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college and debt

April 26th, 2019 at 04:54 pm

So yesterday as I waited for my DK2 girl scout troop meeting a couple of moms were congregating and talking. One was from Ireland, one from UK, and one went to US college but like me 20+ years ago and went to public local university.

So the foreign moms asked us why is it so expensive to go to college in the states? Why is it so hard to get a job? And why in the states is it constantly being pushed to get another degree after the 4 year degree? The Irish mom said her sitter was complaining about graduating with a degree in psychology and said she couldn't find a job.

The other mom said she wasn't sure why it was so hard to find a job. But wasn't any job a minimum wage good enough? The Irish and British mom said it's crazy (in the USA) to go to college and come out working fast food or retail instead of going straight in and working their way up.

I said here's the truth, it's a class thing. Perhaps I'm wrong but in the US the only people who can be picky and not have a job after graduating are people who have parents wealthy enough to afford to support them. It was true 20 years ago and it's true now.

If you come from a family like my DH and I where your parents didn't help you, working a minimum wage job and hunting like crazy before college ended. My friends at least either had a job before college ended or moved home into their parents basement until they found a job. I did not have a single friend who lived in an apartment and got checks handed to them to live until they found a job.
My DH was the same way. Most of his friends had jobs entry level as well of some sort before college ended.

I recall my college roommate saying I'm looking for a job close to my dad so I can move back in and save more and pay off my debt from college. It also was that her mom had just died from breast cancer and her dad was reeling and her brother was jr in college and wanted to support them both. Another friend did the same because his mom was widowed as well and needed help with their rentals.

Actually none of my friends in college had freebie handsout. But as I got older and well more affluent, I noticed a lot of parents talk about their kids having trouble finding jobs and need to take the summer off and then supporting them.

I found it interesting. I think it does support the idea you need "higher" education to get a job, but honestly how many people really want the entry level jobs?

I asked the Irish mom did her sitter apply for every single job out there and be willing to take anything? Work in a public hospital? Work non-profit? Government? Something low paying but entry level to get her work experience and foot in the door? Or was she being picky?

It leads one to conclude that yes we do have a problem in the US with many people going to school and having an expectation that they will immediately land their dream job without any problems. And then expecting to go on for more schooling to get a "better" job rather than asking how will going to school really help them?

I guess with all this publicity about college loans and debt I do feel bad. I met a dentist with $550k school loans from just dental school. His parents paid for undergraduate but that means he took out $137.5k out every year for 4 years! Was it really all tuition? Okay so he couldn't work. But was tuition $100k? And he had to live on $40K? Why didn't he live on less? He admitted to me that if he had been smarter he'd have gone into the military to get 4 years paid for and had a job after for 4 years to boot, gaining experience, then 4 years later he'd have had $550k loans paid and money saved!

But the reality is that lots of people don't think about it. He admitted he probably didn't need to take out $120k/year. But it's super easy to get caught up in the lifestyle

So I wonder even in undergraduate, how many people borrow more than tuition, don't work, and then realize OMG I didn't get a job paying $100k?

I look at college costs and keep thinking, I really need to have a serious conversation with my kids. I'm going to offer to help buy them a if they can save me money on tuition. What I would have spent on tuition i'll give them. And I'll try to hope they decide to start saving at 22 if not earlier.

5 Responses to “college and debt”

  1. LuckyRobin Says:

    I think it really depends on the industry you are going into. Our local technical college has a placement rate (they help you find work) of 93% in mechanical engineering and 100% in control systems technology, and accounting has a 90% placement rate. A student graduating with a teaching degree from our local university has a 3% chance of getting a job in the county, as it is a very closed off school district and they don't seem to want to hire locals. They have to move and many don't want to. I hear a lot of excuses from university graduates that boils down to I don't want to leave my parents/boyfriend/cat/comfort zone for a job. People used to be willing to go wherever the work is, but they've gotten spoiled and want to be catered to. Not everyone, but a lot of people. Also parents don't want to use the sink or swim method and tell their kids they have six months to find a job and move out and then stick to it. It can definitely be hard to get a job, but I think the more you put into it the easier it is.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    I think it's definitely about expectations. You have to know what the beginning salary for your field is, are there jobs easily available where I want to end up living, ect. If not, you are going to have difficulty. I think there is not enough emphasis on trade schools and associates degrees, which cost far less but are providing skills they know are in demand in the local community. Public universities have the luxury of teaching quite a few things that are not marketable to the masses. I will even admit this as parent with a daughter getting a music performance degree. That really might not work out, although she seems quite determined, because the market is narrow for that kind of thing. She is getting a second major in graphic design because we know that has more demand. It's possible she will end up with a music performance job, but it's not like the 99% placement rate for my younger daughter getting an engineering degree.

    I think saying jobs are hard to find is part excuse. It may take time, but jobs come out all the time. They may not be your ideal job, but can that experience lead you to the next job? Or can you make your own job and be self employed?

    I was working part time when I graduated, so I increased my hours to full time while I looked for other work. I also got married four months later. I worked several different jobs...of course, then I had kids and decided to stay home, but my debt was minimal and paid off with those first jobs.

    I personally think the fact that the easy access to federal student loans is part of the problem causing higher education to increase. If these were not easily accessible to anyone, then universities would be forced to cut their costs in order to make their service affordable. But they do not have that incentive when all the aid and student loans are easily available. They are competing for these federal dollars, so they also have to add something that sets them apart from other schools. Many times it's the extra nice buildings, included laptops, nice workout gyms and green spaces, free movie nights with recent release movies, designer food options that all cost money that add to the cost of tuition and housing.

  3. Joe Says:

    "So I wonder even in undergraduate, how many people borrow more than tuition, don't work, and then realize OMG I didn't get a job paying $100k?"

    Unfortunately, I think more and more people borrow more than the cost of tuition, room and board - which should not be allowed IMO.

    I guess most are counting on Elizabeth Warren forgiving all student loans.

  4. jIM_Ohio Says:

    The goal of the colleges is to get someone to pay them money (someone=parent, student or bank). There is no expectation of the college that their graduates make money- the college already made their money, they have no obligation for their graduates to work for the next set of kids to enroll.

    The goal/ expectation of a student at age of 18, and the expectations of the same person at age 22 are not the same. My goal at 18 was to not get kicked out of house (so I had to go to college), my goal at 22 was much different, I had grown up a lot, and that meant I had goals for the job, location and what I wanted to do with my life. I'd like to time travel and give 22 yo me some advice, but overall I am not sure I would have listened to myself anyway. Better to make my own mistakes and learn.

    My take on kids which don't get jobs is usually they are not ready to work at the bottom and work their way up. I am a big believer that a person does NOT need a degree to get an entry level position. They need the degree to move up and gain stability.

    My degree is in Engineering. My biggest job search issue has always been fining a job I will like, not finding a job. For those with degrees in less demand fields, first, they are dumbasses, second they need to be HUMBLE, start at the BOTTOM and PROVE THEMSELVES.

    The world owes a college graduate nothing, they need to EARN everything they ever get. They won't learn that in school.

  5. rob62521 Says:

    So many wise things said by others. I remember graduating years ago. I didn't have debt. I was fortunate. Between some scholarships and working and penny pinching, I had no debt. I took a couple of entry level jobs before I got into teaching because there simply were not any teaching jobs then. And I won't say I was overpaid even then. But I knew the salary and figured I would work until I retired and hopefully save and make more as I got more experience.

    But, there has to be some realistic expectations too from students and parents. If you use student loans to buy everything, besides an education, you'll be paying forever. And, if the job you get doesn't pay enough to start out, you'll find yourself always owing. I have a friend who majored in literature. Smart person. But, he soon found out other than a teaching position in a school, he was out of luck.

    Another gal I worked with was complaining that her student loans took half of her take home salary every month. She asked me how I graduated without any debt. I explained that I had some scholarships, but mostly I worked during the summers and also during the year and did without things. She then sheepishly admitted she used her student loans to help buy a car, clothes, and other things.

    As Jim said, colleges can't be expected to provide employment. Their service is to educate. It is up to the graduate to figure it out, right or wrong.

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