Thursday, June 3, 2010

Damn! That was an easy one...

I am reading an article from the New York Times about one poor little girl (who also happened to be a 26-year-old graduate of New York University). This poor creature owes $100,000 in student loan debt from her four years in school. The NYT editorializes: "It is utterly depressing that there are so many people like her facing decades of payments, limited capacity to buy a home and a debt burden that can repel potential life partners."

The authors of the article are struggling with a very painful question - who is at fault that this girl (and her elderly mother) are now completely incapable to pay off the student loan - even though both of them are proud that she graduated from such a prestigious university.

Did the banks rip her off? Was her mother insane? The authors believe that "it's a shared failure of parenting and loan underwriting." I am impressed that that they also mention the college authorities - "because they have the most knowledge of the financial aid process. And I would argue that they had an obligation to counsel students like Ms. Munna, who got in too far over their heads."

After much soul searching, the article mentions that the girl now "makes $22 an hour working for a photographer". According to the article, "after taxes, she takes home about $2,300 a month." Now, why a 26 year old graduate from a prestigious university is not able to find a proper job? The answer is simple - she has an "interdisciplinary degree in religious and women's studies." Let me stop here and laugh hysterically for a few minutes. In short, this poor mentally deranged girl (and her elderly mother) paid $100,000 to get a useless degree in "religious and women's studies" - a degree which has as much value as a degree in metaphysics and alchemy. Even the girl herself wised up a little and says  "I don't want to spend the rest of my life slaving away to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back. It feels wrong to me." Fair enough - no one should pay $100,000 (or even $100) to get a 4 year lecture in "religious and women's studies". No one benefits from it, except the lecturer.

One thing that surprised me though is why this obvious conclusion was not mentioned in the article. I can presume that the article was designed to be a mystery story, a sort of a puzzle, where the solution comes at the end - something like this: "For God's sakes, she got a interdisciplinary degree in religious and women's studies - that's why she is f*cked!" - but still, it felt like the authors were reluctant to even mention that the girl was bamboozled off her money by slick (and politically correct) thieves at the New York University. Moreover, the authors did not even attempt to interview her professors and ask them if they were ashamed of selling fictitious degrees. I wonder, why is that - is this because the authors get a share of the ill-gotten profits or because they hope that one day they will be selling fictitious degrees?

P.S. After I finished writing this post, I've found that same article was arfully disected by WSJ on the very same day. Great minds think alike.


Christopher said...

I picked the story up as well via the WSJ and came to the very same conclusions.

buddeshepherd said...

Very good point! She is making payments on something completely useless.
Which brings up a couple thoughts I've had a few years to think about.
As a student you are encouraged to take the advice of your advisers but yet think for yourself, but not really think for yourself. You just think the ideas that your favorite role model at college tells you to think, (oops! That's another direction).
You essentially put yourself at the mercy of "professionals" who are supposed to give you good advice.
Should you actually follow that advice and end up with an unmarketable degree, then you will be told that you should have known better. It is your fault for not marketing yourself.
But what the heck does an 18 year-old know? Or a 22 year-old?
To shorted this comment...
A young impressionable person is sold a service that costs as a fancy sports car, or a tracked excavator, but has no service contract, to warranty, no recourse, and is talked into financing it with a loan that is virtually impossible to get out of.
And if you fail, it is all your fault!
I could go on and on.
Student loans are a gateway drug. A gateway to economic servitude.
How do I know? My wife has one...

buddeshepherd said...

I guess I should have proof-read my post. I should be actually working as the sun is out.
In defense of my lovely wife I will say that she doesn't have a useless degree, she has two kind of useful degrees.
Her problem was that she believed the loan people when they said it was no problem to defer the loans.
I think the main problem was getting into a bad loan TO BEGIN WITH!
Heck, you don't borrow money to PLAY THE LOTTERY!
Well, some people do...

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis!

Her useless degree also explains why she can, with a straight face, expect someone else to pay for it.

This is why a bachelors degree means nothing now and professional certifications are gaining currency.

Much of American higher education is a scam. Anyone can "pay the fee and get a B," but you have to really know your area of expertise to pass a certification test.

Gorges Smythe said...

Back in junior high school (middle school for many folks) I had a school guidance counselor who decided that we should all do reports on various occupations that we might want to pursue. I found about six different words for "farmer" and did a report (strangely similar) for each one. The counselor had papers to shuffle, so she was as happy as a duck in a mud puddle. Sadly, my farming was about as productive as her counseling, though her job paid more.

Anonymous said...

These ethnic and women studies programs are a joke. I wasted years studying Anthropology, which is useless unless you are going for a higher degree. Never the less I paid as I went, and have no debts from the experience. Where is the personal responsibility in all this? When people everywhere start taking responsibility for their own lives liberalism will die.

buddeshepherd said...

Education is a service you buy. But, the consumers have no recourse! Sure you need to shop around for a college. Yes, you should know if your major is BS.
However, young impressionable consumers and the silly families are a the mercy of an idiotic "follow your heart" kind of marketing that puts the kids into economic slavery.
I'm not sure what the answer is, but something should be done to foster some kind of customer service.
I have done my best to talk kids out of student loans. Delay your education, what ever it takes-but don't borrow the money! Unless you are in the top 5% of your class there is no promise of a job!
I graduated in the top 10% of my class from a small but well rated private college. It took me a year to discover that I had a poor education. IT was only because I was in a high stress job which required me to write fast clean copy that I realized that I had not been held to as high a standard as I thought. When you are in college it is very hard to tell that you are not learning what you need to learn.