I wrote this on MeWe just now, but then it turned into a rant big enough to stick on the blog: I get a text from my daughter this morning (she knows I’ve bailed on most of Facebook except a couple private groups, but wanted to keep me in the loop for fun stuff) about how she’s in a thread my buddy Brad Torgersen put up there about how stupid student loan forgiveness is.
My daughter commented that students don’t have to go into debt if they go to a cheaper college, watch their spending, and have jobs. She’s debt free. Immediately some guy told her about how maybe that was possible way back in her day, but it is impossible now because tuition and books are so much more expensive now and any jobs that college students can get all pay crap, so on and so forth, the usual.
My daughter is all like, DUDE I AM A JUNIOR IN COLLEGE NOW. ????
Yeah, and I don’t pay for it either. My wife and I warned our kids their whole lives that we weren’t going to pay for their schooling. If they wanted to go to college, they were footing the bill.
But some of you might say, but Larry, you’re a rich successful author, how cruel of you! Surely you could pay for your children’s education!?
Nope. Because when Bridget and I were in college most of the kids we knew where mommy and daddy paid for everything, they just fucked around and had a good time, bouncing from major to major to “find themselves” (and I guess finding yourself involves a lot of recreational drugs, parties, and road trips!). Whenever they flunked or screwed up, daddy would send another check, until they eventually ended up with some useless but fun degree.
Meanwhile, I came from a super poor farming family that barely scraped by. Bridget’s family wasn’t as broke as mine by that time, but they certainly weren’t in a position to send her any money to pay for school. We met at State Cow College. When we got married we were broke. Everything we owned was second hand junk. But we set goals, worked our asses off at whatever the best job available was for as many hours as we could pick up, and got through college as fast as we could and only took out loans in emergencies.
Then we paid off those student loans as fast as we humanly possible, which is saying something, because we had our first kid before we graduated, and we were committed to having Bridget be a stay at home mom (which we’ve stuck to for 4 kids) but that also meant that I had to work my ass off and we had to delay a lot of gratification.
Twenty years later, Bridget and I are doing fine. Meanwhile, many of the people we know who coasted through school are still blundering about aimlessly, trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their lives. Hardly a scientific sampling, but enough to convince us that we weren’t going to screw over our children for life by letting them think college was a six figure, four year party, and twenty years later they’ve got a Masters in Gender Studies in order to be a bank teller, but they’re really hoping their artisanal scented candle business takes off on Etsy.
My kids are smart. They could have gone to whatever school they wanted. The oldest (who inspired this rant) got recruited by Ivy League schools. She was briefly excited by that idea, until she saw the $40,000 a year tuition, and that she couldn’t carry a gun in Boston, and said screw that noise, and went to one of the cheaper state schools. She has gone through a series of jobs, moving to whichever one has the best earning potential (as in lots of available hours) and then she picks up all the shifts from the dopes who call in sick every time they’re hung over.
A couple of years later our next daughter is dong the same thing, at a different cheap state school. Also working poor college student jobs and looking for opportunities to work extra. And both of them only borrowing the absolute minimum they need to survive (and so far, neither of them has had to do that, which puts them ahead of their parents)
And both of them are currently seeing the same exact kind of behavior Bridget and I saw two decades ago, as the kids who get constantly bailed out by mom and dad make an endless series of idiotic choices. Why not? There’s no repercussions (that they can see now at least). Spring break here we come!
The kids you’ve got to feel sorry for are the ones who want to live that happy good time lifestyle, but who don’t have a rich mom and dad, so they instead turn to the endless money faucet of student loans, because they don’t yet realize that eventually that’s going to come back around to bite them in the ass.
And Big College loves this shit, and just keep jacking up the prices. Because as long as there is some sucker who is willing to pay $400,000 for a degree that is functionally indistinguishable from one that costs $40,000, they’re going to do so, gleefully.
** So that’s what I wrote on MeWe, but I’m just getting started on this goofy topic.
Everybody seems hung up on this idea that going to an expensive school is going to make you so much better off than going to a cheap school. But as far as I can tell, outside of some very narrow career field networking situations that’s bullshit for the vast majority of us.
The only places I’m aware of that magical “networking” makes that much difference is that you are on the Yale rowing/golf team and friends with Chad Moneybags who can put in a good word with his dad who is on the board at FuckYou, FuckYou, and PayMe on Wall/K Street so you can get that sweet six figure right out of school venture capital/think tank job.
For the vast vast majority of the rest of us who aren’t anywhere near those social circles (and who don’t want to be!) the “prestige” of the place you got your degree from only matters when applying to your first job because the rest of your resume is garbage, and from that point on literally nobody gives a shit, and they’re going to judge you on the quality of your actual work.
Is the actual education at these elite schools really orders of magnitude better? No. Of course not. You’re paying for the name (and in some cases theoretical “networking”). Actual education might be better, but I wouldn’t bet on it, and there’s no way the improvement is proportional to the cost increase. And having friends/coworkers who went to various elite schools, sometimes the education is actually worse.
My senior year I took some test that they give to all the graduating business majors across the country every so often to gauge our overall business knowledge and how our schools stack up against each other. The only reason I remember this at all is that year State Cow College kicked the shit out of Stanford. Go Aggies.
And Stanford’s still relatively cheap comparatively. You want to go a couple hundred grand into debt for your fancy degree from NYU? Then you’d damn well make sure that you’re going to get sufficient return on your investment. Otherwise, you’re a dope. Sorry. You went to college. You’re supposed to be smart.
College is kind of a joke anyway. They keep you there paying money for four+ years. The part that is of actual value in your career/life takes up maybe half of that if you’re lucky. And even then you’ll probably learn more in the first six months to a year of doing your major for a living than you got out of college.
The rest is gen eds, that are supposed to make you “well rounded”. A concept which quite literally everybody knows is total bullshit. And most gen eds could be replaced with a few hour long Wikipedia spiral on the subject and you’d probably learn more, for thousands of dollars less. We all know it. The universities know it too, but they pretend that this is some enlightened educational blah blah blah to make you a better person, when in reality it’s just to make you a poorer person.
Even in your major, you’ll probably be required to take some bullshit classes that only exist because the university needs to keep employing some otherwise useless professor, and this is the only thing they can teach. Hell, to get my accounting degree I had to take a class in Future Basic, which was already a dead programming language twenty years ago. It was a joke. We all knew it was a joke. The class only existed because this was literally the only thing this tenured professor was qualified to teach. Yet we still all paid money to jump through pointless hoops.
Talking to my kids and other young people today, it hasn’t changed. If anything it’s gotten dumber. Gen Ed English class now is teaching basic shit kids should have learned in high school, only now you’re paying thousands of bucks for the privilege. Now go to your Gen Ed science class, which is mostly watching videos about global warming (which you could stream on YouTube for free if you felt like it, but this way it is more expensive and there’s a test at the end).
So we participate in this process where theoretically we learn about the major thing we want to do for a living, and in exchange the school makes you sit through a bunch of pointless bullshit that you’re all going to forget about ten minutes after the final, and never use again for the rest of your life. If half your degree is hoop jumping bullshit, then you might as well make get the cheap hoop jumping bullshit.
If you really wanted to make college affordable, ditch all the GenEd hours, and you could be handing out practical degrees in two years instead of four. Don’t know basic English enough to write your way through your real classes? Then your dumb ass can go take English 101. And the kids who didn’t sleep their way through high school can save money.
But nope. You need to spend hundreds of bucks on “Music Appreciation” in order to be “Well Rounded” instead. (and most Music 101 classes could easily be replaced by a Spotify playlist and listening to a couple of podcasts, and you’d actually learn more).
I can’t forget the most important part of all these mandatory GenEds though. If we didn’t have GenEd, how would academics be able to beat regular students over the head about whatever their left-wing cause of the day is? Sure. You probably just want to go to school so you can get a good paying job in engineering, business, or programming, but then you wouldn’t get indoctrinated… err… I mean, well rounded, by exposure to such vital topics as Critical Race Theory or Feminist Dance Therapy, and those professors need to get paid too.
Of course, any criticism of our crazy expensive yet shockingly lackluster higher education system will be met by screams of outrage by people who will label me “anti-intellectual.” Too bad the hucksters who came up with this scam are hardly deserving of the title intellectual.
So now to bring this full circle, Student Loan Forgiveness is the big brain proposal that says debts which are overwhelmingly held by privileged white liberals (who paid money to other privileged white liberals in order to theoretically achieve greater earning potential), should be paid for by everybody else, including those who don’t have college degrees and greater earning potential. So basically all of you truck drivers, shelf stockers, and now unemployed pipeline workers get to play the part of the mommy and daddy I talked about earlier who bail out their stupid kids after they make bad choices. Yay.
Now, will Joe Biden actually do some kind of student loan forgiveness? Or will this be another empty promise, like the DNC has done to every other group they milk for votes and then promptly abandon? (Black Lives Matter is simply shocked that the old racist white segregationist “racial jungle” guy who was BFFs with a KKK Grand Kleagle is snubbing them now that he’s in office. Who could have possibly seen this coming?)
Honestly, I’ve got no idea if loan forgiveness will happen. It’s a stupid idiotic proposal that reinforces bad behaviors and will raise costs long term, so the DNC should love it. However, since the DNC is merely a wholly owned subsidiary of the CorpoUniParty (don’t get butt hurt, libs, half the GOP belongs to it too), it depends if BigEd and the banks gain money/power off of it. If that cost/benefit analysis comes back positive, the loans will be forgiven, and if it doesn’t, then it’ll quietly die… Until next election when they need to make more promises to gullible liberals.
In the meantime, if you’re going to go to college, don’t bank on Santa Claus bailing you out. Go cheap. Go fast. Have a job. Get that shit done. Don’t borrow money you can’t pay back. Compound interest is a bitch.