Category Archives: commentary

Because Freedom

Because Freedom

man walks along a dirt road and enjoy the freedom.

Today, in honor of Independence Day, we’re going to have a change of pace from the usual tactical level, immediately applicable financial tip. Instead let’s get philosophical and explore the situation in front of us from a more strategic vantage point. Let’s talk about something you need to understand as you make life choices of all stripes. Let’s talk about valuing your freedom.

Recently I ran across an article/photo essay on the UK’s Daily Mail website which provided a glimpse into a handful of “Peter Pan generation Lost Boys” as captured by the lens of one Liz Calvi of West Hartford Connecticut. The content completely captured my attention, and my ire, not so much for the photographs but for the language used to explain why these young men had all dropped out of college and moved back in with mom and dad. And I quote (emphases mine):

  • They “were forced to move back in with their parents, unable to get a job…”
  • “You’re almost in this trap, where you have to go to college to get a job…” (but college is untenable due to the costs)
  • “But college costs so much money, so sometimes you have to go back home to live with your parents.”

I reacted so viscerally to these statements, and to the representative photographs, because I don’t find this line of thought uncommon at all among the lost boys I encounter with regularity. In writing the following I do not specifically pick on any of the men in depicted in the article. I speak to every young person when I seek to clear something up once and for all with another quote, this one from my mother:

“Nobody’s making you do anything.”  


Continue reading Because Freedom

Let’s Not Assume

Let’s Not Assume

One’s an incident, two’s a coincidence, three’s a theme. And do I ever smell a theme. Just last week as I combed through my Google Alerts newsfeeds I read:

“A college degree is the gateway to success in today’s economy.” (source)

“A college degree is the only sure path to middle-class security…” (source)

“The biggest absurdity is that a four-year college degree has become the only gateway into the American middle class.” (source)

“… higher education is, more than ever, the surest ticket to the middle class.” (source)

If any of the above holds true, then it only makes sense that tuition soars and we, as individuals and as a body politic, promote a college-or-bust mentality. But keep in mind that any time we assume, in the immortal words of Felix Unger, we risk making “an ass out of u and me.”


Continue reading Let’s Not Assume

Chart: More Aid = More Pain

Chart: More Aid = More Pain

Student Financial Aid

 

This chart comes from a recent staff report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which took 51 pages of dense economic jargon and methodological explanations to tell us what many of us commentators already knew. A big reason, if not the main reason, for the rapid rise in college tuitions over the past few decades has been the steady increase of Federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans. After all, we cannot attribute the cost increases, which would naturally go down in the face of lower demand, to rising wages or increased savings rates among Americans.

No, it seems that the main source of the pain of tuition increases has to do with the government’s number one solution to it.  Continue reading Chart: More Aid = More Pain

Faces of Devastation: Hurt and Hope Beyond the Statistics

Faces of Devastation: Hurt and Hope Beyond the Statistics

 Prisoner

In researching items related to achieving an affordable education one runs across tons of numbers and charts related to the experience. The statistics associated with tuition rises, early dropout rates, graduate debt loads, and unemployment raise awareness that we have a problem.

But the tragedy of it all really hits home when we encounter the people behind the numbers. While we can get a general sense of the  financial struggles faced by students as a group through raw information, behind every number there’s a face. The college unaffordability epidemic has names. Their stories break my heart.

The bad news is that we have so many chewed up and despondent lives to show for the experience. The good news is that the problem can be resolved at the individual level, time and time again, by folks like you and me. Continue reading Faces of Devastation: Hurt and Hope Beyond the Statistics