controversies, politicians, politics, work, YouTube

So-called useless, worthless, overpriced college degrees for the “woke”…

In the wake of Joe Biden’s announcement that he plans to forgive some student loan debts for some borrowers, there’s been a lot of talk about so-called unmarketable, “useless”, college degrees. I saw an article yesterday about how some people who have high debt loads “regret” studying subjects that lead to jobs in low paying fields. They wish they’d studied business or a STEM subject– science, technology, engineering, or math. Why? Because they can’t make any money, and they are drowning in debt.

Meanwhile, many Republicans are loudly complaining about people who get degrees in “underwater basket weaving” or “lesbian dance studies”, and then act surprised that they can’t find work and repay their student loans. On the surface, that does sound like a valid complaint. Many conservatives think that a degree in “women’s studies” serves no purpose whatsoever. Ditto to “gender studies”, or any other new-fangled major that explores the issues that affect the disenfranchised. According to them, everyone needs to be studying a field that will lead to MONEY.

Henry Winkler asks… “Who is studying ‘underwater basket weaving’?” And why is a Trump thinking he is qualified to talk about it? It’s not like his father made his own money, right?

It always distresses me to hear people express disrespect for liberal arts education. It also bothers me that so many people seem to be “triggered” or offended that someone would put value in learning about gender theories. Why does going to college only have to be a pathway to a well-paying job? As many people might have realized, that’s not how it worked out for me. But I still see the value in my education. Yes, I have a degree in English, which was very helpful when I went to graduate school and could write coherent papers. More than one professor actually thanked me for being able to write competently and spell properly. I got minors in speech and communications, because I think public speaking is important, and a lot of people are terrible at it and actually fear doing it. Communication is also important, as it helps people effectively share information in a clear way.

I got master’s degrees in more specific fields. One was in social work– macro focus– which means I learned how to manage people, engage in community development, and do research. I have found that most people don’t even know what social work is, and assume it’s a specific job title. It’s not. Social work is a field of study that can be applied very broadly. It’s about helping humans achieve self-determination, and changing environments to suit people’s needs. It’s NOT just about helping poor people, facilitating adoptions, or taking children away from abusive families. And those are not things we learn in social work education, even if those areas are where a lot of social work graduates can be found working. Sadly, a lot of people who studied other fields are also often in those jobs… but they get labeled as “social workers”, when they shouldn’t be. Incidentally, a man who is now gone from my social media used to tell me “you don’t have to have a degree to work with the poor.” Ah… but you DO need a degree to be a social worker. And social workers DON’T just work with poor people. If he had gone to college himself, he might know that.

My other master’s degree might, marginally, be in more of a STEM type area. It’s in public health. I took a health administration focus, because I had to for the dual program I was in. Since I graduated, more dual programs have been developed, and if I had to do it over, I probably would have chosen one of those. But in that program, I learned about management, research, and core public health principles, as well as finance. When I graduated, I felt prepared to work. Then life intervened, and I met and married Bill… and became a globetrotting Army wife. 😉

My point is, though… you can get a good education doing most things, and in almost any field. Too many of us focus on what a person’s major was in college, when we should be focusing on their individual skills as a person. A person who majors in women’s studies can certainly learn transferable skills. I presume women’s studies majors have to write papers, learn how to research, read books, take tests, and work in groups, right? Aren’t those valuable skills? Can’t some of those skills translate to work? Hell, the Peace Corps accepts people with a broad variety of degrees. I learned a hell of a lot in two years of Peace Corps work, even if it didn’t land me a dream job with the State Department or an NGO.

I know that going to college is challenging. Come to think of it, so is working at McDonald’s. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, just died yesterday. I read her book in 2000, when it first came out. I read it for pleasure, but I think it would have been a great book for anyone in my grad school program. She showed that: 1. there is NO such thing as “unskilled labor” and 2. Nobody can get by in America on “minimum wage”.

I like what Beau had to say about Ted Cruz and his offensive comments about “slacker baristas”.

In the above video, Beau laments Ted Cruz and his unfortunate and OFFENSIVE comments about “slacker baristas”, who have “worthless” degrees and “wasted” seven years in college studying what he deems useless things and now can’t get a job. But, as Beau points out, the reason why Starbucks makes big bucks is because of the baristas, who make coffee drinks that people want to buy. It’s not because of the bean counters or the managers. And it does take effort and skill to learn how to make good coffee drinks. I know. I’ve done it myself– not at Starbucks, but in a fancy restaurant, where I waited tables (the hardest job I’ve ever had, by the way), and at a chocolatier shop that sold pastries. It’s also a good look when the barista speaks proper English, knows how to behave in a businesslike manner, and is professional.

No, you don’t have to go to college to learn those things, but it is one place where those soft skills are taught. And you can also grow from friendships, experiences, and the opportunities to take courses in other fields. I’m living proof of that one. It was in college where I discovered my ability to sing, a talent that I was able to develop in college. I have used that talent in countries around the world. Does it make me money? Not really, but it makes me a better, more well-rounded, more interesting person, and it improves my life immeasurably.

Too true.

Another point I’d like to make is this… Not everyone can succeed in business or as a STEM major. I SUCK at math. I don’t have a head for it. I don’t enjoy it. Even if I somehow got through a math major at a university, I would be completely mediocre in the field. And if everyone decided to major in business, the worth of that education would plummet.

I do have master’s degrees in public health and social work, which are technically healthcare related fields, but I would be absolutely awful as a nurse. I don’t think I have the right temperament for it. I’m not good at math. I don’t like the idea of giving people shots or inserting IVs or Foley catheters. However, I probably would be good at writing for a Web site like WebMD, or hospital newsletters. I would be good at writing patient instructions or other literature that provides valuable communication with the public. My English degree helps immensely with achieving that job.

If I had gone to college to study a so-called “in demand” field, it truly would have been a waste of time and money. I don’t think I could succeed in those fields. My talents are in the arts. And God knows, we value the arts, don’t we? We like to be entertained. We like being stimulated to think about things. What would the world be like if everyone studied hard sciences and business? Who would write the scripts for shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, or any of the other famous TV shows that people can’t miss? Who would make the music that helps make life easier to bear? Who would take care of the impoverished who need help, or the children who need to be taught life skills?

I think we all need a collective change in attitude. I think Americans should broaden their perspectives a bit. There is value in almost any field of study. Do people need to be spending six figures for a bachelor’s degree? I don’t think so. But that has a lot to do with what our universities are charging, and a lot of what they are charging cover things like athletics, alumni events, renovated dorms and other facilities, and technology. And also, the fact that people don’t want to pay more taxes to support those institutions.

I do think it’s true that there are a lot people who shouldn’t go to college. Maybe they aren’t intellectually cut out for the work. Maybe they lack discipline or skill. Some people really should go to a trade school, or learn something on the job. But I do think that college has value, and most fields– even the so-called worthless ones– have something to offer. We just don’t value education the way we should, and we don’t want to invest in the community or each other. I see community in Germany. Last night, one of my neighbors told me that she has no student debt, and she looks to be in her 20s or so. But then, not everyone in Germany can go to college. In America, almost anyone can go to college, if they can pay for it or get loans. That mindset probably ought to change… and we ought to get rid of most of the “for profit” colleges.

But really, I think people like any one of the Trumps (except maybe Mary Trump) or Ted Cruz need to get down off their high horses… and people need to stop looking up to them. They certainly don’t understand regular people. And they obviously value those “slacker baristas”, too… who make them their fancy coffee drinks. Those baristas make the money for Starbucks. I hope more of them will vote, too… especially if they are college educated.

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Biden, Ex, money

Interesting reactions to Joe Biden’s controversial decision to forgive student loan debt…

I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced that many borrowers with federal student loans will be forgiven $10,000 of their debt. Those who borrowed and also got Pell Grants qualify for an additional $10,000 of forgiveness. This applies to anyone earning less than $125,000 per year, or married couples jointly filing tax returns earning less than $250,000. Loans after June 30, 2022 aren’t eligible.

Although I won’t be personally affected by this plan, I think it’s a good idea. Bill and I paid off my student loans in 2018, nine years early. But we were able to do that because we’ve been extraordinarily fortunate. Living in Germany has been very good for us in most ways, but especially financially. We don’t have children or elderly relatives to support, and we don’t own a home. Back in 2007, when Bill went to Iraq and got a temporary bump in pay, I made paying off my loans a priority, so we wouldn’t be burdened with them as we aged.

I was also very lucky in that in 2002, just after I graduated from the University of South Carolina with dual master’s degrees, I was able to take advantage of a very low interest rate that probably isn’t available anymore (although I haven’t checked). I consolidated my loans and locked in that rate (3.75), and that really helped me a lot. I remember thinking the $57,000 in Stafford Loans I owed would never get paid off– but I was able to do it, little by little. Now I realize that I actually got a bargain. Some people borrow that much for just one degree. I managed to get three.

Even though we managed to pay off my loans in full, I have a lot of empathy for today’s borrowers. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed since I was last in school. At the same time, salaries have stayed pretty stagnant. Then we had the pandemic, which caused a great deal of chaos for people in the workforce. Bill and I were responsible, and we did make paying the student loans off a focal point. But that’s only because we could. Not everyone has that choice. And when you’re working your ass off for employers who don’t necessarily value you with decent pay, it can feel like you’re on a hamster wheel. I know how it is. I was there myself when I was single.

It seems like Mr. Biden can’t do anything to please some people. I’ve noticed many folks whining about this new plan to help borrowers. So many folks think it’s unfair to forgive debt, especially if they’ve paid off their loans. I’ve seen a lot of people who are shocked that people earning up to $125,000 will qualify. Do those people understand that some areas of the country have a much lower standard of living than others do? Someone making $125,000 may seem “wealthy” in rural Kentucky or Arkansas, but they would be far from wealthy in California, New York, or parts of Virginia. I’m also willing to bet that a lot of Republicans will gladly take advantage of this plan, even as they complain about Biden.

I know it’s normal for people to complain when their preferred politician isn’t in office. The level of contempt some people have for Joe Biden is pretty sickening. I don’t understand it. I mean, I get that he’s not the most exciting we’ve ever had. He inherited quite a mess, though. I don’t remember any other incoming president facing the level of chaos Mr. Biden did in January 2021. Moreover, Donald Trump has literally done things that are CRIMINAL. People still think he should be in charge, in spite of his obvious propensity to lie, steal, cheat, and molest. I don’t understand why more Americans don’t want a law abiding, decent, responsible person in the White House. But try to ask some people about this, and they will accuse you of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and being a “hater”. I wouldn’t “hate” Trump if he didn’t act like he’s above the law and make the United States a laughing stock around the world.

Count me among those who think Mr. Biden has done remarkably well, under the unusual circumstances he’s faced. I don’t know if he’ll make it to a second term, but I will vote for him again if anyone like Trump or De Santis is running for president in 2024. I do think it would be good if he bowed out of a second term, mainly because he is so elderly and being POTUS has got to take a severe toll on him. I would like to see a younger person run for the Democrats. But I would take him ANY DAY over Trump, simply because he’s humane and decent, and he doesn’t steal classified documents, constantly golf, mug for the camera, or post on social media, nor does he brag about grabbing women by the pussy. Anything good Trump did for the United States was done at someone else’s expense. He is a classic narcissist, and they are never good for anyone but themselves.

Speaking of narcissists, I did take a peek at Twitter and noticed that Ex was crowing about this news. She claims her loans are paid off, but this will “help” her children. I couldn’t help but shake my head, because I know the reality behind her comments. Below is how she responded to one person who was lamenting about student loans:

That’s horrible! It’s like loan sharks just like another poster said. My student loans are no longer owed but my husband and several of my children have student loan debt and this will help our family tremendously! The only thing I’m worried about is my daughter in college now!

Ex forced Bill’s daughters to drop out of high school, get GEDs, enroll in college, and take out student loans, of which she helped herself to the excess after tuition was paid. The loans were taken out in her daughters’ names, which means that they alone were responsible for paying them off, even though it was Ex who was using the money. Younger daughter explained all of this to us, and told us that she had managed to pay off the debt, even though she doesn’t have a degree to show for it.

I also know that Ex has declared bankruptcy several times, including one time when she and Bill were married. Besides the bankruptcy, there was also a foreclosure. But there’s ol’ Ex, acting like she’s fiscally responsible. I don’t understand why she feels the need to lie to strangers on Twitter, but I guess it’s just a facet of her “extra” personality. When I met Bill, his credit rating was abysmal, and he was carrying credit cards with loan shark level interest rates. He now has an excellent credit rating, but that didn’t come without significant hard work and several long years of being very diligent about our finances. The end result is that we’ve both managed to recover from the financial disasters she wrought.

I probably shouldn’t pay any attention to her… but she is genuinely fascinating. If she’s out there in the wild, you know there are a lot of others like her. So many people feel like they have to fake it until they make it, and present a false self to everyone.

I’m glad that Joe Biden is doing something that will help middle class student loan borrowers. I know that some people don’t think this measure is enough, while some are resentful that they paid off their loans and won’t be benefiting. I, for one, think this is a good decision. What I think would be even better is if the cost of attending college went down significantly, as alternatives to college are also offered to those who would fare better learning a trade.

One thing I think Germany does right is offering higher education to those who are most likely to succeed, while also offering people the chance to learn skills or trades. Not everyone is cut out for academics, and not everyone needs a college degree to succeed. I am very grateful I had the chance to go to college and graduate school, and obviously, I could handle the work. But I often feel badly about the fact that I went to school and use my education, mostly, for this blog and entertaining Bill. It seems like a waste… even though I know that when I started graduate school, I had no plans to marry anyone. I was sure I was going to be an old maid. It’s funny how life changes just when you least expect it.

For those who wonder how I managed to pay off my loans… I’m going to offer my best tips. It may not work for you, but this is what worked for me. It’s pretty simple, actually. I started by paying an extra $20 per month on my minimum payment. At first, that extra money didn’t make a big dent, but it did help pay off interest faster, which led to the principal finally going down on a steady basis instead of staying the same. Always remember that if you’re paying the minimum, you won’t get anywhere with any expediency. That minimum will just pay for interest, and you want to work on the principal, which will also lower the amount of interest you get charged.

As time went on, I continued to add to the extra amount I paid each month. Maybe six months after I started paying an extra $20, I bumped the extra amount to $50. Then I went to $100 extra, and watched with delight as the principal diminished. I started getting letters from my lender, letting me know that I was paid ahead and didn’t need to keep paying extra. I ignored those letters and paid more and more, until I had finally whittled down my principal to about $2000. At that point, we had the money to just pay off the last of the loan, so that’s what I did. Boy, was that a good feeling! Again… we accomplished this nine years ahead of time! I’ve successfully used the same technique on car loans and paid them off ahead of time, saving money on interest and ridding myself of stress and headaches caused by debt.

It may initially seem very difficult to part with that extra $10 or $20 when it feels like you can’t keep ahead of your bills. But, if you’re buying $4 coffees or other little luxuries, you probably can afford to pay a little extra on your loans. It won’t seem to make a difference at first, but as time goes by, you will find that the little bit adds up, and you will soon have a cushion that will make paying off the debt more comfortable and less stressful. Of course, you do have to keep at it– consistently pay a little extra, and consider adding to the amount extra over time. That takes discipline, diligence, and determination. But if you set your mind to it, you will find that it really pays off in the long run. Just my one little pearl of advice to anyone who reads this.

Well, it’s time to practice guitar… got to do my Thursday vacuuming, too. It’s another hot day, and our poor backyard is just parched. I am praying for some rain.

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sexism, slut shamers, stupid people

Repost: Transformed Wife vs. The Transformed Wife…

This is another repost concerning Lori Alexander, aka “The Transformed Wife”. This was composed on my original blog on July 21, 2018. I am sharing it again because it includes discussion about one of Lori’s most notoriously controversial ideas… that men don’t like women with tattoos or student loans and prefer their wives to be virgins.

I have to write another quick post to opine about a situation that has developed in blogger land.  Though the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray group, I’ve become aware of several very successful “Christian” bloggers.  One blogger that gets mentioned a lot is Lori Alexander, author of “The Transformed Wife“.  I don’t really read a lot of Lori’s stuff because it’s usually poorly written and stupid, even though she’s published a book that evidently a lot of people have read.  She does have a Facebook page, too, and sometimes I see stuff from it posted in the Duggar group, mainly for people to snark on.  Somehow, despite writing poorly and centering all of her posts, she has thousands of followers.  Maybe I should start writing badly and include a lot of religion in my posts, too.  On the other hand, that’s a bad idea.  Sometimes it’s better to be anonymous.

Anyway, Lori recently wrote an extremely moronic post about how “Godly” men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos.  It went viral for all the wrong reasons.  I originally saw it in the Duggar group, but pretty soon, it was picked up by people like God and a bunch of bloggers wrote thoughtful rebuttals, like this one.  In the wake of this mess, there was another blogger who got caught in the crossfire.  Not just another blogger, mind you… this one, name of Rachel, is Transformed Wife

Apparently, Rachel was Transformed Wife before Lori was The Transformed Wife (note the addition of “The” before Transformed Wife– I guess Lori thinks that makes her name different enough from Rachel’s).  Rachel writes in a recent post that Lori had sent her an email to tell her she was changing the original name of her blog to the one Rachel had already claimed.  And because both women are popular bloggers, there has been some confusion about the controversial blog post that upset many thousands of people.  Rachel claims that it’s gotten so bad that she had to make a public statement telling everyone that she and Lori are not the same person and they have different beliefs.

To make matters more confusing, someone else is running a snark page called The Transformed Wife 2.0.  I joined that one myself and it’s where I first learned of this controversy between two similarly named bloggers.

Neither of the Transformed Wives are women that I would listen to.  I actually don’t really like the whole “life coach”-“guru” trend that has emerged.  I think it takes a whole lot of moxie to assume one is qualified to be someone’s life coach.  To be honest, I think most people who feel they should work as life coaches are probably narcissistic assholes.  I mean, some people really are wise, but in general, I don’t think it’s wise to assume that dispensing your wisdom should be your career.  It’s bound to backfire.

But then… here I am writing “The Overeducated Housewife”, and God knows people have gotten a bad impression about the name of my blog.  I’m not the only Overeducated Housewife out there in blog land, nor was I the first.  However, I do seem to be the most prolific. 

In any case, the war of the Transformed Wives has drawn out other people eager to leap into the fray. On The Transformed Wife 2.0, I learned of yet another “wise” blogger called The Joy Filled Wife… who is apparently Lori Alexander in a previous incarnation.  And yet, The Joy Filled Wife left Lori a note of encouragement because of the backlash she’s gotten over her idiotic commentary about what kind of women men prefer.  I guess Lori split her personality so she could sock puppet an encouraging post.  Or maybe there really is a Joy Filled Wife out there who is Lori’s friend.  I don’t know.  I am so confused!

I’m with Eric.  I don’t like slutty, inked out, olive oil with too many credit card bills and student loans.  I like my olive oil where it belongs… in the kitchen and only educated about making food.

I myself have no tattoos.  In about ten days, I will also have no debt, although I was up to my ass in it on my wedding day.  I was a virgin when I got married, but it wasn’t because of God.  It was more because that’s how it worked out.  Bill likes me fine.  He probably would have liked me if I had tattoos, too… or if I’d been with other men.  You see, Bill loves me for who I am, not for what I look like.  We have worked together to have the best life possible.  And while Bill isn’t a churchgoer, I would say he’s “Godly” in the best possible ways.

I don’t know why so many people– particularly conservative Christians– feel the need to follow self-appointed gurus like Lori and Rachel.  In my experience, a lot of these “leaders” end up being very narcissistic and fallible.  Many of them eventually have embarrassing falls from grace that expose them for who and what they really are.  Unfortunately, people don’t seem to learn from experience that folks like the Duggars and the Osteens and others like them usually turn out to be very charismatic charlatans who do a lot of damage, particularly to people who are honestly hurting and need help.

Not being a fundie Christian myself, I don’t feel like I have any skin in this particular game.  It’s kind of amusing and disturbing to watch it unfold, though.  I hope the people who read my blog don’t think of me as a “guru” of any sort.  And the idea of my becoming a life coach is equally absurd.  It ain’t happening.

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business, complaints, money

It’s really not that simple, cuz– or, my husband invested in me and it paid off.

Yesterday, I ran across the below political cartoon. It was shared by my very conservative cousin from Georgia. Actually, he’s from Virginia like I am, but he’s lived in Georgia for decades. Anyway…

This is a rather simplistic cartoon. I was tempted to leave him a comment, but decided not to, since his sister is being memorialized today.

Full disclosure. I have actually paid off my student loans. They were paid off about nine years early, back in 2018. I was originally scheduled to be finished to be finished paying in 2027. I made paying the student loans off a priority, and I am fortunate enough to be married to an extremely kind, generous, and cooperative man who was alright with helping me (a whole lot) in my quest to lose this obligation that hung over my head for so many years.

My mother had saved some money for me to attend Longwood University (then Longwood College), and I also worked during the summers. I still left my undergraduate career with Stafford loans, some subsidized and some unsubsidized. I think I borrowed about $10-$12K, but I’m not altogether sure of the total amount. I remember my parents were thrilled when I got the financial aid during my junior year. It was, and still is, a state supported school, but the price of attending rose significantly when I was attending in the 1990s. That school is also in a rural part of Virginia, where jobs in town were relatively scarce, and employers didn’t want to hire people who weren’t staying there year round. I didn’t qualify for enough work study to make that a viable option for me at the college.

Nevertheless, when it was time to graduate, I attended the mandatory video session during which I was reminded that I had taken out loans and they would need to be repaid. And after graduation, I paid every month on time and in full, although again, it was with help from others that I was able to do that. I was lucky enough to be living at home rent free.

After my first year post graduation, I joined the Peace Corps. In those days, it was possible to defer student loans. I did defer, but also arranged to send $30 per month of my readjustment allowance (then about $200 a month, I think) to defray the cost of interest on the unsubsidized loans. When I finished my service, I worked for a couple of years and paid on my loans– I think it was about $125 a month.

Two years after I came home from Armenia, I decided to attend graduate school. Because I would be going to graduate school, I was again able to defer my student loans. I was also able to take out more loans, which I did. Although I attended the University of South Carolina, which was out of state for me, after my first semester, I was able to land a job as a graduate assistant at South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). That gig didn’t pay well, but it did reduce my tuition to about 20% of the IN STATE rate– a HUGE savings. I also had a part time job on weekends and some evenings. Still, I needed loans, and when all was said and done, I graduated with two more degrees and five figures of debt, courtesy of my Stafford and Perkins loans.

About two months after I graduated from the University of South Carolina, I decided to consolidate my loans. Doing that took me out of my “grace” period, but locked in a 3.75% interest rate. I’m not sure what today’s rates are, but I bet they aren’t that low. I’ll also bet that today’s students, particularly during the pandemic, don’t have as much ease in finding well paying jobs, which even twenty years ago wasn’t that easy. Anyway, when all was said and done, I had borrowed $57,000 for all of my education– that’s for all three degrees. Even in the early 00s, that wasn’t too bad for all I managed to get. But it was still a lot of money for me. I wasn’t sure how I would repay it, even though I had fully intended and expected to find a good job.

Well… as you can see, I didn’t set any records on fire in the employment world. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, I was very fortunate in that I met and married Bill, who is an unusually empathetic and cooperative person. And once we were married, he was willing to help me pay for my loans. I started off paying $180 a month, which pretty much only covered interest and a tiny amount of the principal. At the time, we didn’t have much extra money because Bill was paying child support for three children and recovering from the financial disasters wrought during his first marriage. I was also trying to find work, but was unsuccessful.

I paid that same paltry amount for five years, until Bill went to Iraq and got a temporary salary boost. While he was deployed to Iraq, I used the extra money to pay off his credit cards in full. I also started paying extra toward my student loans. It wasn’t much at first– just $20 a month. Within six months, I was a full payment ahead. Slowly but surely, I added more money to the extra I was paying. It got to the point at which I started getting letters from my creditor telling me I didn’t need to pay. But I kept paying more and more until I was years ahead of schedule. And in 2018, when I was down to owing about $2000, I paid it off in one fell swoop. Put this in perspective– even after years of paying more toward my loans than I had to, when we moved to Germany in 2014, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. By 2018, I owed nothing.

It seems crazy that I was able to do this. Looking back on it, it seems highly unlikely that I could have, if things had been any different than they were. If I hadn’t married Bill (who had a pretty checkered financial history– common sense should have told me not to marry him– in this case, I’m glad my heart won over my brain)… If I had had children (expensive even if they’re completely healthy)… If we had gone through infertility treatment or pursued adoption… If my parents hadn’t been self-sufficient… If we hadn’t stayed healthy… If Bill hadn’t been able to stay well-employed… If we’d had huge legal fees due to Bill’s ex wife and kids… If we had bought a home… If I had gone to a more expensive school… If I had dropped out or took longer than scheduled… If I had had a higher interest rate… If I had borrowed from private lenders… I also made a determination that I would pay off those student loans first, because they can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy and I didn’t want to have them hanging over my head if disaster struck.

Everybody’s situation is different. Yes, paying back loans is an obligation. However, I think today’s students have gotten a pretty raw deal. For one thing, even if a person chooses to attend a state supported college, states are not contributing as much money to higher education as they once did. That’s been the case for years. I remember one year when I was still at UofSC, tuition went up 15% because the state didn’t contribute as much. Tuition never seems to go down, either. For another thing, college has been vastly oversold, making degrees less valuable than they might have been. Not everyone should attend college. Some people aren’t ready to go. Some people aren’t academically inclined and should pursue a field that is more technical. But college should not just be reserved for the privileged who are lucky enough to be able to afford it due to the circumstances of their birth. It should be a place where academically talented people can go to build their skills in whatever field they want to pursue.

One of the comments I noticed on my cousin’s post was about how some degrees are “worthless”. It always bothers me when people scoff at any academic field. Maybe you don’t think a degree in women’s studies is useful, but it’s useful enough that people who have studied it have been able to get jobs teaching it, researching it, writing books about it, or even making fun of it. I know many people think the arts are “worthless” pursuits. I heartily disagree with that. I was friends with many music majors when I was in school. They were among some of the most talented, hardworking people I knew in college. They had to be hard workers, since they took so many one credit courses that met three times a week. Moreover, the arts make the world a better place to be. And ditto to those who think English is a worthless degree. Being able to write, think critically, read carefully, and speak the language coherently are vital skills that are lacking in many people. If you don’t believe me, hang out on social media for awhile.

I also think people should be careful when they dismiss the pursuit of certain occupations as a waste of time. Everyone is unique, and we all have different skills and talents. One could argue with me that I should have studied accounting because it’s a well-paying field. But I am not good with numbers and I’m not particularly detail oriented. I would have struggled in an accounting degree program and probably would have hated the job. That would have made me a mediocre and probably unsuccessful accountant. And that would also make me a lot less employable. I am, however, really good at music and writing. I would stand a much better chance of being gainfully and successfully employed in jobs that use those skills and talents, even if there aren’t as many lucrative jobs. The world doesn’t need any more shitty accountants. And maybe the world doesn’t any more writers or singers… but at least I do those things reasonably well and enjoy the work. Those skills and the personal qualities affiliated with them can also transfer to other jobs.

I will agree, however, that too many people choose to go to college when it’s not a suitable choice for them. And there are cheaper ways to get a degree, too. A lot of people are overly concerned about going to “prestigious” schools, when a state supported school or even community college would suit them fine. Lots of people get college education through the military. That’s what Bill did– all three of his degrees came from private schools and were mostly paid for through scholarships and his G.I. Bill. He even has some money left of his G.I. Bill. These are topics that are worth discussing, especially with people still in high school. BUT– I also think the government should take steps to reduce the cost of college and relieve some of the debt burdens on young people.

I am 48 years old. I finished paying student loans in 2018. I expected to be paying until I was in my 50s. I don’t have any children. One of my parents is dead, but the other is in her 80s. She is, thankfully, reasonably healthy and very self-sufficient, and I also have sisters. But what if I was having to pay my loans, support children, and pay for a nursing home for my mom? What if I also had a mortgage to pay? What if I also had a chronic health issue that wasn’t covered by health insurance? What if I didn’t have health insurance? Or… what if I had a financial setback that led to being late on a bunch of bills? When Bill and I first got married, he was recovering from foreclosure and bankruptcy brought on by his ex wife’s irresponsible spending and his failure to take control of his finances. It took years of effort to climb out of that hole. It took a lot of work. Fortunately, we weren’t distracted by the misfortunes that befall so many people. We were VERY lucky. I was especially lucky. I hit the husband lottery.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that it’s not as simple as borrowing money and paying it back. Yes, I agree that repaying loans is a responsibility. But the cost of education should not be so heavy that young people are saddled with debts that make it difficult or impossible for them to ever get out from under the burden. And we need to do a better job of teaching young people about alternatives to college and encouraging them to take them. There should be no stigma toward those who choose a different path.

This morning, as Bill and I were talking about this, I looked at our investments, which I started doing on a very small scale back in 2012. I think I initially invested about $1000. Well, that amount has grown almost 50 times– before long, we will have investments that will total in value as much as that initial consolidated loan was in 2002. Without me, Bill wouldn’t have that money, because it never occurred to him to invest. He knew nothing about it and had neither the time nor inclination to learn. So I like to think of that as paying him back somehow… although he says that having me around is payment enough. See? I hit the husband jackpot! 😉 Perhaps I should think of it as Bill investing in me and getting a return.

P.S.– I made another song…

This is dedicated to the three relatives who are gone… and those who have been kind enough to help us grieve.

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