College Questions

Texas is working on setting up a database for their residents and college grads so that entering college students can make wiser, more informed choices about their majors. It helps them not commit the folly of believing the hype that all college educations automatically result in a greater income than not having a college education. For instance, they find that:

Cost Benefit Analysis for Collegearchaeology graduates from the University of Texas (Austin) are devoting almost the same portion of their monthly earnings to student loans in their 10th year out of college as in their first.

We’ve been telling kids that ‘studies show’ that a diploma pays off, that college grads make more money than noncollege grads, and they start making it earlier and they make it longer.  But we were deceiving ourselves and them.  Those studies that ‘show’ that high return on the investment in college only work by combining all college grads- and not all degrees reward the investment.

It’s not about the money, it’s about the education?

Many people do get a good education. However, I don’t agree that a good education is *only* available in college. If you are self motivated, you can get an education every bit as good, and often better, outside of the formal institution of college. I also think that one is perhaps better able to judge what is and is not a good education with a few years of real life on one’s own under one’s belt. Often what I see young people thinking of as a good education turns out to be indoctrination.

And sometimes the education received might still be a good one, but not, perhaps, one the student really should have paid over 20,000 dollars to receive. And it’s really far greater than 20K, because that’s only the debt they have left at graduation- that doesn’t count the money they and their parents already paid,or grants and scholarships, or the interest they will end up paying. Add in those other numbers and the interest rates they’ll be paying, and we’re talking about a real expenditure that exeeds 40 thousand dollars (and I’m not counting the interest payments their *parents* make on the loans *they* take out to keep their kids in school). Then you should factor in the opportunity costs- while they are accruing this huge debt and not bringing in income, their non-college peers can be working, gaining valuable work experience, while bringing in income. They might never make as much as their peers with a college education, but then, they don’t have to, because they never have the same debt load.

As for whether or not it’s that easy to finish college without a debt load, first of all, one must do the cost benefit analysis I mention- and many people don’t, and won’t, so long as college remains what it is- the default choice. So long as they believe you can only get a good education IN college, and you can only get a decent job with college, and the adults around them are encouraging them to get those loans because the education is worth it, few will stop to consider just what it is they are spending- not just 20 grand, but the next 10 to 20 years of their lives, often putting children on hold in order to accommodate their debt loads.
In fact, many students actually do not stop to figure out what their debt load total *is*! They are afraid to find out. I know that’s unreasonable, but unreasonable or not, it *is,* and these students cannot be helped by hearing ‘it’s easy’ to graduate with no debt load until they first understand that they need to *know* their own debt load, and that they need to do the math.


According to this Huffpo article: (from a few years back)
“Total outstanding student debt has passed $1 trillion, more than the nation’s credit card debt, and average indebtedness for students is rising. The College Board said Wednesday that the average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose an additional $631 this fall, or about 8 percent, compared with a year ago. The cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000 – an all-time high. The board said about 56 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients at public schools graduated with debt averaging about $22,000. From private nonprofit universities, 65 percent graduated with debt averaging about $28,000. Experts say those average amounts usually are still manageable, at least for those who finish a degree. But they are concerned about the rate of increase, the growing numbers with substantially more debt and the increase in those apparently in over their heads repaying them. The Education Department said in September that the national student loan default rate for the 2009 budget year had risen to 8.8 percent.”

Whenever I write something about why college should not be the default choice, and why it’s important to distinguish an education that is worth the cost from an indoctrination that wasn’t, I usually have a few college students and grads write to me to demonstrate just how educated and indoctrinated they are- by telling me that to deny somebody a college degree is to deny them an education.

But all I am saying is that college is not the only way to get an education, college should not be the default position, and  it’s important to carefully count the cost before signing up for loans and that is all it is about. I am not even opposed to all college debt. Sometimes, it is a good value. Sometimes, it is not.

research indicated a college funded by loans is absolutely the worst possible value in time of recession, although that’s also the time most people choose it. Those who chose college in response to the recession in the 80s were still suffering the consequences 20 years later and never entirely caught up (again, when that college was funded by loans). My husband chose the military at that time, and that worked out pretty well for us, and I have seen many of our peers who chose loan-financed college at that time struggle for much longer as they could not find jobs they could afford to live on.

Many want to draw the college debate through lines of patriarchy (pro or con).  For my part, I would agree that you cannot presume a daughter will never need a paying job. A college degree could be one way to help with that, but it’s not the only way, in fact, it’s very, very far from the only way and there’s no reason to be presuming it’s the best way without doing some homework. Depending on the field, it may be a very bad way (if she’s not going to work for ten years, she may have to redo all the credentialing all over again and might do just as well starting from scratch).

Applying the money you and she would spend on college to a trust or investment fund to be used in case of emergency to is another way. Learning skills like hair cutting, reupholstery, photography, catering, even blogging, computer skills is another. I know women who work from home doing all these things- it’s important to consider your child and that child’s bent, gifts, talents, and interests.

But college should never be the default choice. That doesn’t mean it’s never an appropriate choice. Just that it should be considered carefully with eyes wide open and a full range of information, not just cultural expectations that of course, that’s what all middle class people do.

college is over-priced, that student loansare not the way to go, a college education is not what it used to be, sometimes you’re just paying thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars to mortgage your kids’ future while having them indoctrinated with groupthink, and that the lack of a degree proves nothing, because college is not for everybody.  And I am not particularly far sighted.  The need for college (and the requisite heavy load of debt to get it) has been too long an unquestioned article of faith, and somebody sold these kids into slavery.  Wall Street?  No, I’d look a lot closer to home.

We give lip service to the idea that college isn’t for everybody, but we do this by marginalizing those who aren’t a good fit for college, and limiting that group to a small subset. What most really mean when they say college isn’t for everybody is ‘There are people who are only good enough for menial labor. They, of course, wouldn’t benefit from a college education and are too poor to afford it anyway.’

This is snobbery. There are bright, hard working, intelligent, intellectually stimulating people who don’t belong in college, either, if what they want to do in life can be done without a degreeif the college education available to them is going to put them in debt for 20 grand but the job they want to get with that won’t pay well enough, or the field is saturated to the point that it will make it hard to find a job that can pay the bills with college loans tacked on, or if the ‘education’ at that college will really only substitute an indoctrination for an education.

College is a valid option, not the only valid option, not always the best option, and there’s nothinginherently superior about college education over marrying at 20 (which is what I did), joining the military (which is what my husband did), or being self-employed or working at a factory (Jenny-Any-Dots and Strider, respectively, and STrider’s own father as well).

Basically, I don’t believe default decisions are sound ones, whether pro or anti college.

More here

How college started as the default

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One Comment

  1. B. Durbin
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I basically just paid off my college loans, and my college loans were ONLY for living expenses, as I had scholarships to cover the cost of tuition (and most of the books). I can’t imagine if I had gotten a larger debt load. The numbers worked out for me, but they won’t work out for everyone. My nearest brother took out a lot more in loans and did graduate school as well, but he is a rocket scientist, so the numbers worked out for him as well. And though my older sisters got “worthless” degrees (in that they are not high-paying fields or fields with good employment), they have jobs in unrelated fields that pay decently well, and I think they appreciated their degree work. I also have a brother without a college degree who works in computer network administration with a decent salary. Drive counts for a lot.

    In other words, you have to run the numbers yourself and not just assume that a degree will lead to great things in and of itself. My college degree is of great personal value to me, but its value in terms of employment is debatable. If I’d had more to pay off, I’d be in trouble.

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