Student Debt

UCLAWhen I went to college I relied on the Federal government to cover a sizable (for that time) loan and after graduating and going to graduate school, I eventually had to pay off a few thousand at 3 percent ($52 a quarter for 10 years). But I went to the University of California, starting in the good old days, but the Reagan darkness had descended before I graduated.

Now I have a daughter who went to a small private college and only ran up about twenty thousand in loans because she was a smart kid, a desirable student, and quite industrious. I paid off those loans for her since I felt a college education was my obligation to my child, but she was forced to take out many additional loans through graduate school so she has a healthy amount of debt (but still manageable). This is not so true for her husband who put himself through law school living almost exclusively on student loans. True, it looks like he will have a successful and profitable career in law and be able to pay off the loans but he may not be typical and another law school graduate might be chased by the loans for the rest of his or her life.

On this subject, John Oliver has a few words, especially when considering for-profit education:

If you haven’t been watching John Oliver on HBO, his thirty minutes on television is becoming America’s ombudsman, perhaps like Keith Obermann or Rachel Madow, but he does it with the funniest outrage I have seen in years.  I wouldn’t miss his show on Sunday nights and often watch it in repeats during the week, but the most telling thing about the popularity and import of John Oliver is that the video of his weekly rant is generally referenced or embedded in so many other sites (in clouding here) around the internet, sites that are not associated with HBO.

Keep up the important work, John.

5 thoughts on “Student Debt

  1. This really can’t be talked about enough (and kudos to John Oliver for making me smile about something that generally makes me want to tear my hair out). My own student debt is a source of constant anxiety for me, and I’ve actually gotten off much easier than most of the people I know; I didn’t have to take out loans as an undergrad, and had both a fellowship and partial scholarship as a graduate student. Even with all that, though, my debt is still close to exceeding (and possibly does exceed) the amount I’m supposed to have limited myself to, based on what my yearly income is likely to be–and that’s assuming I ever actually find a full-time position. I suppose a lot of people would take this as a sign I should have studied something more lucrative in college/grad school, but I’m not at the point where I’m willing to treat higher education as vocational school.


    1. I was an English major but found work in the business world which allowed me to pay off my loans, enjoy a pretty good career, and retire in some comfort. Then my daughter went to college and I suppose I influenced her a lot because she went to a liberal arts college and then on to get her PhD in Comparative Literature. But she’s lucky and has a tenure tract position on the faculty of a major university.

      I know what you mean about choosing an education path that will earn you the big bucks … but I abhor the thought of higher education having turned into an expensive trade school. When I was at the UC they told us we were there to gain wisdom and if we just wanted to learn a career, there were the state colleges for that.

      The problem with the current view of education is that it makes lucrative careers useless by unevenly flooding the market. When I was going for my PhD, they told me it would keep me warm and well-feed for my entire life. Now look at what fifteen cents and a PhD in Literature will buy you.

      The irony in all this is that John Oliver focused much of his rant on For-Profit schools which are not terribly academic and are slanted towards careers that attract students … and the students still get screwed!

      I am predicting that poetry is going to make a strong come-back and the ability to rhyme and use figurative language will be the next critical path in higher education.


      1. I certainly hope you’re right; I tell myself that the pendulum has to swing back in the other direction eventually, but it’s disheartening that, at the moment, relatively few people seem to appreciate education for its own sake. And one of the most frustrating things about the entire situation–for me, at least–is that it’s forced me to think of my own education in terms I never thought I would–as a means to an end. I desperately want to go back for a doctorate, and I may end up doing so in a few years, but right now, it just doesn’t seem feasible given the lack of academic jobs and the fact that my debt will just continue to pile up every year I’m in school.


    1. Really? The embed code is restricted? But you can get to YouTube, right? It’s there under John Oliver or such … as are some other Oliver videos that are good to watch. Unless YouTube is itself restricted.

      Of course the question is how relevant these problems and inequities are in the UK as compared to the US … but I’m thinking that GREED (which is often the real impetus for any rant) is pretty universal and the problems in the USA can be translated into problems all around the world.

      And thank you all in the UK for sending us John Oliver … he is a treasure.


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