Sunday, November 06, 2011

Student “Debt Trap” is often self imposed.

In the summer before my Senior year in high school I was sitting in my mother’s living room in San Jose discussing my future.  She was going to give me some help to get through college but she insisted that I had a plan.  I told her that I planned to be a history teacher.  She wasn’t unsupportive, but not entirely thrilled either.  See, my mother went from being a housewife and retail clerk at Mervyns' to getting a Master’s in International Business and making six figures at Toshiba and Hitachi.  Along the way she worked in Intel and AMD just as the computer revolution was taking off in the 1980’s.  She made this statement as we sat at the table. 

“Well, you can teach and not make a whole lot of money, and constantly take your work home with you.  Or you can work in Silicon Valley in Computer Science, make a ton of money, and not take your job home with you.”

I chose the former and pretty strongly.  I could have made it in the Computer Age.  I was programming in 8th grade and was a computer nerd long before computer nerds became popular.  But I wanted to teach.  I was passionate about it.  That statement by my mother was the last time she questioned my future.  It was also made clear that I would get a set amount every month, that I had to be enrolled in school and doing well, and that I was cut off once I got my degree. 

I have student loan debt.  I walked out of college with about $25,000 in debt, which is higher than it should be because I took my sweet ass time getting out of junior college.  I picked a profession that was in demand (teaching) but a subject that was not (Social Studies).  I knew this to be true before I got into college and worked with kids to build up a resume; I coached, worked in church youth groups, and become extremely knowledgeable about my subject matter.  I was passionate about History but actually majored in Social Science; meaning I had to pass groups of classes in Government, Economics, and Sociology as well as History.  Why did I change my emphasis?  Simple, it made me more marketable.  I immediately began looking for jobs as soon as I graduated from college.  I substitute taught, continued to coach, and in the summer I worked in a clothing factory hauling boxes.  I applied to nearly every position from little Hayfork to West Sacramento to Santa Rosa and points in between. 

I’m due to be done paying off my debt in about three years.  I pay about $250 a month.  In the beginning I sacrificed other things to afford that payment.  I say all of this because I’m noticing that the student debt issue is becoming front and center in the economic debt raging right now (paywall).  My personal opinion is that it is partly the fault of the student and the parents.  Here are some brief thoughts and then I would appreciate your comments.

-College has become too expensive.  If there is a system that needs a serious audit, it’s the college system.  States need to take over the system and find out where to cut done costs.  First place to look it upper management, who make an insane amount of money working for the government.

-College professors have become lazy.  Sure, Math and Science are hard.  But innovation isn’t simply in a lecture hall with 300 other students and a professor’s assistant conducting a droning speech.  So much focus has been on primary and secondary institutions.  How about a look at post?

-Kids don’t go to college to prepare for society.  Sorry, but almost 90% of kids that go to universities from my school don’t go to prepare for the future.  They go to party, to please their family, and to follow friends.  Right now about a dozen former students are accruing student debt while getting drunk on a street corner in Isla Vista in Santa Barbara.  Think most went to SB for their fantastic International Studies programs? 

-Those that are passionate about learning something usually go to expensive liberal arts colleges.  Creative learners are spending massive amounts of money going to Smith or Sarah Lawrence with no idea what they will do in life.  You might say, “they don’t need to know at this point”, and I’ll respond by saying that they better not protest about no jobs being available when they graduate with a degree in Philosophy and eighty grand in school debt.  Congrats, you have a degree from Sarah Lawrence!  And now you can play the banjo in front of the 12th Street BART Station in Oakland while spending nights cursing Wall Street for not gifting you a job. 

And a note to (relating to the above Time article) Lyndsey, who managed to accrue $170,000 in debt while graduating with Honors at NYU.  When did it become apparent that your debt load was becoming the size of a small house?  Where you seriously working towards becoming employed while at NYU, or where you just “going to college”?       

blog comments powered by Disqus