Thursday, May 31, 2012

No Note, Just More on Student Loans

market movements 1 by svilen001
I talked about the student loan situation before and today I still wanted to address it a bit further. Let's see where to start...

Like Infomercials 

Most reports about student loans and the problems there in is chucked-full of examples of students and former students wrestling with expensive student load debt for too long. There usually is one super debtor, a person that works an expansive amount of jobs to pay off unexpectedly high student loan debt. It's a teacher in this PBS report. It's a great report, covering myriad problematic aspects to the growing student loan crisis in America: from the starry-eyed high school graduate signing promissory notes without reading to the college graduate years obtaining that degree (and racking up debt), applying for a third job to finally start paying off that debt, wondering all the while if higher education was really worth it. There's got to be a better way, is the exclamation at the end of the report. The responding question is, is there...

A Care Call

I personally don't know. If I did, I wouldn't be just another statistic right now, but I did find a few articles that seem to suggest some solutions to this problem. Did you know that there are ways ARM can help? Well, there are and I have to say I do believe Mr. Rudd has some great suggestions. In particular, the first two suggestions:

1. Student loan specialists: This would definitely help with some of the other bullet points, especially the second.

2. Treat them with respect (self-explanatory)

Help! He's Homeless.

Keith's story is about where the "worst that can happen" lie. He's homeless and in debt. This is the worst situation, the ultimate nightmare of a person in debt. The article says Keith believes Congress should, "return the "Truth in Lending" policies and procedures to all student loans," and allow, "the ability to discharge student loan debt through bankruptcy."

I don't even know what "Truth in Lending" policies are or how bankruptcy could help me with my loan. If these options should, or could, be on the table they should actually be discussed more fully at colleges and in homes. Though it's not a key issue in this election yet I'm glad some people care about education and more light is being shed on the issue by those people.

You're Suing Me, Mommy? 

No, she's not. Thank goodness according to Dr. Don from Fox Business, it might be a little harder to get sued by your parents if they co-sign on a loan. Damned if that doesn't fill me with mixed feelings though. Parents shouldn't have to carry a burden so heavy when all they're trying to do is help better their children's future. It's kind of horrible and makes that bankruptcy thing Keith was talking about, if what it does is wipe the slate clean, sound like a downright euphoric prospect to elevating a lot of people's debt troubles. The mom in the Dear Abby is disabled and her daughter is a lazy good-for-nothin' (kinda like me) without a job. Again, that's a horrible situation and too much overlooked.

Kinda Like AllState, Right? 

I'm going to leave you with these two thoughts because writing takes a lot out of you, even if you're not doing it very well (probably, especially if...). 1. This situation isn't very simple, as stated in the ARM article above, not even from the perspective of the borrower. There's barely anything put in place to help ordinary loan accumulation, so what happens to our people out there with bloated debt and Asperger's? 2. And maybe a combination of the National Service Corps and the Student Loan Forgiveness Act--If done right. (Anybody ever try to get hardship deferment? The joke is, it's hard.)--could help get this runaway debt train on the right track.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Note to Self: When You Go to College, Double Down

"Can't Do Nothin' Thout No College"

I've been holding on to Adam Davidson's New York Times article, The Dwindling Power of a College Degree, for a while now. It's a subject that's important to me because I've been in a very dangerous limbo stage pertaining to higher education, for too long. The article basically says, this is fast becoming an economy driven by specialization. (That particular type of economy may already be here, hence the U.S.'s possibly forthcoming financial troubles, "the next debt bomb," as they say.)

The point of the article is that it's becoming harder to skate by in life on simple credenttials, with an unimpressive degree. Our cultural attitude is becoming what Rick Santorum would probably call snobbish. I'm apt to agree, though I'm agreeing in a far different tone. I would be elated at the prospect of a country full of hoity-toities, if only it wasn't to our detriment. We're moving entirely too fast. In the long run, let's say a hundred years from now, the speed might not matter so much, but the problem is we're operating right now. How can we affect a change, that doesn't topple our economy, right now?

My story goes, the kid (me) gets to the university, with stars in his eyes, prepared to live the college life, but unprepared for what that entails. New singer, old song. There's no overt blame to place on the way the system is run, most of my problems were personal. I'm pretty sure if everyone went to college and followed a strict plan they'd be 'in and out' in no time. I didn't follow that plan, went in and prematurely came right back out. Now I'm facing many more problems than before: I'm buried up to my neck in student loans, it's more than difficult for me to get a job, and it's not any easier for me to get back in school to get my degree. Life's hard and the sad part about it is, at least right now, all I can do is live through it.

"I Thought The Cold War Was Over"

This student loan "debt bomb" thing is outrageous, The Real Meaning of $1 Trillion in Student Loans. I agree with Jordan Weissman, one trillion dollars in student loans very well may be "a sign, partly, that more students are going to college," but I believe there should a big emphasis on the word partly. There might be more important factors going into the boom in student loan debt.

One of these factors is the rising cost in tuition: Mississippi, California.

Students have to do more to pay for tuition. Hold down a couple of jobs while studying. Things I was told about consistently while I was in school. " So-and-So is a mother and she works part-time at a pharmacy while going to school", "Whatsit-Whosit works full-time at Wal-Mart, took a year off, and still went back to school--two years, then four years--for a degree in psychology" etc. etc. There are a number of them, mostly the lady folk--as if they have anything to prove*, but they're only a few of the nearly 2 million graduates a year (2,350,000 enrollees). What's the story after they graduate? Or the story of the ones that don't graduate? Mine is above.

Second the cutting off of aid to college goers: Is HOPE on or off? Not without mentioning, the difficulty involved in attaining aid if it's out there.

Then after we get through with that we can consider the good news of more students attending post secondary school, which I'm sure is caused by the culture change Adam Davidson talks about in his New York Times article.

The very fact that the culture is changing and more importantly how it's changing, is a big problem. The reason more high school graduates are making the decision to go to college is most likely because of our over arching cultural conditioning. Davidson talks about the increase in productivity at jobs with a dwindling need for workers.  The fact that there are fewer total jobs out there isn't helpful. It doesn't take as many employees as it use to to create and run a billion dollar business. Specialization moves us toward this. We saw it through the Industrial Revolution and continue to talk about it today regarding the billion dollar, consumer supported tech companies.

Specialization, by it's very nature means there won't be as many positions out there to supply the growing need for jobs, and/or, there at least won't be enough people to fill the positions. If our economy is supported by these types of jobs, shouldn't it be obvious why the recession hit so hard? Also, specialization entails a difficulty in obtaining the credentials. Now, of course, anyone who sets their minds to it, can accomplish anything, but that doesn't mean everyone will. This new cultural evolution, as well meaning as it may be, values quality while preaching a quantitative message. We feel college education is the pinnacle of success, but the problem with that is we send our kids through this academic bottle-neck all willy-nilly because of these values/ideals. We seem to be all dreams with no substance. Not good at all.


I believe this thing is a little bigger than facts and figures. Sometimes, when we overload on numbers and forget to add nuance to the information, we render data useless. Just a bunch of numbers on a screen.

But if I ever get another shot at a college education, I gotta remember to double down.

*Women are historically smarter than men. I'd write more, but you know, nuff said.

[Edit/add: Another article on student loan debt--Student Loans Weighing Down a Generation With Heavy Debt -, and 5 important fact from said article--5 mindblowing facts about student debt. | ThinkProgress.]