I remember thinking that was good advice for people from wealthy families, but it wouldn't work for me. I began working 20 hours a week at the Texas Attorney General's Office just as soon a finished my first year of classes; and I also got a work-study job at the law school.
In those hoary old days, students could actually work their way through college and even law school. My law-school tuition was only $1,000 a year, and by working part time, I graduated from law school with no debt.
Today, students are still working while in college, but their part-time jobs don't begin to cover the cost of tuition. Thus, even working students take out loans.
According to a recent HSBC report, 85 percent of current college students are working part-time jobs. In fact, they spend far more time working than attending classes or studying. On average, students work 4.5 hours a day, almost twice as much time as they spend in classes.
But those part-time jobs working as waiters, pizza cooks, rental-car agents, etc. hardly cover basic living expenses--food, shelter, cell phone, car insurances, etc. And so most students are borrowing to pay tuition. In 2017, college graduates finished their studies owing an average of almost $40,000. And that doesn't include credit card debt, averaging about $4,000.
A perception still exists that going to college and professional school is a time of awakening intellect when students develop personal and vocational identities sitting at the feet of wise and learned scholars. But that time is long gone--if it ever existed.
Today, students are stressed out by their college experience. Six out of ten report feeling anxious about financial concerns either frequently or all the time. And women report more financial anxiety than men.
Going to college now is like running a gauntlet between rows of vicious bureaucrats and money lenders trying to beat the student down. Some people survive the experience relatively unscathed and go one to get jobs that allow them to pay back modest of amounts of student debt.
But a growing number of young people finish their post-secondary studies worse off than before they first enrolled. They borrow far too much money and graduate with no skills and no idea what they want to do for a living. In some instances, students' parents get sucked into the maw of college debt, taking out Parent PLUS loans they can't pay back.
Indebted college graduates who don't find good jobs are often forced to obtain economic hardship deferments on their student loans, excusing them from making payments while the interest accrues. Others get pushed into 20- and 25-year repayment plans that are structured so that their debt keeps growing even if they faithfully make their monthly payments. And about one million people a year simply default on their loans--essentially committing financial suicide.
The higher education flacks say over and over that a college education is a ticket to a good job and a middle class lifestyle. And for some people that's true. But its not true for everybody.
For millions of people, their college experience is nothing but a scam, and this is disproportionately true for women, minorities, and people from low-income families.
|Going to college is like running the gauntlet|