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Schools University Education and Financial Security

  1. May 29, 2010 #1
    I read this article on the NYT about college students graduating with debt: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/your-money/student-loans/29money.html?src=me&ref=homepage

    The piece only focused on a single case but I know a few cases similar to this one and many of you (or yourself) have probably seen something similar. I can't believe this lady wasted $50,000/year at NYU to end up at a job earning $22/hour ($42,000ish/year) and still $97,000 in the red! Just as I suspected, that NYU stamp is actually worthless (I've interacted with my fair share of NYU students, many of them are morons).

    Probably worse for those medical/law school students over $100,000 in debt that takes years to pay back; the most telling case is that of the Obamas, who I believe paid off their graduate school debts only after President Obama's books became best-sellers.

    Why do so many people think they will land a "great" job after college when the supply of "great" jobs is finite? The median income for lawyers (according to the BLS) is around $110,000/year; I guess law is not such a profitable career after all, not everyone becomes a partner, yes?

    I might graduate from a low-ranked state school and land a decent job making $40,000/year but at least that money is only shared between myself and the taxman. Why are so many idiots chasing tulips?
     
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  3. May 29, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you have to figure out what a college degree is. Is it evidence that you have spent four years studying, and have learned at least one subject in reasonable depth? Or is it the white collar equivalent of a union card?

    The idea "I paid $100,000 for college and now the world owes me a high-paying job to pay it back" is remarkable.
     
  4. May 29, 2010 #3

    Pengwuino

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    I find it amazing that people around me do have that idea Vanadium talked about! For most college students, its 4 years of having fun, meeting new people, partying.... and occasional cram sessions at the end of the semester. What does that really give a person that a high school graduate has that makes them worthy of all that much more salary?

    I almost (ok I do) smile when I see these people graduate with their degrees where they were straight C students who took 6 years because all they did was party and end up unemployed or working a starbucks.
     
  5. May 29, 2010 #4
    what about those of us who studied hard, graduated with a high gpa in a tough major, and are still unemployed? do you smile at us as well?
     
  6. May 29, 2010 #5
    Confirmation bias perhaps? Or just really optimistic.
     
  7. May 29, 2010 #6

    Pengwuino

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    Yes, but that's just because im a cheery guy :biggrin:
     
  8. May 29, 2010 #7
    At the end of the day your degree is just a really expensive piece of paper. What’s important is what have you learned in your four years that will lead you to a well paying job. Unfortunately, too many people don’t understand that until it’s far too late to do anything about it.
     
  9. May 29, 2010 #8
    But not everyone can get a well paying or ideal job right after college; a few probably don't get one ever in their lives. The idea that every college graduate is entitled to even a job is absurd. What is the real cost of education? What's the real difference between a $50,000 annual tuition private university education and a $5,000 annual tuition public university education? Does Napoleon win at Waterloo at Harvard? Is Pi 3.15 at MIT? Is Faster-Than-Light travel possible at Princeton? A Columbia student and a Stony Brook student can both read Dostoyevsky, Voltaire, or Austen, no?

    If I pay $1,000 for a service I expect to receive a $1,000 experience; therefore, if I pay $50,000 for a college education I expect to receive no less than $50,000 in return, no? But this does not apply to a college education on a consistent manner. It seems people approach education in the same way they approach a car purchase.

    The article mentions the avg. debt held by Bachelor's degree recipients from private colleges is $22,000; if their starting pay after graduation is $60,000/year, a little over 30% of their income is already locked in debt and the taxman hasn't even collected yet. If they want to pay those $22k within a year, their starting salary would have to be no less than $100,000; and we are only talking about $22k in debt! Imagine those that have double, triple, or quadruple that amount! Even worse, we are not even taking into account any other debt they may have, living expenses, location, etc.

    This reminds me of a case PBS' Frontline (College Inc.) aired where a lady obtained a PhD from a for-profit institution; her PhD wasn't even accredited by the APA yet her debt is over $200,000; she is not paying that back. I feel the system is seriously flawed.
     
  10. May 29, 2010 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    I'd be interested in exactly why you think a college degree makes the world owe someone a living.

    I'd also be interested in how far you are willing to take this. Is this true for 2-year colleges as well? Specialized trade schools?
     
  11. May 30, 2010 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    Why should a student have to pay off the loan in a year? Car dealers regularly offer 6 year loans -and education is a lot more durable than a car.


    Do you think this person bears any responsibility for spending $200,000 before checking to see if the school was accredited?

    As far as getting a quality education at a state school - of course that's possible. Many state schools are outstanding. It may well be that for a given student Rutgers is a better choice than Princeton. But if someone makes a poor choice, whose fault is that?
     
  12. May 30, 2010 #11
    I agree with your point of view. What I don't understand is why does American culture approach education in such a commercial way? To me it is so obvious that what the majority of top private schools are selling is a brand-name; please correct me if I am mistaken. A college degree does not entitle anyone to a living so if I decide to obtain a college degree I should go for a decent degree at an affordable price (I say degree and not education because except for science/engineering laboratories and hands-on practice, anyone can open a book and educate themselves).

    So why is it that we believe going to college must lead to a good job? Why don't those institutions admit that they are selling a brand-name and/or why don't more people call them out on that?
     
  13. May 30, 2010 #12
    I suppose you can never forget that colleges and universities are also businesses. I think that while a degree from a secondary school can provide you with technical knowledge, experience, and social skills that someone leaving high school won't have, the piece of paper you receive at the end by no means guarantees you financial security. Someone who leaves high school knowing a lot about how the world works, how a business works, and some sort of trade skill could start their own business and potentially be successful without ever going to college. So while statistics about the correlation between university education and financial security hold some validity, it's even a bigger selling point to potential students!
     
  14. May 30, 2010 #13
    The 1 year period was simply an example. Obviously, the longer one takes to pay the debt back the more interest the principal accrues and the lower the return on investment.

    Yes, education is whole lot more durable than a car but education does not come with an estimated service life nor warranty. A university can't specify how, where, or when that education will be useful; no university will guarantee you success on your education. A car manufacturer is obligated to guarantee you a certain level of safety and reliability on your car purchase.

    Both the individual and the school bear responsibility in any academic decision. In the particular case I mentioned, the for-profit institution assured the lady that while the Psychology PhD program was not yet accredited by the APA it would soon be; in the end, the program never obtained accreditation and at the time of program airing, the school had not received accreditation from the APA.
     
  15. May 30, 2010 #14
    It seems this is mostly an American notion. The original purpose of universities was to gather academics and intellectuals under a single roof where they could think freely. The tenure system is the most obvious characteristic; it was designed just so these academics and intellectuals could think freely without having to worry about the vagaries of life.

    Look at ETH Zurich, École Polytechnique, Technische Universität München, all 3 public universities offering low or free tuition to qualified students; all 3 are considered world-class universities (Prof. Einstein attended ETH Zurich). Why can't we do that here in the US? Switzerland managed to produce an Einstein at low cost; the US can't produce an Einstein even after allegedly having the best universities in the world (nevermind that US universities became good after Europe got bombed out during WWII).

    Why can't more people simply admit it? The top US universities are overpriced and a few are probably overrated.
     
  16. May 30, 2010 #15

    Pengwuino

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    That doesn't mean the system is broken however. The "system", in this case, is accreditation. If for example, you go out and buy some drug that isn't FDA approved and you get sick from that drug, that isn't evidence that the FDA is a broken system. Unless you're talking about the idea of non-accredited schools being in existence in the first place... well that's another story.
     
  17. May 30, 2010 #16
    Yes, I'm talking about the existence of non-accredited schools. The Dept. of Education allows them to operate without accreditation; these schools offer non-accredited degrees; at least one enticed a student to enter a non-accredited PhD program under a promise of future accreditation that was not granted in time.

    I blame the student for being stupid enough to start the program without it being accredited; I blame the school for putting out an unfinished package; I blame the Dept. of Ed. for not properly regulating that market. THAT system is broken.
     
  18. May 30, 2010 #17
    Its not just Americans but the same thing happens with Canadians and UFT (University of Toronto).

    I really can’t tell you how many snooty people at UFT I've seen make fun of all the "dumb people" that got into the less prestigious schools in Toronto (York & Ryerson) and the funny thing is these people are usually in the arts ie, English, Psychology etc. Yeah go ahead and laugh at the computer science person going to Ryerson, hands down he's going to be making more money than you in the future.

    Bottom line, young people for the most part don’t always make the most sound decisions, but in situations like this, they're the ones that signed on to the big loans, and they're the ones that decided to major in a field that wouldn't give them financial security. They have no one to blame but themselves for their shortsightedness.
     
  19. May 30, 2010 #18

    Pengwuino

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    Wait wait, this is ridiculous. So if a country can't produce an Einstein, they are a failure? There has only ever been 1 Einstein, so good luck with that argument making any headway.

    Secondly, you'll be hardpressed to find people who DONT think top US universities are over-priced and sometimes overrated.
     
  20. May 30, 2010 #19

    jtbell

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    If taxes in the US (probably state taxes, because education here is more a matter for the states than for the federal government) were at the levels common in European countries, we could do it. :rolleyes: But that's a subject for the P&WA forum, so if anyone wants to pursue that line of discussion, please do it there.
     
  21. May 30, 2010 #20
    When you go to a top university, you're paying for the brand-name, and the potential connections you make. Sure, top universities will tend to have, on average, a higher quality of students, but that can be attributed to the fact that better students will generally go to such universities, rather than that the universities themselves are doing anything special. While the education at Stony Brook may be, for all intents and purposes, equivalent to the education at Columbia, I'm pretty sure a student looking to make "high rank" collections would look to Columbia rather than Stony Brook.

    I'm not sure how much the issue of "making connections" matters to truly dedicated physics and math students. Some physics/math students may only be interested in their education, whereas others may be interested in making as many connections as possible for both political and monetary reasons.
     
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