Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Living on Hope and a Prayer

Seems every time I opened my Inbox or Facebook page last week, some friend would send me another link from the net telling us how quickly the higher education milk is reaching the smelly moment when you gag. Right now, most brave souls either don't stop to sniff or they think "What the heck. It's still ok. It's...fine." They have hope - and strong stomachs.

We admire people with strong stomachs. The weak and squeamish? Too bad. Let them drink water. Eat dry cereal. Sip black coffee. Dip cookies in Coke. It's good enough. Of course we remind them it would be better to just buck up, suck it up, endure. Like Marines. If the student debt doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger. If the 20th century curriculum doesn't break your spirit, you'll be tougher to kill later on. If the adjunct campus-hopping commute at inconvenient hours doesn't conflict too much with your employer's expectations, you'll make it through another quarter. Until quarter by quarter and deeper in debt, we will give you a degree. That may or may not help you get a job. We make no guarantees. As Rolling Stone magazine points out in their crushing story on Ripping Off Young America,,

Between 1950 and 1970, sending a kid to a public university cost about four percent of an American family's annual income. Forty years later, in 2010, it accounted for 11 percent. Moody's released statistics showing tuition and fees rising 300 percent versus the Consumer Price Index between 1990 and 2011.

But, hey, that's not our fault. When milk spoils, you don't blame the milk. We had to raise tuition rates. We needed a climbing wall and new stadium; a gourmet dining hall for our honor students; ones that look like the Hilton penthouse suites. You made us do it. Remember when the country was spending like mad and we wanted a seat at the party? Still paying the bill.

Plus, everyone reminded students that it was worth the cost: A better life, better job, more stuff. Again, not our fault that this may not be true. Not our fault. No one told you to major in history. Didn't you see the flyer on STEM? Science technology engineering math, dude (and dudettes; especially dudettes!). In a very bad economy, there are still a few good jobs out there. But just in the applied professions. With a history degree, there's a good chance you'll be working retail. Sorry we didn't explain that, but you didn't ask and we don't actually work out there. How would we know?
Not our fault. Happy new year.

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