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Local students and grads drowning in debt

Original post made on Sep 20, 2013

With student debt exceeding national credit-card debt — crossing the $1 trillion point last year — and college becoming costlier each year, local students and their families are borrowing more and more to finance their futures.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 20, 2013, 9:37 AM

Comments (32)

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Posted by Barbara
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Our educational system is really messed up. Every high school child is now encouraged to "go to college", whereas in my day (40 years ago), a whole lot of kids took the technical track to careers in automotive, construction, etc. Those are respectable professions and lead to happy lifestyles, but these days it seems everyone thinks their child is "too good" for that. At least here on the Peninsula, and probably elsewhere. It's a pity. It hurts society by denying us good tradesmen, and it hurts the kids who were never academic to begin with, but feel obligated to go to college anyway. What's the point of that? It also harms the self-esteem of kids who are not academically inclined.

How do we fix this?


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Barbara - the problem is not just that high school students are encouraged to "go to college" it is also that, at least in this area, there aren't really other tracks available to them, nor do we teach them anything is high school that isn't "college prep".


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Posted by Arnold Ziffel
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm

No longer is every HS kid told to go to college. It isn't possible for many now.

This debt is a national shame.

Only in America.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Agree that the cost of college is shameful and the amount of debt is disastrous for the kids, especially those who have worked so hard to get to college, and can't possibly imagine not going - its almost like anything goes to make it happen. But I do have a couple problems with the article.. Cultural anthropology? And semester studying abroad? A nicer apartment off campus? It sounds like this particular person made some choices, not so practical, and not so economical, and frankly a little frivolous, especially for someone now concerned about the debt.. I'm not terribly sympathetic in that first case. This does not change the fact that the college debt problem is a huge problem in general.


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Posted by Catherine Crystal Foster
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:10 pm

The vast majority of jobs in the next decade will require a college degree, so making college graduation possible and affordable to everyone in our community is more important than ever. That's why the nonprofit organization I lead, The Peninsula College Fund, provides 1-1 mentoring throughout college and workshops on budgeting and financial literacy to all of the local, low-income college students we serve. If you believe in the value of a college education and are as troubled as I was to read this article, please join us in helping to make college more affordable, and support promising young people in achieving their dreams.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm

@Catherine Crystal Foster - Sounds like a noble but misguided cause. It's a dubious claim that the vast majority of jobs will require a college degree, but even if it true, degree inflation is one of the primary reasons. Better to stop pushing more and more kids into college that would be better served with vocational training.


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Posted by American tragedy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2013 at 10:17 am

The US is one of only five nations in the world that does not pay for every qualified student to get an undergraduate degree. The other four are all in Africa! How dated, archaic, and short-sighted is that.

Worse yet, many European and Asian countries will pay for qualified students to attend graduate school, too.

Thus, the death of the American Dream ( it has gone to Finland).


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

@American Tragedy - "The US is one of only five nations in the world that does not pay for every qualified student to get an undergraduate degree." The key word their is "qualified" and many other countries provide non-university education also. In Germany, the people that attend the "trade" schools often make more than the University grads.

We need to expand out options for post high school graduation AND make college affordable for those who should be choosing that route (Thanks Catherine Foster!)


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Posted by People-Need-Education-More-Than-They-Need-College
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

> The vast majority of jobs in the next decade will
> require a college degree

This may not be true. Certainly where white collar jobs are concerned, but what about jobs that are traditionally blue collar? Do you really think that store clerks, or garbage collectors, will need 4-6 years of higher education?

What is true is that jobs in the future may require specialized training that very well might not be provided by our higher education system, as it currently operates. Rather than spending four years sitting in classes listening to academics of no particular skill set rattling on about this, that, and the other--students might well be looking at spending their time learning skills, like computer programming, technology basics, and finance.

Degrees in English, History, and the so-called social sciences will not be of much value in the future, just as they are not of much value today.


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Posted by American Tragedy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Most med school students graduate with millions of dollars in debt, something that they probably could not pay off if they live to be 100.

It just isn't fair. Nor is it fair that students from outside the US get priority at the UCs, just because they have to pay more on tuition. The UCs were created just for California students, and to this day they are supposed to give priority in admissions to California students, but they no longer do it because it is no longer economically feasible, they say.

I hope they like it when the " ruling class" is made up of non-citizens who make more money and are better educated than citizens.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm

@American tragedy - A far lower percentage of Finns have a bachelors degree than Americans. If the Finnish dream you want is to track kids away from college into vocational schools starting in high school, then I might agree. If you just want an excuse to throw more money after wasted college degrees, then don't look to Finland for justification.


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Posted by Arnold Ziffel
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

People-Need-Education - "Degrees in English, History, and the so-called social sciences will not be of much value in the future, just as they are not of much value today."

You are wrong. English degrees are more demand than you state. You are just repeating old canards. While nothing beats the tried and true combo of an engineering degree paired up with an MBA, when the gee-whiz types invent something, it's the English major who will effectively communicate that news to the world.

From Forbes: "After computer science, the next most in-demand major is the more general sciences, followed by liberal arts, communications, and lastly, agriculture and natural resources.

NACE slices and dices its survey data into multiple categories. Though the demand for business, engineering and computer science majors seems highly predictable, I'm intrigued by a breakdown NACE did of liberal arts degrees by demand. Political science/government ranked at the top, followed by psychology, English, sociology and finally, and to me somewhat sadly, history."


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Posted by People-Need-Education-More-Than-They-Need-College
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2013 at 9:24 am

> you're wrong!

Try googling "worst college degrees" and a list of suggestions for that honor will appear.

Among them:

Web Link

9. English. As a major, this is the road more traveled by, with not nearly enough writing, teaching, publishing or journalism jobs for all the students who graduate with a yen for the written word. It doesn't help that many media fields have been upended by the digital revolution

And:

Web Link

Web Link

No. 10: English Language And Literature
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 9.2%
Median earnings for recent grads: $32,000

Unemployment rate for experienced grads: 6.2%
Median earnings for experienced grads: $52,000
----------------------------

You're welcome to your own opinion, but not your own facts.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2013 at 9:44 am

No idea on how useful an English degree is in terms of future employment, but I do think we are producing a nation of young professionals who are unable to write well. The fact that textspeak, spell and grammar checks are being used so much is evident in so much poor editing and writing in the published and written material I read on an almost daily basis shows that we are not teaching the English language well enough. The ones that come to mind are pedal/peddle, affect/effect, "would of" instead of "would have", allowed/aloud, principle/principal. From books, magazine articles, blogs and even printed signs, the English language is being allowed to deteriorate at a rate of knots.

High school English (where I see what is being taught better than at the college level) has some poor choices when it comes to well written work apart from the fact that so much of it is very depressing subject matter. Slang and what I call dialectspeak is so common that it must be hard for the students to discern between correct English and bad. I hope they do a better job in college classes!

In my opinion, an English degree, even if it is only a minor, should be applauded as the owner may be able to communicate and correspond well in a subsequent profession.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

Ooops, even though I reread my post for editing before hitting submit, I see I have made a long roll on sentence which became immediately evident on the final submission which wasn't quite as easy to see on the draft version. My apologies.

A definite example of what I am talking about.


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Posted by People-Need-Education-More-Than-They-Need-College
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2013 at 10:28 am

> In my opinion, an English degree, even if it is only a minor,
> should be applauded as the owner may be able to communicate
> and correspond well in a subsequent profession.

Good communications skills are certainly something that we all should possess—regardless of the area of specialty we pursue during higher education. These skills take a very long time to teach, and much work to master. As such, the training should start very early in life.

Writing skills, which also require a parallel development of something called "critical thinking", are not easily taught. People interested in education reform would be well advised to recognize that the traditional approach of teaching "English" has failed, and the whole are of reading/writing/thinking/communicating needs to be rethought.

As to pursing an English major in college, the following link offers a quick look at the topics Seton Hall offers its students taking this path:

Web Link

Hard to see how much of this education would be all that useful in a Silicon Valley start-up, a farm in America's heartland, or in a factory, wherever it's located.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

Having sent two kids thru PAUSD, I would say that the English classes focus on reading and analyzing literature (usually pretty depressing books at that) and very little on writing. Unless you get a teacher that likes to teach writing skills, you have to teach yourself. The one area that my kids were the least prepared for in college was researching and writing papers.


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Posted by terrified
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by pamom
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I attended a German university and paid only about $200 a semester! And that's as a foreigner. Of course, there were no recreational centers -- no swimming pools, racquet ball courts, etc., and the library was much, much smaller with fewer open hours. No football fields (although for soccer yes, but no stadium). Amenities were far fewer, classes met less often, and there were fewer offerings than at one of our universities.

Our universities are like elite resorts which has something to do with the rising costs.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

pamom

Why would you expect football fields (although for soccer yes, but no stadium)? Germans don't play American football, but do play soccer. The German word for soccer is football!

You should know this if you have lived in Germany.

But I agree and like the rest of your post.


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Posted by pamom
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm

@Resident -- Sorry my message wasn't more explicit -- it's not about expecting football fields, it's just an example of the amenities at a German University, which are far fewer than at an American one. I mentioned no stadium because that is another huge cost (although one could argue that American college football brings in big bucks) but it's not just football, American colleges support all kinds of sports -- my college even had a beautiful ice skating rink. And it was great, and as far as sports go, it's good to encourage exercise and a healthy lifestyle, but these amenities cost a lot of money. I'm wondering how the operating costs of a German Uni compare to an Ami one.


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Posted by Wayne
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

@Arnold Ziffel I'm intrigued by a breakdown NACE did of liberal arts degrees by demand. Political science/government ranked at the top, followed by psychology, English, sociology and finally, and to me somewhat sadly, history.

And that's why we are condemned to repeat it.

I was one of those deluded souls who not only wanted to be an English major, but persisted in his folly to earn a PhD in the subject from the University of Florida. Along the way, I was aided by the anti-Communist hysteria of the late Ike administation, when Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), which aimed to train science teachers so that the Russkies wouldn't be able to boast of their scientific accomplishments following Sputnik. A full fellowship grant (not a loan; you didn't have to pay it back) paid for tuition, books, AND a stipend. Because some crumbs were allocated for Liberal Arts types like me, the English Dept at UF graciously gave me the last year of a grant that some fool resigned before leaving school. Let me tell you it was a street ride for that year. I even took a full course load in the summer, which speeded up my progress toward an MA on my way to the PhD. When President Obama said, "You didn't build that," meaning you didn't accomplish everything on your own, I could only say, "Amen" because I'm not an ungrateful churl.


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Posted by ralphc
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Sep 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

ralphc is a registered user.

What a depressing collection of posts. They reflect a sense of panic that too many are seeking too few "chairs" as the U.S. jobs market "music" stops. I have no idea where jobs will be for all Americans who need and will need work (including my grandkids now in or creeping toward their teens). Why argue about whether -- or which type of -- college education is needed in the midst of a gigantic jobs game of "musical chairs".
Better, let's get to the root of the problem, the need for national policy to accomplish long-term full employment. If adequate employment opportunity existed, argument about the necessity or focus of college wouldn't matter.


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Posted by People-Need-Education-More-Than-They-Need-College
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

AB 955 has passed the the two houses, and is headed to the Gov. Desk.

Web Link

Authored by Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, the bill would allow community college districts to cover the cost of offering more extension courses by raising tuition for in-state residents from an average of $46 per unit to around $200 per unit. Last Monday, the bill was passed in the California Assembly.


There are too many free-loaders in the Community Colleges. This bill will force students to take courses that they need, and not just dabble in areas that might be interesting, or help to waste a little time.

Community Colleges also need to look at more on-line courses to reduce costs, and provide remedial courses, like English, Math, and Art.


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Posted by jobs are Job 1
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Educate Americans.
Create jobs jobs and more jobs. Jobs = revenue = ability to pay down deficit

Education = a chance for America to compete in the global economy

Without both, we will soon be a third world nation, unable to consume the way we used to.


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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

The ideas driving soaring costs seem to be two fold:

First is rationing education by costs - a really bad idea since talent and intelligence is not rationed by family income. Doing that drops most of the talent in any generation and will ultimately destabilize the society. Education tends to co-op the smartest people.

What on earth, as an example, is the projected economic use of such huge numbers of undergrad psychology and journalism majors? Journalism may be a good minor with history, economics, history of science, criminology, etc, but is not a major. Political correctness is giving us large numbers of graduates whose only employment is likely to be in government, hopefully not a growth area.

In New York City, generations of immigrant students went to NYU and CCNY. Both were commuter schools, were easy to get into but hard to stay in, and the tuition was zero. When their standards disappeared, so did that kind of taxpayer support. Remember reading about the WWII GI Bill? Free tuition and books, etc, at universities including Harvard and so on. That was some of the best money and investment the US government ever made. The majority of those students must have been first generation in college from their families.

The idea that a four year degree is an entitlement and the definition of middle class is nonsense.

Second, the tuition and crushing loans may partly be there to nail down the students. They start out with high debts and are to put their faces down and get in harness immediately and for life. The mechanisms of credit and debt are the basic means of social control across our society. Money runs our politics and now people from the beginning of the arc of their lives. Debtors take fewer risks.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I know of international students who went back to their countries owing our government and universities tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. I know of one who returned to the US after 10 years, presumably using a different name on his passport although he resumed using his American name with friends and workers.
I felt this was so unfair; as I and others worked hard to repay our loans over a 10 year span.
There was a time when federal student loan were about 7-9% and no tax deduction was allowed on the interest


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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Something else worth mentioning in this context -

Corporations, including Facebook, HP, etc, have lobbied and gotten included in recent immigration bills in Congress millions of new visa workers over years even though there is no evidence of labor shortages in the US. They are really determined to break US labor markets even more than they are these days. The millions are from high tech to no tech. The tech companies are almost all global and lobbying their global, not American, interests.

They include over 200,000 HI-B's a year AFAIK. Add up all the mainly tech visa worker programs including L-1's and you get close to a quarter million a year. With everyone so distracted by "amnesty" the new visa workers aren't on the radar.

Note how business doesn't support the Green Card clipped to an MS degree much. That's because such workers are just in the labor market along with everyone else - they can leave and get another job readily. H1-B workers are indentured, however, and US workers or Green Card holders can't compete with indenture. H1-B's are low balled too, but you only see that by looking at hours worked, not necessarily their salaries.

It is absolutely a privilege to brain-drain the world. We get fine colleagues and good neighbors out of it. But, as with anything lobbied out of Washington, the devil is in the details. Such large numbers mean average tech workers and may be actually supply limited. They also wipe US tech grads off the map. Further, the "Cloud" will even move most IT tech work offshore. So if the additional worker programs are passed, a good bet, it may be unwise for US citizens to major in STEM at all. Of course, corporations will then complain that Americans are all dolts again and that they need more workers still - it's a downwards spiral.

Why would US students go to the trouble of a tech degree and not get a job or get a career that only lasts 10 to 15 years, tops, and then disqualify them from further work? There's little talk of a technical track any more because there isn't one. Companies that don't behave in this way should be mentioned more in the press here - but not in response to HR people interviews. US tech grads should work for smaller companies when possible.

We take for granted our Pay-To-Play political system which is progressively getting worse. That system means that we are increasingly mice in the woodwork and will be less and less competitive in the world with time.


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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm

@People-Need-Education-More-Than-They-Need-College - "There are too many free-loaders in the Community Colleges. This bill will force students to take courses that they need, and not just dabble in areas that might be interesting, or help to waste a little time."

This was really vicious. If there is waste in the offerings or too low standards, etc, that can and should be fixed. Recreational courses should pay for themselves.

However, rationing even JC's by money is intended to freeze out people stratified by family income. That just promotes the idea of economic classes, popular on the right these days. It also freezes out the majority of possibly talented students from the society which is destabilizing in the long run.

If you need cheap grass cutters, push back from the keyboard, go outdoors, and do it yourself. It will be physically healthy for you. You know, hiring people because you can't do something, are growing in scale, or just don't have the time is one thing. Hiring people because you think it's beneath you to do what they are to do means that you need, for the good of your soul, to go rod out a sewer line.

I'd point out too, that California's skipping on real education means that the next generation will be less productive. That means they will be less inclined to support you in your old age. A little cautionary for would be Masters of the Universe.


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Posted by People-Need-Education-More-Than-They-Need-College
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2013 at 9:03 am

This issue of graduates of higher education not being able to find employment is not uniquely an American phenomenon, as Japan is finding out--
Japan losing competitive edge due to poor practical training, expert warns:
Web Link

DALIAN, CHINA – There may be many unemployed young people in Japan, but there are also a lot of companies that can't fill their vacancies due to a shortage of talented applicants, Darryl Green, president of major staffing and workforce solution service company ManpowerGroup, said in a recent interview.
Warning about Japan's labor market, Green told The Japan Times there are plenty of openings for technical positions in Japan, such as engineers and in sales, but most people who have recently graduated from Japanese universities have no practical skills to qualify for those jobs.
"The needs of corporate Japan are not met by the young people that are being produced by Japanese education and society," Green said, adding that unless Japan acts now to address these problems, it's competitive edge will continue to erode.
-----

In both the US, and Japan, the education system seems to have become detached from the general economy. Why? Aren't the people hired as educators the smartest in the world? Why is it they seem to have turned their backs on the world that pays their salaries, and will hire their graduates? What makes these people (college educators) lose interest in their country's future, as it seems they have by not providing their students the education needed to survive in the real world.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Time for Silicon Valley tech companies to step up to the plate and fund new scholarships and loan programs for local kids who cannot afford higher education.

New support programs at state universities and colleges, and other colleges in the area would be good philanthropy and a good investment. (Larry Ellison -- one person who should step up to the plate, but there are dozens of others).

How many writers on this blog who say college isn't necessary and telling their own kids the same thing?

There could be some great scientists, authors, artists, and professors among the lower income folks who cannot afford college.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 6:19 am

"The system is structured to encourage people to go to school and amass debt,"

Now you've got it!


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