There might be a reason she can’t pay her student loans here

So, $60,000 student loan debts for a BA in English and an MA in Journalism. Not known as being a highly paid profession. And our writer cannot pay those loans off.

Hmm.

Even public schools – long considered a more affordable option – are less accessible: public colleges increasingly rely on tuition dollars as state funding continues to fall (25% and 23%, respectively, in 2012, compared to 17% and 23% in 2003).

Eh? What?

And:

As someone who punched that ticket twice, I’m still waiting for my express bus to the middle class. The modest income I make as an entrepreneur with a day job is whittled away each month thanks to loan payments (plus interest) to various financial intuitions that feel more like bounty hunters than supporters of middle-class aspirants.

Intuitions?

Might there be a reason why this journalist isn’t raking in the bucks?

50 thoughts on “There might be a reason she can’t pay her student loans here”

  1. Her mistake is assuming that financial institutions want to help her. Their ideal customer is a student who racks up huge debt and services it diligently for decades. The last thing the bank wants is for her to pay it off.

    That aside, she shouldn’t have spent $60,000 on an English degree. Caveat emptor.

  2. So Much for Subtlety

    The modest income I make as an entrepreneur with a day job is whittled away each month thanks to loan payments (plus interest) to various financial intuitions that feel more like bounty hunters than supporters of middle-class aspirants.

    WTF? Of course they are more like bounty hunters. Because they are. They want their money back. I would love it if my bank manager (ha!) was a supporter of my middle class aspirations. But you would never guess it, he ain’t. When I tell him of my dreams to be the Team Towel Boy for the Chicago Bulls’ Cheerleaders, he just gets this funny expression on his face. You would think that in fact he wants me to get a damn job or something.

  3. I’ve never heard anyone explain what the point of an English degree actually is (beyond the “any degree is a golden ticket” thing).

  4. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “I’ve never heard anyone explain what the point of an English degree actually is (beyond the “any degree is a golden ticket” thing).”

    Marriage to an engineer.

  5. She’s blow a small fortune on a pointless English degree and she’s writing whining articles in The Guardian about how difficult it is to get a job which will keep her in the lifestyle she wants to lead. Middle class ambitions? Sounds as though she’s a fully-fledged member already. Indeed, that’s probably what got her into this mess in the first place: middle class entitlement.

  6. All very true, but the US higher education system has been buggered up from the point of view of students. The terms of the loans are onerous by US standards – escape by bankruptcy is near impossible, and the bloody things roll on until you die. (Unlike our own, which are more a graduate tax than a loan – or rather, a tax on having attended uni whether you graduated or not).

    But because govt makes large student loans available, the universities have raised their tuition fees hugely. It’s all a wonderful ramp for the tenured professors, and the apparatchiks who run the unis, but its pernicious effects on everyone else is pretty clear. And, to cap it off, the education tends not to be much cop anyway. Not that that matters to most undergraduates I suppose. For students of the frivolous subjects, the beer still runs. In the serious ones, you can always go to grad school, where the standards tend to be very high.

  7. When I chose my degree course as an 18/19 year old, one of the major thoughts in my mind was how would it work in industry/the job market. Hence I went for something in the IT sector, and have managed to carve out a decent living from it.

    I always considered my degree as “job training”. In the past technical roles with similar skill levels (say electrical engineer) might have been taught through apprenticeships, but in 2004 apprenticeships were something aimed at those wanting to be hairdressers, not you “clever types” (not that I really was overly clever). Those who were “clever” went to uni, others got vocational training.

    However, I’ve never been able to understand the concept of (say) taking a degree in English but then going to work as (say) an accountant. OK, studying for a degree should give you some semblance of critical thinking, but I can’t understand how 3 years of training in English can prepare you to be an accountant.

    And as for running up a massive tab studying to be a journalist, is it just me that’s been hearing how newspapers have been laying off 100s of staff over the last 5 years thanks to a tidal wave of “citizen journalists”? In that case, wouldn’t it have been better to get a “real” job and explore the passion for journalism as a hobby?

  8. Journalism has so many aspirants you have to be the daughter of the editor even to work there for free. So if you choose your subjects to suit the career you want, you really need to be sure there is a career. If you choose your subject because you enjoy it and it is interesting, that’s fine, but it will cost you.

    Don’t do the latter and then whinge about the cost and no career. Oh, and it isn’t ‘corporate greed’, unless the corporation is the university.

    I’m surprised she is an ‘entrepreneur’ and doesn’t seem to have any idea about money or how business works. But still, hey, let’s tax poor people so that middle-class kids can go to college and then cruise into a nice job. It’s only fair.

  9. The US federal tyranny’s involvement in the loans business has fucked everything up. Once youth worked their way through colleges over there–not easy but doable. But then along comes Mr Generous-with-Other-People- Money. No more late nights (working ones), no more part-time job struggle–lean on us!
    The other shoe drops of course–or more like the students get beaten over the head with it. The educational gravy train rolls out of the station, the colleges realise how much the prices can be jacked, etc, etc , ad nauseam.

    Very similar to how the state put friendly societies out of business over here. “Trust us and it will be easier and better” says Big Daddy Pork but stuck in the shite is the end result.

    An English degree is still largely worthless tho’.

  10. US Student loan interest rates range from 3.8% to 6.8% depending on year or category. So her interest costs are between $2,280 and $4,080 pa – (£125 to £225 per month) which takes less than one-quarter of “the extra $17,500 pa” that she refers to.
    If she’s effectively defaulted it is *not* the fault of the financial institutions: she could spend a bit less on clothes and hairdos.

  11. One thing the student loan is used for is a lifestyle enabler while you are in school. The interest won’t kick in until you stop going. Bote unlike other goods, you cannot return the degree if it turns out to be worthless or if you dropped out.

  12. “As someone who punched that ticket twice.”

    How can I improve my job prospects with this near worthless degree? I know, I’ll do a MA in a subject you can’t even work for free in.

  13. Rhyds,

    “And as for running up a massive tab studying to be a journalist, is it just me that’s been hearing how newspapers have been laying off 100s of staff over the last 5 years thanks to a tidal wave of “citizen journalists”? In that case, wouldn’t it have been better to get a “real” job and explore the passion for journalism as a hobby?”

    What always occurs to me is that people get journalism the wrong way around. They’re really concerned with the writing, but readers don’t give that much of a shit. Going out and finding stories is more important. Harry Knowles who created Ain’t it Cool News never went to college. He hung out on movie newsgroups exchanging gossip and then moved onto the web.

  14. What always occurs to me is that people get journalism the wrong way around.

    Yes, but these people see journalism in its Guardian form: preaching lefty “values” from a plush London office. Not tramping the streets in Bolton trying to dig up an interesting story for a local rag.

  15. That’s because an unfortunate reality about journalism- especially in the Anglosphere- is that it’s actually much more about “opinion forming” than “reporting”. If you’re writing articles telling people about something that has happened, you haven’t made it yet. If you’re writing articles telling people what to think about something, you’ve made it.

  16. I meet kids like this, and I warn them not to go into journalism, as it’s dying, and they just get upset that someone is pissing on their fantasy, and so they ignore me and go and enrol in English or Media Studies anyway.

  17. “If you’re writing articles telling people about something that has happened, you haven’t made it yet. If you’re writing articles telling people what to think about something, you’ve made it.”

    Quite true. What these idiots never notice, though, is that there aren’t that many columns, yet there are tens of thousands of wannabee-journalists/columnists graduating each year. They can’t all get columns and live the middle-class Polly Toynbee lifestyle, can they?

    And most of the current columnists aren’t moving, and the few vacancies that come up each year seem to mostly go to the sons and daughters of people already on the media scene.

    It’s worse in the music industry. About 8-10 thousand students graduate each year with Mickey Mouse music tech degrees, wanting to work in big recording studios, yet these days there are probably less than 20 jobs open each year in such studios (because they’re all shutting down). Most of those jobs go to the best graduates of the top two music engineering schools, or talented self-starters who never did a Music Tech degree.

  18. @Rag

    Music tech is one such example.Performing arts and photography are others – performing arts might be even worse in terms of jobs-to-students ratio.

    I don’t know to what extent this is all about professional ambitions. Or even education, as such.

    Reality-postponement seems more likely.

  19. Dearieme:

    Absolutely right. I figured it out 25 years ago when I was a freshman in college. Students from the lower economic strata had to fill out “financial aid forms”, and the college would figure out how much our families could afford to spend on tuition/room and board/etc., with the rest of the cost made up from scholarships, work-study, loans, and the like. It very quickly dawned on me that if the governmetn increased “aid” to schools, the schools would still be able to tell us less well-off families that we could afford the same amount of money, and the aid would go towards making the price of education higher as that aid made up the difference between what we could afford and the nominal price.

  20. Anthonia Akitunde is the founder of mater mea, a website that celebrates women of color at the intersection of career and family.

    How shockingly original. She has brown skin and a vagina, and writes about having brown skin and a vagina. Send money!

  21. “because an unfortunate reality about journalism- especially in the Anglosphere- is that it’s actually much more about “opinion forming” than “reporting”.”

    “especially in the Anglosphere”: really?

  22. “especially in the Anglosphere”: really?

    Well, maybe not. An assertion I’m less confident of than average. I was just thinking of stuff like at the one end the Guardian and at the other the Mail. But, I’ll happily withdraw that assertion.

  23. Rag,

    “It’s worse in the music industry. About 8-10 thousand students graduate each year with Mickey Mouse music tech degrees, wanting to work in big recording studios, yet these days there are probably less than 20 jobs open each year in such studios (because they’re all shutting down). Most of those jobs go to the best graduates of the top two music engineering schools, or talented self-starters who never did a Music Tech degree.”

    It’s bonkers how we seem to create huge numbers of courses in subjects where even at the time they’re starting, it’s clear that demand is on the wane.

    We had more than enough studio techs in the era when the best home equipment was a Tascam 4 track recorder. When you can have Pro Tools setup for £1500, how much time are bands going to spend in studios.

    It’s like how we’re doing degrees in photography, despite a glut of good stock photography from amateurs being available. Most people leave the courses with no job, the rest end up being family photographers, a job that mostly requires a good eye, being good with people and a couple of days training in composition.

  24. There are lots of courses in these things because lots of young people want to do these things and somebody’s going to work in this exciting media career so why not me, etc. The problem is that the educational route is crap, and is always going to be crap.

    My first career (I’ve been going through a state of miserable nostalgia for it, the past little while, truth be told) was working in theatre. I actually did go on a course- at the Association of British Theatre Technicians, which is now defunct- but I’d already being doing casual work at my local theatre since I was 14, and just getting casual work was how most people got into theatre technical work in those days, very informal sort of “career path”.

    The idea of doing a degree in any of these things is absurd, but simply symptomatic of the university mania that has engulfed us since the 80s- largely it seems because we are ruled by a class of twerps who had a smashing time at Uni and think that’s the only way to live a life. They are generally infantilised people (hence, Proggies) who actually want to stay in education as long as possible in life, rather than normal people who are keen to grow up. This is the society that the Boomers have wrought, and the collossal waste of resources being expended on worthless educational nonsense is one of its primary characteristics.

    That and the economic ruin they’ve visited on us, which has made any “normal” job gradually less and less tolerable to normal human beings, so people are induced to gamble more and more at an early stage of life to avoid being stuck in the hell of the working class workplace as a serf on a zero-hours, etc.

    Clearing up the mess made by the Class Of ’68 is going to be a tough, long term project.

  25. Ian B,

    “There are lots of courses in these things because lots of young people want to do these things and somebody’s going to work in this exciting media career so why not me, etc. The problem is that the educational route is crap, and is always going to be crap.”

    I think that some courses at some top universities are worth it, because they attract some top talent, but a lot of lecturers in lesser universities are there because they can’t cut it in industry.

  26. Stig,

    I think there are many university courses which are worth it. The question is people doing degrees in things that simply aren’t degree-worthy stuff. If you’re going to be a physicist or an historian, fine, get that degree.

  27. So Much for Subtlety

    The Stigler – “I think that some courses at some top universities are worth it, because they attract some top talent, but a lot of lecturers in lesser universities are there because they can’t cut it in industry.”

    I don’t think anyone who can cut it in industry ought to be at a university. The two really demand different skills. But the problem here is really universities are full of people who can’t cut it. Full stop. Too many of them are sheltered workshops for the terminally aggrieved.

    Some university courses are criminal. Computer game design is now a big course in the UK. Virtually none of which are run by people who know what they are doing and hence do not get any sort of accreditation. Media, go figure, is not run by people who know anything about the media but by post-modernists from Cultural Studies.

  28. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “If you’re going to be a physicist or an historian, fine, get that degree.”

    Not a lot of jobs going for either. However I note, so few history courses now have a language requirement. You can do a history degree at a lot of places without having even a basic grasp of another language.

    Draw your own conclusions from that.

    I also note that virtually all the actual interesting history that people might want to read, is taking place outside of the universities. It is rare you get someone like David Starkey or Simon Schama but as a general rule, there is a huge market for history but professional historians are too busy writing about transsexual oppression in 14th century Cumbria.

  29. “How shockingly original. She has brown skin and a vagina, and writes about having brown skin and a vagina. Send money!”

    Ha ha. How the hell is she going to get a gig at the Guardian writing about stuff like that? She needs to write about cars and guns. GUNS!

  30. SMFS,

    “Some university courses are criminal. Computer game design is now a big course in the UK. Virtually none of which are run by people who know what they are doing and hence do not get any sort of accreditation. Media, go figure, is not run by people who know anything about the media but by post-modernists from Cultural Studies.”

    There’s a 6th form course near me that’s run in conjunction with a local games company.

  31. @ Rhyds

    I did a ‘non-relevant’ degree before becoming an accountant. Though not as non-relevant as English (Law, as it happens, which can have use in the spheres in which accountants operate).

    Most of the people I trained with, at a ‘Big 4’ firm, had non-relevant degrees. That’s because most of us had no ambition to be accountants when we started university, but when we finished it seemed like as good a thing to do as any. The firms, for their part, were biased towards ‘non-relevant’ degrees because they just wanted people who were bright, had good a-levels, and had got through three years at at decent Uni. They placed no particular value on accountancy/business degrees.. quite the opposite, in fact.

    Very few degrees directly prepare people to work in any given field. They are, by their nature, academic as opposed to vocational. But if you’ve got one then it demonstrates various attributes, but where you got it from is often more important than what it’s in – so kids today are best advised to concentrate hard at a-level, because that’s what decides where you get to study. There’s no point getting your act together once you’re at Uni, because if it’s the wrong Uni in the first place then you’re at a major disadvantage.

  32. Rob – Yar. If she wrote about guns, or cars, or celebrity diets, or pet grooming, she’d be more employable.

    Even the Guardian only needs so many solipsistic female minority writers who think we think their navel-gazing about their female minorityness is endlessly fascinating. Tumblr is full of them writing for free.

  33. Tim Newman,

    “A degree in photography sounds pretty good, provided you’re independently wealthy and don’t need a job.”

    I do some architecture and landscape photography for pleasure, and you can teach the theory in a few days. You can teach the camera stuff in a few days, too. The rest is natural ability and taking lots of photographs. I’d rather just spend 3 years travelling and taking photos.

  34. My view is that the “various attributes” a degree implies are nothing to do with skills or proficiency at anything; it’s simply an indicator of class values, to sound about Marxist. If you’ve got a degree you’re “one of us”, kind of thing. Needless to say, the universities go out of their way to persuade their clients to only employ other graduates, hence fostering demand.

    My local Farmfoods has a graduate programme. Graduates, to sell frozen food-like crap. It’s a total nonsense.

  35. I did a vocational degree. Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Despite having been employed in the field ever since, I have used what I actually learned on my degree once.

    And then it was from the 1st year mandatory “other engineering” Mech Eng course.

    Other people’s mileage definitely does vary.

  36. My local Farmfoods has a graduate programme. Graduates, to sell frozen food-like crap. It’s a total nonsense.

    Sounds at about the right level for a lot of graduates.

  37. So Much for Subtlety

    Steve – “If she wrote about guns, or cars, or celebrity diets, or pet grooming, she’d be more employable.”

    Well call me old fashioned, but I think the Guardian would be enormously improved by a Black lesbian gun correspondent. There is at least one Gay Black fox hunter. I would just die to see him get his own column.

    But alas, the Guardian is only interested in the sort of diversity where everyone believes the same thing.

  38. Tim Newman,

    “Is that not what a photography degree consists of?!”

    Ah, no. It’s things like

    “In your first year modules are offered on the themes of photography and identity, photography and place, the photograph as allegory and the photograph as document or fiction, showing an understanding and awareness of contemporary photographic practice. These are in parallel with modules on the origins and histories of photograph”

    A lot of that is what amateur photography blogs would refer to as “ideas” and “composition”.

  39. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Degrees are a signalling mechanism, and an increasingly debased one. In fact, in many cases, what they signal is detrimental to the degree-holder’s employability (q.v degree in X Studies).

  40. Thing is, it’s completely normal to have a huge disconnect as a student between your career dreams and reality. My own dream was to be a university-based researcher in some obscure branch of cell biology. It seemed cool at the time, so I pursued it as far as several years of unproductive and grossly underpaid postdoctoral work before realising the career opportunities were dreadful, even for the best of the best. And I was not one of the best of the best, and not possessed of the political skills to bridge the gap.

    You could argue I wasted about 10 years of my life, except being a STEM grad rather than hoomanitiiz/”arts”, I was at least able to pay my rent (sometimes with difficulty), and it set me up for the grossly overpaid industry career I am currently enjoying.

  41. The “opinion-forming” thing is entirely true. Perhaps not of all the Anglosphere, but certainly of the British national press. All of it is now propaganda. I think the American papers, particularly more regional papers, are far more objective. The high-end German papers are also highly factual. While you can tell that Die Welt comes from an ultra-conservative stable, it’s impossible to detect any editorial bias in the Frankfurter Allgemeine outside of the editorial pieces.

    And none of them publish cat videos, celebrity gossip (wow – come to think of it – the broadsheets here really do publish nothing about celebrities, unless they commit murder), sensationalist stories about property prices, listicles, twittercles or so on.

    Actually, if you wanted to read a decent newspaper it’d be almost worth your while learning German.

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