To be upfront about it, I’m coming from some 35 years as a college instructor/professor/administrator – not my primary occupation since 1986. There are so many changes I could rant about since my happy years in academia. I still experience feelings of coming home when I’m attending some event on a college campus.

But that’s not my topic today. Now I want to talk about what I would call false advertising – being sold a bill of goods – that a degree is the magic entry into a high-paying career. Yes, there is a correlation between obtaining the degree and financial career success. But the degree itself doesn’t hold the magic key. To put it bluntly, college was the place where people of some means to begin with met others with connections. It was the place of learning intellectual and interpersonal techniques that helped to find and keep appropriate and successful jobs. It was above all a place to meet the right people – to network. It was the place to go for advanced training to become a physician, dentist, lawyer … you name it. It was the place to go if you aspired to be a college professor.

Let me stop right here to point out that it’s extremely difficult today to become a tenured professor. Financial demands have emphasized the use of adjunct faculty, who, like me in my early years, could be hired to teach one or two courses at a fixed price if enough people registered for the course. No health care, or savings for retirement. No guarantee of an option for next semester. A far cry from the financial goals to which one might aspire. [I am forever grateful that I hit the field at the right time. Luck really.]

And the appeal of the college loans was to those of limited means, most of whom were ready to work hard to achieve the degree, often while working another job – to give the “right” answers on the test. At one point I supervised a PhD who took a job teaching a psychology course in an on-line degree program. The teaching was scripted, included a run-through of what should have taken four years to approach mastery, and distributed good grades if students could mark the right box on a multiple-choice test. That degree program is still approved. My supervisee refused to accept the job again. Students can still acquire such a degree, which, as far as I know, still rarely provides the networking and other skills that lead to outstanding financial success.

Or maybe they’ve gained an excellent degree like the PhD adjunct professors to whom I’ve referred above, but they’ve graduated into a world where the jobs don’t exist. All of that would be okay if the cost had not been signing their futures away with huge non-negotiable loans with regular interest payments to be met. It’s like taking out a huge loan to buy a highly desirable piece of property sight unseen that turns out be an unbuildable marsh on the edge of a rising sea.

I sympathize with my friends (and people better known) who feel it is inappropriate to forgive debts to which people have committed themselves. It could encourage future pledges that they don’t intend to keep. I can’t back up my next statement with data, but I’ll bet most of the people set free – or at least partially free – of their debt – would just as soon not go through the stress again and get on with building a life.

To summarize my own point of view, I think people who could least afford it were advertised into taking out a non-negotiable mortgage on a future home without being given an honest visit to it, or even a clear picture of it and its neighborhood. only to find it was a wreck of a house, perhaps never well-constructed in the first place, clearly misrepresented – really a fraudulent sale. And still required to continue to pay on that pile of nothing. And maybe I’m wrong.

Call me a bleeding heart.

But it doesn’t hurt the economy to have that money flowing.


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  1. Dear Mona , i am not able to access your blog, just wanted to say that I agree fully and bless your vast and loving heart💜 Big hug! Nina

  2. It sounds like you did access my blog. Anyway, thanks for your kind comment.

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