About two months into my senior year of high school I was in my Architectural Drafting class reviewing one of my drawings with the teacher. After we finished, he asked me what my plans were for after graduation.
I didn’t think it was necessary to tell him that my plan was to buy a Harley Davidson and tour the country, so I told him I didn’t have any.
He suggested I go to the guidance office (it’s probably called something like the “career center” these days) and speak to my guidance counsellor about college. Specifically, one in Boston called Wentworth.
That night I came home from school and announced to my mother that I was going to college.
I will never forget the look on her face when she said “Who the hell is going to pay for it?”
I couldn’t really blame her. After all – she was a single mother raising seven kids. I’m sure she had mixed emotions since I was the first (and only) of my siblings to go to college directly out of high school, but somewhere in her mind she was probably trying to think of a way to tell me not to bother applying because we simply couldn’t afford it.
She didn’t do that.
Instead, she found all sorts of scholarships, grants and low-interest loans – and the following fall I was off to Boston for a higher (literally, but that’s a whole different story) education.
Fast-forward about 9 years.
It’s a chilly day in February. I go to the bank and hand the cashier the check for the final payment on my student loans. Then I went outside and got into my 12-year-old Toyota and drove home, hoping I didn’t run out of gas because I didn’t have any money on me.
I was certain the feeling of pride I felt walking out of that bank would carry me for years. I was surely invincible.
That feeling lasted about a half-hour.
Because when I got home, I realized that the rent (which I could barely afford) and daycare for my seven-year-old son (which I couldn’t afford) still had to be paid. Along with the phone bill and the electric bill. Then there was the matter of all the basic necessities of life…which I mostly did without because I couldn’t afford most of them either. To say I was struggling would be a gross understatement.
You see, even though I landed a job at the top Architectural firm in the state only three months after graduating college…I was still living well below the poverty line.
There was a popular saying around the office back then…”If your name isn’t on the door…you’re poor.”
So here we are, many, many years later. My college loans are a distant memory. Hell, my son has probably finished paying his off by now. Yet college debt is one of the hot-button topics of the day.
Personally, I have trouble understanding how anybody can be opposed to the idea of college debt being forgiven – at least partially, if not totally. Yet some people are so against the idea you’d think you were asking them to donate a lung.
Some of the top reasons I hear are:
- I paid my debts, everybody else should pay theirs
- My tax dollars shouldn’t go to your kid’s education
- If you want to go to college, then you should pay for it
- It’s a ploy to buy votes
There are many more, but those are just a few of my favorites.
Regardless of the story you read at the beginning of this post – I am totally fine with helping people overcome the mountainous debt a college education creates. In fact – if somebody had offered to relieve me of that burden all those years ago, I would have jumped at the chance. Because you know that “pride” I talked about feeling? News flash – it wasn’t pride…it was relief. I didn’t feel any prouder for paying off my loan then, than I do paying my cell phone bill today. So don’t tell me if somebody offered to assume your debt you would refuse it…I will call bull$hit so fast your check will bounce.
Then there’s the tax dollars argument…
People seem upset that their tax dollars should pay for somebody else’s education.
Tell me how you feel about the VA college tuition programs. Where do you think that money comes from? Oh…but those people are heroes – they deserve it. Sorry…they were paid for their service – why should they get a free education on top of it? And if they want to go to college – don’t join the military just so you can go for free…pay for it like I did. (I hope the sarcasm of those replies came through on screen…)
Also worth mentioning is the amount of money our government uses to bail out banks and other multi-million (in some cases billion) dollar companies. Why is that okay? Why should an oil company who is raping all of us every day get one single penny of my tax dollars?? Why don’t people complain about that? Please – explain it to me like I’m six.
As for the “ploy to get free votes” thing – that argument is straight outta FOX news and doesn’t even deserve a response.
There seem to be only two ways to get a college education these days:
Either you are born into money – or you assume crippling debt.
And the word crippling is hardly hyperbole. Some college grads have more debt before they start their first job than most homeowners do. Then to add insult to injury – they’ll be criticized for living with their parents until they’re in their thirties.
And whether those grads are doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers or architects – guess how they have to pay their debt. They have to pass it on to their customers. That’s right – one way or another you are already paying their student loans.
Education benefits all of society. It should be one of our top priorities – instead we treat it like some sort of luxury only available to some.
When did it become fashionable to wish hardship on others?
In the long run, paying to educate people is much less expensive than the alternative.
As always – thank you for reading
PS – Here is a great article written in 2012… https://verdict.justia.com/2012/03/29/an-educated-population-is-essential-to-a-nations-prosperity-yet-some-politicians-are-demonizing-our-educational-system-for-political-advantage
8 responses to “Ignorance is Far More Expensive Than Education”
Thanks for writing and posting this, Tim. I agree with everything you say. But I want to take this one step further by wondering why no one is addressing the fact that colleges and universities have become so much more expensive to attend since we both went on from high school to get our higher education. I know that administration has become a top-heavy cost as institutions refashion themselves to be more like corporations with shareholders to keep happy. Students are now “customers” for whom an education is a “commodity” they “purchase”. Alumni are milked for their contributions and legacies to be donated to keep these institutions flush and make them look good, so they can attract more “customers” to sign up for an extremely expensive education that will keep them in debt for a very long time.
So, to my mind, as well as forgiving student debt, the next best step would be to overhaul entire administration systems in place for all of these institutions. Bring down the costs, and make more full scholarships available to those deserving students who truly cannot afford to attend university. Much like what your mother did for you to clear your way, the universities should be falling all over themselves to encourage and keep the best and the brightest so those students have an equal opportunity to finish a degree without debt, just as those privileged, monied students are able to accomplish now.
Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
From Tim Baker …
I agree with you totally…I suppose that would be the best “first step” – looking at why it cost so much for that education to begin with.
We all make mistakes when we’re young, like going to college or university, when we should have taken another path, or studying for the wrong career. How lucky I was that a change of government and championing of free tertiary education saw my student debts cancelled! I was not the only one who didn’t follow the career path we had trained for. But others will and people from all walks of life deserve a chance to contribute their best to society.
Fantastic piece, Tim. Spot on. I remember making my final loan payment ten years after college and going, “That was not fun.”
We have a real problem with the idea of elites in this country, and many people without college educations think of degree holders as elites who think they’re superior. In other words, resentment is behind a lot of the pushback on this loan-relief plan.
I totally agree.
Some countries in Europe provide a college education for free, based on what you just said. (and no one complains)
Wow ! Quite interesting read. It surely made me reflect on much.