2012 June 17 Sunday
College Grads In Menial Jobs And Deeply In Debt

Higher education is perpetuating a great evil. Check out these pictures.

College admissions officers are con artists. They are selling a fantasy. If they were selling a physical device that purported to provide benefits of the sort that colleges claim then they'd be locked up for fraud.

A US federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solicited comments from the public about their experiences with student loans. The student loan debt stories are tragic. The CFPB put this feedback into batches in PDF documents. Here is the main list of feedback documents. Look for ones where the writer's name is not specified. Each such PDF has many individual feedbacks. For example, this one. Then click on PDF attachments. Then you get the horror stories:

$122,268.70: The amount I owe in student loans I began my freshman year at Northeastern University in September 1999. Excited to have been accepted to my "reach," I begged, borrowed, and (practically) stole to pay the steep tuition. I received little federal money, did not have the fairy-tale college fund, and my struggling single-parent mother was unable to provide much assistance. To cover the tuition, I sought the help of private lenders (Sallie Mae, Citibank) and at the ripe age of 17, signed my life away. At the time, borrowing more than $100,000 seemed like a good idea. I could pay little, if nothing at all while in school, and had the rest of my life to pay off the balance. They weren't kidding--THE REST OF MY LIFE, for sure. I had one second of clarity when a loan counselor at NU asked, "Why would you borrow this much money if you plan to become a teacher?! How do you plan to repay your loans?" But quickly pushed the idea of NOT attending NU out of my mind. I'd manage, I thought...

Well, here I am, at the ripe age of 30. I've since attended graduate school (Columbia University--another steep tuition and more loans), have secured a great teaching position, and have been faithfully paying my minimum payments (approximately $1150) each month. I've looked into every loan forgiveness program available but unfortunately, since I: 1. have privately held loans and 2. do not teach in a "needy" school district, I do not qualify for such forgiveness. Regardless of the fact that I'm a teacher whom, with seven years of experience has taught both regular and special education students, I'm deemed undeserving of loan forgiveness since my students are not living at or below poverty level. I have contacted the Department of Education for help, have submitted loan forgiveness applications, and have researched programs on my own, but have been unsuccessful. Private lenders, in my opinion, do not need (another) bail out. I, on the other hand, do. Please help.

This teacher's story illustrates one of the hidden costs of making class size smaller: More teachers mean more college students going for a teaching degree that won't earn enough to pay down the debt incurred in getting trained to be a teacher.

People who go to any law school aside from the top ones are making a big mistake. They'll never make enough to pay back their loans.

I am a graduate of a private university's school of law. I currently owe approximately $130,000 in graduate school loans. I make approximatley $55,000 a year as a county government employee. While my salary is decent, my student loan payments total $1045 a month. I have no other form of debt. I live in a one bedroom apartment and my utilities include: electricity, gas, a cell phone with no data, and a limited internet plan. I do not have any additional extras such as cable, monthly subscriptions, etc. After I pay my rent and utillities I am left with a small amount of disposable income, but not enough to begin saving. My fiance, who also has student debt and a graduate degree, and I saved for four years prior to getting engaged and since our engagement in 2010 have again been trying to save up enough to have a small wedding, which we are yet to start planning based on our finances. We live an area that has an abundant surplus of houses on the market, and while we would be able to handle monthly mortgage payments that would be similar to our rent, we lack the ability to come up with a down payment. We also share one vehicle, a 2003 Civic, that is holding up relatively well, but will need to be replaced in a few years. Family planning is no where in our near future, based on the lack of flexibility in our budget. I graduated 3rd in my high school class, in the top 10% of my undergraduate class (1st in my major), and did relatively well in law school. I do not feel as if I am entitled anything...however, I did not expect to struggle so much as I move into my 30 somethings. I question whether my education will be worth it in the end, as I struggle to stay afloat. I am forced to search for higher paying employment outside of the career path I hoped to follow. Until I do find higher paying employment my life will continue to be in a holding pattern where I live paycheck to paycheck so that I can pay off my educational debt.

Private loans set you up for loan hell.

I borrowed two small private student loans because I had run out of Federal Student loan options. I had about 6 months left to finish my degree and my Mother co-signed on these loans through Chela and Great Lakes to assist me in finishing. Once I graduated I moved to another state for a job opportunity that fell through. One month after I moved I received a call from Chela and Great Lakes telling me I was already late on my loan repayment. I said that I "thought I had a 6 month grace period -- the same as the FSA Loans..." I was told that was not the case and I had to start paying immediately. And I did for FIVE years through unemployment and terrible times and economic issues. But these private companies (then called FirstMark Services) refused to give me ANY forebearance time or any kind of assistance. My Mom was ill and these companies were sending notices to her bedside (which the nurses and my family were reading) to exact repayment, even though I was less than 30 days late! After my Mom passed away and the loan situation was worse as it was tied up with her estate and I could get no help from my brother/Executor.

Once I got my small inheritance I could no longer FIND the loans despite spending 3 weeks calling every place I could think of, including the loan locator with the Government. Then I got a call from a collection agency called CONSERVE who I settled with for $8,000 (as I had already paid for 5 plus years on both loans and the balance was still HIGHER than the originated amount). I paid ConServe and they still ding my credit bureaus today! I hired an attorney who advised me NOT to pay the final $250 to ConServe as they kept dinging my Credit and refused to report my payment of $7750! I rue the day I ever borrowed private loans and this situation has been a nightmare for me since the day I graduated, especially since my loans are PAID off except for $250!

Even medical doctors go into loan hell.

I am an MD , I have had private loans through, AES, one and horrible services, they keep their students in dark, does not disclose information of their payments, their policy are very strict and students are mislead and yet their fees are notorious, they charged me 25 thousand dollars additional fees on my student loans, as there was delay in change of my address. they had threatened me during my training, they harrassed me over and over with phone calls, with collection, with my appropriate response and courtesy for request of foreberance until my graduation, was not granted, rather they thretened me and asked me to enter rehabilatation program, and I paid over 12 thousand dollars over a course of year, making my living very diffiucult, yet non of that money was applied toward my principle and rather increased my principle balance by 25 thousand dollars by penalties and fees, when asked about explanation of where my money went, every time I had contacted them, the representative said he or she does not have the information, i have requested it to be mailed to me in detail where the money went, never received any response. my loans ended up over 180 thousands with AES. they up to this date never told me where my money went. and how it was applied, and what were the charges. i am not the only victim of their cunning policy. they have very strict policy without any room for negotiation or any understanding and assistance for student. They should be definitely scrutinized thoroughly, as they are no more than money making agency from student like my self, they are not transparent. I had called many government agency at the time of my hardship, and no one looked into this matter, from that day I spoke to other students, and all of them were facing one or the other type of charges from this AES. please I urge someone to take action and look into this matter. after my perioriod of rehabilitiation I had immediately contacted direct loans, and requested government take over.

Do not rack up debt getting a degree in psychology.

I got private student loans as I entered studies for fashion & footwear design. I had been out of college for 5 years, after receiving my Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and had been able to pay for that with federal student loans, grants, and Pell and Plus (Parent) loans. I wanted to specialize in a field, to make more $ than a sales job. I figured I would be able to pay for my education using similar means, except without the help of my parents this time. I was able to get some federal loans but needed a greater amount to cover my expenses and my school presented me with a spreadsheet of different types of loan options, the only ones I qualified for were private. I expected to be able to pay off my private loans easily as I'd be earning more money in a few years. Unfortunately, my plans to go up in the corporate ladder didn't pan out as I'd planned. I worked in the industry for 2 years and found myself in a limited job market in shoe design,so ended up taking a sales job that paid me less than I needed to live. I also work 2, sometimes 3 part-time jobs and still it isn't enough to cover my high private loan payments. My grace period with private loans is gone, I have gone through periods of unemployment and notified my private lenders that I cannot make the monthly payments. Unfortunately, I've had no recourses for lowering my monthly payments or increasing the loan repayment period to lower my payments. My monthly payments are the highest monthly expense I have had for years, $630. I live a very frugal lifestyle and have cut down substantially on my expenses but unfortunately this is one I have no control over. My lenders have simply told me I have no other options: somehow find the way to pay each month or not pay and suffer the consequences with creditors. I have looked into bankruptcy because of this and found that it isn't an answer either as these loans would not qualify. It's unfortunate that there is no one policing this kind of unscrupulous lending.

The PDF goes on for many pages full of stories of people who should not have borrowed money to attend college. The value they got from their college degree was minimal to non-existent. For most degrees loans should not be available. Unless the degree opens the door to a high paying job right after college the degree program should not qualify one for a student loan.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 June 17 09:17 AM  Education Returns On Investment

obrien said at June 17, 2012 11:57 AM:

Education has definitely been a fraud for me, though for somewhat different reasons than most people. I got a hard science degree (physics) from a good school (UC Irvine) but I believe that I definitely fell hard for the education myth. The biggest problem for most people is getting bulls*** degrees, but what screwed me over was the fact I did *zero* outside the classroom. At first it was just sitting on the computer for probably 50 hours a week, but after I turned 21 I got into drinking which made things worse--though I guess it's not too suprising that a loner would turn to drink. Also I got a relatively less practical science degree--physics is to engineering or comp sci what English is to law. Additionally, I somehow managed to get through without writing any serious papers, which while it seemed great at the time, I think ultimately hurt me.

The advice to not get a BS liberal arts degree is solid. But those getting hard science degrees should watch out too--first of all, a degree in physics, math, or even chemistry (and biology too if you are not going to med school) is not nearly as useful as an engineering or computer science degree, or M.D. If you are a loner nerd type make sure to do some networking--get to know professors, do internships, etc. And if you are a hardcore loner, watch out for the sauce--it can easily take over if you have no social life.

In any case I have been out of school and unemployed for 18 months, have about $20K in student loan debt (not too bad but not so good if you can't pay anything). Also,I can't stand menial work, and don't especially like competing with subservient poor immigrants.

Mercer said at June 17, 2012 2:14 PM:

There were two engineers and a chemist in the pictures. So much for a shortage of "stem majors".

College officers are not the only ones selling a fantasy. I hear more college as good all the time by people not employed by colleges. I think a lot of it is people justifying their own college expenses.

totalesturns said at June 17, 2012 3:47 PM:

@obrien --

Yes. I was in a similar situation a few years ago, and if there's one thing I wish I'd been told before college, it's that internships and recommendations are equally if not more important than GPA.

bbartlog said at June 17, 2012 8:13 PM:

The people in the pictures are the lucky ones... they have jobs, even if they're not the jobs they wanted. Of course it's true that the jobs call into question the value of their studies.
As an aside I find it sad that people are still harvesting wheat by hand (picture 13, Egypt). WTF, even in North Africa they should have draft animals to help with that stuff, if not tractors.

Wolf-Dog said at June 17, 2012 8:35 PM:

Part of the reason college graduates cannot get jobs is because they are displaced by the destruction of American jobs and productivity due to the foreign trade deficit. The non-oil component of the annual trade deficit is over $400 billion. If 10 % of the 300 million Americans are very impoverished, let's say 30 million Americans need help, then if we divide the annual trade deficit of $400 billion by 30 million impoverished Americans, we see that if that trade deficit were not there, then nearly $1,300 could be contributed to this group.

But more significantly, if the trade deficit continues, Americans will get $400 billion poorer every year, subtracting $1,300 per year from the net worth of the poorest 10 % of Americans year after year.

Guy Gold said at June 18, 2012 12:47 PM:

In the 1950s and earlier one did not need to have a college degree to teach. Government promised that a degree requirement on the occupation would improve the profession leading to better student outcomes. That has not happened:


Guy Gold said at June 18, 2012 12:50 PM:

In the 1950s and earlier one did not need to have a college degree to teach. Government promised that a degree requirement on the occupation would improve the profession leading to better student outcomes. That has not happened:


Randall Parker said at June 18, 2012 8:21 PM:


The civil engineer in Greece and the civil engineer in Sarajevo are A) in bad places to get jobs and B) got degrees in civil engineering.


Math is a big area. There are certainly valuable specialties in it, especially if you get some software development skills.

Guy Gold,

Yes, credentialism is bad. Though it is much worse in the public sector. In private industry if you can prove you can produce then your degree is far less important. I say this as someone who is very well paid in a field where I've had little formal training.

Guy Gold said at June 19, 2012 10:14 AM:

When government subsidizes something through income redistribution-whatever it is, be it housing or higher education, it creates a lot of false demand which raises prices:


WJ said at June 20, 2012 12:16 PM:

These people were promised that if they got a college degree they wouldn't have to perform menial labor, which is for...Hispanics. Now they're discovering a college degree doesn't promise that. All it does promise is a job meant for Hispanics...plus a shitload of debt. The more we see whites (and especially college grdas# doing these kinds of jobs, the more college grads will come to the conclusion that "there but for the grace of God go I"; the more opposition we will see to immigrants doing jobs "Americans won't do." Maybe. I hope.

Minimum aptitude requirements need to be in place for people to get student loans, depending on what the loan is for #i.e., higher aptitudes for universities, lower for beauty school, etc.#. When a former college student defaults, the school he attended should be on the hook for part of the cost. Neither will ever happen, but they need to.

Steve said at June 20, 2012 12:26 PM:

The one being looked out for are the BANKS. There is a trillion in student loans and it will hamper the future economic growth.
The little people are hit first, universities next, then the banks and credit companies, then the economy as the grads will not be able to afford anything, especially stocks/bonds or homes. It is all doomed to come crashing down from so many directions....

Randall Parker said at July 5, 2012 9:59 AM:

My experience is that software developers are in high demand.

I see three problems with higher education:

- College costs too much.

- People who aren't smart enough are going to college where they study useless easy subjects.

- People who are smart enough study easier subjects rather than subjects that will paid well.

Parker Bohn said at July 6, 2012 7:11 AM:

I wonder if the lawyer complaining about making 55K realizes that he is in the top 1% of wage earners worldwide?

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