Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another NY Times article questioning college's value

This is the third NY Times piece in just the last two weeks to cast serious questions about whether college is worth it.


Jeffrie said...

It makes me wonder what they're trying to say. Why would the New York Times continuously question the value of college? I don't know for sure.

It does look like the piece, which focuses on a student and the loans she has racked up, considered various facets: the family, the lenders, and the college. It shows that any of them could have looked at the situation and seen that the student had too much debt. (To Sallie Mae's credit, they did do that eventually and rejected a 3rd loan request.) Or if the student had been better educated about debt, she could have avoided or lessened the burden herself.

The mother says this, about her role: "All I could see was college, and a good college and how proud I was of her," Cathryn said. "All we needed to do was get this education and get the good job. This is the thing that eats away at me, the naïveté on my part."

A NYU spokesman said this: "Some families will do whatever it takes for their son or daughter to be not just at N.Y.U., but any first-choice college. I’m not sure that’s always the best decision, but it’s one that they really have to make themselves."

Nobody wants to take responsibility here, but it looks like this could have been avoided with careful planning long before the student entered college. She may have gotten a good education for a reasonable price had she and her mother done so.

It surprises me that the article did not mention the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act, recently passed & packaged along with the new health care bill.

It came along too late to directly impact this student, but it might have been interesting to see a comparison of what might have happened had this already been in place. Would she have been better off or worse off? Will this bill make college less expensive and more valuable for students who will be directly affected by it? We'll soon find out.

ALP said...

The comments that caught Jeffrie's attention caught mine as well. One has to wonder what is "the good job" one can get with a self-directed degree in religion and women's studies? And how on earth did they decide that this "good job" was worth borrowing that much money?

The mother reminds me of the type of mom who is desperate to raise the status of her daughter by marrying her off to a doctor or lawyer. No matter that said doctor or lawyer is a pure selfish asshole, ect...all they see is the status of "doctor" or "lawyer". Both subjects, the daughter and mother, are snobs, pure and simple. It probably never occurred to them to consider a no name state university.

Anonymous said...

If these loans were not bankruptcy-proof, the lenders would be forced to do some serious diligence on the borrowers.

Many would-be students would probably have to work a year or two and build credit before applying to college.

They would not be eligible for such huge loans, and I will be that would force tuition down.

I see this, in part, as an instance of the prevention of bankruptcy giving lenders and colleges perverse incentives.

Anonymous said...

In a recent newspaper article about a new organic grocery store opening in our town, there was a photo of a line around the block of people submitting their applications. One of the applicants told the reporter that she had a degree from MIT but always wanted to work in a grocery store. My reaction was; "why do you need a prestigious degree to work in a grocery store"? I would think that on the job training would be much more beneficial. Although, in this economic climate most employers want previous experience and don't want to train new hires. Still, going into debt to work a medium to low-wage job makes no sense at all.

Anonymous said...

It might not be a bad idea if student loan companies required students work for a couple of years before going to college.

Anonymous said...

An in-law of mine just finished 4 years of college getting an education degree so he could become a teacher. Then he spent the last year trying to find a teaching job unsuccessfully. Then today we find out he couldn't get hired anyway, as he had a criminal record for embezzelment(stole cash from a small retail store he worked part time at...idiot) He'd gone $35,000 into debt on the chance that he could somehow get the state to expunge his record!

The guy left a good job as a restaurant chain assistant manager. He always liked it, was good at it, and it seemed to be within his capabilities to one day be a GM. But because in our society today it's all about status, he felt the pressure to be a "somebody" and threw that all away on a pipe dream.

I'm a college grad, but people are way too hung up on it.

Jeffrie said...

It looks like somebody at The Washington Examiner is questioning it, too.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, perhaps the reason the MIT grad said she always wanted to work in a grocery store is not that she did but some job-seeker book, article, or counselor encouraged such BS.

Anonymous said...


If she went to MIT she should have learned critical thinking skills, which also means not being swayed by poor advice in any guise.

Jeffrie said...

This article appeared in the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago.

From the article: "According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which every year surveys thousands of college graduates about their job prospects and work attitudes, fully 41 percent of job seekers this year turned down offers — the exact percentage that did so in 2007, when the economy was booming. And though less than a quarter of seniors who applied for work had postgraduation job offers in hand by late April (compared with 52 percent in 2007), many are still approaching work with attitudes suited for a full-employment economy."

It appears that recent grad like this are optimistic that something better will come along and, in the meantime, are moving back home.

If this is true, was college worth it for people like this? Would it have been more worthy for students who, after earning their degree and being unable to immediately (if at all) find a job in their field, would have taken any job, not seeing it as beneath them and not matching "their self-assessed market value"?


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