An indentured servant is a person bound by a contract. Sages Dictionary lists UNFREE as a similar word and UNFREE is exactly how many college students feel these days.
In a Rolling Stone feature article titled, The College Loan Scandal, Matt Taibbi strips naked the recent Congressional debate over student loans and interest rates. Yes, Congress, in the short-term, kept student loan interest rates from climbing. However, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that student-loan interest rate will climb to 7.25 percent in five years for undergraduate loans and 8.8 percent for graduate loans.
…The thing is—none of it—not last months deal, not Obama’s 2010 reforms—mattered that much. No doubt, seeing rates double permanently would genuinely sucked for many students, so it was nice to avoid that. And yes, it was theoretically beneficial when Obama took banks and middlemen out of the federal student-loan game. But the dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan rates are almost irrelevant. It’s not the cost of the loan that’s the problem—the appallingly high tuition tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008…
Later in the article, Taibbi writes:
…How is this happening? It’s complicated. But throw off the mystery and what you’ll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults. For this story, I interviewed people who developed crippling mental and physical conditions, who considered suicide, who had to give up hope of having children, who were forced to leave the country, or who even entered a life of crime because of their student debts.
They all take responsibility for their own mistakes. They know they didn’t arrive at gorgeous campuses for four golden years of boozing, balling and bong hits by way of anybody’s cattle car. But they’re angry, too, and they should be. Because the underlying cause of all that later-life distress and heartache – the reason they carry such crushing, life-alteringly huge college debt – is that our university-tuition system really is exploitative and unfair, designed primarily to benefit two major actors.
First in line are the colleges and universities, and the contractors who build their extravagant athletic complexes, hotel-like dormitories and God knows what other campus embellishments. For these little regional economic empires, the federal student-loan system is essentially a massive and ongoing government subsidy, once funded mostly by emotionally vulnerable parents, but now increasingly paid for in the form of federally backed loans to a political constituency – low- and middle-income students – that has virtually no lobby in Washington.
Next up is the government itself. While it’s not commonly discussed on the Hill, the government actually stands to make an enormous profit on the president’s new federal student-loan system, an estimated $184 billion over 10 years, a boondoggle paid for by hyperinflated tuition costs and fueled by a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a “Save the Panda” charity. Why is this happening? The answer lies in a sociopathic marriage of private-sector greed and government force that will make you shake your head in wonder at the way modern America sucks blood out of its young…
How fast are costs rising for college students and their families? Taibbi writes:
…Tuition costs at public and private colleges were, are and have been rising faster than just about anything in American society – health care, energy, even housing. Between 1950 and 1970, sending a kid to a public university cost about four percent of an American family’s annual income. Forty years later, in 2010, it accounted for 11 percent. Moody’s released statistics showing tuition and fees rising 300 percent versus the Consumer Price Index between 1990 and 2011.
After the mortgage crash of 2008, for instance, many states pushed through deep cuts to their higher-education systems, but all that did was motivate schools to raise tuition prices and seek to recoup lost state subsidies in the form of more federal-loan money. The one thing they didn’t do was cut costs. “College spending has been going up at the same time as prices have been going up,” says Kevin Carey of the nonpartisan New America Foundation.
This is why the issue of student-loan interest rates pales in comparison with the larger problem of how anyone can repay such a huge debt – the average student now leaves school owing $27,000 – by entering an economy sluggishly jogging uphill at a fraction of the speed of climbing education costs. “It’s the unending, gratuitous, punitive increase in prices that is driving all of this,” says Carey…
My youngest daughter will graduate from Bowling Green State University in December. She will graduate with a degree in fashion marketing and design. Despite taking her first two years at nearby Northwest State Community College and working part-time/full-time over the past four years, she will still have 25,000.00 of student loan debt when she graduates.
This debt is AFTER the Pell Grant and a first-year commuter student grant. Yes, that’s right. My daughter has accrued 25,000,00 debt as a COMMUTER student. For two years she has dutifully driven a hundred mile round trip to Bowling Green two to four days a week for classes. Soon her pilgrimage to the halls of higher learning will be over…then what?
Six months after graduation, my daughter will have to start repaying her student-loan. Her payment, depending on what payment plan she chooses, will range from 166.00 to 287.00 a month. Due to her employment status she will likely qualify for a deferment, but a deferment just delays the inevitable and results in more accrued interest.
The American lie is this. Go to college…get an education…and your future will be bright. This lie is told by politicians,high school guidance counselors, college administrators, and financial aid counselors. Students believe this lie, go off to college, accumulate debt, and what do they get for all of this? A room at Mom and Dad’s house and a 10.00 an hour job.
In rural areas like where I live, students are routinely told that education is the key to upward mobility. (code for getting away from the banality of rural life) To some degree this is true. However, what they are not often told is that upward mobility will likely require them to move away from the place they call home.
Why? There are not a enough good-paying jobs for the record number of college graduates that are being churned out by the local community college and nearby universities. Why don’t college administrators, counselors, and teachers tell students the truth? Why don’t they tell them that getting a good-paying job after graduation will likely require them relocating to a city? (a move that results in higher wages but also much higher living costs)
To tell students the truth would result in many young adults deciding NOT to attend college. Telling them that taking a job at a local factory might be a better option if they plan to stay in the area is never considered. The façade must be maintained at all costs. After all, how would colleges pay for fancy capital improvements, exorbitant coaches salaries, and tenured teachers who have little interest in actually teaching or helping students, without a steady stream of students coming through the turnstiles?
My oldest son works at local manufacturing concern. My wife works for the same business. My son has worked there going on seventeen years and my wife has worked there fifteen years. They both make good money, have decent benefits, and are generally well-respected for the work they do. (and the fact they never miss work)
Recently, my son applied for a job that would have been a big-step up for him. He went through the entire process and it came down to him and another person. My son had all the necessary experience and training to do this job well, yet he did not get the job. Why? They decided to go with the person with no experience and the college education.
My son, ever the decent man, thinks the inexperienced, college educated person will do well. However, he learned a hard lesson…a piece of paper is far more valuable than experience. Human resource departments are generally staffed by people who went through the college education gauntlet. Many of them believe the lie that a college education is THE KEY to upward-mobility. By believing this lie, they often give preference to the educated rather than the experienced. The experienced worker IS educated but experience is not always considered an education.
Every day my son and wife go to work and do their job. Many of their fellow-workers are graduates of the local community college and nearby universities. After graduating, these college-educated workers found out that there were few jobs in their desired field. Why weren’t they warned of this? Faced with demands for student loans, graduates are forced to take any job that will generate enough income to pay their living expenses and their student loans. Here in rural NW Ohio, this often means taking a job at a local factory.
Several years ago, my wife decided to take classes at Northwest State Community College in Archbold. (she graduated in 2012) At first she pursued a degree in medical records. She thought this would be a good job to hedge her bets against losing her job at the factory. However, she quickly found out that she would NEVER make as much money working in the medical records field as she would working at the factory.
Local doctor’s offices and hospitals pay about 10.00 an hour for jobs in the medical records department, and this would be a substantial wage decrease. (13,000.00 a year to be exact) Yes there would be wage increases, but the wages increases would likely NEVER bring the wage level up to what my wife makes at the factory. (local medical facilities are notorious for paying low wages to non-nursing staff)
My wife changed her degree to an Associates of Arts and called it a day. The degree will have some résumé value if she ever has to look for work, but it is unlikely that it will ever help her secure a job that pays better than what she is making now.
Instead of focusing on generating revenues, colleges need to focus on the needs of the student. Instead of defaulting to the, everyone should have a college education, position, high school guidance counselors, who are often nothing more than shills for local colleges and universities, should counsel students about ALL the available education and work options. Options like NOT getting a college education or getting vocational training instead of going to college.
Key to this discussion is teaching children, teenagers, and young adults that ALL work is valuable and honorable; that working in a factory or auto repair shop is just a meaningful and honorable as a job that can only be secured with a college degree.
It is time for guidance counselors, college administrators, teachers, and parents to tell teenagers and young adults the truth about the job market and higher education. If we don’t tell them the truth, we risk turning our children into indentured servants. (student loan debt now exceeds one trillion dollars) As graduates continue to find out there are no jobs for them, we also risk their discouragement turning into rebellion, the kind of rebellion that many European countries are now facing. Unemployed and underemployed young adults, with too much time on their hands, and with seething anger, turn to protest. Perhaps this is what it will take for politicians to realize that they are castrating the dreams of millions of young adults. (and many older adults too)
It is also time for federal and state governments to put an end to skyrocketing tuition costs. (along with exorbitant book fees and ancillary fees) We owe it to our children and future generations to make sure that those who desire a college education can easily afford one without ending up with crippling debt. Politicians need to stop listening to poor-mouthing college presidents and administrators and instead pay careful attention to the stories of people mentioned in Matt Taibbi’s article. We owe it to our children to fix this problem. The only question is whether we have the political will and moral fortitude to do so.