can't afford to quit my job that I've been at for 3 years to persue other areas of interest, because I don't have a degree.
posted by corpse at 1:12 PM on May 14, 2003


George W. Bush

Promise

During the campaign, Bush said, "Every year, U.S. colleges attract the best and the brightest students from all over the world. I want to make sure that higher education is affordable and accessible to every American. And therein lie our greatest weaknesses: college tuition and the burden of student indebtedness. I am committed to helping families prepare for the cost of higher education." [Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education, 10/1/00]

Broken

The Bush administration proposed a plan to help ease the $100 billion federal budget shortfall by tapping $1.3 billion from a federal student loan program. OMB Director Mitch Daniels and GOP budget negotiators proposed preventing college students and graduates from consolidating their education loans at federally subsidized, fixed interest rates. The GOP plan would allow the consolidated loans to be offered only at variable rates, making the loans less appealing. [New York Times, 4/28/02]

Bush's Budget Proposed Eliminating State Scholarship Program — Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships. President Bush's 2002 budget proposed freezing funding for the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP). His 2003 budget proposed eliminating the $67 million LEAP program, potentially affecting 1.2 million recipients. By leveraging state dollars, LEAP provided $171 million to low-income students last year. [Associated Press, 2/11/02; House Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, 2/5/02]

Bush's Budget Proposed Freezing Perkins Loan Funding. President Bush's 2003 budget proposed freezing funding for the Federal Perkins Loan, a low-interest 5 percent loan available to both undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. [www.ed.gov]
posted by the fire you left me at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2003


I have no sympathy. You borrow the money, you know the terms, you pay the bill.

Student loans are there with the understanding that, as a result of your college education, you will become a useful contributing member of society. Instead, folks get good jobs, then spend their money on luxury items and ignore the fact that their student loans enabled that luxury lifestyle. If I had a nickel every time one of my friends complained about how their 6% student loan was so troublesome to pay back, I'd be able to pay my 16.9% credit card off.

As for the "To get anywhere in america, you have to have a college degree" bit, that's bullshiat, plain and simple. Education is all around you - libraries, schools, books, people. You have to work harder at it if you can't pay for a school, but it's there and accessible. The idea that only those who attended "good schools" are well-educated is a stereotype, and a foolish one at that. Employers hire people, not schools.

I don't have a college degree. I've been working as a professional developer for well over a decade now. I've published one book, contributed to another book, and written numerous articles. I take home a comfortable six figure salary and excellent benefits. Hell, I didn't get my first certification until last year - it wasn't necessary; I was already making a great deal of money. If that's not "going anywhere", I don't know what is.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:19 PM on May 14, 2003


dobbs has it right. The current way of thinking engrained into students heads is that they MUST go to college in order to get a decent job. Unfortunately, for college grads since the 90s, most degrees aren't worth anything in the job market, so those people are screwed. High schools need to stop perpetrating the myth that you must have a college degree. Until that happens, clueless students will just keep walking off the cliff into an ocean of debt that will ruin their lives. College should come with a warning label (not that clueless 18 year olds would read it or understand it).
posted by rrtek at 1:23 PM on May 14, 2003


cobra libre - I think that's a weak excuse. There are programs like Americorps that allow you to do work in the public interest while deferring student loans, and will even pay off a small portion of your loan when you are finished. To me, this would actually encourage people with loans to take jobs in the public interest. And even if its your hearts desire to take some low paying job w/out the benefits of an organization like Americorps, you can have your student loan payments lowered to whatever you feel like you can pay back. It'll take you longer to pay them off in the long run, but such programs allow you to take a low paying job if you want or have to.

See previous thread (thanks letitrain) for the same argument.
posted by drobot at 1:25 PM on May 14, 2003




Try getting a PhD without a BA... oh wait, it's nearly impossible.

Personally, getting my degree (in Anthropology, no less, padraigin) was excellent because of 1. my love for the subject and 2. the environment of college itself, even though I'm now working in IT.

I agree that many people that do go to college don't need to (or even shouldn't, based on the [lack of] seriousness of study of a lot of people I know), but for certain fields, especially entering academia and serious science, a BA is most beneficial to the point of being a near-requirement. If that's not your thing, don't worry about the BA, but if it is your thing, you need the degree.

Unless you're Gene Ray.
posted by The Michael The at 1:32 PM on May 14, 2003


Things that could improve the system:
1. The DoE could provide a comprehensive system for distributing student loans. Currently, the private companies, colleges, and universities present loan-repayment options to potential students in the best possible light. It's not a level-playing ground to the novice consumer.
2. Make realistic assumptions about potential salaries. When I took out my student loan, according to my lender, I was supposed to be making $100,000/year by now. As if.
3. Um, gee, could we sell a Stealth bomber and pay for everyone to go to college?
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:34 PM on May 14, 2003


Yea...y'all are right. Fuck 'em all. There isn't a problem. It's just a matter of an increase in the amount of stupid people needing to borrow money so they can go to a state school. Who cares if tuition rates are increasing yearly... out of control in most states. That has nothing to do with it. Who cares that, at the rate it's going, it will cost ~100 grand for a 4 year degree at a state school by the time my kid turns 18.

...most degrees aren't worth anything in the job market...

Hogwash.

Here's a cookie for Formlessone. DING! [retard]
posted by Witty at 1:35 PM on May 14, 2003


To get anywhere in america, you have to have a college degree, but it costs lots of money that parents (at least the last generation) don't have. When a large percentage of students are on loans (and ever increasing, as they are now), the graduates are like an indentured servitude.

Really? Lets see. I burned out and never finished my last year of college, at a school that was costing about $2K/semester. That schooling was paid for by Pell grants and working my ass off as a "work study" student. I told myself at the time "if I have to take out a loan to go to school, its not worth it". and it wasn't.

I currently own a house, a truck, got married two years ago, and am on my *second* job that pays more than $75K/year. All this without a college degree. I wrote a chapter that appears in two certification study guides by a large publishing company, and in my spare time, run a popular web site that deals with Sun computer systems running Solaris. By day, I'm a Sr. Systems Administrator for a subsidiary of the world's largest oil and gas services company.

I don't understand why people feel they must go to an expensive school and get in debt to get an education - it's just not necessary, unless your goal is to impress your friends and family and relatives with the name of the school you attend, rather than actually going for the learning experience.
posted by mrbill at 1:35 PM on May 14, 2003


Notice that most of the people slagging college are the ones that either didn't go or didn't finish.
posted by The Michael The at 1:38 PM on May 14, 2003


What's up with all the boasting about what badasses you people are... mrbill, Formlessone. No one gives a crap. Congratualtions on your success. But isn't it likely that you're an exception? Are you really going to sit here and argue that college is worthless? Maybe you're not as smart as you think you are.
posted by Witty at 1:38 PM on May 14, 2003


Maybe I'm completely wrong, but to my recollection, the richest man in America (the world) doesn't have a college education. Either do many of the most successful people in the country.

Bill Gates is rich because his situation was so rare. He dropped out of Harvard, not the worst school in the country, and, with his brains, ingenuity, and good timing, founded Microsoft. 99% of people can't do that--with or without a college degree, so they need some sort of further education.

cobra libre: my law school and med school friends all think the same way--working as legal counsel for a non-profit doesn't pay much to get rid of law school bills, but you could pay it off in two years if you went corporate...

formlessone: Instead, folks get good jobs, then spend their money on luxury items and ignore the fact that their student loans enabled that luxury lifestyle.

That is, if there are any jobs available. (I do however agree that people take for granted their loans and don't realize society lent them the money, and they have to pay it back.)

I don't have a college degree. I've been working as a professional developer
You're lucky your mind thinks in that way, FormlessOne. I'm sorry, but most businesses hiring new employees require some sort of post-secondary education for a job outside of retail and fast food (and most employees are following suit). Not all people can be web developers, and not everything you can learn comes from a book. Again, your case is not the norm. While workers in my parents' generation might not have college degrees, if you're just starting out, I think you almost have to have one.

drobot: while Americorps is a great way to give people exposure to public service, it's not a career. You can only do it for two years, and it only pays $6,000.

mrbill: See oaf's statement. Anecdotal evidence doesn't convince me of anything.
posted by gramcracker at 1:39 PM on May 14, 2003


If you've got a head on your shoulders, the lack of the piece of paper will not hurt you.

Actually, for a lot of things, it will. I have a friend, who is extremely smart and practically the textbook definition of lifelong learning, who dropped out of college after two years, and is stuck at a secretarial job for an elementary school (actually, two schools, because he's covering for another position that doesn't seem to attract competence). He started working it as a temp, and they offered it to him permanently. Now, though, any natural progression that he wants to make (ie, switching to a similar position, a little higher up) is foiled because no one will consider you if you don't have a bachelor's degree.

And, on top of all of this, he's still paying his loans from his two-year stint.
posted by claxton6 at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2003


cobra libre: my law school and med school friends all think the same way--working as legal counsel for a non-profit doesn't pay much to get rid of law school bills, but you could pay it off in two years if you went corporate...

At NYU Law, at least, they assume a substantial part of debt if a graduate does enter public interest law; I don't know if it's the same at other law schools, but I've heard grumblings of things similar (sorry, no links offhand).
posted by The Michael The at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2003


I don't know if it's the same at other law schools, but I've heard grumblings of things similar (sorry, no links offhand).

I believe many law schools have similar programs. But I think it's only law schools that do that.
posted by claxton6 at 1:47 PM on May 14, 2003


To those people who are saying that you don't need a degree to succeed in the software or computer world - you're out of your minds.

Back when everyone with an idea could get seed money from VC'ers, a degree wasn't important. Now that that age is over, try even getting an interview if you don't have at least an AS or BS.

I'm talking about lower, entry-level positions for kids right out of college. Everyone I talk to says it's insanely competitive to get hired, even with a degree and an experienced resume.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2003


mr. bill, with all due respect, fuck you.

Mine is a tale of acceptance at an Ivy League graduate school which I knew was expensive, but at the age of 22, it also looked like a shiny ticket out of white-trash Pennsylvania. It also seemed extremely possible that I could get out of school in two years, at a cost of around $50,000, which I could live with.

I got a full-time job lined up, worked my ass off from 4 a.m. till noon, then went to school the rest of the day. By the end of the first semester, I was exhausted. I worked really hard, but I had to give up the job and take out more loans. Once I was in that far, dropping out of school crossed my mind constantly, but it seemed like "giving up."

To make a long story short, I finally got my big ivy league MFA diploma after five long years. Right now, I owe $135,000. I work like a dog and I haven't paid a penny of it, due to credit card debt incurred during those years that I am still trying to pay off. It has ruined my life.

You might think I am a big crybaby, but I honestly believed, back then, that if I worked hard, I was talented enough to "make it" in my profession and it would all be all right. Things didn't turn out that way.
posted by edamame at 1:51 PM on May 14, 2003


1. While I like to believe most hiring managers would earnestly read resumes and find a person with the right skills, regardless of degree, I'm certain Human Resources will throw away all resumes that don't have a college degree listed. How does your public library education help you then?

2. You don't necessarily need a college degree to get somewhere. But it can help your cause. There are things you don't have access to without paying tuition, resources a university can make available because of the large pool of money. These extracurriculars are often reserved for student use, and are often the difference in applying for a job. GPA will only take you so far.

3. Debt problems are bringing this country down right now. We are only seeing the small tip of the iceberg.

4. If we stop emphasizing higher education, we'll quickly turn into Mexico. Not that I necessarily have a problem with that.

5.you can have your student loan payments lowered to whatever you feel like you can pay back

This is a lie.
posted by rocketman at 1:51 PM on May 14, 2003


5.you can have your student loan payments lowered to whatever you feel like you can pay back

This is a lie.


Well, sort of not. If you default, you can have a reasonable garnish on your wages. Of course, your credit is destroyed.
posted by The Michael The at 1:55 PM on May 14, 2003


Education is all around you - libraries, schools, books, people.

um...
posted by arco at 1:58 PM on May 14, 2003


gramcracker -

working as legal counsel for a non-profit doesn't pay much to get rid of law school bills, but you could pay it off in two years if you went corporate...

I was suggesting Americorps as a way to put in some time in public service, not as a career. You solved the problem, though - work for a corpoation for two years, pay off your loans, then go to work for a non-profit. Why don't your friends do that?

witty -
I don't think anybody's saying that tuition rates aren't high - but there are alternatives. The state systems I'm familiar with, at least, have work study programs, grants, and scholarships for students. My wife went to a very affordable branch campus of a state school for two years, worked hard and got good grades, and was able to work part time and graduate with no loans at all. This was only seven years ago. I guess this won't work with everybody, but I don't think its unreasonable to suggest that students understand what they are getting themselves into with loans and to seek out alternatives (like a job and achieving good grades) to help out w/ the cost of tuition.

edamame -
The best advice I have been given re an MFA - never, ever go into debt to get one. I was lucky enough to not go that route, got a decent job, and am now going back to get an MFA w/ cash earned at said job. I'm not rubbing this in, I feel for you, just warning others that waiting to go to grad school, especially for an arts degree, is not such a bad thing.
posted by drobot at 1:58 PM on May 14, 2003


I'm with orange swan on this one. Universities and traditional, four-years-of-full-time-study-for-a-B.A. are absolutely crucial, and the fact that they can be inaffordable is a problem. Yes, there are other paths to success, but people like Formless are the exception, not the rule, and they know it.

As a graduating high-school senior, I've seen many of my friends turn down their first-choice schools due to financial concerns. Now, that by itself is not a good thing, since I live in a fairly wealthy suburb, which just goes to show how absurdly expensive college has become. I have been lucky, however, not to have any of my friends be forced to turn down college all together, but I imagine that in poorer areas, that is very much a routine occurrence.

So, could all you personal-responsibility / laissez-faire types answer the following question:
Are you comfortable with a society in which students are forced to avoid college (and, by extension, many career options and opportunities for success), due purely to finances?

Two final notes:
1) As I mentioned earlier, I am graduating high school in a matter of days. In fall, I will be entering a conventional four-year BA program. Due to a combination of my chosen universities' deep pockets, and my family's finances, I am lucky enough to only have to take out a moderate amount of loans. Perhaps, according to some MeFites, I just lack the initiative and drive to succeed on my own, but, nonetheless, college seems the only reasonable direction for me (I genuinely enjoy learning, but, even if I didn't, I'd probably be doing this anyway).
2) Not to knock the man's achievement, but please spare us all the Bill Gates crap. Not only is it purely anecdotal evidence, but many of us don't have trust funds.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:59 PM on May 14, 2003


5.you can have your student loan payments lowered to whatever you feel like you can pay back

This is a lie.


Actually, it's not. I did it a few years ago while going through a particularly awful time with my son and his rising hospital bills. I had my payments lowered almost 100 bucks a month. After a year and a half, I just started sending the normal amount again.
posted by bradth27 at 2:00 PM on May 14, 2003


Boy, you personal responsibility mavens are really really obtuse in your refusal to face up to the fact that you don't live in a vacuum. The huge numbers of people with overwhelming debt pose a very real threat to our entire economy. I'd think y'all would have the smarts to see that and direct your vituperative energies towards those that are taking advantage of this system to YOUR detriment as well as the indebted - the lenders.

I guess you're all too busy sucking your thumb and reading the Fountainhead.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2003


Oh, and I forgot to mention that my payments were only $200 a month anyway. Basically, they allowed me to cut my payment in half.
posted by bradth27 at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2003


5.you can have your student loan payments lowered to whatever you feel like you can pay back

This is a lie.


No, it's not a lie. When I was fresh out of school and making 21k in NYC, I called em up and had them lowered.
posted by drobot at 2:02 PM on May 14, 2003


College loans are amazingly cheap! Find any other place where an 18 year old can get an uncollateralized loan with a single-digit APR.

Does it occur to anyone that college costs have escalated because the government guarantees student loans? If the government were to give people money for going to college, as some suggest, colleges would find a way to absorb those extra dollars right quick.

Further, college costs cannot infinitely continue to rise faster than consumers' ability to pay them. We could see college costs plummet over the next decade as mom and dad are mortgaged to the hilt, and their 401(k)s are too deflated to borrow from.
posted by trharlan at 2:05 PM on May 14, 2003


Gates has a Harvard education, though not a degree.

It seems, at least in part, that the painful solution might be to acknowledge that not everyone can afford college. That's sucky, but I also can't work up much sympathy for people who think they're college material but can't be bothered to noodle through the consequences of taking out loans.

Personally, I got my B.A. without incurring any debt. I went to in-state public schools, worked hard to get a couple partial academic scholarships, worked summers, passed on expensive choices (like visiting relatives in Hawaii, which would have eaten all my summer income), never had a car during college, and tapped birthday and Christmas money snatched away from me throughout my childhood by heartless evil parents and put into college savings in my name (thanks, Mom and Dad :). I was also fortunate that my folks paid the tuition (strictly tuition, not room/board/books) for four years (I took five to graduate, transfer between two state schools & radical major shift). That certainly helped, but it was also a fraction of the overall expense.

I'm not claiming I endured any hardship, but I do want to show that careful planning can expand the range of available choices. In my family, a single income (government job) family sent both children through college. I hope that the difficulties many out there are facing now will show them the need to plan more carefully for their own children's financial needs if they want to make college available to them. Let's hope.
posted by NortonDC at 2:08 PM on May 14, 2003


Dobbs, there are fields in which you don't need university degrees or certification. Computers are one. But what if you want to be a teacher?

Which is why I said "Of course, it depends whether your career will be specialized..."

Aces! Anecdotal evidence combined with an unprovable statement!

Stating that there are plenty of successful people in America without a college education is irrelevant and unprovable? Hmm. Can't argue with that kind of logic.

If you've got a head on your shoulders, the lack of the piece of paper will not hurt you.

Actually, for a lot of things, it will.

Yes, but for every person you can name in this type of situation, I can point to an "uneducated" successful person. To me, your friend is the exception.

Are you really going to sit here and argue that college is worthless?

I don't think we're all saying it's worthless. I think some of us (me, anyway) are saying that the statement that one NEEDS a college degree to succeed is nonsense. Yes, sometimes (many, maybe) a degree can help. But it is not the be all end all that it is trumpeted as by parents and highschool admin.
posted by dobbs at 2:09 PM on May 14, 2003


Are you really going to sit here and argue that college is worthless?

I never said college is worthless - I said that it was possible to become relatively successful WITHOUT a college degree.

My point is that people should go to the schools they can afford, and if they willingly choose to take out loans to pay for schools they cannot afford, they should pay those loans back. It's no different than someone taking out a loan for a vehicle or for a house - pay for what you have willingly chosen to receive, according to the terms of the loan that you signed.

Nobody forced you to go to an expensive school, and nobody forced you to sign those student loan papers.
posted by mrbill at 2:11 PM on May 14, 2003


“All but two of the 50 highest paying occupations will require a college degree. Jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree will grow by 21.6% between 2000 and 2010, those requiring an associate degree will grow by 32 %, and those requiring postsecondary vocational awards will grow by 24.1%.”

National Society for Human Resource Management, 2002 powerpoint

"As Baby Boomers retire, yet continue to be active consumers, American jobs requiring college degrees (two-year, four-year or advanced) will increase by 20 million as we recover from the recent recession and return to the previous growth track over the next 10 years. Of this number, 12.5 million will be new jobs requiring baccalaureate or advanced degrees and 7.5 million will be new jobs for graduates of two-year degree programs.
The overall need - job growth plus retiree replacement - is for 18 million new baccalaureate degree holders by 2012. At current annual college and university graduation rates - 1.15 million baccalaureate degrees annually - the available new college degree holders will fall 6 million short at below 12 million - a 33 percent short-fall." Employment Policy Foundation

My friend was actually accepted to the Columbia Public Law program, but if you have to quit the program for any reason (your parents get sick and you have to move, for example), you have to pay back the law school costs in entirety. No excuses. She wasn't confident something like that might not happen to her.

Also (lawyers, correct me if I'm wrong), but once you're out of law school, you kind of have to pick which direction you're going in. I've heard from many people it's very difficult to go from public to private or vice-versa several years into your practice.

A pretty good deal for med students: National Health Service Corps. For each year you spend working in primary care in an underserved area, a year's worth of your med school debt is repaid. The Armed Forces will do something similar, but it's kind of hard to choose if you're a pacifist, gay, or both.
posted by gramcracker at 2:12 PM on May 14, 2003


ursus_comiter - Ha, that's a good one. the Fountainhead

I do see that there's a problem. But it's easier to change yourself than it is the system, I think. Students should take a serious look at how much they are about to go into debt and consider the alternatives, like getting good grades, working while they are in school, going part time, or attending a community college or branch campus for a couple of years and then transferring to an in-state school.
posted by drobot at 2:17 PM on May 14, 2003


A few things.

1. Most people can't get nice jobs without degrees. By nice, I mean, "covers the bills". I don't mean nice, as in, "Ferrari". Employers, particularly now, don't give a rat's ass if you're a really smart person; in this buyer's market, everybody's smart and well-read and nicely dressed and can do the job. If you want a job, there are usually a list of requirements for candidates. Those requirements get a lot longer when the economy gets shitty, and one of those is a college degree. Open up a newspaper and check out the classified section if you don't think so.

2. College is a big lie. Except for select universities where the ink on your diploma will open doors ("Oh, you're a Harvard-man, too? Excellent!") even a college degree doesn't guarantee a job these days. What it does provide you is a starting-life balance of negative $120,000. As many here have already said, you could buy a house and establish some equity for that kind of cash. Unless you're going to school for a specialized profession that requires the degree (medical, legal, business), you're just going to end up in a classroom with a few dozen other History majors discussing books that cost you too much, anyway. Save your money.

3. There are fewer and fewer manufacturing jobs left these days in the U.S. If you want an unskilled job, move to India.

4. What happens if you get the degree, incur the debt, but are now suddenly out of a job and having a difficult time getting a new one? ("But I've got a BA!" you cry). Well, you're shit out of luck. And look forward to an endless supply of ass-hats telling you, "Well, if I'm making hundreds of thousands of dollars without a degree, everybody should be able to!" and ass-blankets adding, "It's your own fault. You lost the game of life, and now I get to laugh at your misery."

But wait! There's a nice, simple answer for you. And not only will it get you out of debt, it will really piss off those assholes who make comments like the above without thinking that there are some people who just can't get a break even with their degrees. It's called Personal Bankruptcy.

Everyone's going to try and talk you out of it ("Think of your credit report! Won't someone please think of the credit report!") but if you've been out of work for months and have dried up your savings, think of how bad your debt already is, what with those bounced checks and overdue credit cards? Yes, your credit report will look like dogshit for about 10 years, and you can forget about buying a house or a new car until then. But you'll start over at $0, and have 10 years of savings to boot. If you look at your finances honestly, and really believe that in 10 years you'll still be in debt and struggling just to pay the rent, declare bankruptcy and stop the money lenders from suffocating you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:24 PM on May 14, 2003


I'm all for personal financial responsibility, and two state-university degrees later, I'm loan-free. But I think an interesting point in the original post and in cobra libre’s and gramcracker’s comments could use some more attention. That is, is the US’s current system of post-secondary education set up and financed properly to support the American economy and way of life? Even if all underfunded and unwise students were to follow the example of some of this thread’s successful non-grad folks, that won’t address the country’s critical HR shortages, as The Michael The pointed out with the BA/PhD comment.

The U.S. Commission on National Security (aka Hart-Rudman Commission) argues that we have a critical deficit of well-trained math/science professionals. They add that we need more sharp humanities folks, too. Decades ago, the US poured big bucks into public higher education so that the US workforce would be well-trained to fight the Cold War. Whether or not warfighting should be the primary reason we support higher education, the point is: the US does not have enough skilled professionals to meet all its needs. There are too many of this, too few of that; too many of the best and brightest remaining in the better-paying private sector. Teachers are a great example—longstanding shortages of math, science, and special ed teachers. Senior level scientists and engineers are another good example; the US has to keep importing them. Public servants are another example; the government has difficulty luring highly skilled leaders into its ranks, unless the leaders (Bush and Kerry for example) are already independently wealthy. All these people need college degrees, often graduate degrees. Higher ed needs a programmatic fix, and it’s a national need that the government has reason to look into.
posted by win_k at 2:24 PM on May 14, 2003


Yes, but for every person you can name in this type of situation, I can point to an "uneducated" successful person. To me, your friend is the exception.

What would you consider evidence either way for this?

For example, if we could see the top, say, 10% of people by income, and see how it broke down by education level, and whether that was in line with the number of people countrywide by education level, would that do it, roughly? That is, if education had no affect on job prospects, we'd expect to see the same proportion of education level within each strata of income; if the two were positively associated, we'd expect to see proportionally more people in the top tiers with high education levels than nationwide; reverse for if they were negatively associated.

I'm just curious how we can break out of battled anecdotes, and before I go hunting around for statistics, I'd like to know what I should look for.
posted by claxton6 at 2:26 PM on May 14, 2003


Civil Disobedient, i am quite sure that Personal Bankruptcy does not apply student loans. I have never tried it, but I know some peers who seriously looked into it.

Mr. Bill, surely you see that you have been unusually fortunate. And I think you are missing the point with this talk of "nobody forced you." The point is that the system appears to a young student like they are making an investment in their future and in realizing their potential. It's an illusion. But back then I thought -- Why shouldn't I have what the rich kids have? I am just as smart as they am. I had NO IDEA how bad it was going to get.

I am not angry that I am in debt, nor that I have to pay it back. I am angry that the amount is more than I can realistically pay back EVER IN THIS LIFETIME. It is unconscionable for the school and the lenders to indenture people in this way. I am the first to admit it was the biggest mistake of my life. But that doesn't make it go away.

I think things are going to be all right now. But I am in my thirties and starting to wonder if I will ever be able to afford to raise a kid, own a place of my own, etc. It's like that. It's impacting my life for real. Not just keeping me from going on vacation, etc.
posted by edamame at 2:35 PM on May 14, 2003


You might think I am a big crybaby, but I honestly believed, back then, that if I worked hard, I was talented enough to "make it" in my profession and it would all be all right.

in other words, you bought into the great american lie dream.
posted by quonsar at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2003


The real shame in current thinking is equating college with skills in any way. And yet, it's not as though I can, with a clear conscience, simply steer my own children toward whatever sort of education and experience will best utilize their natural talents and inclinations (be that vocational school, university, apprenticeship, art school, or what have you), because there's this pig-headed idea that a college diploma is where it all has to begin. Were I to encourage a son who loves cars to train at a vocational institute to become a mechanic, I'd be vilified by my peers here in the overeducated middle-class for committing such an awful breach of his self-esteem. My sister, when she told a favorite teacher of her plans to attend a culinary institute after high school, was told very coldly that this was a waste of her mind and that she was ruining her future with such plans. In fear, she joined the Navy so she'd be able to pay for college, and she still dreams of culinary school "some day", after she's done with a "real job". Totally pathetic, and she can't be talked out of it. The damage, for her, has been done.

And that's a pity. There's no reason why college *should* be so important, there's no reason why I should have found myself being told by bosses to hire a college grad to fill a clerical position, but I was, often. A diploma is seen as having some sort of intrinsic value, a magical key, and it. is. not. And I don't see that changing...so here I am, setting up educational trusts for my child and my future children, knowing they may well be wasting the best years of their lives when they could be out DOING and really LEARNING.

And I don't mean to discount anyone's college experience, I know that many people feel very strongly that it benefitted them. I'm just of the belief that not every path needs to lead from college, and it's unfair that our society makes that so impossible.
posted by padraigin at 2:41 PM on May 14, 2003


quonsar: word.
posted by edamame at 2:43 PM on May 14, 2003


edamame - Personal Bankruptcy does apply to student loans if paying those loans back proves too financially burdensome. However, usually you are correct. My comment shouldn't be construed as a quick-fix, as there are lots of additional implications of declaring bankruptcy. There are a lot of people, though, that are saddled with debt they will never be able to pay off, including student loans. It is for these people that my suggestion was intended.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:46 PM on May 14, 2003


edamame - Can you elaborate specifically on where you went to school and what you thought that would get you?
posted by drobot at 2:47 PM on May 14, 2003


drrobot- The state systems I'm familiar with, at least, have work study programs, grants, and scholarships for students.

All of those things are funded by the state (or even private donors in the case of grants and scholarships). Work study, for instance, is usually funded 50% by the department budget that hires you and the rest from the work study pool, alloted by the state to the school (although when you get down to brass tacks it's ALL allotted by the state). It's not an unlimited pool. It's not just sitting there waiting for the people to use it. I can remember getting to the end of my work study allotment and pleading with financial aid to find more for me so I could finish out the year. I mean, we aren't talking huge amounts here, usually $1000 a semester. You can dip into winter's $1000 during the fall, but when it runs out you are at the mercy of those who didn't claim their work study or won't be using it all (still only talking $500 more).

I don't have a huge loan amount, but it's equal to my yearly salary and I got three bachelor's in four years (get the most of what you pay for). If I worked in a field that had a "work for us, we'll pay your loan" deal, I'd be all over it.
posted by nramsey at 2:52 PM on May 14, 2003


I know this guy who went to med school off of loan from some small town in Alaska, or maybe it was the state of Alaska, anyway he had to go work in this small town after graduating and he sure did miss New York but he met this beautiful woman there who was a pilot but they kept pretending they didn't like each other but they really did and all her boyfriends died and then Paul Provenza showed up for some reason.
posted by Bonzai at 2:53 PM on May 14, 2003


edamame -- right on! Things didn't turn out that way -- that describes exactly my situation too. I incurred a bit of debt for undergrad at a fantastic school, Tufts, rather than my state university, and then went to the most liberal, public-service oriented law school, for about $50K more, plus credit card debt to pay for books, living, etc. whilst working 3 jobs, etc. who knew the legal job market in boston would fall apart right when i graduated? i'm happy with my current job, but i make less than my sister who's a teacher (!) and i have no benefits because i'm a contractor. oh, just get one of those big-time, corporate law jobs at a fancy firm? about a dozen of my friends who did that to pay off loans, selling out their public interest aspirations because you can't live in this town on $28K/year, have been laid off after toiling 80 hours/week for three years -- oops, "restructuring." it's a hard lesson to learn that the market will chew you up and spit you out no matter how hard-working you are...it has nothing to do with whining.
posted by serafinapekkala at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2003


Wow... college is really getting a bad rap here. Many posters seem to think college is nothing but a means to a diploma, or that you can get everything you get out of college by going to the library.

Maybe that is true for some colleges [say, some of the sports-obsessed party schools]. But a good college is about being surrounded with inquisitive people who challenge you intellectually on a daily basis. If you're lucky, the best you'd probably do in the real world is a small group of friends who approximate this - but it's highly unlikely you'd get the same diversity of backgrounds, opinion, and ability in any social grouping [since these are largely founded by choice and similarities].

I went to Caltech, and it was worth every penny. I could have learned many of the facts I learned there on my own, but I could never have been exposed to so many ideas, or an ultra-competitive academic environment which pushed me to do things I never would have done on my own.

A handful of people have the right combination of strong internal motivation and easy access to large groups of intelligent, education-seeking people... but for most, college is the best and only opportunity to experience this kind of environment.

Now, the diploma helps, sure, but even if I didn't have that I'd think my 4 years well-spent. One can succeed without college, and for some that may even be a better choice. But to think college is nothing but a big wank-fest designed solely to get a piece of paper for one's prestige, as many posts here implied, is just ridiculous.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2003


I spent $12000 on a ten-month course at a private college in order to get a certificate that said I knew how to do what I already knew how to do when I walked into the school the first day.

Now that I have the certificate, employers who wouldn't have taken my resume before are willing to hire me, even though I don't know any more than I did ten months ago.

It looks nice on my wall, though.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:05 PM on May 14, 2003


sports-obsessed party schools - Whoa, there.

Not everybody at these schools is disinterested in intellectual pursuit. Maybe this idea is why people feel like they have to go to a fancy school? For the rigorous academic challenges and serious pursuit of knowledge? There were lots of smart, challenging people at my giant-state-school alma mater, plus raging parties. Best of both worlds.
posted by drobot at 3:10 PM on May 14, 2003


drobot, i went to columbia u. film school.
i thought it would get me: experience, feedback and guidance in my craft, marketable skills, and the connections to use those skills, a proverbial "foot in the door."

For what it's worth, I paid for undergrad through scholarships/grants, and I had already worked for 3 years in film production before beginning this program. It seemed very clear to me that it was a long, impossible road to work one's way up the ladder that way. People debate whether film school has any advantage in this business, but for the most part i can tell you it does make a difference.

My life is fine now -- i am working in my field, i will make decent amount of money this year -- but this debt thing hangs over me like a fucking noose.
posted by edamame at 3:10 PM on May 14, 2003


ha ha ha, a few posts back, i typed "just as smart as they am."
sorry.
ha ha ha.
ahem.
posted by edamame at 3:17 PM on May 14, 2003


I'm with wildcrdj on this.

I'm graduating next week and I'll be starting my Ph.D. in the fall. I've been really lucky with scholarship roulette and I'll be coming out of those $35,000 dollar a year schools with the kind of debt that I'll be able to pay off on a research assistant's salary. I want to be a college professor, and that's not something one can do without diploma.

I have a lot of friends who are going to be leaving with mortgage style debt and a feeling that this will be a burden that they'll be carrying for a long time. These aren't people who make rash decisions about money; most of them clip coupons to save money. But the world and the economy isn't the same as it was four years ago and expecting people to plan for that is pretty unreasonable. Most of them would tell you that they had no idea what they were getting into, but most won't regret going to college.
posted by Alison at 3:36 PM on May 14, 2003


1. Most people can't get nice jobs without degrees. By nice, I mean, "covers the bills". I don't mean nice, as in, "Ferrari".

Yes, true. But plenty of people take out lots and lots of student loans to get MFA degrees, film school degrees, graduate degrees in anthropology, or go into low-paid PIRG-like non-profits whose purpose is to underpay and exploit young idealistic students until they burn themselves out.

Note to all: the only people who can afford to take these jobs are rich kids with trust funds whose parents can afford to have their kids to drift around in underpaid jobs for a while or become artists. Why anyone thinks they're going to come from a hard-knocks background and pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get a good financial return on their student loans by going into a poorly-paid profession is beyond me.

If you are going to take out a lot of money in student loans (more than $50,000), you should make sure you go into a very high paying profession. In general, I have a lot of sympathy for the idiocy of rising tuition costs. However, people take jobs in the non-profit sector or the arts by choice.

Also, never, never take out loans for a graduate degree other than an MD or JD/LLB. Paying for an MA or PhD is for chumps. That's what RA and TA fellowships are for. :)
posted by deanc at 3:43 PM on May 14, 2003


For example, if we could see the top, say, 10% of people by income, and see how it broke down by education level, and whether that was in line with the number of people countrywide by education level, would that do it, roughly?

You're missing the point. It doesn't matter whether the top 10 % dollar makers have a college education. Not everyone needs to be in that top 10%. Not everyone needs to be Bill Gates. Not everyone... etc.

The point, and I think others are making it quite well, is that if you cannot afford the school, don't go! Or, if you decide to go (and incur the debt), stop your bellyachin'. One of the major problems with the American people is that they constantly buy things they can't afford. Cars, houses, boats, and... schooling. Do I feel sorry for the person who bought the BMW he couldn't afford? No. Why should the situation be any different for an education? Yes, a good education would be swell (so would a BMW), but if you can't afford one, don't buy one. There are ways to make it in the world without a degree--perfectly respectable ways.

I know just as many people who have degrees who live miserable, unhappy, unsuccessful lives as I do people without degrees and vice versa.

The lie is in that a degree guarantees you a good job and success.
posted by dobbs at 3:44 PM on May 14, 2003


Not everyone has the money for any education, hence loans are the safety net. Is it not worth funding low cost loans to make sure all people, including the brightest get an education?

If not, then only the richest will become the teachers, the leaders, the lawyers, the doctors. Yes, give me the doctor that got a pass through college because of Mum and Dad, so much better than the brightest having the scalpel.

In seriousness, it is an issue when lawyers who want to work in the public sector choose the private sector in order to make enough $$ to pay back loans. Believe it or not, many of the top law schools in the nation will pay off student loans if the student agrees to or chooses a public sector job. Medical schools have something similar.

People will choose a non-pay path (teachers?) when they can, there are "good" people out there and it would be best if their decisions were not solely based on 'debt' incurred.

Yes, I had loans. Yes, I paid them off. I went to a state school on my own. So drop the argument of all the rich lawyers and rich doctors. It's a red herring.
posted by fluffycreature at 3:48 PM on May 14, 2003


dobbs - I would argue that access to an education is a fundamental human right, and that a country as wealthy and education-dependent as this one should be doing much more along those lines than it is.

Simply put, an education should not be a luxury. Sure, it's not for everyone, but if upper college is what you decide you want to do, and you have what it takes, that door should always be open.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:50 PM on May 14, 2003


Why anyone thinks they're going to come from a hard-knocks background and pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get a good financial return on their student loans by going into a poorly-paid profession is beyond me.

Those people don't go into a non-profit for "a good financial return," deanc. It's generally because they want to help people, give back to their communities, or make some sort of general positive impact on society.

As cobra libre said, the huge loans and debt realistically force a majority of doctors/lawyers/etc into high-paying work, if only initially to pay off their tuition costs. Reduce tuition costs and I bet a fair number would shift to not-for-profit or public sector/salaried positions.
posted by gramcracker at 3:53 PM on May 14, 2003


You're missing the point.
...
There are ways to make it in the world without a degree--perfectly respectable ways.


As I understand it, the interesting argument here is whether it's generally necessary to have a college degree to get a decent job*. Maybe "the top 10%" is the wrong thing to look at for that. Perhaps better is just to look at the same thing (that is, breakdown by education level), but for employed/not employed, making more than poverty, and making more than the median income.


* Which is to say, the argument I'm responding to isn't whether people should whine about their student loans. I don't think that's really ever at issue here, except as a strawman; regardless, though, that's not what I'm asking about.
posted by claxton6 at 3:57 PM on May 14, 2003


Do I feel sorry for the person who bought the BMW he couldn't afford? No. Why should the situation be any different for an education?

Education has a fundamentally more worthwhile, useful, and productive benefit--to the person that obtains it as well as society as a whole. The Beamer doesn't.

The lie is in that a degree guarantees you a good job and success.

I've never thought that way, dobbs, and maybe that's where we're running into the disagreement. I do believe that a degree is required for a good job and success, in a vast majority of cases (especially for 20-somethings entering the job market).
posted by gramcracker at 3:58 PM on May 14, 2003


Loan indebtedness has increased 66% since 1997.

Thus the jostling hordes of 23-year-old Americans and Canucks in Korea, pretending to be teachers, drinking beer and paying off their student loans. If the Korean bosses could organize their collective way out of a paper bag, they'd starting colluding with the loan people back in North Amurka.

There are a few older loan-refugees around too - you meet them in most expat communities. People who just decided to bail and not pay back the money at all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:14 PM on May 14, 2003


kickingtheground - I would argue that access to an education is a fundamental human right

That wouldn't mean that college is a right, or that a degree is a right. Access to education can be satisfied by many other avenues.
posted by NortonDC at 4:42 PM on May 14, 2003


it's perfectly fine to ask the question why must we have these loans in the first place.

It's perfectly fine to ask why must we go to college in the first place, if we don't have the money to pay for it.

It's perfectly fine to ask why I must pay for my lunch.

Besides:

"Hey, College Boy! So you're in college now. Got it all figured out, huh? Think again, Socrates!"
posted by hama7 at 4:42 PM on May 14, 2003


Those people don't go into a non-profit for "a good financial return," deanc. It's generally because they want to help people, give back to their communities, or make some sort of general positive impact on society.

Then why did they assume that debtload before taking the job, or why didn't they pay off their debt first, before accepting a poorly-paying position? If I told somebody with $100,000 in school loans, "maybe you should wait until you are more financially stable to have children," noone would blink an eye. If I said, "maybe you should wait until you are more financially stable before you choose to take a $23k/yr, no-benefits PIRG job," I'd come across as some kind of elitist.

The article linked to focuses on people from the top universities in the country choosing to take poorly paying jobs at non-profits. I wish anyone could take those jobs. I wish financial issues weren't a consideration when it comes to working in the non-profit/public service sector. However, if you already know what the costs of accepting admission to a school ahead of time, then perhaps you should think about how you are going to handle the debt load before you choose what kind of job you are going to take when you graduate.

Quite honestly, if you want to know why I sound so cranky about this issue, it's because I see these poorly-paying non-profits recruiting the best and the brightest people I know and exploiting them with low pay and poor treatment until they get too burned out. And I see them take this route because they see their friends from much richer families do it -- people with families that can afford to subsidize their lifestyle. Part of the blame lies with these groups as well as schools who seem to set unrealistic expectations to the students regarding the financial planning necessary to attend their particular degree program.
posted by deanc at 4:43 PM on May 14, 2003


> What exactly are policymakers supposed to do about the problem?

Sure, universal higher education is definately doable. So is universal healthcare. Cross the pond and you'll see it works fairly well. Sure, there are lots of criticisms, but so is there with paid education. There's always the option to subsidize more higher education. This is the world's richest country right?

There are some things to consider here. Do students really know what they're getting into? "Hey 18-year old just sign this if you want to goto a decent school."

"Umm ok."


>Like mrbill said, go to a cheaper school.

Sure, hindsight is always 20/20. So the student made a major mistake, like perhaps she would with credit cards. Her life is a financial mess so she declares bankrupcy. What's that you hear? That's the sound of hypocrisy. Bankrupcy does not save you from student loans. So back to the debtor's lifestyle with her.

That's wrong. The loaners aren't even playing by the rules. They have they're own special rules regarding bankrupcy. Sorry, but whatever advice you have is essentially useless when dealing with a system that is immune from barbaric concepts like unshakable debt for life.

This is the modern indentured servitude. It hurts the economy because 20 somethings arent giving back to the economy thought various purchasing, they're busy giving back to straight to Citibank and eating Ramen.
posted by skallas at 6:06 PM on May 14, 2003


There's an unforeseen consequence here. I'm a dentist with about $100K in student loans. It's easy to say "gee, he's a rich dentist, he can afford it." Sorry- it doesn't work that way. Ultimately, the money comes out of someone's pocket. My fees are a reflection of the gouging I receive in every area of my life because I have a title after my name. I find it rather hard to be especially charitable when a big chunk of my income (for the next 30 years) is going to pay back schooling costs...
posted by drstrangelove at 7:33 PM on May 14, 2003


mrbill,

You didn't attend my school when tuition was raised over 100% just in the time I was there! And I feel fortunate, because fellow comrades who've graduated after me have started racking up over $160K in debt...
posted by drstrangelove at 7:37 PM on May 14, 2003


hama7-

You've revealed another secret of the rightwing: fuck education and anyone who can't afford it.

Unless you'd like to see nobody but asshat rich kids getting through school, then perhaps you ought to rethink your plutocratic "if you can't afford school, you don't deserve to go" platitude...
posted by drstrangelove at 7:47 PM on May 14, 2003


When will students realize that they have to pay back money they've borrowed, or perhaps go to a cheaper school, or wait until they can afford the education?

I'm with drstrangelove. Fark this hutherfarker with a rancid armadillo up the old Colonel Tso's deep-fried dunkus. How about I had to give up teaching because I needed a job that actually paid enough to make my loan payments? So now the ChildrenAreThe NotLeftBehind Future are being being taught by idealists on stress-related disability leave and morons [not that I exclude myself from either category or intend a slur upon them, bless their hearts].

When I took the California state teachers licensing exam, half the people in the room were taking it for second, fourth, or fifth time. The test was geared toward sixth-grade reading, math, and general knowledge. That was a depressing day. Pay teachers now, or pay police overtime later.
posted by hairyeyeball at 7:56 PM on May 14, 2003


one day, the system will implode under the wieght of its own hypocrisy, and i'll be sitting in the middle of it laughing like nero on a warm spring day.

jus' sayin'.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:57 PM on May 14, 2003


skallas, very well put. It is really unfortunate, and infinitely depressing, that any improvement to this education system is so far out of the realm of possibility with the current administration. There are many more dire problems in this country right now.

And still, they get richer and richer every day off my interest. It is wonderful for them. I have fabulous credit. I am the ultimate American.
posted by edamame at 9:02 PM on May 14, 2003


I don't understand why so many people are knocking those with burdensome student loans for having chosen to go to "expensive schools". I won a National Merit Scholarship two a very nice private school. However, the tuition was around $23K a year, and the scholarship was for about $2K. I ended up passing on the scholarship and attending a state school (sans scholarship) for about $4-5K a year. I also worked part time all four years, to pay as much myself as I could. In the grand scheme of things, I have a very small student loan burden...probably about $25K or so, yet I still struggle to make ends meet. As responsible as I am with money, and as frugally as I live, I can't even imagine what it would be like to live with private school debt.

You are right, of course. People who aren't from rich families shouldn't go to college. We need to know our place.
posted by kayjay at 9:23 PM on May 14, 2003


deanc: you can hardly blame non-profits for not paying high salaries. They are generally funded by other people's money and those people tend to expect that they won't blow all the money on high salaries when they can get very bright people for much less. The point of a non-profit is to serve its constituents as effectively as possible, not to pay cushy salaries to high-minded lawyers. As for poor treatment, it varies widely from place to place but in general lawyers that go into public interest are able to work much more reasonable hours than their highly-paid colleagues at the fancy firms. This in itself is a form of imputed income, as is the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you're helping people.

Also, the reality of going the big-firm route to pay off loans is that many young lawyers get sucked into that high income lifestyle and after getting debt-free find themselves unable to imagine earning less than a six figure salary. So they abandon their plans to go public interest and stay with the big firms. Even if you find this to be a character failing on their part, the fact remains that there would be a lot more talented lawyers doing public interest work if it was economically feasible to do it straight out of law school. And more public interest lawyers is a good thing for the public, not just for the lawyers themselves.
posted by boltman at 9:38 PM on May 14, 2003


Also note that scholarships are usually deducted from the grant/loan you get. So your family ends up paying the same as they would without the scholarship.
posted by oaf at 9:39 PM on May 14, 2003


Hmmm.

People who willingly take on massive debt should expect to pay it back. Someone has to pay it back, and it sure as hell shouldn't be me paying for your irresponsible decisions.

People who are massively in debt are quite likely going to need to make some lifestyle choices that don't agree with them. They're going to have to say no to that new car, no to the big house, quit drinking frappacinos every day, and give up on that dream vacation for a few years.

My best friend is a single mother with three children. She's managing to keep it all together and reduce her debt load, all on a single mediocre-paying job.

I do not believe for a moment that you debt-laden college graduates can not get your shit together well enough to pay off your loan. I've been there, and I'm watching my friend in that same spot, and I know what self-control and planning it takes to scrape through and pay off debt.

Maybe the trick is to not go to a massively-expensive Ivy League school. I'm sure there are other schools that are quite affordable. (And let's face it: will an Ivy grad, saddled with a massive debt, ever be as wealthy as a non-Ivy grad who isn't in debt? I'll bet the debt-free guy ends up in better financial health.)

I'm certain there is easily-affordable post-secondary schooling available in the USA. I'm certain that there is no need to be massively in debt when you graduate. And I'm certain that if you are in debt, you can arrange it so that, through thrifty habits and hard work, you can pay off that debt in a timely fashion.

If you can't, then I guess you'd best choose bankruptcy. The banks will increase their fees to cover their loss. Us consumers will always get the shaft in the end...

For the record, I drive an 11-year old car, rarely go out for supper or movies, and live in a small, cheap condo. As a result, I can at any time choose to become completely debt-free: a small mortgage is all I owe.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:17 PM on May 14, 2003


I have to add my two cents (although I beg to only offer a penny. Read on.)

To all those who say that a college degree is not needed to find a decent paying job, bullshit. Sure you might have lucked out, but not everyone can.

As to the loans ruing lives? Possibly.

I screwed around and drank myself out of college originally. After finding that I was only able to get low paying, retail type jobs w/o a degree, I returned to school. I graduated with honors from a state school. Minor loans needed. I did get a job, and it was decent. For a while.

Now, after having pursued a gradute degree (financed) I've been out of work for a year plus. Nine hour shy of said MBA. We've decided that at this point we're not going to go further into debt. I'll finish later.

That being said, the only jobs I've been able to find, are once again, retail. Part time at that.

Yeah, I know I've got to repay the student loans. But right now we're concentrating on saving our house so that our kids won't be living under the bridge.

Thankfully we've never really lived a lifestyle that was above what we could afford. Save for the DSL line, we've very few extravagances.

To all those who are rubbing their huge jobs in others faces, I say good for you, but fuck off. It's a horrible environment right now.
posted by damnitkage at 10:43 PM on May 14, 2003


I went through my undergrad years at state schools and private schools with fulls scholarships, so I incurred no student loan debt. But for those saying go to a cheaper school, realise that is often not an option for professional schools.
For Law Schools, you can only go to the public school if you have residency in that state. For instance, to go to University of New Mexico Law, you have to be a New Mexico resident. There are very rare exceptions. Most state schools would probably would accept someone who qualified for Harvard or Stanford Law - but of course those applicants would probably not want to go to a state school, anyway. Now if you live in a state with, say, a top 15 law school - very few people will get in even if they're residents (i.e. Texas or Michigan.) I applied to UT Law a few years back, got placed on a waiting list, since my scores were "borderline" and there was a Federal case going on to decide if their admissions process which had racial tiers was legal. Turns out I probably would have been accepted, but I had taken the LSAT and didn't want to wait another year to see if I might get into UT.
So if you don't score quite high enough to get into your state school, the only alternative is a private school. I went to SMU Law and graduated $120K in debt (about average tuition-wise for a top 15% private law school.)
Contrary to popular opinion, not all attorneys are rich. In fact, a job somewhere in the 40s is about average.
My loan payments are $1100 per month. This translates to about my first $20K per year of income, before taxes and social security. So say I am making $46K. Subtract 20K, leaving 26K - taxed at a rate of someone making $46K per year. Most people having to pay for grad school might very well find out they are taking home less than they were before getting their degree.
Should I have researched more before embarking on my course of study? Yes. But it's important to keep in mind that universities are businesses. They market their programmes in ways that can easily lead people to think the degree will translate to secure jobs with good incomes. SMU Law advertised a 97% employment rate for grads within 6 months of graduation. Now the logical assumption is they mean 97% of grads got jobs in the legal field. Not so. It wasn't until *after* I graduated that one of the placement people said they count *any* job, from pizza delivery to part-time dog groomer. Of course 96% of the grads were working at *something*. But most were not working as lawyers or even in the legal field. It very well borders on deception to lure applicants.

"Only about 16% of law students find employment after law school. For example, in Texas, 3000 new attorneys are admitted to practice every year. Texas has 500 new legal jobs every year. (500/3000 is 16.7 percent). Some schools do better, some do worse. Typically, legal recruiters (not law school recruiters, but the people with jobs to offer) want only students between the top 25% and the top 15% from "top 25" schools (I put "top 25" in quotes since there are about forty schools that fit into that category -- more than 25 schools, but less than 25% of the 200 or so ABA approved law schools)."
My advice is to research very hard about what your degree will be worth in the real world before going into debt for it. This is not easy to do. Education is supposed to be the end-all, be-all of getting ahead. School recruiters, alumni, the popular media, and even family members will tell you how "valuable" a law degree is. I should have talked to more people who actually had graduated law school - but when you are young and wondering what your next step should be, it's very difficult to cut through all the B.S. from "trusted" or "knowledgeable" older people.
So - I bought a house, basically. $120K at 30 years. It's not insurmountable, and yes - my degree may even pay off in the very long term. Just know what you're getting into.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:07 AM on May 15, 2003


Unless you'd like to see nobody but asshat rich kids getting through school, then perhaps you ought to rethink your plutocratic "if you can't afford school, you don't deserve to go" platitude...

That's not what I said at all. Perhaps you ought to rethink your attribution of a manufactured spurious quotation.

I know plenty of people who put themselves through school while working, and they managed to accumulate *no* student loan debt. Surprise!! Yes, it can be done in the real world!

I don't understand the mentality of the student who borrows whopping amounts of money, and then is surprised to have to pay it all back.
posted by hama7 at 12:39 AM on May 15, 2003


Sorry, I see how my initial comment could have been misconstrued.

Personally, investing in my own education, the disadvantages of a fancy sheepskin far outweighed the advantages, and I opted to attend a state university and work, because I shuddered at the very thought of paying back loans for decades. It was a choice.

I didn't deserve a college education, I had to earn it. I don't deserve a sailing ship, but I can still earn the money for it somehow.
posted by hama7 at 2:08 AM on May 15, 2003


For what it's worth, if your total debt payments (house, car, food, loans) are over 20% of your take-home income, you get get your student loan payment lowered (which will extend the amount of time you have to pay it) by contacting the company.

Also, I've been a web programmer for a guarantor for about 4 years (I figured I'm giving them so much of my money, they could give me some), and as far as I know, it's extremely rare for student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy.

It took me a long time to get everything arranged to the point that I didn't feel like my student loans were going to sink me, but I agree that most 18 year olds don't have a clue what student loans are - you mean, someone will give me money to go to school? That certainly beats working at McDairy King....
posted by ugf at 5:20 AM on May 15, 2003


I know plenty of people who put themselves through school while working, and they managed to accumulate *no* student loan debt. Surprise!! Yes, it can be done in the real world!

Very true, hama7.

There are even ways to enter university with nothing and leave with something in the bank. Here's just one:

Invest a couple of years into saving enough money for the *first* year's tuition and textbooks but *not* living expenses. After entering university and buying textbooks, you should have nothing in the bank to fall back on.

Enter university with the knowledge that you will be expelled for lack of funds at the beginning of the second year if you do not get top marks in the first year and win various scholarships to cover the second year's tuition. Also, keep in mind that you will be thrown out of your apartment should you slack off on part-time work at any time. To keep you on your toes, do this in a foreign country like Japan.

Then, take a heavy course-load in the first year, ace every course and become number one at your university. It is easier than it sounds - it will rest on your attitude and determination more than anything else. Work part-time every single night to cover living expenses until the scholarships start rolling in at the beginning of the second year. Also, do things that have nothing to do with studying/work such as dance, martial arts and hiking whenever you get the chance to keep you sane. Find things you enjoy that feed the body and spirit without taxing the mind and that are not expensive. Don't give yourself time to rest and think about how crazy this is.

Note: Remember to drink plenty of water - especially when pulling all-nighters. Dehydration will put an exhausted individual into the hospital rather quickly I learned. :)

Once the scholarships come in at the beginning of the second year, reduce part-time work and put more time into studying and extra-curricular activities like speech contests, debates, writing or learning another language. Speech contests in Japan are sweet - some of them have cash prizes and they all look good on a resume.

Note: The scholarships I am talking about are rewards for good marks, not loans - they do *not* have to be paid back. If you get top marks and do your homework regarding the types of scholarships available, you should get quite a bit *more* than you need for the second year's tuition but not enough for the third.

In the second year, study with the knowledge that you will be kicked out for lack of funds at the beginning of the third year if you do not, once again, get top marks.

Repeat.

By the time you are in your fourth year and everything has gone well, you will have finished most required courses, have enough money so that part-time work is no longer necessary and a lot of free time. Use this time to put together a good graduation thesis, job hunt and to either apply your skills at a part-time job in the field of your choice or study things you will need to know for your particular field.

You will graduate with money in the bank, a job lined up and an award for top marks as a bonus.

It *is* possible and in my case I had several disadvantages:

1) Studying in foreign language (Japanese university - all lectures, texts, courses and submissions in Japanese but my mother tongue is English). Also, no formal Japanese language education - all self-study while working to save enough for university.
2) Competing against native Japanese people for top marks (in other words, diving head first into an education system foreign to me but that they had been swimming in for the past twelve years).
3) High living expenses (university was in Tokyo - enough said).
4) I don't like studying and, from grade five to grade twelve in my country of origin, I was never really good at it (judging from my marks, anyway).
5) From my posts I am sure that more than a few Mefites have noticed that I am not exactly the sharpest tool in the box by any stretch of the imagination.
6) I am, by nature, bone idle.

It is amazing, however, how an ordinary person can do things that seem extraordinary (they are not) when they just put themselves into a position where they have only two options - fight or die.

Also, this would not have been possible were it not for the fact that 99% of all people are good. When things seemed the darkest and I was more than ready to throw it all away, help would arrive from the most unlikely places.

A diploma will never guarantee success and the lack of one will never deny it. Going to university in such an unconventional way, however, not only increased my faith in myself, it affirmed my faith in mankind. That alone made the price I paid in yen, years and tears, the bargain of a lifetime.

Peace.
posted by cup at 5:44 AM on May 15, 2003


I don't understand the mentality of the student who borrows whopping amounts of money, and then is surprised to have to pay it all back.

Again, I don't think anyone's "surprised" they have to pay back the loan, but that it will take so long to pay it back. I'll say it again: Most 17-18 year olds (at least the ones I know) can't comprehend $30,000 a year for four years. What that truly means. Because they've never had to pay rent, buy their own food, etc. When you're supporting yourself, only then do you start to understand the value of the dollar. I don't care if the teen had a part time job so they could eat out with their friends and buy CDs. It's not the same thing.
posted by gramcracker at 6:36 AM on May 15, 2003


I don't understand the mentality of the student who borrows whopping amounts of money, and then is surprised to have to pay it all back.

I don't understand the ability of educated people to oversimplify the issue so greatly while doing it so little justice. There is no surprise that the loan amount has to be paid back. The surprise is how significantly the debt burden can affect the lives of young people who are trying to begin their careers and families.

And if thirty-somethings are hurting nowadays, imagine what we'll be seeing 30 years from now. For babies born in 2003, it's predicted that their 4 year state college education will cost nearly $100,000 while a private school education will be nearly four times as much. I wonder what kinds of work-study grants and part time jobs they'll have to be able to get (without a degree) to work their way through that kind of cost without being less than broke or entirely burned out by the end.
posted by Dreama at 6:38 AM on May 15, 2003


hama7,

I can't speak for anyone else, but it would have been impossible for me to have paid my way through dental school. Total costs per year were around $30K (living, tuition, books, misc) which would be difficult for me to afford right now, if not impossible. And you aren't allowed to attend classes at your leisure. You're either able to pay or you're out. And when the school keeps raising the tuition 12-20% per year, it blows the living hell out of the original estimate they give you before you're even accepted.

In my case, my parents helped with my living expenses. I worked two jobs to offset other things I needed or wanted. For everything else, I borrowed. I'd collect those huge student loan checks only to see that a 10% "origination" fee was already deducted. The cocksuckers get guaranteed interest and yet they still charge 10%. I worked 20-30 hours per week, which doesn't sound like much until you realize that I had 30 hours of classwork on top of many other hours spent in the school trying to catch up on lab work. One semester I had 16 classes to keep up with.

I got to watch the spoiled brats virtually skate through this. They didn't have to borrow, and they lived a virtually life of luxury, with their new cars, fancy apartments or houses. A few had parents that paid for their homes. While my ilk was working on weekends, they were out polishing up their golf game. For spring break, they'd sun themselves at Cozumel while my kind was trying to earn a few dollars. And it hasn't ended since I've been out. While I'm struggling to pay off debt and to buy a practice, these kids have parents who gave them their offices, and many times bought them a home.

So, I get more than a little defensive when I hear people say imply that I should have done something else if I couldn't afford to pay. It makes the old cliche "the rich get richer..." seem more real.
posted by drstrangelove at 7:03 AM on May 15, 2003


For Law Schools, you can only go to the public school if you have residency in that state.

There are more loopholes in that statement than the tax code. Consider:
1. Most public schools allow you to claim in-state residency after one year. You would then only have to bear full tuition for one year out of the three. You could even defer your acceptance, move to the area and work for a year, and go to school as an in-state resident. A lot of people who work on Capitol Hill, for instance, live in Arlington or Alexandria rather than DC or Maryland. They're eligible for in-state tuition at UVA.
2. A common financial aid grant or scholarship award to an out-of-stater at a public graduate school is an offer to attend at the in-state tuition rate.
3. "Compact" agreements offer partial residency credit if you live in a state without a public law school. As a resident of Massachusetts, my first year bill at Uconn Law will be halfway between the in-state and out-of-state tuition. My 2L and 3L years of course will be covered at the in-state rate.

The only really compelling reason to choose a private over a public law school is location. If you were committed to practicing law in Texas, sixdifferentways, I can understand your decision to attend the best school in the state that you could get into. Otherwise, I'm not sure why anyone would go into six-figure debt for a private graduate school.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:39 AM on May 15, 2003


drstrangelove - I know how you feel; I've known quite a few students whose parents bought their apartments for them while they attended school. If you think about it, there are so many unseen advantages to this. First off, (obviously), you don't have to pay rent. Which is huge, because if you don' t have to pay rent, you really don't have to get a job, either. Which means you can spend more time either studying, or (as is the more likely scenario) partying.

Then, when you're all graduated four (or five) years later, you've got a nice piece of equity that's had all that time to appreciate. You can sell the apartment for profit and make back part of what you spent on tuition. Or if you were smart, you could rent the place out, then buy a new home using the old apartment as collateral (and if you're a first-time home-owner, you only need 5% down).

So here's the tally: you get a degree, a home, and some struggling student to rent out your old apartment, effectively paying your mortgage for you.

This is how the rich get richer. This is why the system is fucked.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:02 AM on May 15, 2003


"I know real people with salaries in the mid-40s making
[house] payments in the range of $1600/mo. (And that's over 30 years.) When will policymakers realize that this is going to have substantial consequences for our economy and quality of life?"

The thing that sucks about loans is that they're loans. It seems like free money when you're taking one out, but then you get done and want to kick yourself.

The school system seriously needs to drill some financial skills into our kids. Credit cards and loans are going to turnk this economy inside out.
posted by oissubke at 9:07 AM on May 15, 2003


So everybody here that felt screwed by being unprepared for the costs of higher education is taking steps to insure that their children will be properly prepared, right? You're teaching them the financial skills you wish you had and making the monetary and lifestyle sacrifices needed to make opportunities available to them, right?
posted by NortonDC at 9:51 AM on May 15, 2003


drstrangelove -- 16 classes in one semester? You had 16 credit classes in a semester? Assuming a school would even allow someone to take that many classes in one semester, how is that possible? By my math that puts you in class about 9 hours/day, 5 days/week, assuming most college classes are about 3 credit hours/week. None of these 16 classes overlapped with each other? When I was in college I was lucky to get 5 classes I needed that didn't conflict with each other.
posted by archimago at 11:47 AM on May 15, 2003


It's amazing just how much whining and personal attack ended up on this thread...
posted by FormlessOne at 12:02 PM on May 15, 2003


archimago,

Many of the classes were counted as one hour, including lab sessions which *required* us to be there for 3-4 hours per week. Since so many of the classes counted as one hour (despite the work that went into them,) many semesters looked as if we only had around 25-26 hours. Some dental schools count 'em as they are and it tallies out to 34-35. Believe me, there were few semesters when I wasn't in class, lab or clinic for 40 hours per week... The worst was finals "week." It worked out to 2 exams everyday over a period of two weeks. By the time the last exam rolls around, you simply no longer care...

/whining
posted by drstrangelove at 3:25 PM on May 15, 2003


Regarding in-state vs. out-of-state tuition for law school - UConn has one of the most favorable policies for out of state attendees in the nation.

I almost accepted there, just because it is so easy to become a resident, and the in state tuition is so cheap. Most other states have residency rules designed to make becoming a resident while in law school next to impossible. Obviously though out of state tuition is for the most part still cheaper than any private school.
posted by birgitte at 4:24 PM on May 15, 2003


Regarding opportunities to make money: I'm calling bullshit on a whole lotta folks here. There are endless ways to make a million -- but you have to be willing to do it. If you don't have a million right now, it's because you haven't tried.

Someone waaaay up this thread bellyached about how Bill Gates was a one-shot phenomena. Hooey! Take a look at the list of billionaires. A whole lot of them went from zero to hero in the computer industry.

Micheal Dell did it, and he doesn't know jackshit about computers. He did it through hard work and the smarts to seize an opportunity when he saw it.

There's ol' Kiyosaki, off in Haiwaii. Back in the late seventies he invented the nylon & velcro surfer's wallet. Made himself a multimillionaire. Then lost it all -- he ended up living in his car -- when the Asian markets copied his idea. He's back on top now, again a multimillionaire.

There's the guy who imported those wall-walking sticky octopus toys. He put everything he owned on the line for the loan that got the toys from Japan to America. The shipment ended up a few days late and he was in default on all his loan payments. He had to dodge creditors, and things looked like shit -- but the toys sold like hotcakes and made him millions.

There are scads of not-well-educated millionaires out there who worked bog-standard slave-wage jobs for all their lives. Through conservative living, and sensible investing, they made it work.

There are countless examples of people who've made it big by taking risks, working hard, and spending their money smartly.

So I don't readily believe that the intelligent people who hang around MeFi can't do the same, if they choose to. (I know I haven't, sigh.)
posted by five fresh fish at 8:35 PM on May 15, 2003


Well, 5fresh, I guess you just don't want that million badly enough, right?

You only hear about the ones who "make it", and I can assure you they are a far smaller number than the ones that put everything on the line and fail miserably. But those aren't the kinds of stories that sell books, and certainly wouldn't support your point. And good luck making a million in the computer industry today. Though I'm sure if you just click your heels together three times and want it bad enough, anything's possible.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:17 PM on May 15, 2003


Re: the public vs. private law school thing. In law, the prestige of the school you go to is ludicrously important in terms of the career opportunities available to you. If you get into, say, Stanford and a lower ranked state school that's much cheaper, the best choice for most people is to go to Stanford (same goes for Stanford vs. full scholarship to a low ranked school.) At the really top tier schools, you are practically guaranteed your choice of $150K/year jobs upon graduation, no matter how much you struggle (or slack off for that matter) during your three years of school. Student loans are pretty manageable when you can expect that kind of earning power. Jump just a little ways down in the prestige rankings and firms that were practically banging down your door at Stanford won't even talk to you, no matter how brilliant you are. And unfortunately you can't put "accepted at Stanford" on your resume.

It's a ridiculous system, but that's just how the legal profession is--perverse and highly elitist. It's totally different from choosing an undergraduate school, where going solely based on prestige while ignoring factors like cost and comfort/fit might not be such a great idea. Unlike college, law school is mostly a means to and end (whether that end be riches or making a difference in the world or both) and the best way to approach choosing a law school is with a certain degree of crassness, even if your ultimate goal is public interest.

I say all this only because I had no clue about any of this when I was choosing a law school and would have greatly appreciated it if someone had let me know.
posted by boltman at 10:21 PM on May 15, 2003


For Law Schools, you can only go to the public school if you have residency in that state.
There are more loopholes in that statement than the tax code. Consider:
1. Most public schools allow you to claim in-state residency after one year. You would then only have to bear full tuition for one year out of the three.


I'm not talking about having to pay out-of-state tuition, I mean they won't accept non-residents, period.

You could even defer your acceptance, move to the area and work for a year, and go to school as an in-state resident.

This is harder than it sounds. Most state graduate programs (at least the ones I looked at) required 18 months of full-time work in the state to be a resident. Then you apply in January for the following Fall. So i suppose if I really planned ahead it may have been possible, but I took the LSAT and went to Law School pretty much on a whim.

"Compact" agreements offer partial residency credit if you live in a state without a public law school. As a resident of Massachusetts, my first year bill at Uconn Law will be halfway between the in-state and out-of-state tuition. My 2L and 3L years of course will be covered at the in-state rate.

That's great, but I believe it only applies in states without law schools. Also, in many states, you have to work full time for 18 months *without* attending school in order to qualify for in-state tuition (at least that's the Texas rule - which makes sense - otherwise, every Junior and Senior at UT would qualify for in-state rates.)

The only really compelling reason to choose a private over a public law school is location. ... I'm not sure why anyone would go into six-figure debt for a private graduate school

Well, as boltman commented, there are only a handful of state schools that are considered "top-tier" : e.g. Texas, Michigan, Virginia, Berkley . . . Now going to a top-tier school is probably overrated, but it certainly has importance. Also, the private institutions really market and recruit to convince you that if you don't go to a top 20% school, your degree will pretty much be a waste. It's not completely true, but they work very hard to sell you on it.
Also, if you ask any attorney who went to a top school, he or she will tell you the same thing.
Hell no. I'm not committed to practising in Texas. I hate Texas.
posted by sixdifferentways at 11:27 PM on May 15, 2003


five fresh fish-

Kiyosaki is a sheister.
posted by drstrangelove at 6:29 AM on May 16, 2003


Dammit, go here: www.johntreed.com/Kiyosaki.html
posted by drstrangelove at 6:30 AM on May 16, 2003


In Canada there aren't really "elite" schools, though there are a few that will try to make people think so. (And some of their students fall for it. A former co-worker used to say repeatedly and smugly that "You go to York University to get a degree and to the University of Toronto to get an education", but if she was educated and I wasn't, why did she not know better than to make rude and baseless assertions?)

Schools in Canada usually cost roughly the same too, though it's more expensive to live in say, Ontario than in the Atlantic provinces, so it can be a matter of $5,000 or so in cost differentials - still a lot for a penniless student but nothing like what U.S. students must consider when choosing a school.

Macleans (Canadian news magazine) does a special issue every year and assesses what the top university in Canada is. I find that whole concept of a "top school" useless. All the universities are accredited by the government, and one should choose a school based on which is the best for one's field, which has say, the best environmental studies program, or the best law school.

The attitude that does bother me is the "university is infinitely superior to college" mindset. I should probably explain that in Canada what we call "colleges" are community colleges where one takes practical studies like mechanics, cooking, early childhood education and the like. There are things like journalism, nursing, and graphic design which are available at both universities and college, and colleges are beginning to move towards upgrading their programs to degree rather than diploma programs, so it's not as clear a divide as it used to be. The snobbery about college does still exist though, and I find it totally unfounded. They are different KINDS of equally important education. Sure, college academic courses are a joke, but the practical ones can be incredibly demanding. I'm very glad to have a B.A. and my college diploma and certificates, and I resent the whole "college is for stupid people" attitude coming from the one side, and also get irritated by the "university students are assholes" attitude I have come across in college students.

Ahh.. nothing like education issues to drag class consciousness into the glaring daylight.
posted by orange swan at 7:10 AM on May 16, 2003


I'm with you on that, swan. University degrees are highly overrated. There's this big myth that a degree will get you a good job, that it means you're smart, that it confers some sort of prestige on you. Bleah.

Really, we do not need any more lawyers, middle managers, or classic literature graduates. We do need more construction workers, plumbers, and other "blue collar" workers.

Want to make some solid money over the next decade? Get into the building trades in British Columbia. Something on the order of 80% of the current workforce is nearing retirement age. The next generation of workers is going to have their pick of work and wages.

One of the stupidest moves our nation(s) made was to eliminate the two-track high school system whereby one went into trades or academics. The panic over the Russian's space program ended up hurting us badly: the entire school system became focused on pumping out scientists.

You simply can not have a successful economy where everyone is an academic. Academics -- engineers, lawyers, middle managers -- simply don't produce anything of value. You need some academics, if only to fulfill some essential roles in the areas of product development, business management, and social structure, but the economy can't exist without actual producers.

We need trades schools to come back in a big way. We need more people who make useful things.

Civil: Yup, you're right. I've not taken the risks needed to make a million. I also paid off my loans through frugal living, and live well within my means. I've got more money than I really need, now, because I live a modest life -- and because I work to live, not live to work.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on May 16, 2003


There are endless ways to make a million

Well, sure there are. That's because a million isn't very much money anymore.
posted by kindall at 10:01 AM on May 16, 2003


No argument there, kindall.

Whomever posted re: Kiyosaki -- very cool link! The man always did give me the heebee-jeebies, and now I understand why.

Still, one way or the other, he did make good coin. One's own ethics and morals may prevent one from repeating his success, but that wasn't the point. Point is if you desire it enough and are creative, you can make a million.

And pay off that student loan.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:44 AM on May 16, 2003


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