My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Price of Enlightenment: Debt

Something disturbing is happening in educations of "higher learning."  The "higher" things people are learning are not translating into marketable skills.  Many of are founding out their degrees are little more than proof that they are intelligent and dedicated, and they are paying a steep price for it.  Degrees are becoming more expensive, reducing the reward.  Meanwhile student loans are becoming more widespread, and a degree more and more necessary just to get an entry level full time job.  This all is coalescing into a catastrophe.

I was one of those that went into college and got myself a generic liberal arts degree.  I majored in history, with a minor in economics.  I did fairly well in school, but honestly was not quite sure what I wanted to do after school.  I do know one thing, almost everything I wanted to do out of school was out of reach.  I did not have enough education or high enough gpa for most of the history internships, and even if i landed them, what then?  They pay almost nothing, and the internship will most likely not land you any sort of history related job.  If I wanted to work in a museum, I would need to go to Gradschool.  I considered Journalism too...guess what?  Pays little, is extremely competitive, and you have no chance if you didn't major in Journalism.  I was little prepared for the realities of the job market.

The fact is I was young and naive, I will admit it.  I really should have done more research before deciding on a major so I can be prepared for a career.  Luckily for me, my parents were able to foot most of the bill for my education, so the student loans I do have are not terrible.  I can deal with them.  My job is good enough to allow me to pay them off.  

Nevertheless many are not as lucky.  Many graduated with liberal arts degrees, and did so mostly with student loans.  If I had done that I would be buried in debt right now, right out of school...nice.  Even worse, many out of school are still working in part time jobs.  They certainly are not making enough to pay for their loans...yet alone just living expenses.

All of this is to point out the ridiculousness of our student loan system.  It is literally setting up people for failure.  If your parents can afford to pay for it, then at least your bad financial decision did not ruin you.  However if you had to take tons of student loans...then its financial suicide to major in something that does not give you any practical skills that command a high salary.  You may not like this fact, and may object to the way I describe it, but I am just telling you the reality of how this is.  Anyone that must incur huge debt to go to school, should make dead certain their degree will pay for itself.

Many graduate college only to find themselves in a figurative 
"debtors prison."
This is why I cannot believe that FASFA is enabling young people, 18 year olds, many that are not mature enough to make good decisions, to commit financial suicide.  It would be one thing if tuition was being subsidized...but it is not.  FASFA is granting loans to young people to major in art, history, journalism, that no matter how honorable those majors may be, will never enable those young people to pay off their loans.  

This has to be changed.  And in my opinion, its simple.  Make the loans dependent on majoring in something with a high payoff, such as Applied health science, chemistry, computer programming, pre-med, nursing, finance, etc. etc.  Students in these majors should be able to pay off large loans far more easily.  Perhaps allow small loans for the other less lucrative majors, but don't allow students to burry themselves in debt to obtain them.  

The only downside to all this is of course that less people will learn to think critically about the society we live in.  I do regret that.  However there are cheaper ways to learn about these things.  People could easily form clubs online to learn about sociology or history or art, etc.  It would certainly be much cheaper, and still enlightening.  Not to mention I believe such a forum based approach will allow a much more democratic apporach than the typical authoritarian style most professors prefer.  Anyways I digress.  If you majored in liberal arts like I did, thats great.  Just don't expect huge financial rewards, and don't do it if you have to take on lots of debt.  

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