“Free Education” is not the answer

Have you seen this video yet?

To sum it up, this group has three demands: free public school tuition, student loan forgiveness, and $15 and hour minimum wage on campus.

Though I’m not a fan of Fox news, this guy is spot on. Who the heck is going to pay for all of that? Why is it someone else’s responsibility? I understand this girl’s frustration with the cost of education–probably more than she does since I’m actually in the process of paying off my loans. I absolutely believe in helping others and asking for help when it is needed, but not as a permanent solution or as a way for me to not have to work for my success. There are a ton of things in the educational system that need help, but I do not think those demands will fix this. I do have a few ideas that I think could help some higher education problems.

Career preparation in High School

This should have an equal emphasis, if not more, than college preparation in high school. There are thousands of college grads who were “college ready” and STILL not career ready, but now they have a hefty amount of student loans. I loved my school counselors and do remember some career things discussed, but it’s simply not enough. Our country needs to get away from the “bachelor’s is best” mentality and start thinking “being able to provide is best.” The scary thing is that now things are getting even crazier with that mentality. Now you need at least a Master’s to stand out from the sea of bachelor’s degrees. In ten years will everyone need a Doctorate in order to get a $12/hour entry-level job? Because I have seen many job postings that require a Master’s degree and still only pay $12-15/hr. It’s not even enough to pay for the undergrad student loans, much less the graduate degree that they had to get to be hired anywhere. Ridiculous.

People need to see the value in technical programs from an earlier age. Help them gain skills that will get them decent paying jobs! If later on they want more education, then they have a way to help pay for school instead of relying on student loans. Of course there will be plenty of students who don’t want to go this route and want the traditional degree–and that is fine. But we have to quit telling teenagers that the only way for them to get ahead in life is to get into a load of debt. Especially when these kids aren’t even done developing yet. The life I wanted at 17 is not the life I have now or the life I would even want. When we saddle our country’s youth with massive debt before they even understand what they want, we make it a lot harder for them to get the life they want when they finally figure it out. We didn’t like that happening to us, why are we continuing to do it to the next generations?

Forgot that job skills part

Forgot that job skills part

Be smart with your degree choice

Whether you do a technical program or the traditional route–be smart with your degree. I love to learn and could spend semesters studying liberal arts. I did, actually. There was a plan for it though! After that plan changed I kicked myself for not choosing a better degree. There is a place for them in our society, but liberal arts should not be some of the most common degrees in higher education. If you’re not sure what you want to do with your life and want to study something fun, I get it, but be cautious. If you stick with a liberal arts degree, make sure you take some business classes so that you can get a job if your plans change or you realize your degree is not in demand. I know some very wealthy people with liberal arts degrees. They didn’t get rich because of their foreign language degrees. Remember that your education is an investment in your life, but employers are investing too and some degrees leave a very small window of opportunity.

Too true

Too true

Go to a cheaper school!

That video showed the demonstration at Brooklyn College, so I looked up the tuition there. Honestly, it’s not that bad. If a student got their degree in 8 semesters it would be about $26k in tuition. ASU’s is somewhere around $38k (but they constantly hike up their tuition so that’s probably higher). If you are looking for cheaper tuition, nobody is making you attend that school. Go to a community college first, there’s no shame in that. If you’re in a location where there’s not many options, then move. My husband and I just moved across the country where we know nobody because his program was almost $17k cheaper here than where we were. Yes, it was hard to leave family and yes I have cried because I miss them, but 17 thousand dollars is a big deal. There are likely cheaper schools with your program if you look and are willing to sacrifice. I agree that the costs of tuition are pretty outrageous now and things need to change. I didn’t even go to ASU, but I have family and friends that do/did and it makes me mad every time I hear about it. These changes won’t happen overnight, though, so you need to look at all your options.

Be smart with your financial assistance

I believe in student loans. They are frequently a necessity and allow millions of people to progress in their education and careers. I don’t believe in getting in over your head. If being an academic counselor taught me anything, it’s this: you don’t get student loans to fund your lifestyle. Student loans are for tuition, books, and other costs associated with you being a student. They’re not for a shopping spree (yes, I did have a roommate do that), they’re not to fund your DJ career (yes, I had a student tell me he was doing that), and they’re not to pay off your credit cards because it has lower interest rates (yeah…people do really dumb things).

student loans

Figure out a budget before the school year. Look at every possible way to pay for school before your loans. Apply for scholarships, there are loads of them out there. Even if it’s only for a couple hundred bucks, that’s a couple hundred bucks less earning interest and turning into much more. When/if you take out loans, you don’t have to take out the maximum amount every semester. Do you remember that there’s an aggregate loan limit before the government won’t give you any more? If you squander that limit before you’re done with school, you may then have to take out private loans. If you think the government’s terms are harsh, just wait until you borrow from a bank.

Be smart with your money. Make it work for you, or it’ll end up owning you. {insert scary menacing voice}

Get a job and quit complaining

Do you know who had $15 an hour jobs on campus? The kids in the IT programs who actually had skills that were in demand. I’m not apologetic whatsoever when I say your secretary job on campus doesn’t deserve $15. I was able to do homework at mine, got to schmooze around with campus guests, and guys asked me on dates. I was ecstatic to be paid $9 to do that! I was a good employee, but I didn’t do anything that merited that much money. Neither do the bookstore workers, cafeteria workers, TA’s, custodians, and most other employees. Though I do think anyone who cleans a toilet should be paid well because people are disgusting. Give me a break though, most campus jobs are fun and you’re really not working that hard. Especially when half the full-time jobs I see posted make $12/hr., I don’t want to hear a 20-year-old whine about not being paid what they’re worth. You’re not supposed to be rich as a student–learn how to budget and enjoy being poor for a few years. It’ll be good for you and help with that entitlement issue that’s so prevalent today too.

entitlement

You said it, Buzz

Everyone has different circumstances and the government does need to make changes with many policies, but I think these points will help so many people. It’s not anything fancy or even new. Essentially, we need to be informed and be responsible with our money. If we’re smarter with our money and making informed choices, the colleges that are gouging students for money will start to see a decrease in their enrollment and take notice. Wouldn’t it be great if the government started freaking out because students were taking out less loans and they had budget their (our) money better too? What a nice image. We’re not going to change things by demanding a free pass. We’ll change things as we take responsibility, make smarter decisions for our lives and help the younger population do the same.

 

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