Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Not the education they thought they paid for

It seems far too many college students are getting a belated advanced degree in economics, finance and accounting via the school of hard knocks:
Between the ages of 18 and 22, Jodi Romine took out $74,000 in student loans to help finance her business-management degree at Kent State University in Ohio. What seemed like a good investment will delay her career, her marriage and decision to have children.  Ms. Romine's $900-a-month loan payments eat up 60% of the paycheck she earns as a bank teller in Beaufort, S.C., the best job she could get after graduating in 2008...

Deferring payments to avoid default is costly, too. Danielle Jokela of Chicago earned a two-year degree and worked for a while to build savings before deciding to pursue a dream by enrolling at age 25 at a private, for-profit college in Chicago to study interior design. The college's staff helped her fill out applications for $79,000 in government and private loans. "I had no clue" about likely future earnings or the size of future payments, which ballooned by her 2008 graduation to more than $100,000 after interest and fees.
She couldn't find a job as an interior designer and twice had to ask lenders to defer payments for a few months. After interest plus forbearance fees that were added to the loans, she still owes $98,000, even after making payments for most of five years...

The implications last a lifetime. A recent survey by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys says members are seeing a big increase in people whose student loans are forcing them to delay major purchases or starting families.
There are few degrees today that could possibly be worth the investment of six figures -- especially when that investment takes the form of a loan.  Many areas of studies are worse than useless in the job market.  And not every occupation requires "four years prostrate to the higher mind" -- good vocational training is sorely underrated.

I'm a huge fan of education.  But when it seems the main products of the university system have become sports programs and life-long debt slaves, the process model is seriously flawed... not to mention unsustainable.

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