Essays on the trap of US student debt

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114 Responses to “Essays on the trap of US student debt”

  1. We did the math. It is cheaper to take six credits with cash every quarter than make our loan payments. And we have half the loan amounts that most of our friends do. 

    I appreciate the loans to get my husband through school, but when I got sick, that house of cards just got all teeter toter on us. 

  2. michael b says:

    Break free?  The only way to do that is to address the problem of school cost, and realize that not everyone needs a college degree to be “successful”, whatever that may be.  Furthermore, it’s perfectly ok for people to start out at a 2 year institution, and transfer, and that Ivy League school gets you the same education as a state school. 

    While being able to discharge student loan debt might scare the bejesus out of banks and the government, it seems unconscionable to be able to rack large gambling debts, or credit card debt, and be able to walk away from some of it.  (Granted, the US under Bush found it necessary to make personal bankruptcy much more difficult, after intense lobbying from….banks, and yet corporations and business entities routinely walk away from bad deals).  Some lenders will allow you to settle debts you can’t pay for less than what you owe, but…you need a lump sum…and where are you going to get a loan if you can’t pay back the other loan to begin with.  Clusterf%ck central.

    There is a strange association between paying your debts and morality, which boggles my mind.  Banks have successful married paying your monetary debts with whether your are a “bad” or “good” person, when (as I noted above) they play by wildly different rules, which is why many of those people on Wall Street, and across America, are pissed off.

  3. Haz 0 says:

    There are a couple of things that must be done.

    Some involve a concerted rethinking of the fantasy that by merely having a university degree you can get a well-paying job. Skill is the item that is being sold, and that should be the focus of any education.

    What is rarely discussed, however, and I’m glad this was quoted, is that the CEO-like pay of administrators at the higher level is disgusting and should be fixed. Plug up the holes in the ship before we move to change the structure of it.

    • Jamie Sue says:

      But, a skill without a degree is virtually worthless.  I have many marketable skills, but nearly all the positions I’ve seen involving those skills require degrees.  There is no interest on the part of employers for verifying skills.  Instead, the degree stands as a symbol for the skill (which may or may not exist), forcing people who would otherwise not need degrees to pursue one.  It is laziness on the part of employers and the perpetuation of the lie that only the “appropriately sanctioned education” can provide skill.  Part of this is in how Universities market themselves and part of this is in how degrees are used as both a shorthand and a  shortcut for actual learning.

      • I’ve always just said to myself if I ever get into a position where I hire someone, there will be no degree requirement in the job description, and no degree holders will be given extra weight for the same accomplishments.

      • EvilSpirit says:

        It doesn’t sound like you’ve thought this through. Consider the time involved in verifying independently that someone has done 4 (or even 2) years’ equivalent of independent study. Now multiply that amount of work by the number of applicants for a given job. Of course you’re going to rely on some third party for that sort of thing, if you can.

        It’s not about only certain institutions being able to *provide* skills: that’s the student’s point of view.  From the employer’s point of view their job is to *certify* skills. It’s not laziness when the alternative isn’t even practical.

        • Jamie Sue says:

          Then a new method is in order.  Skills can be tested and evaluated outside of a University.  It’s done in trade occupations all the time.  Perhaps there is a new market waiting for just such a thing.

          I would contend that universities don’t certify skills.  They certify that a person has passed, with some degree of proficiency, a set of courses.  This does not equate, necessarily, into skill.  I passed my math courses by the skin of my teeth.  Few employers would read an entire transcript to find that out.   The university will certify that I have a degree (even if its not in math) and the employer will assume that I can balance my own checkbook.  They would be dreadfully wrong.

      • SeattlePete says:

        Thank god it’s “virtually useless” and not actually useless.  I dropped out of college 2 semesters in when I was 18 because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and it seemed foolish to just rack up debt while I figured it out.  In hindsight it was particularly foolish since I was a journalism student looking to break into print in the early 90′s.  I spent the next 20 years honing my self-taught tech skills to the point where now I make more money than I would had I stayed and got my degree.  The fact that it says “Attended Northeastern” on my resume never comes up, and I’ve been consistently employed for those 20 years.  

  4. Jim Saul says:

    Split the knowledge/skill transference from the implied competency certification aspect… with schools like Stanford (note – the online AI class starts Monday), MIT, and Berkeley offering more and more lectures online, I’ve done the equivalent of auditing dozens of classes over the past few years, going through an entire semester of lectures in a few afternoons, and the lecturers are often at the top of their fields.  That’s never going to appear on a resume, of course, never “credit” of any type. But I guarantee I retained more of the information than some of the students in the room.  For free.

    Oh… and split the education mission from the pro-sports farm-team system that so many schools have become.

  5. penguinchris says:

    I agree that fundamental change needs to be done to the way education is structured – it’s not really student debt that’s the problem, that’s just the symptom that affects the most people.

    Too many people are getting too many degrees to be sustainable. I want more people to have more degrees – but this growth has happened too fast, and the rest of society hasn’t caught up.

    Of the six years of education in geology I have (four year B.S., and two years of grad school), I realistically need only about two years worth for an entry-level geologist position. Yet people with master’s degrees are having extreme difficulty finding these jobs (this is my situation) – and I can’t imagine how anyone who didn’t go to grad school could possibly find a science/tech job these days.

    So we’re stuck with almost an entire generation of college and post-grad educated people working at Starbucks. This isn’t even just English majors who would be working at Starbucks anyway, it’s people who studied science – and made big sacrifices to do so – because they wanted to do something meaningful with their life, but now can’t.

    And it follows, of course, that working at Starbucks (if they’re so lucky) isn’t enough to pay their student loans.

    • Jamie Sue says:

      Kindly keep in mind that there are those who are making big sacrifices to study the written word… bigger than you would think considering they know that Starbucks and McDonalds are their likely ends.  Its a sad society that doesn’t value its own literature.  Its a sadder one that forgets the power in words.

      But, I do agree.  Degrees are a dime a dozen in the marketplace and this has created a viscous cycle.  Perhaps we should sway our young from selecting their majors based on projected earnings and push them to learn for the sake of better illuminating their understanding of the world.

      Then again, that would only work if higher education was both free and voluntary.

      • Metlin says:

        Degrees are a dime a dozen in the marketplace and this has created a viscous cycle.

        What kind of skills are you talking about? ;-)

        Sorry, but I simply couldn’t pass up the irony of a language error on a post berating society for not valuing literature.

        • Jamie Sue says:

          It’s past my bedtime.  A few typos could be excused.  I wouldn’t bring yours up even if you had proclaimed a Doctorate of Letters and a fascination with English grammar.  

          As far as skills.  I have tons.  I’m a Jill of All Trades.   Are you hiring?  ;P   An Executive Level Admin Assist with SEO, Content, and CRM management skills along with a hefty sales and customer service background  is worthless locally.  I don’t have a degree that applies.  

          Heck, I can even paint houses and hang drywall– I’ve been a home health aide, a used car salesman, and a server, but even those jobs are hard to get unless you know the person whose hiring.  I can do a lot of neat stuff because a few foolish people took a chance on hiring a girl that promised she’d figure out a way to make it work.  If I’d been smarter I’d solicited myself to a different industry, but that’s the way the dice roll.  Right now all I can find is commissioned sales and that’s a dead end for me.  I’m way too nice.

          I couldn’t buy a job right now. Personally, if I had better looks I’d go into porn at this point. According to craigslist pretty girls can make $1500/day if they are willing to have sex on camera.  :P

    • davidasposted says:

      What a condescending reply. It looks to me like you fundamentally misjudged the market. You wrongly assumed that you would prove the exception in an overcrowded, overly-narrow field of specialists. Meanwhile, my friends and I — all of whom studied English or the Humanities and graduated in the past few years — have found meaningful employment, outside the food services industry no less! Maybe you need to rethink what you think you know about the disciplines and their relative value. Also, maybe if you practice a little humility someone will see fit to hire you.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        What a condescending reply.

        How strangely recursive.

        • davidasposted says:

          Re-read penguinchris’s comments, in particular this line:

          “This isn’t even just English majors who would be working at Starbucks
          anyway, it’s people who studied science – and made big sacrifices to do
          so – because they wanted to do something meaningful with their life, but
          now can’t.”

          Do you really believe that our comments are equivalent in tenor and/or tone? Really?

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Actually, I think that yours is much nastier. Do you disagree with the idea that more people who don’t have a career plan get English degrees than those who get science degrees?

          • Jamie Sue says:

            I pretty sure disagreeing with the moderator gets you a foot in the ass…  But, I don’t think it’s the career path aspect that made the originating comment so offensive.  It was that implication that English majors wish to do less meaningful things with their lives than those in the sciences, that they made less sacrifices to get their degrees, that they were doomed to the service industry anyway so they have no reason to complain about the labor situation.  Or maybe it was the way that the comment dismissed people who work at Starbucks (or any other service/blue collar job) as not doing something meaningful with their life.  I refuse to believe that.  I refuse to believe that any person who provides for themselves and a family is of less worth or has a less meaningful existence.

            Maybe davidasposted thought the comment was condescending for a different reason than me, but I sure thought it was.  I’ve dreamed of teaching English since I was a little girl.  Life has thrown some curve balls, so I’m not there yet, but all my life I’ve wanted to give that great gift my English teacher gave to me to someone else.  I won’t lie — hearing how meaningless being an English major is  made me a little feel like I was being talked down to.       Condescending in my opinion.  Subjective, I suppose.Penquinchris has a right to be mad.  I wouldn’t take that from him.  And maybe it takes a little edge off to poke fun a few folk when you’re on a rant.  I’m sure he’s an alright Penquin whose damn good at what he does.   But, you can’t choose people’s gut reactions to what they read.

          • Jen Savage says:

            “Can’t sleep, someone is wrong on the internet”???

          • Jamie Sue says:

            Nope. Last night I couldn’t sleep because I was fretting over the bills.  The internet was a welcome escape.  Thank you for your concern, though.

          • davidasposted says:

            I spend my days teaching first-year university students that they need not feel (nor should they be made feel) inadequate for studying English. I find that students in the sciences often have no idea what we do in English departments, and frankly vice versa. In a thread about rising student debt, regardless of one’s program of study, I found it disheartening and a bit frustrating to read yet another dismissive comment about my field. I replied in anger. Mea Culpa.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I don’t think that the parts of the original comment were intended as a philosophical whole, ie – that an English degree is less meaningful than a science degree. Just that students who have no clue what they want to do (who might be the majority) are more likely to major in English or Journalism or Philosophy than in Chemical Engineering or Math.

          • davidasposted says:

            Fair enough. My experience with Engineering and Mathematics students (a majority of students in my introductory English course are from either the ‘hard’ sciences or those disciplines) is that they have enrolled in these programs because their parents tell them to do so.

          • The Chemist says:

            I agree with @Jamie Sue. C’mon, how often do people get guff for studying science? It’s not even in the same league as the amount of abuse people take for studying something “soft”. Especially when we watch television and read books and pay into multi-billion dollar industries to consume the “soft”. The haughtiness gets tired and stupid after a while.

  6. awjt says:

    Unfortunately true, Jamie Sue.  The alternative is to gamble: not at a casino or with the lottery.  With entrepreneurship.  But not all people have that knack.

    • Jamie Sue says:

      Or the capital.  Most people I know live hand to mouth.  A few have wonderful ideas that would bring them a comfortable income while utilizing their skill-set.  There is, unfortunately, the issue of start up costs, of which there are always some.  The micro loan seems like a hopeful solution, but is not popular with most banks and any venture comes with substantial risk to the finances of the household.  If the household already teeters on brink of financial disaster, then the risk can not be acceptable.

    • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

      Not everyone wants to (or can) run their own business.  Plus it takes money to get started and if you need a loan, well…

  7. jnordb says:

    There are other ways to make a good living; although (in my experience) greatly looked down upon by many of my more educated friends, I opted to learn a skilled trade via a union apprenticeship program. I make more than many of my degree-wielding friends, and have excellent benefits. The downside is work that is not always clean, physically easy, or as safe as sitting inside a cubicle all day. I’m OK with that though…

    • Jamie Sue says:

      I believe we should encourage youth to enter trade occupations.  They are the backbone of a functioning economy.  Instead we push them more and more towards four year degrees.

  8. ahannon says:

    For decades we’ve understood a college education as a ticket to a better life, and now the price of admission is a lifetime of debt.

    Student debt undermines the very freedom that higher education promised.

    If you are interested in the issue of student debt, you might be interested in a piece I wrote http://www.socialtextjournal.org/periscope/2011/09/the-banking-model-of-education.php

  9. Harold Combs says:

    My wife & I put ourselves through college in the 70′s and we put our children through college in the 90′s without borrowing a penny.  We didn’t choose the “elite” high-priced / low-value schools. The stupendous rise in the cost of a secondary education is unconscionable.  And the Government has laid the trap of making student loans simple & easy and without any relationship to the earnings ability of the student / major.  Ultimately it comes down to the students making stupid decisions by taking on huge debt without understanding what they are doing.  In my opinion the Federal Government is suckering kids into financial slavery.

  10. lewis_stoole says:

    just an unsubstantiated thought, but are the rising university fees in any way related to supporting their sports franchises?

    • Rtarara says:

      Nope. Sports are covered. Alumni regularly give gobs of cash to sports teams. It’s messed up as far as priorities go, but it’s true. 

    • Jamie Sue says:

      I’d like to know that as well.  I’d also like to know how much of university fees go towards purchasing out land adjacent to the university which the university may or may not use, how much goes to administrative nonsense, and why the “savings” accrued by populating teaching staff with adjuncts does not correlate to reduced tuition.  Someone with a better statistical mind than mine might have the answers.

      • lewis_stoole says:

        the purchasing of adjacent land–yes, that brings to mind a university i know that made cutbacks in classes and courses (and a complete department), yet a few years later, a major facelift took place on the main storefront strip that formed the border of east campus as well as several new constructions on campus.  were the two related?

        • Jamie Sue says:

          UC?  LOL.  They’ve been buying up shop fronts like gangbusters, driving out old tenants with higher rents in an effort to make the area more “palatable” to the parents of would be students.  Corryville is loosing its gritty charm.

          • lewis_stoole says:

            no, it was my impression of ohio state university.  years ago they closed some classes, closed the cinema department, new buildings and parking structures appeared, followed by a rapid resurfacing of the main city strip bordering the campus entrance.  tuition also substantially increased, maybe due to inflation, maybe due to how they operate, i don’t know.  

          • Guest says:

            The same thing is happening here…

            http://madisonwi.livejournal.com/2266467.html

  11. Thomas Gokey says:

    I teach at Syracuse University (adjunct, minimum wage zero benefits). Last year I co-taught a grad seminar that was a lot of fun. But this year although the school wants us to teach it again my partner and I have decided that there really isn’t any point. The school pays us shit and treats us like shit and our students are getting buried under decades worth of crushing debt. Why teach it at the university? What does the university add?

    So we just decided to teach it again free of charge at local libraries. Since our class has garnered a certain amount of buzz within the school (and even a bit outside the school) and a lot of students want to take the class we shouldn’t have any problem finding people to take it. We already have everything we need to teach it. Why let the administration make a killing off our work while we and our students get exploited. We’re going to be presenting on this topic next week at the MobilityShifts conference at the New School. http://nyc.thepublicschool.org/class/3568

    The only thing the university adds is accreditation, and now with the open badges project and other alternatives they don’t have a monopoly on that anymore either.

    I’m really curious to see how the #occupywallstreet will move into the universities over the year. Maybe over the winter when it gets too cold to stay outside? Or maybe not, maybe it won’t move to universities at all, but student debt is a key ingredient in this mess.

  12. Rtarara says:

    I hate this. I’m about $35-40k in the hole from grad school. I got a job for part of it, but I couldn’t keep it  that long (I couldn’t handle being such a bad person as they made us be and they made me work a schedule that interfered with school work). I got a four year degree in computer science and couldn’t get a job. I did an internship and worked during my undergraduate program. I’m good at what I do. In order to eat, I went to grad school and now have a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Hopefully the distance learning program and opportunities I create will one day help others with this…if I ever get a job. 

    I can’t even get a crappy job teaching as an adjunct for local community colleges now and I don’t want even more debt to get my PhD.

  13. Jamie Sue says:

    I am surprised there isn’t an open source, accredited, virtual university.  All the technology is there.  The overflow of qualified instructors is there.  What stops it?

    • hilde says:

      good question.  My initial response is that accreditation, like many other things in our society, is a rigged game.  For example, for a college or university to have accreditation in chemistry, the institution must have a subscription to a specific set of chemistry journals…. one of which starts at somewhere around $25K per year. 

      There is some movement toward open curriculum, but none for credit that I am aware of at this point.  

  14. hilde says:

    I have been fortunate to be mostly employed since finishing my first masters degree.  There was one point where I had to do a “deferment” which if I remember correctly, consisted of a few months of having no interest accrue on my student loans.  I paid off my student loans from my BA and first masters degree the same month that I finished my second masters degree… twelve years after the first.  I’m not out of debt though.  Making those big student loan payments left me without much discretionary income, and very little savings … I fell into the easy credit trap.  So a medical emergency and then an ongoing chronic health condition has left my family in a huge amount of debt.  It was so much easier paying off the doctors and hospital with that 6.9% APR…..  I would be happy to continue paying the credit card companies for the money I’ve borrowed, if the interest were at a lower or fixed rate such as that 6.9, but then they jacked it up and jacked it up again. 

  15. Sign Ahead says:

    As an indebted grad student and a low-wage replacement instructor, I always feel a little queasy about the price of my education. I’m lucky enough to be in an industry that still rewards advanced degrees, and a program that gives me lots of meaningful contact with prospective employers. But this is not the norm. Many of the students I know are stuck in a holding pattern: taking refuge in school, sometimes for years, until they can find a job. They’re using their student loans as substitute wages and when they leave campus they’re burdened with impossible levels of debt.

    My undergraduate students frequently ask me about graduate school, and I’m not sure what to tell them. Unless they’re certain that they want to dive into graduate research for its own sake, and not just for the hope of future rewards, then I think they would be better off looking elsewhere.

  16. lewis_stoole says:

    if congress can set a limit on how much a financial firm can jack up the apr (100-300% is outrageous), then i am all for it.   

  17. davidasposted says:

    American students would be angry to know how much less their neighbors to the North are paying for the same degree.

  18. carl Martin says:

    I work for a small state-supported university in west Texas. The main reason our tuition has risen is because a significant amount of the state supported funding  has been taken away.

    The current political fad of “lower taxes and smaller government” has meant that the cost of education has been shifted to the students, and away from the taxpaying public (and employers) who benefit from having an educated workforce.

    • librtee_dot_com says:

      Does the public at large really benefit from having an “educated workforce”? Is it worth it to the general public to spend $100K+ to have some members spend four years partying and goofing off? 

      I just say this because your comment (and the article) display an economic ignorance. Government has played a key role in the problem. Student aid increases demand, which rises prices. When this is paired with usurious and absurd laws about non-dischargability, it turns into a fascist model of corporate-state partnership, designed to lock young students into fearful wage slavery for life.

      Increasing student aid in the form of loans is cruel and tortuous.

      Increasing grants, or free tuition, while still economically debatable, is much better.

      But the current system cannot be blamed on the free market. For one, there is no free market in education – schools more or less have to be state certified; a massive reduction in supply and choice, and a massive barrier to entry. For another, while the shift towards loans and debt has been awful, government has had it’s hands all over the whole system. Reduce supply and increase demand and yes, you will see higher prices.

      Just as in many other crucial areas of society that are totally broken – financial markets, health care, etc. – the culprit is private greed combined with misguided government largess and intervention.

      The best of all is to scrap the whole college system. It was a child of a pre-digital era. Certainly, some fields need colleges..but most don’t. College should be replaced by distributed and non-hierarchical systems of learning. The ‘degree’ from college should be replaced with a rigorous and difficult series of exams to demonstrate mastery of a subject, hard enough to challenge a professor, along with apprenticeships and work-study partnerships in companies.

      For millions of young people, college has become an extended busy-work session.

  19. Jacob Metcalf says:

    I took out fourteen thousand in student loans for my first degree and was lucky to pay them off actually working in my former field. Then I was laid off and went back to school to study for a career in nursing (God willing I pass the entry exams). Basically crushing student loan debt is the reason why I am not going to get married until my mid forties and it is the reason why I am unlikely to have kids or buy a house. I should have between 40,000 to 60,000 in new student loan debt when I am done with school. By the time I get that paid off it could be as high as a 100,000 or more.

    What else can you do? Go work at Wal-Mart or Starbucks? Work in an easily outsourced Trade-Labor job?

    I am going to a public community college that is raising it’s tuition 16% each year. If they keep it up God knows how much more in student loans I’ll have to take. This is the new Indentured servitude.

  20. Bull Moose says:

    Eh… This is only a problem because those who shouldn’t be in college are getting loans to go to college. It’s always been expensive to go to University. This isn’t frickin high school –  it’s voluntary, secondary education. Increase standards, and stop freaking out about 300 bucks a month when you borrowed 40 thousand dollars, WILLINGLY.

    • Jacob Metcalf says:

      Actually public investment into public education institutions have been dropping annually for decades creating a system of massive debt as a kind of class control. I know you want to blame the victim but really you should actually look at the numbers.

      Granted I am not done with my education and will be in school for the next 4-5 years but since here in Washington state the legislature is cutting state colleges at around 15-20% a year every single year it is pricing students out of the system without finishing the degree. There is a fear that the tuition increases will surpass the maximum Stafford borrowing limit and not let many students finish their degrees. I am not worried about grade inflation.. I am worried about TUITION inflation.

    • Jamie Sue says:

      I suppose I shouldn’t have gone to college then– by your standards.  I’m sufficiently bright (outside of math), hard working, and insatiably curious.  I desperately want to teach others.  I’m the first in my family to go after a degree and I couldn’t have done that without student loans. 

       I was told, when I was young, that the only way out of the cycle of poverty was education and I foolishly believed.  Thank you for your insight BullMoose.  I’ll take my shoes off and go back to the hills where I belong.Education and betterment of self shouldn’t rely on how much money you have, but how hard you are willing to work to achieve it.  The question that this article posed was why is the cost of higher education spiraling out of control.  Your answer, as best as I can interpret it, is that education has always been out of the grasp of the poor or downtrodden because that is the way of things and that costs are increasing because undesirables, like myself, have mistakenly thought that they could join the ranks of the “educated.”

    • Sagodjur says:

      You’re wrong. College wasn’t expensive decades ago. My father paid for his bachelor degree in the 70′s with a summer job.

      • TheHowl says:

        Almost. College was costly in the ’70s, too: your father just had taxpayers footing a larger portion of the bill.

    • hilde says:

      Bull Moose : Bull Shit.    

      Elitist much?  

    • marilove says:

      So only those with money should be able to get an education outside of high school?

      If that’s not class warfare, I don’t know what is.  Especially when you consider how badly off many of the schools in poorer neighborhoods are.  “Only the rich deserve a good education!” is essentially what your argument comes down to.

    • Richard says:

      I can see your comment (and no doubt mine) is unpopular but there’s a lot of truth in it.

      We now have an entire generation of people who, when faced with the choice of:

      1. go to community college, assume no debt

      2. go to a state university (your state), assume less debt

      3. go to an expensive college or university, assume debt

      Chose #3 with the idea that the degree from the expensive school would be worth more.

      People who chose and continue to choose to go into debt to finance what might have been a free education are taking a calculated risk that the degree from the fancier school will get them a better job which in turn will allow them to pay off the debt faster (and eventually they’ll make more money).

      I think all of this is just fine. What isn’t just fine is asking for this debt, assumed under these conditions, to be forgiven. This to me smacks of moral hazard and it makes light of the fact that some students faced with the same choices chose colleges or universities that didn’t saddle them with debt.

      • Jacob Metcalf says:

        Richard, community colleges are not free also if you want a full degree you have to transfer to a full college at some point. Here in Washington the state colleges increased the uition 16% A YEAR EACH YEAR FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS.

        • Richard says:

          Jacob: While community colleges aren’t free, most people who attend them don’t have to take out student loans to do so. One could take a full load at a community college, hold down a part time job and do just fine. I did it in the late 1970′s and I know it’s possible today.

          Yes, one does need to transfer to a 4 year school to finish but taking the bulk of the expense out of the first two years helps.

          While some state colleges and universities have gone up in price, they’re no where near as expensive as private colleges.

          My point is simple and holds: the price of a college education should figure into the decision of where one wants to go, not just the fact that one got into one’s first choice which might be a private and expensive school.

          There are ways to go to college with less or no debt.

  21. bkad says:

    I’ve been out of school for almost a decade now, and it was insane then. It’s just gotten worse. 

    When everyone has bachelors degrees, the goal posts just move further. At my company, I heard an HR guy counsel a job applicant that his Bachelor’s degree was just ‘the new high school dimploma’ — sufficient for an entry level job, but earning promotions would be difficult.

    It is probably a good point that some who are pushed to get degrees would be be able to do more for themselves and the world by learning trades, or leaping into work directly (though you can’t blame employers for being reluctant to hire non-degreed candidates when there are more than enough degreed candidates also competing for the job).

    Bias note: I’ve since paid off my college education, and I did get enough practical skill, knowledge, and employment opportunities out of it that I think it was worth it. I’m not eager to see that labor devalued….. but I have to agree the system doesn’t always work (skills aren’t always taught, jobs don’t always follow) and the college path is over hyped and FAR over priced. 

    On an optimistic note, the 2 year community college, transferring to decent non-ivy university trick worked out very well for  my friends.

  22. technogeekagain says:

    In 1980, when MIT held its Annual Spontaneous Tuition Riot (more ritual and discussion than riot, and less than spontaneous), the students were protesting that tuition had been hiked to $7400.

    At current prices, I really can’t fault anyone who’s looking at alternative approaches.

    … Y’know, there’s a real opportunity for someone to offer serious college-level testing for folks who are doing independent study. That could be run relatively cheaply, and if done _right_ it should be possible to get at least enough accreditation to convince schools to accept these as transfer credits…

  23. bkad says:

    My undergraduate students frequently ask me about graduate school, and I’m not sure what to tell them. Unless they’re certain that they want to dive into graduate research for its own sake, and not just for the hope of future rewards, then I think they would be better off looking elsewhere.

    Oh, that’s easy. Having been a grad student, and transitioned to industry, I advise:

    Don’t pay for a graduate degree.  Everything else is an elaboration on that rule.

         - If you are in a field where a masters is eventually expected (e.g., engineering, business) try to find a job. Then make your employer pay all or part of the cost of the degree, for which the cost/benefit ratio is otherwise questionable.
          – Most PhD programs are free, but there is still an outrageous opportunity cost in time-in-career, to say nothing of more personal sacrifces. It is wonderful if you are pursuing a passion, but it can’t be recommended to anyone else. And certainly not for anyone hoping for $$ down the road.
         - Medical or Law school is probably not a good buy right now. But if it is right for you, you’ll do it anyway.

  24. GEM says:

    There is tremendous pressure on state education systems to increase the number of students enrolling in college and also graduating from college.  Some state such as Texas are considering punitive financial measures for colleges not graduating students “on time”. 

    Major foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina etc fund research into what a) helps students get to college and then b) what helps them graduate.  Here is one of the latest research releases from the Complete College America group of states.   The drop-out and remediation rates are absolutely astounding.

    Time is the Enemy
    http://www.completecollege.org/docs/Time_Is_the_Enemy.pdfI think states pushing the college for everyone philosophy truly believe they can create better lives for their citizens. What puzzles me is at the same time, the ratio of counselors to students  in schools averages over 400 to 1.  As one aspect of their job, counselors are supposed to guide students through the process of career and education exploration and planning.  With those sorts of ratios, it will be minimal and meaningless for many students.   We expect students to make life-altering decisions at fairly young ages (you can choose to pay $20K for tuition but you can’t drink…).  It’s more than a bit ridiculous and it’s no wonder so many students drop out or find themselves thousands of dollars in debt without any idea of where they’re going to do.

    • Jacob Metcalf says:

      Microsoft is a tax dead beat. They got their payed stooge in the Washington state Legislature Rep. Ross Hunter (Republicrat) to forgive TENS OF BILLIONS in back taxes that Microsoft while Ross Hunter wrote a budget that cut MY school and sent my tuition up higher.

      • GEM says:

        Hmm I’m not arguing that MS is good or anything  — just pointing out that a great deal of research is being done into a) what can be done to get kids into college and b) how to get them to graduate. 

        We all know that the US”s education system is falling behind when compared to other nations’ systems.   Given the trillions of dollars of debt and the competitve global job market, what advantages might be created by a state such that it attracts “good” industries?   One way is to have a more educated workforce.   

        Look at Georgia.  It wants to create a more highly educated workforce  Students who maintain a certain average in high school and through their college education get something called the HOPE scholarship.  Essentially their tuition is paid for.  Other states are looking at implementing similar systems. 

        • Jacob Metcalf says:

          Additional research into the problem is pointless. What we need is to actually fund public higher-eduction in the levels that we did back in the 1950s. Tax the rich.. invest in public education.

          • GEM says:

            Couldn’t agree with you more.  If the US really wants to make education (K-16) a priority, then fund it as much as it funds the military.

  25. Jamie Sue says:

    Another element not discussed is ever changing course requirements that eat up credits.  I lost half my credits in a transfer into a similar degree program.  In one case I had to retake a history class with the exact same curriculum as one from the previous university (I started at a cheaper community college hoping to avoid massive debt) because the course had a slightly different title.  I planned my community college courses around my university degree requirements meticulously WITH the help of a disinterested adviser and still got shafted on half my credit hours. 

  26. Thanks for sharing this Cory! I live in the states and with each passing day I grow more thankful my path led me away from collage, one of the larger concerns for me back then was student debt ( the second being that a degree in art and design is kind of worthless when self taught people can be found in the highest ranks). hell how many college grads are in my situation of struggling to get by but made worse from debt.

    Still student debt looks more like a form of high class slavery then anything else these days.

  27. bingo says:

    wow, it seems as though there are 3 avid commenters here.  let me know if any of you has ever:  1.) been in a position to hire people (where degrees are an efficient filtering mechanism and not the ultimate criterion–hello pile of 257 resumes)  2.) compared true CEO pay to what people in the college system are making (normalized to capitalization managed).

    this entire thread is a really ill-conceived rant at the wrong people aggressively commented on by a few grad students stricken by malaise at rising tuition costs.  

    and no, i’m not a professor.  much less a “highly paid” (ha!) professor.  I do have a few friends in that profession and 80K is a great starting salary.  you’re raging at the wrong people.

    • Jacob Metcalf says:

      Actually Yes. I spent the last 8 years working for a military contractor and I did hire my team of developers. I am going back to school to work in medicine because I don’t think high-tech jobs are going to survive the massive economic shifts in this century.

      My father, step-father and grand-father were all professors at public colleges.

      I am not raging against my school. The are the victims. I am raging against the gutless Washington State Legislature that is cutting public education rather than taxing the rich.

    • Jamie Sue says:

      I have had the dubious honor of hiring others prior to a collapse in the industry I worked in.  I did not do it based on degree.  I did it on the basis of skill.  It took longer than the CEO would have liked, but I hired the right people for the job.  I must have been doing it wrong.

      I have no idea how much the CEO made, but I’m sure it was never enough to suit him as he was always looking for ways to lower costs by slashing wages.

      I’m not advocating that employers NOT look at degrees.  Just that not having a degree shouldn’t be used to filter out an otherwise qualified candidate.  A degree is a bonus, not a guarantee that a person will be a good worker.  The tendency to use degrees as a qualifier for even the most basic positions has, in part, led to this problem.

      No, that’s not fair.  

      To be honest, there just aren’t enough jobs to go around or else there wouldn’t be a knee high stack of resumes in the first place.  I applied to be a part time office assistant not to long ago and when I spoke to HR they said that they had received 200+ applications from people having GEDs to PHDs and everything in between.  I’ve applied to everything I have the skill-set to do, but how could any mere mortal compete?   In the end I imagine HR gets tired and hires a friend of a friend just to be done with it all.  It’s shear luck at this point.

      I’m just bitter Bingo.  Bitter because people go after a degree because there is no work without out one.  Bitter because I don’t want Degree=Profit to be the norm.  I want Degree=Passion for Learning to be the norm.  And I do understand that we all don’t get what we want.

  28. The ruling class wants a monopoly on skilled people, any skilled person needs to be in perpetual debt so they will not use those skills against the establishment.

    or maybe i have been playing too much deus ex?

  29. subhan says:

    One think often overlooked is that many of the top-notch schools don’t even NEED to charge tuition.  Stanford has a 13.8 BILLION dollar endowment, and rakes in metric assloads of money scrapped off the top of research grants (some schools take 90% of every grant a faculty member gets!), yet tuition is almost $40 grand a year.  Why?  Because it makes Stanford an elite school. Then, 2nd tier schools jack up their tuition to seem competitive, and so on down the line.    Meanwhile, the double-dip collection racket on student loans encourages the banks to keep handing out big checks, which, if defaulted on, are paid for by the government, then handed off to in-house collection agencies that get to keep all the money they collect, effectively paying off 2x the loan amount.  The banks WANT expensive schools, and people to default on massive loans, they make more money that way.

  30. d3matt says:

    I really don’t want to play politics, but the Obama administration only made matters worse.  Instead of fighting to lower tuition or to truly make it easier to go to school, they centralized the student loans.  This administration (and their lapdog congress) were the ones who made it next to impossible to drop student loans in bankruptcy.  I feel sorry for every student who’s struggling right now to get a degree.  The waste, corruption, double-think, and downright greed in the education system is going to continue to get worse and worse until it is truly reformed.  You can blame the bankers who profit off students, but the truth of it is, they’re just a symptom of the problem.  To me it seems that the problem is that state universities have become nothing but profit centers.  I have nothing wrong with private universities and colleges being for-profit, but why are tax payer funded institutions charging outrageous prices for an education.  I’m about as libertarian as it gets, but if I’m paying for something with my property taxes and sales taxes (TX has no income tax), why are we then charging students as well?  This is absurd!  By this logic, we should be charging for every grade level K-12!  Not to mention, every single school right now is advertising in China, in India, probably elsewhere to try to get high paying “out of state” students to come and go to school.  I’m all for multiculturalism, but this practice should be illegal in state funded schools!  Every single slot taken by a student from China or India in the Texas university system is one that could be filled by qualified students.

    I love the idea of an open source university (no idea how to make it accredited)
    Dittos on getting a company to pay for grad school (doing it right now myself)

    Frankly here’s the deal…  It costs me on the order of 50-100K to take a freshly minted college grad and turn them into a qualified professional.  The system could be modified a bit such that student loans could be assumed by employers with maybe a caveat that you intern your last two years.  Student loans could be modified such that payback is conditional upon meaningful employment.  I could almost see some private university making a “money back guarantee” (any takers?)

    • Jamie Sue says:

      I’ve been dreaming of this open source university for a while.  Once I’m qualified to teach maybe I can figure out a way to make it happen.  Then I can die happy.

      A vocational school was paid for in my hometown by the local businesses who needed skilled workers.  They wanted a dependable, qualified, local workforce with ties the community so they funded the startup of the school with the help of the local education board.  It was a great success.  (Damn it!  Should have taken welding no matter what my mother said!)  I don’t see why it couldn’t work on a larger scale.

    • subhan says:

      Don’t blame Obama for non-dischargeable student loans – federally subsidized student loans (the majority) have been non-dischargeable at least since the early 80s.  I’d have ditched mine decades ago had that not been the case

  31. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    Bring back the vocational system.  They still have it in Europe.  Not everyone wants to be a literary expert or chemist, some just want to work with machine tools or pour concrete.  These are serious skills but we treat them like peon jobs.

  32. KWillets says:

    I went to a lecture from Shiller last Spring about the housing bubble, and I’m still kicking myself for not asking him if higher education costs are also in a bubble.  I believe they are.

    All he did was take historic housing costs and adjust them for inflation, and then it was clear that the mid-0′s were an aberration.  I don’t have enough time to scrape together the data for education, but we’ve all seen decades of increases above inflation for “library costs” and the like.  

  33. The Chemist says:

    Why is it that people keep mentioning and comparing “regular” schools with Ivys?

    Hello. Ivy League and near-Ivy League schools are still only attended by a relative few! These are explicitly selective schools, why is everyone pretending that everyone with a buttload of student debt went to an Ivy? There aren’t that many. People who go to private colleges that aren’t ivys often do so because of their grades and because we have high schools that don’t adequately prepare students for college.

    Even state schools are getting expensive. (Dare I say that NCAA has a lot to do with it at times?) 

    Vocational schools and polytechs are not the answer either. They’re part of the problem. We created a prestige gap by having those schools in the first place- though it made sense for a 1950s economy. Fact is, we don’t have enough manufacturing jobs to justify vocational training in the first place. We’ve become too service oriented. 

    We need to really start giving the idea of living wages a thought. At the end of the day, if everyone does “the right thing” and gets a degree, we still need people to sell coffee and make beds. When we busted up unions and instituted wage slavery systems that required debt as a way of life, we made damn sure too many people were getting degrees than there were positions that needed them. Let’s be honest, we are consistently trying, as a society, to find new ways of vilifying people for their choices. Who wants to be a pariah? In our zeal to look down on and blame people, we are the architects of our own demise.

  34. JProffitt71 says:

    Oddly enough the first paper I am writing in college is on research I accidentally stumbled upon showing how useless and costly my degree in college will be. I now feel very hesitant in my resolve to pursue physics, and I have only taken loans out for this one semester…

  35. Amelia_G says:

    1) Go study in an enlightened country that supports “lifelong learning” and subsidizes university costs. It’s more fun to live somewhere where people take care of each other, anyway.

    2) I wouldn’t be writing this now if I hadn’t gotten college scholarships, but my friend borrowed money for her graduate degrees and EVERY TIME it was impossible to sort out the paperwork unless a local politician graciously intervened. Third world.

    3) Support lifelong learning as a budgetary priority! Or else it will be so dull waiting ten years for the economy to recover.
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Lifelong_learning

  36. Glippiglop says:

    For those of you that are a bit down on needing a degree for everything… I’m looking for work as a software engineer currently and have passed the initial HR filters for Google, Bloomberg and Amazon (so I’ve gotten through to the phone interviews).  In terms of education, all I have is 2 years of a diploma course in computing.  These are firms that get highly qualified candidates  applying the world over, so why would they bother with me?

    Maybe because I started my own company, I’m ambitious and acquired a wealth of experience while working my way into important projects at small and big tech companies as a contractor.  I’ve written and sold my own software.  I’ve also hired and managed other engineers on my own dime.  So don’t think that HR is incapable of recognising that 13 years of experience counts for more than a couple of years in higher education.  You just need to work hard and demonstrate your drive.

    What has really surprised me through this process though is that a lot of small-mid sized firms *don’t* appreciate this!  It’s the complete opposite of what I expected in that regard.  So yes, there are recruiters and agencies that are snobby over qualifications, and even other engineers that don’t like the thought of hiring someone without a degree that’s at least as good as theirs.  But the way I look at it?  I don’t want to get involved with those places anyway.  And I’m really glad that my educational choices have kept me out of debt.

  37. YelloKat5000 says:

    I find the debt students face today to be cruel and depressing. I feel so fortunate I got my design degree in the “before” times.

  38. atimoshenko says:

    Sadly, one of the most significant roles that universities play today is that of maintaing a high asymmetry in the allocation of capital (economic, social, political – i.e. social stratification) across generations.

    If capital is highly concentrated, then the (relative) benefits of commanding that capital are great, so many people would want it, but few people could be granted access to it. For the structure to maintain itself, some filter system would need to be set up. As someone who did a middling undergrad degree and a top-flight graduate one, I truly believe that this filter is currently the university system.

    The difference in opportunities offered is stark, but for no good reason. The jobs that are filled with, say Harvard MBAs, do not actually need/use most of what is taught in such programmes. They just need a small pre-filtered pool of applicants to consider for the privileged positions. It’s inefficient, it’s unfair, and it dearly needs changing. 

  39. dav von TRI says:

    I retired back in 2003 from my family construction business as a family member i never made bank,  common field laborers made more than me i think i made one year 37k i was working office and field that year.  anyway, i’m not crying.

    i retired from the company to further my Economics education, so i went back to school full time, as part of my experiment i have 40,000 + in debt,  ask me if i’m worried, yeah student loan debt cannot be discharged(it can) but i fully expect to repay it with interest, when i hit 65 or 72,   yeah i plan to repay the loan  that way.

    or i could get a job type job and repay quicker, i hear mcdonalds employess are making bank.

    • travtastic says:

      I think your ruler is a bit off.

      Median adult income (at least in the States) is something like $28k. $37k is by no means rich, and by no means what field workers make.

  40. AirPillo says:

    I am a student and several of my friends completed their degrees having taken on what seemed like modest student loans, only to graduate in the middle of an economic collapse and be stuck taking on employment in retail and service jobs where they have to choose between paying for their own well-being or paying their loan payments.

    Most are in default, their debts are growing (in fact, multiplying) despite them making payments, and several have struggled with thoughts of suicide because they know that if they don’t come up with a lot of money, very fast, then the rest of their lives will be spent working just so they can continue paying off their loan debts… at least until they die, at which point the debts will be passed on to whoever cosigned. In fact, this is what stayed one of them from going through with it: even if they killed themself the debt wouldn’t go away, they’d just be passing it on to their family members who cosigned.

    If I could get my hands on any of the people who constructed the system to create this new generation of indentured servitude, I guarantee you I’d spend the rest of my life in prison for what I’d do to them, and not regret it once.

  41. digi_owl says:

    This is a issue that plagues Europe as well to some degree or other (ugh).

  42. Jim Nelson says:

    I had a huge problem getting into IT without a degree. Never mind that I could point to the years of experience in the open-source community. Never mind that I was working in the Linux kernel project. Never mind I was a site and server admin for the local Indymedia collective, and built the network for the local radio station.

    None of that experience mattered as much as a degree from [crappy college here]. And it was even harder because my degree was in… diesel technology. I had a decade as a mechanic. Taught myself computer programming and UNIX system administration while fixing buses on second shift.

    But none of that mattered. The only place that would hire me was a little two-man shop. For not much more than I was making as a mechanic.

    So, do I get f**ked over by yet another for-profit college? Get a worthless degree? I have talked to, and interviewed, people who went to the diploma mills, and I will be quite thorough in investigating their skills. Because they have a reputation for turning out degreed candidates who don’t know a goddamn thing. Who are really, really proud of doing the kind of coding projects I was doing in middle school, and boasting about it like they’re some kind of frigging genius.

    These for-profit colleges set expectations way too high, and then the students find out they’re in $40k worth of debt for a degree that isn’t worth a thing in the market. I’d rather hire someone who has no degree than someone who got suckered by those places – it shows they can do research before making a decision.

  43. liquidstar says:

    This is a great article.  Thank-you for posting it here.  It is well thought out and cogent.  Many of these same issues apply in Canada as well.  The way that student loans have been singled out and excepted from rules that apply to every other loan transaction is reprehensible.  The only recourse is to push for complete abolition of student loans under these conditions (including complete retroactive debt “forgiveness”, without which abolition is meaningless).  When you start negotiationing you do not ask for less than what you want you ask for more.

  44. librtee_dot_com says:

    P.S. When you owe the bank $10,000 and you can’t pay, you have a problem. When you owe the bank $10,000,000 and you can’t pay, the bank has a problem.

    Ever heard that old truism before?

    Why not put it into practice?

    The student loan system is horrible and corrupt. If an 18 year old is not old enough to be trusted to buy liquor, they certainly aren’t old enough to sign themselves up for a lifetime of debt slavery. 

    Some resourceful Happy Mutant ought to start a pledge webpage:

    “I recognize that the current student loan system is usurious, abusive, deceptive, and preys on minors. As I have more than $25,000 on debt, debt I was misled into accepting by the lie of increased marketability in the workplace, I plan on stopping payment on my note immediately. I have no assets you can seize; I have no wages you can garnish; have fun Mr. Bank Assholes. I invite all of my friends in similar situations to do they same; hopefully millions will sign on.”

    Get a million people to sign that, and take that action..and, considering that the student loan debt load is larger than all credit cards combined..you might just bring the whole financial system crashing to a halt.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      …I plan on stopping payment on my note immediately. I have no assets you can seize; I have no wages you can garnish; have fun Mr. Bank Assholes.

      How were you planning on dealing with the ‘starving to death’ problem inherent in that scenario? Or was that part of the plan?

      • liquidstar says:

        I believe he was talking about a mass protest statement, not a personal one, that is just my interpretation.  As for the “‘starving to death’ problem”, that has been clearly part of the plan for a very, very, long time.

  45. TootTootToot says:

    Preface: I have been very fortunate to work in academia for the past three years at a medium-sized Canadian university.

    I think that like most complicated issues, the question of fairness towards students gets horribly oversimplified.  We all want to point the finger at someone, and lately the biggest demon is high tuition and student loans, with a side of corporate university culture.  Yes, at some schools tuition is outrageously expensive, but it’s a mystery to me why these schools are attended by students who aren’t fabulously wealthy.  Go to a state school!  And if no one wants you enough to make school affordable – guess what? You’re being used! Then you have to decide if the financial burden is worth the benefits of the education.  That’s a personal decision because learning is valuable by itself, but on a financial level it’s questionable.

    I think if you take a step back, you can see that the whole system is mutually exploitative, and no individual level (student, professor, administrator, government) has the willpower to make seismic change.  Students have demanded universal financial aid and access to education, which are noble ideals, but now an undergraduate degree is basically meaningless as a credential, and they readily accept crippling loans without considering their long-term impact.  Universities recruit students very aggressively, especially for graduate school, with no regard for their students’ job prospects.  Universities have also turned into corporate-structured profit machines, replacing the majority of their full-time labour with adjunct/TA wage-slaves. 

    And finally, the government either lacks the willpower or the moral sense to meaningfully reform the cost of education, hence the growing gap between rising tuition and stagnant aid.  In short, there is no such thing as cheaper tuition – just higher or lower subsidy, and for all our talk about universality, as a public we can’t face the music that cheaper education means higher government spending.

  46. John Delaney says:

    Why is it that nobody ever talks about the cost of housing around major campuses?  I’m a grad student and at $800/mo for rent (if you live close to campus that won’t even buy you your own room), which is pretty typical in my area, I end up paying as much for housing as I would pay in tuition, if I weren’t employed by the University.

    I guess the fact that its all tied up in a larger housing market, people just sort of accept it.

    THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH.  I NEED TO EAT BREAKFAST LUNCH AND DINNER!

  47. jeligula says:

    Before the Clinton administration, repayment of student loans was not actively pursued.  Bankruptcy could also discharge this debt, but Bill Clinton put a stop to all of that.  Seeing as he was the last President to submit a balanced budget and operate the government in a surplus, I am forced to see this as wisdom, even though I spent the entirety of my adult life, up until recently, drowning in debt.  Now emergency room services are becoming the new college loan debt.  If you are making the average amount at your job (which is to say under $35,000 a year) and you break your arm, you could find yourself owing the hospital the same amount that you make in an entire year.  That is without insurance, but even at 10%, that is $3,500 that cannot be freed from other necessities of life.

  48. HahTse says:

    Ah, how I love to live in Germany – where the education is free(ish) and there are more than two parties to vote for…

  49. bkad says:

    Why is it that nobody ever talks about the cost of housing around major campus’s?  I’m a grad student and at $800/mo for rent (if you live close to campus that won’t even buy you your own room), which is pretty typical in my area, I end up paying as much for housing as I would pay in tuition, if I weren’t employed by the University.

    Probably, because like all cost-of-living issues, it varies widely with location. In my college town $650/mo will get you ‘two bedroom, all utilities, off street parking, walking distance to campus.’ Can hit less than $300 if you share with someone.  In fact, one area near the med campus is colloquially referred to as ‘the white coat ghetto’ for its low income, low rent, and high student population. I think even if we ‘fix’ higher education, there will still be some schools which are more expensive than others, just as if we ‘fix’ the housing market it is still going to be way more expensive to live in a city of 8 million (eg, New York)  than in a city of 300 thousand (my college town).

    I’m glad you found employment with the University. I wasn’t aware that _any_ US schools provided housing for grad students!

  50. light_saber says:

    FWIW, if your loans are paid off via your tax return, all of the fees and interest are written off.  Similarly, payments via your tax return erases the interest and fees that were derived from that base amount.  

  51. Cowicide says:

    Isn’t all this just yet another reason to occupy Wall Street or at least support the people that are out there in your name? Every little bit is yet another vote against this broken system of American government and corporatist rule.

    http://occupywallst.org/

  52. Jacob Metcalf says:

    Also insisting on worker having massive crippling student debt is a great way for our corporate overlord to keep the drones working and fearing for their future.

  53. Jamie Sue says:

    I fully believe that classism is alive and well and working against about %50 of Americans.

  54. Jacob Metcalf says:

    50% is too generous. More like 90%. We are living in the The Republic of Inequalstan.

  55. Jamie Sue says:

    I was thinking of the hated %50 or so of us that “pay no income taxes at all”.  Those of us that are just leaching off the system by working low paying service jobs, paying inflated rental costs, high gas and food prices, and extreme energy bills.  You know, us deadbeats that live hand to mouth daily.  Who have to choose between doctor visits and groceries.  You know, the real scum.  The other %40 are just minor scum in comparison.  ;)  

  56. hilde says:

    Oh, gosh. I remember my first two years in graduate school, when I didn’t take out any student loans and tried to live on my stipend as a teaching assistant, supplemented by part-time work cleaning offices.  I still ended up paying income taxes despite grossing less than $9K for the year. good times. Yeah. 

  57. Jamie Sue says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t get a rebate for the full amount of income tax you paid.  What was the poverty limit then?  It’s only $10,890 now.  Lowest rent in three surrounding counties I could find still came out to $6000 a year.  Doesn’t leave much behind, does it.

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