Don’t borrow $100,000 to attend NYU.
That’s the bottom line of this New York Times article about the overwhelming debt one graduate took on to go there.
This is exactly the kind of thing that happens when kids are told they are special and should study whatever their hearts desire – the money will come later. That’s fine: as long as you don’t have to pay off student loans.
Is the school at fault for allowing the student to amass such a huge debt with such a degree? In this case since the school knew the total of her debt and counseled her to go deeper into it to finish her degree, absolutely. But the truth is that had the student graduated with a degree in one of the hard sciences, math, compsci or even pre-law she would be able to justify the debt.
Her problem, abetted by the idiots at the NYU financial aid department, was that she didn’t think long term and ask herself: Why am I going to school for four years and accumulating this debt? What makes this education worth the effort and expense?
I am no expert in education, but two decades in the private sector makes me suspect that an interdisciplinary degree in religious and women’s studies isn’t worth four years anywhere let alone at NYU. For the wealthy, perhaps. Or if the student wanted to go to graduate school and end up teaching the subject in academia sometime. At the very least had she studied at a state school she would not have accumulated a debt that cost $10k/year to service.
But the bigger problem that her situation highlights is that most degrees offered by colleges are a waste of money. A liberal arts degree is interesting and challenging. Getting one or two of them is great – if they are free or you have cash to burn. Just don’t expect an employer to offer you a job that pays much above minimum wage.
You don’t need a college class to learn about anything. There is no reason that the NYU grad couldn’t have studied women on her own. Since graduating I’ve taught myself several subjects the old fashioned way: by reading books. Some of these books were even used in college courses, but I didn’t need to pay tuition to learn what was in them.
Now don’t get me wrong: there are important reasons to go to college. Colleges have access to laboratory facilities that the layman doesn’t. It’s nearly impossible outside of a college or university to achieve the required level of learning in fields like law and medicine. But then again, that’s why we have law and medical schools. Colleges are just weeders for pre-law and pre-med who can’t hack it and study something else, like women.
Colleges have become baby sitters for kids who don’t want to grow up. That’s fine if they are willing and able to pay for it, but if neither is possible, then it’s time to get a job that pays the bills and grab a book that expands the mind for a much lower price.
Glenn Reynolds weighs in.
8 Reasons College Tuition is the Next Bubble. What’s interesting is what is going to happen when there are more students like the NYU student in the original article posted above. Having been in debt most of my life what I’ve learned that they don’t teach you in Economics 101 is that debt limits your choices. It chains you to a job that you don’t like, or a house that you can’t afford to leave, and prevents you from doing new things: switching careers, say, or leaving town and moving across the country to start fresh. You can’t do those things when you have to cut a check on the first or fifteenth of every month. Of course with college you can always get your loans suspended if you go back – which means going deeper into debt. To quote Admiral Akbar, “It’s a trap!” and a particularly insidious one at that.
The LA Times notes that 7 of the 10 fastest growing employment sectors do not require college degrees.
“People with bachelor’s degrees will increasingly get not very highly satisfactory jobs,” said W. Norton Grubb, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Education. “In that sense, people are getting more schooling than jobs are available.”
He noted that in 1970, 77% of workers with a bachelor’s degree were employed in professional and managerial occupations. By 2000, that had fallen to 60%.
It also mentions that well-paying white collar jobs requiring degrees – like computer programming – are vulnerable to offshoring. Heh. Yep.