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TMFFlushDraw (84.95)

Our Failure to Value Education

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November 03, 2011 – Comments (18)

CNN just posted an article on student loan debt that got me in the mood for another blog post. You can read the article here.   

According to the artcile 2010 grads are leaving school with $25,250 in student loans and have merky job prospects at best. As a grad school graduate a little over a year ago ($98,000 in debt) with a sister in undergrad right now I can sympathize with the position these students are in.  

I think it's an opportunity to examine the place education has in our society. Part of my vision of the American Dream is the concept that we have equal opportunities to succeed in this country. Nothing is ever truly equal but the rising cost of education has created a disparity that's simply unacceptable in a nation that is supposed to be the best in the world. Nevermind that IF you get good grades, or IF you're a minority, or IF you try really hard you could get help, there should be no ifs involved.  

Anyone who has the desire and competence to go to college should be able to without putting themselves or their families in financial perril in the process. My Dad tells stories of spending $500 per semester for a state school college education. College wasn't a question of IF at that rate.  

I came from modest means and as an engineering grad I had the means to support my debt coming out of undergrad. No need to feel bad for me, but what about my Little Brother (Big Brothers Big Sisters) who has NO means to pay for school, a support system that doesn't know how to game the system (for education), and mediocre grades at best. Do we just want him falling through the cracks? 

What I bring up is that education isn't a dollars and cents game, it's an investment in the kind of country we want to have. Each of us paying a few extra bucks in state taxes or federal taxes to help make sure that the youth of tomorrow can afford to educate themselves is better than any stock investment advice I could give.  

I would rather spend the money on that than a war, a jail, or welfare if these kids don't become educated.  

Travis Hoium

TMFFlushDraw 

18 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On November 03, 2011 at 2:14 PM, SkepticalOx (99.44) wrote:

I would rather spend the money on that than a war, a jail, or welfare if these kids don't become educated.  

That's the problem. America has it's priorities all messed up. Education is an investment into the future and into it's people. Employers are complaining that they can't fill positions because they can't find qualified people, and yet the unemployment rates are still high.

Yet, America loves to go on excursions blowing up random buildings in the middle of some desert in some country most American's can't even place on a map. 

It is more than just more government or less government. It's how it's being spent. The horrid part is that with all the talk of cutting, it's usually the useful spending (education, investment in sciences) that get cut along with the bad stuff.

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#2) On November 03, 2011 at 2:53 PM, FleaBagger (29.47) wrote:

The reason education is so expensive is twofold: first, government is in the business of subsidizing the purchase of it, and second, our culture overvalues education. We fetishize education as a sacrosanct facet of the economy, of our identities, of a person's individual worth. Part of the reason your Dad could go to school for $500 per semester (much more than that adjusted for inflation, but still far less than what you paid), is because in those days, most people got a job without going to college. It wasn't for everybody, the people who had no desire to go didn't, and employers hired them for tasks that don't, and shouldn't, require a degree to perform.

Now, with our culture completely obsessed with college, and ignorant of the economic impact of an overeducated populace, government subsidizes loans to students, just like it subsidized loans to homebuyers for many years leading up to 2006, so why should we expect anything different to happen to prices? Except we see education as even more sacrosanct than home ownership, so it is more resistant to the correction. We don't even plan our future when we get caught up in getting that degree, and we have no way of knowing what the job market will be like when we graduate.

The answer is not to push everyone through college, as Egyptians learned the hard way, but to release the economy from the crushing burden that is the parasitic sector, and let people get jobs that suit their temperament, aided by freely invested (as opposed to government-invested) capital. Nobody needed a college degree to support a family in the 1950's and 60's, let alone to survive without welfare. Why not? Because deflation and the slashing of the federal budget at the end of WWII resulted in a massive increase in voluntary sector investment and capital accumulation. The parasitic sector, for once in its history, had voluntarily stepped aside. Nowadays, we have to push it aside.

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#3) On November 03, 2011 at 3:18 PM, leohaas (37.60) wrote:

"Part of my vision of the American Dream is the concept that we have equal opportunities to succeed in this country."

You darn Socialist! Clearly, your vision is NOT shared with the Tea Partiers who want to restore this nation to its former greatness. Lacking education is something to be proud of! Heck, Lincoln did not have any formal education. See, overvalued!

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#4) On November 03, 2011 at 3:24 PM, davejh23 (< 20) wrote:

Many states offer guaranteed acceptance and scholarships to state schools if highschool students meet minimum requirements...3.5+ GPA = 100% tuition, 3.0+ = 50%, etc...  In this way, state governments are already pumping millions and millions of dollars into education.  Why should I pay more in taxes so that C and D students can have a guaranteed education?

"Employers are complaining that they can't fill positions because they can't find qualified people..."

This is a fact.  If more students chose worthwhile majors, like engineering, maybe the job market wouldn't look so bleak to them right now. 

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#5) On November 03, 2011 at 3:34 PM, davejh23 (< 20) wrote:

"No need to feel bad for me, but what about my Little Brother (Big Brothers Big Sisters) who has NO means to pay for school, a support system that doesn't know how to game the system (for education), and mediocre grades at best. Do we just want him falling through the cracks?"

What does "NO means" mean?  He doesn't have the ability to work part time?...to work full time / paid internships in the summers?...to maybe take off a semester or two along the way, if needed?  Students working their way through school isn't a new concept. 

"According to the artcile 2010 grads are leaving school with $25,250 in student loans and have merky job prospects at best."

Is this for undergrads only?...state schools?  There are four state universities in my state and 8 semesters of in-state tuition at all of them is less than $25K.

What does "merky" mean?

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#6) On November 03, 2011 at 4:36 PM, SkepticalOx (99.44) wrote:

This is a fact.  If more students chose worthwhile majors, like engineering, maybe the job market wouldn't look so bleak to them right now. 

I would be really interested to know the "why". It is not as if the whole arts major ending up at Starbucks jokes are new!

If you're a mediocre student, what would cause you to pick a far-out arts degree (no doubt some arts/social science majors - in there various forms, who do really well can end up well off in the future)?

This is an huge example of the market being not efficient. 

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#7) On November 03, 2011 at 4:53 PM, WikiCPA (53.85) wrote:

As a 3 month graduate from a state college, 2010 looks very different from 2011 from my observations. The average in 2011 is a graduate leaves with $23,000 in students (which is coincidently just about what i owe). According to the bureau of labor statistics, 4.3% of college grads are unemployed. I found a job before graduating, and the majority of my classmates are working, but that is because we decided to choose degrees with value (in business).

I personally do not think there is anything wrong with the education system. Even though here in CA, we spend 4 billion more on the prison system than the education system, I still have pride in what our education system, as it is still better than the rest of the world. But before we blame and point fingers and try to make education an equal opportunity option, we must decide how we will select those who are willing to fulfill their commitment. Google how many college students collect grant and student loan funds before they drop out. If this was an equal opportunity option, like healthcare, our quality of teaching would decrease due to the decrease in funds from lowering tuition. But with the rising cost, the individual makes the choice and risk in order to have a better education.

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#8) On November 03, 2011 at 5:01 PM, DJDynamicNC (43.20) wrote:

It's funny how everyone just disparages an art degree like it's a joke. "Hey, the market doesn't value art highly enough to sustain it as a career - therefore art is worthless." I'm sure you don't think art is worthless - you just get to feel superior if yo mock people for learning about it. Same with literature or history degrees. Now, weapons engineer - the market will happily support another ordinance specialist. Therefore it must be valuable.

And you wonder why so many people are turning against capitalism and its skewed value system.

I'm also amused at people who can call a nation with a majority of people who don't understand evolution and can't find Iraq on a map "overeducated."

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#9) On November 03, 2011 at 5:21 PM, TDRH (99.76) wrote:

If "Each of us paying a few extra bucks in state taxes or federal taxes" would equipped students with the skills and training to be productive, tax paying citizens I would support it.   My problem is with the inefficiences/administrative costs of many of the universities and the fact that many of the for profit schools charge for training and education that does not result in employment.  Look at the results from the GI Bill for example.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_02/b4162036095366.htm

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#10) On November 03, 2011 at 5:31 PM, DJDynamicNC (43.20) wrote:

The article you linked to describes the depradations of for-profit schools and their preying on our soldiers. That's a problem with the for-profit school system, it seems, not with the GI Bill.

Perhaps a better perspective on the GI Bill can be gained by examining the results of its implementation after World War II - contributing to the most highly educated workforce in the world, and commensurately high levels of prosperity for decades.

Other than that, yeah, total failure.

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#11) On November 03, 2011 at 5:48 PM, davejh23 (< 20) wrote:

"Perhaps a better perspective on the GI Bill can be gained by examining the results of its implementation after World War II - contributing to the most highly educated workforce in the world, and commensurately high levels of prosperity for decades."

Did many soldiers come back and study art?  At the time, the US was a manufacturing power-house, a net exporter, and engineers and scientists were responsible for ~80% of GDP.  Things have changed.

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#12) On November 03, 2011 at 6:09 PM, devoish (99.06) wrote:

Travis,

Since I was 20, it has been well know that college degrees have made folks more money. They do have financial value and as you point out value beyond just the financial.

When I was 18 I went to work, not college. It was a normal thing to do at the time. I knew that most doctors or accountants would make more money than me, but college was out of reach for me (because of me). I also new that if I worked harder, was good at my job or was willing to work more hours, I could make more than some college grads. They had it easier, but I could bridge the gap. I could not bridge the gap between me and a doctor, but he was still only making twice what I did.

That has changed. Not that going to college has gotten so much better financially, but that just going to work is so much worse.

pdf file.

http://www.postsecondary.org/last12/137EARNINGS.pdf 

Best wishes,

Steven

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#13) On November 03, 2011 at 6:15 PM, DJDynamicNC (43.20) wrote:

Davejh - I'd be interested in the breakdown between the various types of degrees which are matriculated out.

If manufacturing and R&D are such major economic drivers (and I believe you're right that they are) then shouldn't we be supporting them much more strongly with our government, the way the nations that are beating us do?

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#14) On November 03, 2011 at 6:28 PM, whereaminow (61.23) wrote:

This is a funny thread.  Both my fiancee and I make very nice salaries (I won't brag so don't ask) and neither one of us has a four year degree.  If you know what a market is (a collection of individuals that value services) you'll learn that to make a living you need provide services that individuals want.  Based on our life experience and the fact that many of the wealthiest people in the world are college dropouts, we'll be home schooling our children and advising them that college is unnecessary but they may go if they pay on their own dime or get a scholarship.

I'm glad there are people that are Art majors in college.  That's less competition for my services (network security) and inflates my salary.  Thanks Art majors!

Here's an idea. Get a skill that is desired in the marketplace.  Work and save some money.  And then get an Art degree in your spare time.  That's how got my "economics degree" (self study, as always).

David

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#15) On November 03, 2011 at 7:25 PM, Darwood11 (< 20) wrote:

I've seen the same statistics. College tuition has been increasing. This is I understand, in part due to the states' reduction in per-student subsidies, which are made up via other means, including the tuition paid. I would expect that the average of college loans would also increase. 

I don't see statistics or an article about the impact on Mom and Dad. In my case, I put kids through school, paying a majority of the costs by depleting savings, borrowing against credit cards, borrowing against a whole life policy, and diverting funds from a possible Roth IRA annual contribution. Obviously, I was not only mortgaging my future, I was also interfering with a successful retirement. In the end, I owed far more than the "average" student per this article. Of course, I also paid for more than one college education. 

It's been a long, long road, paying back those debts. Been working, sometimes two jobs, and paying taxes since 1963. It's been 48 years in the work force, but I was taught by my parents that I was to make a contribution to society and prepare the way for the next generation.

By the way, I've paid for 3+ college degrees in my life, but I don't have one. On the other hand, I'm an expert is certain technologies and I've excelled in a certain field. I also have spent thousands of hours educating myself, but never achieved that sheepkin on the wall. Nonetheless, I've excelled in a very technical field. This is truly an amazing country, but most Americans are clueless. 

To achieve their education, the kids did their part, getting partial scholarships and loans. Of course, they also made some fundamental decisions including college selection, major and career choices. So I insisted they share in the responsibility for the opportunity to make those decisions. So we all experienced the pain of going into debt. 

That was also an incentive to get a good job, and earn money. I think one of the best lessons in life is the feedback each month when a check is sent to pay off a college loan. Just a little reminder about the reality and consequences of the decisions that were made while in college for four or five years. This may influence current decisions, and the process which accompanies them. 

On the bright side, the kids all graduated, all did find jobs in their chosen fields, but it wasn't easy, and there have been employment changes. The economy has been difficult for about a decade for many people. 

No one ever said "get a degree" and you are guaranteed a job. 


 

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#16) On November 04, 2011 at 9:41 AM, edwjm (99.86) wrote:

@ comment #1 :

You said,

"It is more than just more government or less government. It's how it's being spent. The horrid part is that with all the talk of cutting, it's usually the useful spending (education, investment in sciences) that get cut along with the bad stuff."

Only one mistake in the final clause:

"that get cut" INSTEAD OF "the bad stuff"

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#17) On November 04, 2011 at 10:16 AM, VExplorer (30.61) wrote:

 I'm agree with leohaas, davejh23, devoish. IMO: most valuable post is of whereaminow.

DJDynamicNC, whould you like to pay those gays have those "skills"? I'm not. I'm not able to see anyway how it will help me or will do this country better. You know, one of most famous joks in Russia is "How Americans are stupid!" You may expect older Russian from big city can remember names of ALL satellites of Saturn from his USSR school (only 10 years BTW). How it helped them? You don't want their living standards.

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#18) On November 05, 2011 at 1:39 AM, FleaBagger (29.47) wrote:

In his broken English, VExplorer makes an excellent point: if your government bankrupts your country, how can you get rich by learning things? You can't (unless you manage to leave and go to a wealthier country). Your whole country is bankrupt, and everyone outside the Kremlin is starving.

Anyone who disagrees with me has yet to support their case except to imply a priori that education (and therefore formal education and a college degree) is the most important thing in the universe by a factor of infinity.

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