Monday, December 9, 2013

Have we lost our minds?

The title of this post is not hyperbole. After thinking for more than a few days on what the best title should be, it remained the only one that fit! So what am I speaking of? The crazy messed up education system in our country. It is far worse than any of us may be willing to admit. Here are two examples of people and their educational paths that led me to the title.

Case #1
A graduate of a medical school recently shared the following: "After paying for my undergrad and now my MD, I begin my career with $340,000 in student loan debt." In case you missed that, reread! I have never owned a house worth that much! I cannot imagine being in debt on one thing nor several things that amounted to $340,000.

This person is actually working in a hospital today. The learning received was great and the skill being applied to help those in need was the best. Problem, the Government is cutting the amounts that insurance will pay for services. No longer is there a thought that this MD will ever earn more than $350,000 per year. Today, this MD is earning around $180,000. Nice salary indeed. But not so nice when one considers just the loan repayment for the education that provided the knowledge to earn the wage. And while you are sitting there thinking, dwell some on the fact that amount will NOT be forgiven. This amount is on this MD's credit report. No home loan. No car loan. Either pay rent or live with parents! That's it. Drive a used car. Pray you marry someone who will earn far more than you and is willing to pay down that HUGE loan. And money to raise children?

Case #2
A teacher I spoke with recently shared frustration over having to live at home with parents. As the discussion continued, revealed was the simple fact that in order to graduate in 4 years with a degree that allowed employment in a school system, this person had run up a school loan debt of $93,000. Starting salary at the school where job was offered payed started out under $38,000. It does not take long to do the math and discover that this income to student loan debt ratio is similar to the MD. And teacher pay raises are few and far between. I discount the arguments that snarly people people make about teachers only working 9 months. Putting up with undisciplined brats that parents have failed to raise, add demanding parents who do not want you to discipline their children, and you see clearly that the pay is no where near enough - for any amount of months worked.

But a teacher who works hard, cares for your children, and seeks to give your child the basics of education to be productive in society will struggle to buy a home, pay for a car, and have the money also to raise their own children. Why? $93,000 in student loan debt will eliminate most options of obtaining credit until this amount is greatly reduced.

Results Summary
Our educational system is broken from a financial stand point to a devastating level. It is totally impossible to maintain the American economy on this type of debt, learning, and pay scale. A teacher is equally strapped just as is a MD. I keep referring back to the television show The Walton's. Three generations living under one roof seemed so old school. It was a way of life for a farmer or lumber mill owner. But for a Medical Doctor and Educator, the education was sold as a way to break out and achieve more.

Today, the educational system is being sold identically. Get your under grad and don't stop. Continue on for a Masters. And then dig deep and press through to that doctorate. But if one has to do so while piling up loans the size mentioned above, one wonders how that educational system has missed the reality of simple cost and benefit? Do educators no longer think about cost recovery? Our Government has facilitated this problem with the out of control student loan programs. The whole thing is about to change the core of our society and economy. I did not even mention the PhD student who knows that the starting salary for teaching college courses will be limited to the $50,000 range.

So I was reading an article the other day concerning highest paid jobs that are struggling to find applicants. I discovered that the trade of welding is being lost in America. One can start out making $135,000 with no college degree required. The cost to learn welding does not require student loans. And a welder will begin their career in the black able to buy a home, a car, raise their children, and even take a vacation. And this was just one of the many manual labor jobs available with high pay. Problem, no one wants to do these jobs. The very industries that are the backbone of America are no longer viewed as worthy of our time. We are told to get a degree and make something of our ourselves. But our system prevents this from an economic standpoint. It not just crippled, it is broken. And what kind of a person goes so far into debt to get educated and yet will spend the rest of their working lives trying to pay it off?

Come to think of it - maybe we have lost our minds!

P.S. I did not write this to discourage anyone from striving to obtain an education. I am currently working on my PhD. But no degree, regardless of level, can be substituted for common sense and sound financial decision making. We as parents and grandparents need to slow down and make sure we are leading our children with the right goals while also laying the proper foundation of expectations. A degree at the cost of high debt is NOT smart. Maybe we need to take longer to earn them. Maybe we need to go another route. We need to guide our children to make wise decisions. We need to understand that a degree does not make you a better person nor does it guarantee you anything. We need to step back and re-think our ideology. Reality is showing us a serious problem with our current thoughts. We need to re-engage our minds if we still have one!