Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Big government spending is suffocating the next generation with debt

Youth unemployment by ethnicity (5/13)

Youth unemployment by ethnicity (5/13)

Libertarian economist Veronique de Rugy writes about it in Reason magazine.

Excerpt:

A word of caution for kids heading off to college this year: Your degree may be worth less and cost more than you think. Your job prospects will likely be grim, whether or not you get that sheepskin. Oh, and you’re on the hook for trillions in federal debt racked up by your parents and grandparents.

Washington has willfully ignored the looming crisis of entitlement spending, knowingly consigning young Americans to a future of crushing debt, persistent underemployment, and burdensome regulation. Politicians on both sides of the aisle share the blame.

This summer, Congress made a big bipartisan show of cutting student loan rates to 3.4 percent from an already artificially low 6.8 percent. But even that seemingly helpful gesture will wind up hurting the Americans it claims to help. Federal student aid, whether in the form of grants or loans, is the main factor behind the runaway cost of higher education. Subsidies raise prices, leading to higher subsidies, which raise prices even more. This higher education bubble, like the housing bubble before it, will eventually pop. Meanwhile, large numbers of students will graduate with more debt than they would have in an unsubsidized market.

And when those new, debt-laden graduates head out into the labor market with their overpriced diplomas, they may not be able to find a job. According to data provided to me by my Mercatus Center colleague, former Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) commissioner Keith Hall, fewer than half of Americans today between the ages of 18 and 25 are employed. For those in that cohort actively on the job market, the unemployment rate is 16 percent, versus 6 percent for job-seekers aged 25 and above.

These young folks are also more likely to be long-term unemployed: While accounting for just 14 percent of the labor force, they make up 19 percent of the long-term unemployed, defined by the BLS as 27 weeks or longer.

The lucky few young’uns with jobs of some kind also suffer from rampant underemployment. In a recent blog post, Diana Carew of the Progressive Policy Institute wrote: “In July 2013, just 36 percent of Americans age 16-24 not enrolled in school worked full-time, 10 percent less than in July 2007.” In other words, of these 17 million young Americans, 5.6 million were working part-time, 3.2 million were unemployed, and 8.4 million were out of the labor force altogether.

I really recommend you read the rest of the article, especially if you aren’t following what Obama’s policies are doing to our economy. Special attention is given to the effects of Obamacare on job creation.

Just as a community service, I want to post for you young people (and your parents) a list of the majors that lead to higher paying jobs:

Top 10 highest-paid college majors

  1. Petroleum Engineering: $120,000
  2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: $105,000
  3. Mathematics and Computer Science: $98,000
  4. Aerospace Engineering: $87,000
  5. Chemical Engineering: $86,000
  6. Electrical Engineering: $85,000
  7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: $82,000
  8. Mechanical Engineering: $80,000
  9. Metallurgical Engineering: $80,000
  10.  Mining and Mineral Engineering: $80,000

And here are some majors that you should avoid at all costs:

  1. Counseling Psychology: $29,000
  2. Early Childhood Education: $36,000
  3. Theology and Religious Vocations: $38,000
  4. Human Services and Community Organization: $38,000
  5. Social Work: $39,000
  6. Drama and Theater Arts: $40,000
  7. Studio Arts: $40,000
  8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Service: $40,000
  9. Visual and Performing Arts: $40,000
  10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: $40,000

So young people need to be careful what they study in order to get a job that will allow them to pay off all the government debts that their teachers were busy running up. Their teachers taught them that government spending was good, but their teachers aren’t going to be paying for the government spending. They are the beneficiaries of the increased government spending. The pupils are the ones who will have to work to pay for the spending on the social programs enjoyed by their teachers.

It’s very important for young Christians to understand that degrees are getting more expensive, and it’s important to choose a field that is going to produce a return on your investment. Not only do STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees get you a job that pays, but it has other benefits. For example STEM degrees grind out every last bit of impracticality and entitlement-feeling out of you – because in a STEM program, no one cares about your “specialness”. You solve problems or you fail the class. It’s not a situation where you can just repeat what the professor says in order to get good grades, as is often (but not always) the case in the humanities. 

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

What factors are contributing to the higher education bubble?

This article from the Wall Street Journal was discussed at length by Dennis Prager on his radio show yesterday.

Excerpt:

College costs have continued to explode despite 50 years of ostensibly benevolent government interventions, according to Mr. Vedder, and the president’s new plan could exacerbate the trend. By Mr. Vedder’s lights, the cost conundrum started with the Higher Education Act of 1965, a Great Society program that created federal scholarships and low-interest loans aimed at making college more accessible.

In 1964, federal student aid was a mere $231 million. By 1981, the feds were spending $7 billion on loans alone, an amount that doubled during the 1980s and nearly tripled in each of the following two decades, and is about $105 billion today. Taxpayers now stand behind nearly $1 trillion in student loans.

Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed’s evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.

This growth in subsidies, Mr. Vedder argues, has fueled rising prices: “It gives every incentive and every opportunity for colleges to raise their fees.”

Many colleges, he notes, are using federal largess to finance Hilton-like dorms and Club Med amenities. Stanford offers more classes in yoga than Shakespeare. A warning to parents whose kids sign up for “Core Training”: The course isn’t a rigorous study of the classics, but rather involves rigorous exercise to strengthen the glutes and abs.

Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.

[...]Some college officials are also compensated more handsomely than CEOs. Since 2000, New York University has provided $90 million in loans, many of them zero-interest and forgivable, to administrators and faculty to buy houses and summer homes on Fire Island and the Hamptons.

Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee (who resigned in June after making defamatory remarks about Catholics) earned nearly $2 million in compensation last year while living in a 9,630 square-foot Tudor mansion on a 1.3-acre estate. The Columbus Camelot includes $673,000 in art decor and a $532 shower curtain in a guest bathroom. Ohio State also paid roughly $23,000 per month for Mr. Gee’s soirees and half a million for him to travel the country on a private jet.

[...]Colleges have also used the gusher of taxpayer dollars to hire more administrators to manage their bloated bureaucracies and proliferating multicultural programs. The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president’s office.

“Every college today practically has a secretary of state, a vice provost for international studies, a zillion public relations specialists,” Mr. Vedder says. “My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally. . . . Why? What’s bad about tomatoes from Pennsylvania as opposed to Ohio?”

[...]Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven’t done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder. They also haven’t much improved student outcomes or graduation rates, which are around 55% at most universities (over six years).

[...]“Thirty-percent of the adult population has college degrees,” he notes. “The Department of Labor tells us that only 20% or so of jobs require college degrees. We have 115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor’s degrees or more. Why are we encouraging more kids to go to college?”

Mr. Vedder sees similarities between the government’s higher education and housing policies, which created a bubble and precipitated the last financial crisis. “In housing, we had artificially low interest rates. The government encouraged people with low qualifications to buy a house. Today, we have low interest rates on student loans. The government is encouraging kids to go to school who are unqualified just as it encouraged people to buy a home who are unqualified.”

The higher-ed bubble, he says, is “already in the process of bursting,” which is reflected by all of the “unemployed or underemployed college graduates with big debts.” The average student loan debt is $26,000, but many graduates, especially those with professional degrees, have six-figure balances.

Mr. Obama wants to help more students discharge their debts by capping their monthly payments at 10% of their discretionary income and forgiving their outstanding balances after 20 years. Grads who take jobs in government or at nonprofits already can discharge their debt after a decade.

“Somehow working for the private sector is bad and working for the public sector is good? I don’t see on what basis one would make that conclusion,” Mr. Vedder says. “If I had to make some judgment, I would do just the opposite.”

He adds that the president’s approach “creates a moral hazard problem. What it signals to current and future loan borrowers is that I don’t have to take these repayment of loans very seriously. . . . I don’t have to worry too much about getting a high-paying job.” It encourages “sociology and anthropology majors compared with math and engineering majors.”

The most trouble thing for me is that we are taxing money away from current earners, and borrowing money from future earners, in order to subsidize many, many degrees that will never pay back the initial investment we are making to send them to college. The more that government jumps in to pay people to do useless degrees and then doesn’t get the money back, the more students are going choose useless degrees. Other countries like New Zealand and Canada have major problems right now because these loans are not being paid back. That’s what happens when government takes over student loan administration – they aren’t as concerned about being paid back.

What’s also troubling to me is that people who choose not to go to college but instead to go to trade school or start their own businesses are subsidizing the worthless degrees that so many people choose to pursue today. Why would the government waste taxpayer money on these worthless degrees? Well, because college is four years of liberal indoctrination. Students are so stupid that they will actually accept the propaganda pushed by professors as if it were true, even though these professors often have no experience in the private sector themselves. And these students will have the illusion of being educated as they vote for the secular left come election time. They don’t even realize that they are voting to harm their prospective employers and increase the national debt which they will have to pay back. When I try to talk to them about it, they seem to fall back on name-calling instead of making any kind of factual case. This seems to be the result of college as well. They’ve learned to demonize their opponents rather than debate them with evidence.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

How can you convince a high school student to study something useful?

You can give them this book by Captain Capitalism.

Excerpt:

Graduation is coming up.  Lots of little kinder will be graduating and off to bigger and better things.  Matter of fact many of you probably have little kinder graduating or even nieces, nephews or neighborhood kids you’ve seen grow up over the years.  Regardless, the question is what do you get them for a graduation gift?  Very simple.  “Worthless.”

My regular readers already know what Worthless is about, but for those of you unfamiliar with the book it is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK high school and college-age kids can read.  It IS the perfect graduation gift and I do not say that out of hyperbole or salesmanship. I say it because I believe it’s true.  “Worthless” is the perfect graduation gift.

The reason why is very simple.  Millions of kids make a huge and life-destroying decision every year – they major in a worthless subject.  Take your emotions or feelings out of it.  In today’s economy, we really cannot afford the luxury of sparing their feelings and lying to them, saying,

“Hey kid, follow your heart and the money will follow.  You’re going to be a great French Art History major!”

as we nervously put on a fake smile hiding our concern.

The amount of money they (or you) are going to spend on tuition, not to mention the sheer volume of their youth they will spend pursuing a degree, can NOT be wasted simply because nobody had the courage to tell the kids the truth about economics and the realities of the labor market.

But you don’t have to.  The book will do it for it you.

“Worthless” explains first and foremost to the reader that the reason somebody got them this book is because that person really cares about them.  And while it may not be what they want to hear, they will end up appreciating it in the future.  “Worthless” also goes into detail and explains in clear, understandable language the economics behind the labor market, showing the reader how and why some degrees are worthwhile and others are literally worthless.

The book is $13 in paperback and only $5 on Kindle.  A miniscule fraction of the tuition and time costs of earning a four year degree.  Because of its potential to prevent kids from making a VERY costly mistake, the cheap price practically compels you to at least consider it.

So do a graduate you care about a huge favor.  Buy them “Worthless” for a graduation gift.  And if you’re so kind, do me a favor and simply spread the word by sending people this post.

You do not want to have someone you love go off to college and study things that don’t lead to a job. You especially don’t want them to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in student loans only to be unemployed after graduating.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

Is it “brilliant” to accumulate $185,000 of debt studying the humanities?

From the Des Moines Register, an article by Ms. Rehha Basu.

Excerpt:

Sixteen years ago, Patricia (P.J.) Johnston of Des Moines made the front page of this paper for collecting her diploma from Drake University at just 19. “Johnston was reading books on French existentialism while others her age were still buying comic books,” wrote reporter Tom Alex of the young woman who majored in religion and philosophy, dabbled in music and astronomy and found time to take part in online discussions on the Bible.

“I think I’m probably meant to be an academic,” Johnston was quoted as saying. And she has been, getting a master’s in one institution, going to seminary at another, doing field research in India in her area of interest — Indian Catholicism — and currently working toward a Ph.D in religious studies at the University of Iowa.

President Barack Obama came through Johnston’s university on Wednesday, where he said there is no greater predictor of success than a good education. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said. “That’s part of what made us special. … That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.”

He talked about the untenable debt that’s limiting options for today’s college-goers — $25,000 on average — because tuition and fees have more than doubled since they were born.

Johnston didn’t get to hear him since she was teaching a class on Buddhism. But she knows a lot about educational debt. She has $185,000 in student loans to repay.

As it is, she sleeps on her office floor on the days she has to be in Iowa City, riding the Greyhound bus in from Des Moines. She helps support her mother with the approximately $16,000 she earns as a teaching assistant. But she is in danger of dropping out before getting her doctorate because she has hit her limit on loans, and most likely won’t be able to get a teaching assistant position next year because of cuts in undergraduate programs.

If that happens, she wrote me, she would be this far along, “facing the job market in my mid-30s with no marketable job skills of any kind.”

Johnston grew up on welfare and other forms of public assistance. Her divorced mother was unable to hold down a job for reasons that were never diagnosed. Johnston got through college with scholarships, grants, some help from her late grandmother, and only $18,000 in debt.

Student loans should not be connected to the government as they are now – they should be privatized. That way, taxpayers are not stuck with the bill if the person cannot make a career out of what they are studing. What is this person doing going abroad in India? What is she doing riding on Grayhounds? It makes no sense. If she had to go to a for-profit bank, then she would never get a student loan, because they know they would never get the money back. We have to have a system where people pay their own way, so that they can’t take risks with anyone else’s money but their own (or their loan guarantor’s). No taxpayer money should be available to them, and no taxpayer money should be given to subsidize universities, either – it just raises the cost of tuition. Once the number of students applying to the humanities is reduced because no loans are available, then tuition will come down for those who really intend to make a go of it.

I think a lot of the problem here comes from growing up without a father. Fathers teach their children to be practical because they worry more than mothers about the children not being able to be independent and fend for themselves.

UPDATE: The Captain comments on this story here.

UPDATE: This is from the woman’s Facebook page:

I have never asked anybody to pay my student loan debt for me, and I will pay it down someday, even if I have to eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life. I was willing to undertake my studies at any cost and at any degree of personal risk because I believe in God and I am convinced that I am doing what God is calling me to do. If you read the New Testament, you will find a great deal about how people are called to give up everything they own – houses and wealth and family and respectibility and everything else – to do whatever it is that God calls them to do. I am not brave and no longer optimistic, but I have tried to take God at his word.

I am not financing education entirely through student loan debt. I held work study jobs as an undergraduate, and have usually held some kind of on-campus employment. I have been a TA for the university for the last seven years. The fact is, government support of higher education is down and the cost of tuition has outpaced salaries to such a great degree in this country that virtually nobody is able to afford an education on their own wages without taking on a substantial burden of student loan debt. The vast majority of the anecdotes to the contrary concern degrees earned twenty or thirty years ago, before major structural changes in the financing of higher education – in the post-war years, government funding allowed the vast majority of expense for education to be met through Pell grants and scholarships, making it possible for many people to work themselves through school. That hasn’t been possible for most people in most degree programs for at least thirty years, and these nostalgic memories of an entirely different time and set of circumstances are not doing the debate on higher education financing in this country any good at all.

I am not a “professional student” nor am I taking an especially long time to pursue my degree – this is simply how long humanities education takes. http://chronicle.com/article/In-Humanities-10-Years-May/16231

If you only see value in STEM disciplines, I probably will not convince you that humanities education is valuable. There used to be a sense in this country that certain things had value and meaning in their own right, not simply because they produced nice technological gadgets or made bundles of money for businesses. Even conservatives such as Allan Bloom used to realize that it impoverishes us spiritually when we turn away from the humanities, the cultural legacy of Western society. Would that their political descendants had as much grace or wisdom.

She’s not being forced into this course of action. She’s choosing it deliberately, and she wants other people to pay to make her impractical flight from reality financially sound.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

English professor decries the radicalization of the liberal arts on campus

From Pajamas Media, a post by a Canadian English professor at the University of Ottawa.

Excerpt:

When I finally landed a tenure-track position at a Canadian university, I was ecstatic and full of hope — exhilarated by the opportunity to teach students about literature and ideas and to have conversations with colleagues equally in love with literature and ideas. I didn’t realize that my experience as a university teacher of English would have much less to do with these passions than with the distortion of the university’s core mission in the name of pedagogical and political orthodoxy.

To begin with, the student writing that came across my desk left me aghast. I had taught before, but I was unprepared for the level of illiteracy, the stunted vocabularies, near-complete absence of historical knowledge, and above all the extraordinary apathy of many English majors. The most basic of expression rules — the difference between it’s and its, the incorrectness of “would of” for “would have,” the role of the apostrophe or semi-colon, the fact that “a lot” was two words — were beyond the grasp of the majority, no matter how often I reviewed grammar or devised mnemonic devices. And the sheer sloppiness and muddled thinking in the essays, where the titles of poems and authors’ names were frequently misspelled and dates were wildly inaccurate, suggested a fundamental indifference to the subject matter.

Not only was my students’ writing appalling, but I soon encountered their resentment at being told about it. “Who are you to tell me I can’t write?” was the attitude — once expressed in those very words. More than one student insisted that her other teachers had always rewarded her with high marks for her “creativity.” Most believed themselves more than competent. After sitting with one young woman explaining the cause of her failing grade, I was befuddled when her only response was a sullen: “This doesn’t exactly make me feel good.” When I responded that my job was not to make her feel good, she stood haughtily, picked up her paper with an air of injury, and left my office without another word. In her mind, I later realized, I had been unforgivably cruel.

I was up against it: the attitude of entitlement rampant amongst university students and nurtured by the utopian ideology that permeates modern pedagogy, in which the imposition of rules and identification of errors are thought to limit student creativity and the fostering of a hollow self-esteem takes precedence over the building of skills on which genuine self-respect might be established. In the Humanities subjects in particular — and in English especially, the discipline I know best — such a philosophy has led to a perilous watering down of course content, with self-validation seen as more important than the mastery of specific knowledge.

With this philosophy has come a steady grade inflation. The majority of students in English courses today can expect a B grade or higher merely for warming a seat and handing in assignments on time. The result, as I soon discovered, was a generation of students so accustomed to being praised for their work that when I told them it was inadequate, they simply could not or would not believe me. They seemed very nearly unteachable: lacking not only the essential skills but also the personal gumption to respond adequately to criticism.

I wonder what will happen when these students find out that the jobs they feel they are entitled to have have been shipped off to some country where young people don’t have all of this attitude, and where business owners pay a corporate tax rate less than half of what American businesses pay. My guess is that they will blame the very capitalists who warned them not to do what they did.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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