Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Young Texan earns $140,000 a year, with a two-year degree and hard work

I love this story from the Wall Street Journal. I’m linking to the free version on Yahoo News, though!

Excerpt:

Justin Friend ’s parents have doctoral degrees and have worked as university lecturers and researchers. So Mr. Friend might have been expected to head for a university after graduating from high school in Bryan, Texas, five years ago.

Instead, he attended Texas State Technical College in Waco, and received a two-year degree in welding. In 2013, his first full year as a welder, his income was about $130,000, more than triple the average annual wages for welders in the U.S. In 2014, Mr. Friend’s income rose to about $140,000.

[…]The risks of a mismatch between costly university degrees and job opportunities have become clearer in recent years. Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, said nearly a third of people aged 22 through 26 with a Bachelor of Arts degree either don’t have a job or are working at one that doesn’t require a university degree. The numbers are similar for young people with vocational degrees, but those lower-cost degrees don’t typically lead to heavy debts.

Student loan debt outstanding in the U.S. totaled $1.13 trillion as of Sept. 30, up by $100 billion from a year earlier, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (Mr. Friend has no debts.)

[…]Mr. Friend, who is single, typically works 72 hours a week, usually including at least one day of the weekend, often on an overnight shift. His base pay is more than $25 an hour, up from about $22 when he started in 2012. He gets overtime after 40 hours a week. Pay is doubled on Sundays and tripled on holidays. He receives health insurance, a 401k retirement plan and paid vacation.

With little free time, expenses are low. He rents a one-bedroom apartment for $1,080 a month in a building with a pool and gym. To stay in shape for mountain-climbing trips, he sometimes runs up and down steps wearing a weighted backpack.

He showed an early inclination to make things. “At three years old, he was using a screwdriver and a hacksaw skillfully,” said Dr. Vaughan, his mother. Later, dyslexia made writing and math a struggle for him.

In junior high school, he took a course in welding. Within a few years, he was earning money repairing fences and doing other welding jobs for neighbors.

A documentary on World War II stirred Mr. Friend’s interest in pulse jet engines, which were used by Germany to propel bombs. He and his father, Ted Friend, a professor of animal science at Texas A&M, together built such an engine. “We used a leaf blower to start it,” pumping in air needed to ignite the engine, the younger Mr. Friend said. “It ran on propane.” When he attached the engine to a golf cart, he said, the vehicle proved difficult to steer after reaching 30 miles an hour.

“Mom didn’t like it,” he said. “She thought I was going to blow myself up.” One of his goals is to put a jet engine on a motorcycle, he says, adding: “I’d try to make it as safe as I could.”

On a recent day, while country music played on a colleague’s radio, Mr. Friend used gas tungsten arc welding techniques to attach two steel parts destined for an oil apparatus. Wearing a T-shirt and Wrangler jeans, he hunched over work requiring the precision of a jewelry maker. After welding, he buffed the part with a wire brush. Colleagues would later X-ray the part to make sure the weld was flawless.

The long hours mean “it’s hard to have a life,” Mr. Friend said. Eventually, he said he may pursue an advanced degree in metallurgy and research welding materials and techniques. For now, he’s building up his savings.

He’s debt-free, and probably didn’t even need student loans for this program. You couldn’t say that about most college students these days – and the ones in non-STEM fields will never be able to pay their loans back. What causes people to go into programs that don’t produce a return on investment? I think I know why. I think that many Americans have the idea that life should be about personal fulfillment, and not about doing things that don’t feel right to them. Hard work doesn’t “feel” right to many young Americans. They want work to make them famous, and to make them happy. Well, work isn’t supposed to be like that. Work is about making money, and very often the most difficult degrees and jobs are the least fame-making, and the least happiness-inducing. This guy is a welder! It’s not glamorous.

I would advise my younger readers, especially my male readers, to take a page out of this welder’s handbook. Make a plan to avoid debt, and stick to it.

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

Millenials voted for Obama and now they’ll have to live with less than their parents

Moderate conservative George Will writes about in Investors Business Daily. This is a good review of what’s happening in the economy.

Excerpt:

The reason why unemployment fell by four-tenths of a point (to 6.3%) in April while growth stalled is that 806,000 people left the labor force.

The labor-force participation rate fell by four-tenths of a point to a level reached in 1978, which was during the Carter-era stagflation and early in the surge of women into the workforce.

There are about 14.5 million more Americans than before the recession but nearly 300,000 fewer jobs, and household income remains below the pre-recession peak.

[…]The more than $1.1 trillion of student loan debt — the fastest-growing debt category, larger than credit-card or auto-loan debt — is restraining consumption, as is the retirement of baby boomers. In 2012, more than 70% of college graduates had student loan debts averaging about $30,000.

This commencement season’s diploma recipients enter an economy where more than 40% of recent graduates are either unemployed or in jobs that do not require a college degree. This is understandable, given that 44% of the job growth since the recession ended has been in food services, retail clerking or other low-wage jobs.

In April, the number of persons under 25 in the workforce declined by 484,000. Unsurprisingly, almost one in three (31%) persons 18 to 34 are living with their parents, including 25% who have jobs.

[…]There is, however, something new under the sun. The Pew Research Center reports that Americans 25 to 32 — “millennials” — constitute the first age cohort since World War II with higher unemployment or a greater portion living in poverty than their parents at this age.

Now it’s not just that the young people are having trouble paying off their loans and leaving the nest, it’s that they also are going to inherit a debit that has more than doubled since they elected Obama the first time. This is serious, now. If you are a young person, you’d better have a plan to be borrowing as little as possible, working as much as possible, saving as much as possible, and studying only what can get you a job. Things have changed since the time of your parents. You will have to work harder to achieve less. You voted for it.

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

College of the Ozarks offers students tuition-free degrees – if they work part-time

This article from the Wall Street Journal has been the #1 editorial for much of the last four days.

Excerpt:

Looking for the biggest bargain in higher education? I think I found it in this rural Missouri town, 40 miles south of Springfield, nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The school is College of the Ozarks, and it operates on an education model that could overturn the perverse method of financing college education that is turning this generation of young adults into a permanent debtor class.

At this college the tuition is nowhere near the $150,000 to $200,000 for a four-year degree that the elite top-tier universities are charging. At College of the Ozarks, tuition is free. That’s right. The school’s nearly 1,400 students don’t pay a dime in tuition during their time there.

So what’s the catch? All the college’s students—without exception—pay for their education by working 15 hours a week on campus. The jobs are plentiful because this school—just a few miles from Branson, a popular tourist destination—operates its own mill, a power plant, fire station, four-star restaurant and lodge, museum and dairy farm.

Some students from low-income homes also spend 12 weeks of summer on campus working to cover their room and board. Part of the students’ grade point average is determined by how they do on the job and those who shirk their work duties are tossed out. The jobs range from campus security to cooking and cleaning hotel rooms, tending the hundreds of cattle, building new dorms and buildings, to operating the power plant.

[…]”We don’t do debt here,” [School President Jerry C.] Davis says. “The kids graduate debt free and the school is debt free too.” Operating expenses are paid out of a $400 million endowment. Seeing the success of College of the Ozarks, one wonders why presidents of schools with far bigger endowments don’t use them to make their colleges more affordable. This is one of the great derelictions of duty of college trustees as they allow universities to become massive storehouses of wealth as tuitions rise year after year.

In an era when patriotism on progressive college campuses is uncool or even denigrated as endorsing American imperialism, College of the Ozarks actually offers what it calls a “patriotic education.” “There’s value in teaching kids about the sacrifices previous generations have made,” Mr. Davis says. “Kids should know there are things worth fighting for.”

He says a dozen or so students will be taking a pilgrimage to Normandy in June to commemorate the 70-year anniversary of D-Day and the former College of the Ozarks students buried there. Amazingly, four of the school’s graduates served as generals in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

[…]Nearly 90% of graduates land jobs—an impressive figure, given the economy’s slow-motion recovery.

“If I were an employer, I’d take our graduates over those at most any other schools,” says Mr. Davis. “The kids at these East Coast colleges strike me as being a little spoiled. Our graduates don’t expect to come into the company as the CEO.” But they certainly join a company knowing the value of work.

I am always encouraging young people to steer themselves to STEM degrees, and away from debt. If you did a STEM degree at College of the Ozarks, then you would really have a leg up on life. It’s not a good time now to follow your heart and do what you like. Now is the time to dig in and do what you have to do to pay your own way later on. It’s going to get a lot harder to have even the same standard of living as what your parents had.

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.

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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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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