Just Because Someone’s Not an Engineer Does Not Make Them a Hippie

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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72 Responses

  1. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Jason quotes him as saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, that people who choose liberal arts majors are hippies.

    Not remotely how I would have put it.  I’ll let Mr. Object speak for himself, of course, but all I meant in quoting him, and all I personally took away from him, was that many people chose to go to college, and chose their majors within it, as consumption goods.  Not as building for the future of work and paychecks, but as something much higher on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

    Surely you can’t deny the story that says that you go to college to ask big questions about life, the universe, and everything.  And not everyone who asks those questions is a hippie.  Nor are they necessarily worthy of scorn.  They aren’t.  Those questions are important.  They’re worth asking.

    Do they put food on the table?  That’s another question.  And that’s all I meant.

    Sometime I’m going to have to actually write the post I have in my head, still unwritten, entitled “The Hippies Were Right About Absolutely Everything.”

    Because, to a first approximation, they were.Report

    • Renee in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      So long as your fist approximation excludes patchouli – I look forward to this article.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      There was a conservative pundit that wrote a wonderful piece confessing that yes, invading Iraq was a disaster, and that had been clear for some time, and he would have said so long ago if that didn’t mean admitting that the dirty fishing hippies had been right.Report

      • Having gone to school in Eugene, I think that you should update your new post to be “The Hippies Were Right About Absolutely Everything Except Patchouli Oil.”

        And I used “hippy” because Matt did in his OP, when he was backing away from that thought.

        I’m not actually saying that one doesn’t ask those questions in college.  (Or that they should stop asking them after.)  My point is that going through that process in your undergraduate life doesn’t screw up your chances of being gainfully employed later; it strengthens them.Report

    • I’ll let Mr. Object speak for himself

      Hey, why do I have to be Mr. Object?

      Because you’re a fishing blogger.

      Why can’t we pick our own nouns?

      No way, no way. Tried it once, doesn’t work. You got four guys all fighting over who’s gonna be Mr. Black, but they don’t know each other, so nobody wants to back down. No way. I pick. You’re Mr. Object. Be thankful you’re not Mr. Doobie.Report

    • My wife’s a bit of a hippie and her friends are definitely hippies. She’s a therapist- comes with the territory. I had to adjust to that. I never much liked the hippies because my experience is they’re not trying to change the world as much as making a bunch of changes to their own lives in order to pretend they’re not living there. Eugene, Oregon is like a LARPer community. I used to call them make-believe pastoralists. Admittedly, I’m biased by having gotten into politics through punk music and the punks hated the hippies, who they saw as boring, self-absorbed failures (Jello Biafra, memorably, compared the 70s California “organic decadence” to the Weimar era). I’m still probably too much of a pessimist to be a hippie, not to mention thinking they’re totally right, so long as we don’t take anything else into account when considering their arguments. Jason, your words “to a first approximation” best capture that.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    A degree is worth X.

    X consists of both hard dollar amounts as well as somewhat squishier personal and/or existential benefits… and those squishier benefits both include the awesome parties and the awesome hook-ups and the bong hits from spirally power bong called “The Snake” (and when you release your finger “The Snake” “strikes”) as well as the benefits of remembering that one poem for the rest of your life that you otherwise would never have read and knowing who Winslow Homer was and otherwise appreciating Good Will Hunting on a much deeper level than others.

    So, like, if it results in you making more money than you otherwise would have (adjusted for inflation, of course) and being internally “richer” than you otherwise would have been, college is what you ought to do. 100%.


    My college education did not cost me $200,000. I did not go to a particularly expensive school. I went to a little college here in town and lived with my mom as I did so. Here, check this out. (I didn’t go to Boulder but that chart is as instructive as anything I’d be able to google in 5 minutes.) You don’t have to go back *THAT* many years to get to a place where it’s possible for someone to live at home, work a job, and go to school, and graduate with very little debt.

    Now, of course, the numbers for today are a lot (a lot a lot) higher.

    I think we really need to look at “why”.

    I’m pretty sure that a philosophy degree that you get from college in 2011 isn’t substantively different from a philosophy degree that you’d have gotten in 2001 or 1991. The price tag sure as hell is. I’m also pretty sure that the majority of “Humanities” degrees haven’t had major advancements in the last 20 years either.

    What in the hell is happening with the price???

    (Rufus already explained one major thing, of course.)Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’m with you that college costs are out of control–and I suspect that most of the OWSers would be too.  But saying that does pretty much nothing to help people who are currently presented with two unappealing options: either take on massive debt, or largely rule out holding good jobs.

      If your answer is “we need to reform the whole system!”, well, who exactly is the hippie here?Report

      • Pat Cahalan in reply to Dan Miller says:

        I suspect that in the next up economy, the lack of a college degree will not be a major bar to employment.

        Maybe somebody will learn something from this experience.  I doubt it, but you never know.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller says:

        either take on massive debt, or largely rule out holding good jobs

        It did some adding and using today’s numbers for college, you’d have to go to school in Boulder for a little under six years to get to $200,000 worth of debt if you’re an out-of-state student.

        It seems to me that, maybe, there’s a third option somewhere.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      I told Maribou about this argument and pointed out the numbers that I found and asked the question about the price and she told me “It’s the Libertarians’ fault.”

      So there’s that.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

      Where did the number $200,000 come from, anyway?  I see this number a lot, and it seems a bit of an outlier – if not a complete made up number.Report

  3. sonmi451 says:

    I think Jason is just feeling lonely, his libertarian friends at this blog seemed to have betrayed the cause, a lot of the new posters are not libertarians, he’s just so much more sensitive than usual. Poor Jason, you guys need to get some more Cato guys to blog here to keep Jason company. Otherwise, he’ll throw temper tantrums and be unpleasant to the other blogers here.Report

    • RTod in reply to sonmi451 says:

      Dude, do not think we don’t have Jason’s back, regardless of affiliation.

      Jason rocks.Report

      • Dustin in reply to RTod says:

        Hell I can’t think of a single post I’ve commented on where Jason and I didn’t end up arguing and even I’ll push back against dreck like this. The guy’s got intellectual chops, even if I think he’s wrong frequently.

        Here’s a hint sonmi451: This site doesn’t treat trolls kindly, regardless of idiology. You may want to try a little more substance in your comments next time.Report

  4. BlaiseP says:

    Once, my old man lost his job, a rather nice cushy job. They gave him the sack, a little golden parachute and a Challenger, Gray and Christmas outplacement. They told him, after taking the outplacement fee, the most productive avenue for being hired was to ask his friends. He did, and got another job.

    College was never a guarantee of a job, at any time in history. I’m not sure the engineering/liberal arts dichotomy was ever a good measure of political bent. The hippies of Silicon Valley became engineers, notably Steve Jobs and Wozniak. Even ol’ Bill Gates dropped out of college to pursue his dreams. Hippies are what hippies do: I remember some of them well. Idealism — well, Hope is what we have when nothing’s yet happened. As Steely Dan observed

    All those day-glo freaks who used to paint their face
    They’ve joined the human race
    Life can be very strange.

    I’m old enough to remember the soixante-huitards and their adventures in Wonderland. OWS cannot possibly be compared to those times. Ten million strikers took to the streets of France in May and June. In Mexico, troops shot hundreds of protesters. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered and a hundred cities burned. The Democrats came to Chicago and Mayor Daley’s boys in blue took the truncheons to them with a merry will.

    The poor were in horrible shape in 1968. The Great Society and the Vietnam War were competing for the same dollars: the shortages were divided among the peasants. Dr. King’s vision of a color-blind America became a bad joke: at best, America became color-neutral. The fires of Chicago, Baltimore and Washington died down, the smoking rubble of that spring sprouted weeds after the rains of that summer.

    It’s true many college students who can’t make it through Calc and Chem 101 will revert to an easier major but it’s been my observation most of what you’ll learn in college, either in the Science Department or in the Literature Department is of little practical use once you’ve emerged into the business world. If, as Woody Allen said, eighty percent of life is just showing up, eighty percent of college is the people you’ll meet there. I named my son for a man I met in college. My career began with college contacts. I have no friends from the military: none of them amounted to anything. Well, I do have one, he’s a truck driver.

    The Good Old Boy network is real and it works and your friends are the most important asset you’ll ever have in life. I’ll bet, even now, a couple of scruffy guys holding placards in Zucotti Square are just about to form up a business venture.

    College arises from collegium, a club, a society: people living together under a common set of rules. In Latin, collegium has no educational context at all. A university was a corporation with a charter. A professor hung out a shingle, professing to know a subject. Once, education was a free-for-all, a troublesome institution in society. If it’s doing its job right, it continues to be that troublesome institution.   And if you have any sense, you’ll keep up with your college friends.Report

    • Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Horray, a BlaiseP sighting!

      and, “eighty percent of college is the people you’ll meet there.”

      This is a lesson I have attempted to drum into the undergrads that I’ve talked to in these parts.  Because it is not, in fact, a lesson that I paid much attention to back in 89-93.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

      You might say that the only difference between Steve Jobs and your stereotypical dirty hippie is that Steve Jobs had smart friends.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Absolutely correct.   Without Wozniak, Steve would have ended up in Sedona or Katmandu, selling dream catchers and/or weed.  Steve Jobs was a world class asshole.   Watching the mawkish cavalcade of mourners and acolytes, clutching their little iThingies, well, it’s enough to make a buzzard retch.

        As I recollect, the hippies I knew were not dirty people.   They were intensely vain folk, for the most part, slaves to fashion, emulating the Beats and the movie Easy Rider.   They arrived in San Francisco about four years too late.   There was nothing original to them:  there were a few thinkers among them but they weren’t much different from the previous generations of youngsters on pilgrimage to the preaching on the golden shore, earnest dumbasses with cheap guitars they couldn’t play.   They had interesting ideas about economics and sexuality.  Most ended up broke and fighting with each other on their idyllic communes, or with their feet in stirrups in fertility clinics a decade later, their fallopian tubes scarred shut by gonorrhea.   Ah, la jeunesse.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to BlaiseP says:

      The other thing you need to remember, besides how important networking is, is that you have to figure out how to game your education to show you will produce in some capacity.

      An English degree alone will qualify you to read & write books.  Few people get paid to read &/or write books (usually known as critics & authors).  Tack on a teaching certificate, and you can teach English.

      But sell yourself as an English language expert who can help to put spit, spin, & polish on advertisements/pamphlets/brochures/reports/etc, and suddenly you have value to any PR or Marketing department, and lots of government offices & political campaigns.  Of course, if what you want to do is get paid to read or write books, then working in an entry level marketing or PR position might not be an attractive proposition.

      Which makes me wonder how much of this college educated unemployment is due to lack of jobs, and how much is lack of jobs these grads want to do and (to borrow from James) in locations they want to do it in?Report

  5. Stillwater says:

    I agree with RTod!Report

  6. bluntobject says:

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    It figures that the one time I get sloppy about referring to “professional” degrees — including things like education and nursing and business and pre-law and… and… — instead of STEM degrees in particular, I get two links from Ordinary Gentlemen.  Have a look at the graphs in the Catherine Rampell article I keep citing: it turns out that education majors have the best participation rates (in the median) in jobs that require their degrees, not STEM graduates, and that business majors can expect to earn more (in the median) than physical science grads.  So if you catch me claiming that students need STEM degrees to be employable, it’s not because the data support it, and not because I actually believe it — it’s because I’m being careless.  (The data also show, pretty clearly, that getting a humanities degree makes you more employable than not getting a degree at all.  Let’s just get that one out of the way.)

    Earlier today I came across a report claiming that:

    In 1971, about 50% went to college to make money. In the 1990s, it’s about 70%. Similarly, modern college students are more interested in financial stability, not philosophical issues.

    My point’s a bit narrower than “why do people go into English programmes?  Oh dear god they’re idiots, they’ll never get a job and starve to death as parasites on the public teat” — it’s more along the lines of “given that a lot of college students are primarily interested in advancing their careers and making more money, why has STEM enrollment stagnated (STEM being a field that tends to lead to more money, in the median) while fields that are below median for post-graduation income have flourished?”  Maybe it’s as simple as “the increment in expected income from no degree at all to humanities degree is enough to satisfy their desire for more money; move along, nothing more to see here”.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to bluntobject says:

      STEM leads to money in times when there’s jobs for STEM.  When I went to college in the mid-Nineties and told people I was going for aerospace engineer, they were all like “oh gee that’s too bad, I’m sorry to hear that”.

      And for the right kind of STEM.  Many of the people in my masters’ program were math majors who had learned that the only thing you can do with an BS in math is use it as credentials for a master’s program.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to DensityDuck says:

        On the bright side, the fact that so few are going into the STEM fields, while so many are getting ready to retire, means that in the next 10 years or so, I’ll get to enjoy being in demand.Report

    • The more I am reading, the more it seems that Tabarrak’s graphs were flawed or something approaching dishonest. Stay tuned…Report

    • Benno in reply to bluntobject says:

      I’ll hazard a guess as to why STEM degrees have stagnated while humanities (or rather fields below median income) have flourished: universities are now doing the job high school used to do.

      According to an internal report published by one California university, 32% of males students needed math remediation; 44% of female students did.  A department of Ed study (I’ll look for the link…) last year said the nationwide number for remediation was about 33%.  This is not advanced mathematics we’re talking about, but the bare minimum to begin “college-level” math.

      As for writing, I cannot point to numbers (and they would be more subjective anyway) but having read hundreds of student papers from liberal arts campuses to state schools to Ivys, freshman writing is atrocious.  As a junior lecturer and as a grad TA I’d spend more time in the first two months of a school year correcting spelling and grammar than I would evaluating content because, in many instances, the content was indecipherable until the basics of written communication were better in hand. Now that I finally have my PhD in hand (in a soft field) I despair to return to a college full time knowing what in for.

      If students came to college better prepared, or even expose to math and science by passionate subject area teachers who aren’t soul-deadened, more freshman would be up to STEM fields, and more interested in them.Report

    • Lyle in reply to bluntobject says:

      Actually I would make the example of a waste discipline one of  the various xyz studies programs which have sprung up in the last 20 years. If one takes a tech writing course as part of the english degree and pays attention to learning how to write there are opportunities around. Around 22 years ago I was involved in the Posix standardization effort. One committee had an english major as the head and he managed to make the document readable and understandable in ways that the tech types did not.  Essentially you make the english degree about written communication rather that the study of old works of literature.Report

    • While I’m at it…

      You write:

      Jason and Blunt might believe that getting an English degree makes you all but unemployable. But I will tell you that if you are applying for a job in the white-collar world, the resume that has [Major: English/GPA: 3.8] gets put higher in the stack than the resume that reads [Major: Biology/GPA: 2.5].

      I wrote:

      Jonathan Adler points out that grades in the humanities are, on average, significantly higher than grades in the sciences, and concludes that “[i]f taking math, science and engineering courses requires students to sacrifice their GPAs and class standing, it should be no surprise that many choose other courses of study.”

      And Jonathan Adler quotes his primary source in the New York Times thus:

      After studying nearly a decade of transcripts at one college, Kevin Rask, a professor at Wake Forest University, concluded last year that the grades in the introductory math and science classes were among the lowest on campus. The chemistry department gave the lowest grades over all, averaging 2.78 out of 4, followed by mathematics at 2.90. Education, language and English courses had the highest averages, ranging from 3.33 to 3.36.

      Ben Ost, a doctoral student at Cornell, found in a similar study that STEM students are both “pulled away” by high grades in their courses in other fields and “pushed out” by lower grades in their majors.

      So you’re right: I might believe that “getting an English degree makes you all but unemployable”.  Turns out that I don’t, but maybe Evil bluntobject With A Goatee does.Report

      • Lyle in reply to bluntobject says:

        Unless the potential employer lives with a head under a rock they have to know the distribution of grades in the various fields. As a result they normalize the grades to the field.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Lyle says:


          Employer normalization is the key second step in the two-step arms race that’s been inflating college grades over the last few decades.


        • Tod Kelly in reply to Lyle says:

          Unless the potential employer lives with a head under a rock they have to know the distribution of grades in the various fields. As a result they normalize the grades to the field.

          Jason and Lyle – Yes and no.  I think you’ll find that when an employer goes through the first round of paring down the resumes (we got over 200 for the last job we posted) such analysis does not exist.  Glance at employment history, glance to make sure graduated, glance at GPA (especially for more entry level positions), glance at extra-curucular activities, put in pile A, B or C.  It takes about 4 seconds, and I guarantee you the weighing of difficulty of major vs. school performance does not factor in.

          However, if you make it past being put in pile A and get to the “Let’s seriously think about which 10 we want to spend an hour with interviewing,” than yeah, you’re probably right.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            In your experience, Tod, how likely is a submitted resume from an unknown going to get to the end goal, vs. a resume from someone who is known to someone already in the organization, or an internal candidate?Report

            • Pat : Almost never.  If ever.

              We don’t have a policy that we must post all job openings to the entire world, so if we have an internal candidate we want we just talk to them about the opportunity.  But even that usually leaves an empty seat that needs to be filled from outside, so we do post ads.

              But I will tell you that the person the gets the job is always someone that has networked into the organization.  Sometimes it’s someone that finds out we’re hiring from an ad and then works the network instead of the mailed resume, so in that sense posting the job in the newspaper helps us find the right candidate.  And when you think about it, this makes sense.  Given the choice between someone that proactively played Kevin Bacon to get in front of you – and those that do know all about your company by the time they ever talk to you-  or someone that sent you a piece of paper, who would you hire?

              But that myth of an HR exec finding the resume in a stack for a single position?  I doubt it ever happens these days.

              I say this all the time, but if your strategy for getting a job at anything other than a Sprint customer service phone bank is sending resumes into various HR departments you are going to be looking for work for a long, long time.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I had a job offer like that. Or near enough to make sense, at any rate. It was a career change, too — moving from pure C++ into integrated circuitry (which I’ve studied very little — Pics and stuff)Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Tod I may have to have you talk to my Career Seminar class via Skype the next time I teach it (two years hence!).  This is the kind of blunt talk I want them to hear; especially about the value of networking.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

                OK, but your class might prefer just to hear my voice without actually having to look at me.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                It would probably be a good break from looking at me.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                But I will tell you that the person the gets the job is always someone that has networked into the organization.

                This is my experience, and it continues to be something that I firmly hold to be very likely to be true, I was just looking to see if anyone had a counterexample 🙂Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I hear from headhunters all the time (“when it rains it pours” — you’ll never have so many job offers as when you’re employed and happy where you are), but every job I’ve ever applied for and taken came via some in: at least a personal recommendation, and often more than that.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                There’s networking, and there’s networking.

                My current job was acquired in part because I used to work for a company my current employer wants as a client.  Having some insight into the internal politics helped land me the job, even though I knew no one at my current employer.Report

        • wardsmith in reply to Lyle says:

          My son went to college to get a Computer Engineering degree (trying to follow in his dad’s footsteps I suppose). Although he had no real problems with the curriculum, it turns out he HATED his classmates in the major. Just to be friendly one time, he had proposed a study group. The geeks literally said, “We don’t want to help each other because this is a curve graded class and we want to be higher than you”. BTW, even though I had complete social misfits in my major too 30ish years ago, they weren’t /that/ big of a-holes. They had other issues, personal hygiene high among them (and if you’ve worked with these kind you know what I mean), but they were, in their odd way a gregarious sort.

          He told me he couldn’t stand the people, couldn’t make friends with them and didn’t think he wanted to stick it out for the major. I told him, “Do what will make you happy”. He changed majors to Accounting (and ultimately doubled in Finance). Unfortunately this was past the time when you could drop classes without penalty (although he was able to /join/ accounting classes and just play catch up). He ended up “mailing it in” on the CE classes and ended up with something like a 1.9 in the hardest of them.

          Cut to graduation 5 years later and interviews with Big 4 firms and that  grade most certainly DID come back to haunt him. One interviewer was particularly blunt saying, “This grade pretty much disqualifies you from working for us, but I have to hand it to you, I wouldn’t dare set foot in a class like that, let alone pass it“. So here you have someone who at least can do math admitting he couldn’t handle the rigors of a CE course (that my son could have aced if he’d stayed with the major), while simultaneously admitting that the /grade/ in said course was a disqualifying factor.

          I could not agree more with Blunt Object here. The guy is starting to scare me, like he’s my younger, better looking and smarter alter ego. 😉Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

            If you live long enough, eventually you will run into your younger, better looking, and smarter alter ego.Report

          • bluntobject in reply to wardsmith says:

            Two out of three ain’t bad.

            Just to be friendly one time, he had proposed a study group. The geeks literally said, “We don’t want to help each other because this is a curve graded class and we want to be higher than you”.

            Bizarre.  Nearly all of the engineers at my undergrad institution formed study groups as a matter of survival.  (Expected course load for a ‘geer was 6 per semester, versus 5/sem for CS majors.)  All of their assignments were essentially group projects.

            Come to think of it, between that and the “drink a small town dry” trips they’d organize once or twice a semester, those Engineering majors had camaraderie in spades.  There’s networking potential for you.Report

            • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to bluntobject says:

              Ditto with my school.  Bond or die, no one got out alive on their own.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                I think it was a function of the school size. Very large very good pedigree college, that kind of thing. If he had it to do over again perhaps he could have picked a smaller school. He seems happy with his CPA and corporate accounting gig at a Fortune 100. He makes less than his brethren at the Big 4, but works /considerably/ less hours so he actually has a life.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to bluntobject says:

        Yup.  True.  See my comment above.  I be guilty as charged here.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to bluntobject says:

      bluntobject/Matt –

      First off, the shout out was well deserved.  I’m sorry that it took Jason’s post for me to discover the B/O was the name of your blog and check it out.  (The menu options alone are worth a trip to your place.)

      I probably have a “my bad” to fess up to.  As I reread my post, I do note that I took the time to note that you walk away and reject the “liberal arts are hippies” line, and them I go ahead and lump you in with Jason in a couple of paragraphs.  Sloppy on my part.

      As to your question stated above, (why do kids who go to college for a careers not pick STEM) i think it has to do with a difference in the way people look at the word career.  Someone who majors in chemical engineering, for example, is likely someone that has decided at the relatively early age of 19 that they want to be a chemical engineer when they grow up.  For them, I would guess, the word “career” means a very specific and relatively immutable thing.  Same thing applies to people that major in computer sciences, of bio majors that want to be doctors.

      Liberal arts majors use the word “career” in a broader sense.  They know that they want a good paying job that is rewarding, but what that job is hasn’t yet crystalized.  So they end up majoring in whatever subject they find the most interesting, or that they find the perform best in, or has a professor that inspired them.

      As to the question of why can’t we get more STEM graduates, I think this is at least part of it.  I think a lot of kids don’t want to commit to career they think may be boring.  (They don’t really commit to such a career, of course, but I think 19 year olds think they do.)  There are probably other factors as well, not least of which is that for whatever reason in our country popular culture looks at the hard sciences with something close to sneering contempt.Report

  7. James Hanley says:


    I hope you’ll approve of me printing this post and sharing it with my non-STEM majors.  They often need this kind of reassurance.

    On a side note, my high-school freshman daughter is starting to look at colleges, and expressed the concern the other night that she didn’t want to graduate college with a large debt load.  She didn’t get that from any talks we had, so it seems that at least that issue from OWS has started to percolate.   She’s fortunate in having some options for low-cost college that others don’t have (’cause her dad’s a prof, and my college is part of a free-tuition exchange consortium, and although getting that bonus isn’t at all guaranteed, it is possible), but I’m glad she’s thinking in those terms.  I didn’t when I was younger, because getting the hell away from home was more important to me than an education or its cost, but my brothers and sister did, and graduated with no college debt.  It is still possible; it just requires a tough choice.  (Of course if everyone made that choice, this private college prof might be out of a job!)Report

    • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

      I did the whole “cheap college” thing. Went to a school that’s now in the top 20 “most expensive in the country” (dorms, mostly not tuition). Thing is? It gave financial aid, and was willing to bargain to get me.

      Thing is? The state-related school down the street had a better program in my field.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

      James – Print away, and thanks!

      As far as your observations with your daughter are concerned, I tend to take away both “Good” and “Bad” from this trend.

      In the “Good,” I like that young people today are thinking seriously about credit and debt.  When I was young, they never did – until the Nordstroms and Visa bills started piling up to a scary degree.

      In the “Bad,” it seems like the one thing that is worth a young person getting a loan for is college.  I know that there are stories of people having amassed $200,000 in debt just to go to school, but I think of those as outliers.  At Lewis & Clark College, Portland’s high-end expensive lib art school, the average amount of debt for those that graduate is about $22,000.  That’s less debt than most kids in their 20s will go embrace to buy their first new car.  And a car will just depreciate; the degree will help them financially for the rest of their lives.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        I agree, and told my daughter that some debt for school is ok, but that I was glad she was being thoughtful about the issue.

        Interesting you should mention Lewis and Clark.  That’s her number one choice for college, b/c she wants to get back to Oregon, we’ve got family in the area, they have a swim team, and they’re on the tuition exchange list.  Mom and Dad would be thrilled if she went there.  (But is the low debt load related to good financial aid or to lots of students whose parents can afford to write big checks?)Report

  8. E.C. Gach says:

    Great summation of the other side of the coin Tod.  Well put.Report