Bitchin' About: The College Dilemma

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Yesterday, the powers-that-be missed an important deadline for college students across the nation. The government went home to their Fourth of July holiday -and with their hotdog eating recess - the interest rates on subsidized student loans DOUBLED from 3.4% to 6.8%.
Bear with me while we do the math here:  If I take out a 1,000$ loan I will accrue 380$ in interest in one year. That may not seem like a lot but most people take out more than 1,000 on subsidized student loans.

Via Slate

Also, you’re going for your Bachelor’s degree so you’ll take out four different loans of 1,000$ (and dear-god-let’s-hope-the-interest-rate-doesn't-increase-anymore) you’ll have 4,000$ to pay.

Via Slate

This means that after four years of only borrowing 1,000$ per year you’ll have a total loan payment of 5,523$. Your interest (1,523$) for ONE year will end up being more than one year of your original loan (1,000$).

That’s not all folks; you have to factor in the average college student graduates with 27,000$ of debt. That raise in interest would have a huge, detrimental effect on approximately seven million people in the United States.
This isn't even close to what 7 million people look like. Via

The Senate says that once they return from their BBQ-ing holiday they will go back to the interest rate of 3.4% until a better/new decision can be reached. However, this problem came up last year and they just deferred it for a year so we’ll see what happens when there isn't an election to win.

All of this is a problem in its own right but it seems that no one wants to take a different approach on the college dilemma.
Today, while on Reddit this article came up: We Must Hate our Children by Joan Walsh
The article was basically spot-on when it comes to the title. But it was the comments on Reddit that got me thinking. So here are some of the things, I have noticed from experience, that help contribute to the college dilemma. 
Disclaimer: I know that Reddit comments are NOT guaranteed fact or a representation of the world at large; however, I feel that people’s opinions and real life experiences help explain a lot when there aren't nearly enough journalistic articles on the topic.


College Dilemma #1: The myth that college is for everyone.
College is not for everyone. There are plenty of people who would not only flourish but would like to work in trades. It seems that trade schools have become something of an afterthought or in my case never even mentioned as a viable post-high school option. I always got the impression that if you went to a trade school you weren't smart enough to attend a “real” college. Not only is that not true but it’s hurting many people who could benefit from such an experience. I believe that if people want to go to college they most definitely should and perhaps in a country where higher education is paid or not so costly this would be a good idea but seeing that the US has some of the highest tuition rates in the world it's not always a feasible option.

College Dilemma #2: College is being used as a substitute for on-the-job training.
There are many companies out there that will not offer an entry level position to someone without, at the very least, a bachelor’s degree (something along the lines of a Social Media Manager comes to mind). These jobs are not specifically hard nor do they need four years of higher education to learn but if you do not have that BA/BS box checked you will be overlooked. This is problematic in that instead of looking for the right person to do the job and spend company money teaching them their position they put the training and expectation on the employee. Many companies are unwilling to hire you while still in school and even less are willing to pay for your higher education classes. Instead, they force all of the financial burden on you, expect you to learn the position from theory and books, and still someone needs to be there to show you the ropes. You've wasted thousands of dollars and years trying to meet the minimum requirements for a position you could have easily done from the beginning.

College Dilemma #3: By telling EVERYONE to go to college - the job market is saturated.
Back when Baby Boomers were heading off to college it seemed that it was the best thing to do. A college degree was something that was going to set you apart from the stacks of resumes on the desk. Going to college told potential employers that you were: willing to further your education, you were devoted to the time and effort it took to get a degree; you are a hard-working, steady, resilient potential employee.
Now everyone has a degree. You have still furthered your education; you have gained knowledge. But when your resume is on the desk with all the other resumes that have also received a bachelor’s degree, what sets you apart?
The job market is saturated with lawyers, computer science majors, engineers who were told that the only way to get a job was to go to college and get a degree. Because of this there are not enough positions to fill relative to the number of people who are earning these degrees.

Some saturated job markets:


Just to name a few.

College Dilemma #4: The over-saturated job market leads to horrible underpaid, useless, impractical internships.
I've already bitched about my loath for internships. I know that there are some good ones out there but with everyone vying for the same jobs with the same degrees they need something to separate them from the pack and that comes from experience which sometimes comes from internships. There are some people who feed off of that need and use what could be a wonderful, learning experience into a way to get free (illegal) labor. This article from the New York Times explains the legality of what internships are actually supposed to be.

College Dilemma #5: By telling EVERYONE to go to college, the demand for degrees increases the price of obtaining one.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory: supply and demand. But here's an article for the sake of having an article. 

College Dilemma #6: Colleges do not operate in the best interest of the student.
Here are some examples:

  • Some classes do not transfer to other colleges.
  • Some classes even if they have a corresponding class cannot be counted towards your degree because you must take that specific class at that specific college.
  • They let apathetic work-study students look at, and give you, financial aid information.
  • They have clueless, uncaring academic advisers.
  • The core course curriculum changes every year.
  • Job placement consists of using their computers to search on your own.
  • They will tell you ANYTHING to get you to go to their school.
  • Though they are admittedly getting better at offering night/weekend classes it is still very hard to go to school and have a full time job.

I know that I am not the only person who has gone to an academic adviser and been told that I was fully ready to graduate only to sign up for graduation and be denied due to a new class I just HAD to take. The ever-changing course curriculum sounds like a good idea in theory; always keeping up with the changing times, technology, and theories but now it’s just starting to seem that colleges are trying to keep you paying your ever-increasing tuition for a few more semesters.  

College Dilemma #7: You are expected, at the age of 18, to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life.
The average student changes majors anywhere from 3-5 times before actually settling on one and getting it. The NBC News article has some good points and some that I do not fully agree with. Yes, changing majors is costly that much is apparent but I do not think that is one of the easiest to fix. When students are being pressured from every direction to choose a degree that will provide them a successful job upon completion - one able to pay back those loans, one that will be able to buy them a house in the future, one to support the kids they have, and the retirement they might want…you’re looking at some heavy pressure. At the ripe, old age of 18 you are still a teen. You can vote but aren't adult enough to know how to handle your liquor. Your insurance is sky-high because you’re impulsive, reckless, and short-sighted.  This is absolutely ridiculous. The fact that you should go in knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life is laughable. What pisses me off even more is that they add the whole “Your major will not determine what career –path you choose.” WTF am I even doing getting a degree anyway? If my employers don’t care what kind of degree I have why haven’t they made the GTFO degree?

College Dilemma #8: Student loans are not actual loans.
Unlike every other loan, student loans are not actual loans. If you were to declare bankruptcy , you’d still have to pay your student loans.  Your student loans will haunt you for the rest of your life...literally if you default on them. Your loan collectors can call and collect on your student loans until they are paid. They can garnish your wages, take your income tax refund, collect your social security .

College Dilemma #9: The stigma of having a degree and yet still living with your parents, not having a car, not having a house & family, not having a suitable job and the shame you feel when people comment on these things.
I think this is something that articles cannot be  bothered to comment on but I think it one of the most important to mention. When you have so many people feeling that they are failing because they are  being asked “Why haven’t you done this?” and “Why haven’t you done that?” there has to be someone there saying “Stop asking those questions!  It’s none of your  damn business." When these students are suffering under mounds of debt and no potential employment - it is not their fault. Or at least not entirely. They should be asking YOU what you have done to help the future generation with their higher education problem.
There is absolutely nothing shameful about being in debt and not having what other people consider to be the “American Dream”. I've touched a bit on this whole  thing on the ME ME ME entry but I think it does need to be said again.  What once used to the American Dream is something that more and more people are having a hard time even imagining right now. Do not try to “have it all” at once.  Take some time to figure out what it is that needs to be done first and the best way for YOU to achieve it .

As a the holder of an Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts I have some horror stories about my college experiences. I think for now I've given you enough to read however. Perhaps one day I'll write an entry about MY College Dilemma but for now feel free to leave comments stating your experiences, opinions, or your own horror stories. 

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