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Forgive Me, Father, For I Have a B.A.

Getting a college education is not a sin.

So, Biden forgave 43 million Staters their student loans. Up to a point, anyway.

The news cycle has moved on, but while reactions were raging, I followed as much of the commentary in the media as I could. That includes social media.

Almost all the negative comments came from Boomers. Of course. There were many variations, but they boiled down to this: “I paid off my school loans. Why should I pay off yours? You took the money, it’s your obligation to pay it back.”

Every time I saw one, I could only shake my head. These people have absolutely no clue they are living in a world that is long since past. I read a post on Facebook by a woman who related her experience. She attended a 4-year college, and paid for it with loans. Her tuition was raised each year, so each year her loan was that much more. She graduates. Lands a position as a public school teacher. Gets married. Her husband has college loans, too. She wrote that it was a struggle, but she and her husband paid off their student loans in 6 years.

Living in a world 50 years gone.

Did you get that? It took 6 years to pay off her student debt. On a public school teacher’s salary. Really. So when did all this happen, you ask?

She started college in 1967. NINETEEN SIXTY-SEVEN.

That woman’s college experience is over 50 years old. First, the way student loans are structured today is vastly different from what they were in 1967. Second, she began paying them back in 1971, when wages were just beginning to stagnate. Third, however much her tuition was then, in today’s dollars it was way less than what tuition is now. Here’s what I mean. In 2009, the federal minimum wage was set at $7.25/hour, the same as it is today. In 2022, adjusting for inflation and the consumer price index, minimum wage would be $9.97. Two things stand out from this. Number one, the value of the minimum wage is 40% less than it was in the 1960s, when this woman was heading off to college. Number two, the $7.25 minimum wage has 27% less purchasing power than it did in 2009.

Let that sink in for a minute. And keep in mind it applies to wages across the board. And further keep in mind that wages have stagnated since the 1970s. If we were really being paid what we’re worth, our paychecks would be a helluva lot fatter. If that was the case, maybe these young people could pay off their student loans in 6 years, too.

Imagine the following scenario. You graduate from college at 21, and start paying your loans. You’re faithful, never missing a payment. Now you’re 39. And you’re still paying. Yep, that’s right — 18 years later, you’re still paying off your student debt.

Your student debt will probably be around longer than your spouse.

A far cry from 6 years, ain’t it? And unlike that woman, you’re not finished paying.

I wonder what the poster would think about the fact teachers can have their federal student loans forgiven. If they teach for 10 years in a public or non-profit school and make payments during that time, their debt gets wiped out at the end. But do the math. She paid her loans in 6 years. Today, a teacher’s loan can disappear in 10. So our today teacher made payments for 10 years, but without that federal law, they’d still be in debt.

But 10 years. That’s a far cry from 6 years, too.

And another thing. The value of a college degree is a helluva lot less than it used to be. I remember a commercial that aired before I reached the double digits about the importance of staying in school, completing your K-12 education. Went like this: A shady-looking employment counselor is advising a person looking for work. The counselor notes the person doesn’t have a high school diploma, leans back in his chair and says, “you ain’t going nowhere without that sheepskin, buddy.” The camera turns to the person being counseled.

It’s Abraham Lincoln.

Yes, I know. Lincoln’s world was very different than the world now. But that’s the point. Without high school education credentials, if Lincoln had been looking for a job today he wouldn’t get one, not one that paid a living wage. In these times, at least he could get a GED. But he still wouldn’t be paid a living wage.

Oh, I should mention. That commercial is over 50 years old.

A college education is basic education.

Now, it’s not about a high school diploma. You have to have a college degree. K-12 is pegged as a basic education. Public school is free, paid for by our tax dollars. If someone has to go to college to “get a good job” these days, shouldn’t that be a part of basic education, too? And from what I hear from young people, that “good job” ain’t all that great, if you can even find one.

The worst disservice that has been done to young people is to eliminate the trade schools. I detest that term because it implies “the trades” are “less than.” Lemme ask you something. You ever been to a master electrician or plumber’s house? I have. And I’ll tell you, they were living better than I was, and I have a law degree. Why? Because nobody wants to go into “the trades.” If they do, they’re “less than.” Young people have been brainwashed to believe college is the ticket to the “good life.” That’s why “the trades” can charge what they do, and really do live the “good life” because nobody knows how to fix their own damn kitchen sink anymore.

There is NOTHING wrong with getting your hands dirty. 

Remember that old joke? A fuse in a lady’s house has blown, and she calls the electrician to fix it. He spends 5 minutes, and hands her the bill. It’s $100.00. She protests. “But you were here only 5 minutes!” To which he replies, “$2.50 is for the fuse. $97.50 is for knowing where to put it.”

Guess what, folks. It ain’t a joke.

Forgiving student loans so young people can have a chance to do the things Boomers berate them for not doing. Buying a house. Having kids. Just like they did.

So, to all the Boomers out there bitching about Biden’s forgiveness, I have only this to say:

Shut the fuck up and be grateful you had it so good.

 

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