Symposium 2012: What hope do students graduating today have for finding employment sufficient to pay off their student loans? Is there a better way forward?

RMC3: I certainly wouldn’t want to be a kid graduating in this economic climate. It must be pretty daunting and demoralizing to get a degree that put you tens of thousands of dollars in debt only to find yourself either unemployed or else working at a minimum wage job. It’s no secret that the job market sucks, but having said that, there are going to be jobs for those students who excelled in college. 

The job may not be waiting for them the day they get their diploma, but it they search for the job and are willing to move, they’ll probably find something. It’s an employers market right now. There are so many people out of work that the employers can pick and choose between job applicants and set the wage that they want. When you’ve got competition from people with law degrees or advanced graduate degrees for jobs out of their field, you better have a damn good resume and great academic transcript if you’re going to compete with them.

If you’re a business owner looking to hire a manager for something like $10 per hour, who would you more likely hire—the guy or girl with the law degree or the person with the bachelor’s degree and mediocre grades. It’s a really competitive job market and employers have their choice.

But sadly, if you’re fifty or sixty thousand dollars in debt with school loans, or more in many cases, you’ll never pay it off with a $10 per hour job. It would take you most of your life to pay it off at that rate.

If the economy were growing and everything was healthy, there may not be this problem. But look, there is a big problem when it comes to higher education. Kids have been sold this bill of goods that if they get a college education they’re going to get a great job and make a lot of money. It just doesn’t work that way. Not everyone with a college degree is going to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. The world can only handle so many people with degrees in marketing or management or law or marine science. There are people around here with master’s degrees waiting tables, because there’s a limited opportunity for advanced English literature degrees or marine science.

I’ve said this before, and our departed colleague, Sebastian, said this as well. Not everyone can be something; not everyone can be the next Donald Trump. There’s always going to be a need for waiters and waitresses, housekeepers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, and so on. We’ll always need service workers and tradesmen. These people don’t need expensive college degrees to do these jobs.

The way forward is to promote vocational schools as an alternative to colleges and universities. They’re more affordable and they’re offering training and education in fields where there is a need for skilled workers. These are all fields where kids can make a decent living and have job security, but young people have to be willing to make a sacrifice and acknowledge there is only so much need for white collar workers or high dollar earners.

Cartwright: College is a big business. It’s a grim reality and pretty harsh, but it is reality. We can’t keep misleading the youth. All the big schools care about it getting their money for as long as they can. Did you know that colleges and universities throughout America are finding ways to game the curriculum so that students can’t complete their education in four years? Why? It makes them more money. And all the while, these kids are getting further and further in debt.

If we want to talk about conspiracies, here’s the conspiracy. The colleges and universities suck these kids in with the illusion that they’ll get a degree and start making a million bucks. We all know that doesn’t happen, but these kids are impressionable and they’re full of hope. So, they get student loans in the tens of thousands of dollars. Hell, they can get loans for more than what the tuition and books cost. How does that work? That’s why all these college kids go on cruises all the time and really party it up. They’re getting free money. If they’re not getting it from mommy and daddy because they’re spoiled little shitheads, they’re taking out low interest student loans and living the high life during college.

So, they get out of school and they don’t have a job and they’ve got to start paying back these student loans. Well, they feel all of a sudden that they should be getting a free ride and that they shouldn’t have to pay this back. Let’s remember that college campuses are filled with liberal, socialist, progressive instructors filling these kids’ head full of propaganda. They’re teaching them that big government is the answer and that they’re entitled to everything for free. They’re teaching them that successful people are evil and that they’ve taken advantage of the little people along the way. They’re getting them predisposed to the notion of socialism. Think that isn’t the case? Guess who the biggest supporters of Obama have been…the college youth.

It’s not a stretch to believe that these kids who have just graduated with thousands in student loans feel their debt should be forgiven by the government. And guess what…they’ll do whatever their told by the person who promises to forgive that debt, and they’ll kill for the person who actually forgives that debt. They’re ready, willing, and able to be controlled by anyone who is willing to give them something for nothing. This is like a modern day Hitler’s Youth. Think it can’t happen? It can and very easily.

These kids are only interested in getting something for nothing. They don’t have any sense of personal responsibility. Ever notice their bad grades aren’t their fault? Oh, no, they failed because the teacher didn’t like them or the teacher didn’t teach and not because they were lazy and shiftless, sitting at home all day getting high, eating pizza, and playing video games. And Mommy and Daddy had to call the dean of the school and bitch and complain until they agreed to let their little baby pass.

You know what, these kids that graduate with thousands in student debt don’t really have any hope. The world is tough and they just bought and paid for a very valuable lesson…the person selling you the promise of the land of milk and honey has a vested interest in you spending the money on getting the education at their facility. Is there a better way forward? Yes. We need really stringent aptitude tests for kids going to college. If you don’t measure up, you can test for vocation school. If that doesn’t work either, you can go to the military; they’ll take care of you.

We need to quit coddling these little shithead kids. If Mommy and Daddy want to take care of them their entire lives, so be it, but it shouldn’t be on the taxpayer to fund them and their derelict lifestyles. We need to get back to the concept of personal responsibility. It’s not up to the government to subsidize your education. There’s plenty of scholarships out there for people who apply themselves and who are willing to work hard.

The government needs to get out of the business of student loans altogether. Oh, but wait a minute, then they won’t be able to control millions of people down the road. Most of these kids are going to be in debt to the man the rest of their lives. Don’t whine about it. You spent the money, now pay it back. If you can’t get a job, go into the military and pay it back that way.

Sydney: Given that the average student borrows $25,000 to pay for his/her education it is not surprising that in the current economic climate many feel that they may never be able to pay off their debt. Today’s students are our future leaders, doctors, lawyers etc. and therefore we need to ensure that they can get an affordable education so that regardless of the economic climate they feel like they can afford to study. It is important to note that Federal loans usually have cheaper interest rates than private loans so it is a good idea for students to get a Federal loan if possible. This can help but it doesn’t really answer the question of how to make studying more affordable. Some ways government can make education more affordable could include increasing the Pell Grant. This need-based grant is too low given how expensive tuition has become. Second, interest rates for student loans should be further reduced and refinancing of existing loans should be reinstated. A third idea is to expand loan forgiveness. This could be directed largely at students studying to become members of the public service. The government should also identify other professions where there are staff shortages and extend loan forgiveness to students in these fields.

Michigan: Students graduating today are faced with a tough job market. Depending on your field they may find employment but at a lower starting salary than years past. Supply and demand. Many, many graduates are trying to get the same job. If your major was something the school dreamed up to get students through-good luck. Once graduated there are some options. Grads can check into Income Based Repayment and Income Contingent Repayment. If you graduated in the health field, options are available for debt forgiveness. Teachers and public service grads also have options for debt forgiveness. If grads are willing to give up some time, for a cause, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps have a debt reduction program.

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