Posts Tagged ‘ college ’

An Opinion On The Occupy Movement

If you can ignore the F-Bomb, Adam Carolla has some pretty interesting insights into the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I’m part of the generation they call “The Millenials,” and despite my pedigree, it seems to me that he’s absolutely right.  Skip to about 5:50 for the crux of the whole opinion, but he’s not far off the mark with his whole rant.

Could it be that these folks’ anger and frustration was misguided?  Why did they go straight to Wall Street to stage their protests, instead of to Washington, DC, where the frustration should have been focused?

Could it also be that that is why the “Occupy” movement is no longer relevant, if it’s even still around?  

The sad fact (or opinion, since I am really no expert on this thing) is this:  A bunch of kids were given access to easy money to get through school (they still are), because our own government has guaranteed every one of their loans.  They finished up, got their degrees in Anthropology, Literature, or some other nondescript major, and cannot find jobs with their skillset.  The tragedy is that all of these kids were told, “Just get a degree–it doesn’t even matter which one, they just want to see that you can finish what you started”–and then the mortgage meltdown dealt us a mighty blow, and companies began hiring candidates with skills they actually needed on their resumes.  That left many students with degrees completely unrelated to any work the prevailing workforce needed, to fend for themselves.  This, of course, did not end well, and so you have a “movement” like the “Occupy” movement emerge.  (For the record, I was told this exact same thing, but happened to get into aviation, where it is so specialized that if you gain the skills, the jobs are there right now.)

What many of today’s 18-25 year-olds have in education, they do not have in real-world experience.  It might be true that they were “sold” a wrongful bill of goods as far as education goes, but if no one needs the skills they have chosen to groom themselves with, why does that become the fault or problem of the 1% in this country?  Who is supposed to take responsibility for the consequences of these kids’ decisions?

I understand the knee-jerk reaction to envy, but Adam Carolla speaks the truth in this case.  I am very well aware of the risks of returning to school to tackle a Business degree, but that’s exactly what they are: Risks.  The truth is that my education may not let me walk into a decently-paying job right out of school, and I have weighed this at length in my own introspections, and tried to get my wife to let me talk myself out of it probably twelve times now (she won’t).  It’s a different situation for me also, because this isn’t my first rodeo.  The last time I tried this, I basically crashed and burned.  With age comes wisdom, of course, but even still–the future is never certain.  It’s up to me to figure out how to get where I want us to be.  Not the 1%-ers, not some “movement,” not some law.  Me.  Know why?  Because despite the “bonds” that have been formed by those at the Occupy Movement’s “events,” none of those people actually care about each other.  Sure, some of them will be friends, and try to get each other jobs once they get one themselves, but that happens everywhere.

Those who reacted this way did not help themselves, and neither did these.

Once the Occupy Movement dissipated from every city in this country, every person in attendance was left to fend for himself.  They are still mentally in college; when you’re at college, you will make friends for life, and things will be utopian for a couple of semesters…but they will not be responsible for your grades–that is up to you.  It might be true that no one groomed these people to actually go out and get jobs, but the fact is, the information is out there.  You either stack up, or you don’t.

Get educated, and get a grip on what you want your life to look like.  It’s not up to anyone but you to make it happen!

The (Supposed) Coming College Bubble…

I have a dilemma here.

I’m at the point in my life where I finally have the motivation, drive, and work ethic to go after–and actually complete–a Bachelor’s degree (I’ll be majoring in International Business/Finance…not sure which, yet).  You may remember that I tried this roughly twelve years ago, and failed miserably at it for various reasons.  Well, that was then, and this is now.  

Today, I have been accepted to two universities so far, and one is pretty well-known the country over as a premier DC school.  Of course, it is also a private school, and runs nearly $40K per year.  To the average American, someone even thinking of taking out roughly $120-150K in student loans is absolutely nuts to do so in this economy.  To those in high and powerful places, that amount of money was well worth the investment.  I have not yet heard a decision from Georgetown, but if it was good enough for the likes of John Foster Dulles, Robert Gates, and Bill Clinton, it’s plenty good enough for me.

Many who actually know something about the way economics and business work have been saying for the last five years or so that college tuition is a bubble.  It probably is–tuition keeps rising so dramatically because student loans are easy to get, and the school isn’t held accountable for what happens in the marketplace.  That is–the government is subsidizing all of these student loans, so there is no real competition amongst the schools–they just get an almost infinite supply of students who have access to the money they are asking for.  If there was competition between institutions, Economics 101 would show that tuition prices would drop like a stone.  I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank lately–great show, if you’ve never seen it–and Mark Cuban seems to be someone who I identify with as far as methods and approach to problem-solving.  He’s a hard-nose, and he can be ruthless (I need to work on that part, I guess), but he knows what he’s doing.

He posted recently on his blog about the coming bursting of the college tuition bubble, and it has me at a crossroads.

Will this bubble finally burst in three years?  Five years?  Ten years?  When will this situation happen?  What will be the catalyst?

Herein lies the dilemma.

I don’t have five or ten years to wait around for this thing to happen.  I have right now.  As it is right now, I’ll be overpaying for my education by many times, I’m sure, but my choices seem to be either do it, or wait.  And I’m not putting my entire life on hold so I can be pursuing my first degree in my late thirties, while I have kids running around and a career to tend to.  I don’t want to make foolish decisions here–I’m very well aware of the implications of taking on this debt–but I don’t have the time to sit around and wait for things to blow up, and then settle again.  Plus, if you look at things pragmatically, after the housing bubble burst, no one had access to any loans.  What the heck good could come of that for me?  Sure, tuition came way down, but still not enough to attend school without a loan…which no one will be able to get for five years afterward, while the market resets itself…

I guess I am torn about it because I still feel like a college degree hasn’t reached the point of having a negative ROI–for those focused on my major, in particular–but at the same time, the inflated prices of tuition (and don’t forget books, too), are enough to make me, the average American, cringe.

Tell me your stories, Blogosphere.  How has your education made or broken your job prospects?  Has it changed the way you make decisions?  Think about money?  Think about your career?

Heck, is anyone else out there in my shoes?

And Now, For Some Clarity.

Having been on the trail lately for a job which will keep me a little closer to home, I am often asked in interviews, “OK, so…what’s your story?”  I usually explain, “Well, When I got out of high school in 2000, I went to Kansas State at Salina to learn to fly, got my Private Pilot’s License, then switched majors and moved home to go after my mechanic ratings”–at which point, I usually hear, Why?

I have several answers that I give for conversations’ sake, but the honest answer is simple:  I have no idea.  I’ve thought about the why for ten years now, and I still cannot put my finger on it.

Me and Bryan, ca. 2004-05

I guess the simple answer is that I wasn’t sure how to be a man yet, at that point.  I had all this freedom, no one to answer to, and despite being there for school, no clear goal.

When I watched the rest of my family drive off down the road that first day after they moved me down, I remember feeling a little trepidation, a little sadness, and a level of excitement and adventure I have only felt a few times in my life (one of them was my first solo).  When I met my roommate Bryan–who could have been my twin brother–I knew we would get along well, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.  We were both very outgoing–the ones with our dorm door open on move-in day, getting to know the other residents as they passed by.  We found collective ways to get involved–with student government, with our baby at the time, Phi Delta Theta, and secondarily, with our classes.

We did all the fun and dopey things you do when you are newly placed into the microcosm of a satellite college campus in the country.  We went “Puddle Jumping,” whereby you run out and jump into the biggest puddle of water you can find after a good rain, even though it was 37 degrees outside.   We piled into the back of a guy’s truck and literally chased thunderstorms, trying to get a glimpse of a real tornado after the sirens went off in town.  TOP GUN was almost never turned off the lobby TV, if it was on when you got there.  (Neither was it changed from CNN for five days after September 11 happened.)  We grinned knowingly at the Wal-Mart checkout lady as we innocently picked up some supplies from the automotive section–an oil funnel, some plastic tubing, and a shutoff valve.  I picked up smoking at eighteen, and we would spend hours–hours–at Russel’s (the restaurant/truck stop right off of I-135 on Salina’s north side) smoking, drinking coffee, and hammering out the issues at hand, whatever they were.  Many times, we’d have as many as twenty people there, and we’d end up staying through the shift change.  (It was really ignorant to do that, but I didn’t know it back then because I hadn’t had a server job yet.  We tipped as well as we could.)  We invented The Cigarette Olympics, whereby two people at ends of a long table would toss a cigarette at each other, and the goal was to catch it in your mouth.  We spent long hours talking each other through life’s biggest plans (Bryan’s island–“Hinnland”), and grandest failures (Bryan and Delton were instrumental in getting me through them at the time, as was my old friend Kevin).  Those people are still my dearest friends, even though life took us on different paths to different states.

Since KSU-Salina was an old Air Force base, whenever something big was happening, we’d filter out to the runway to see it.  My fondest memories are standing next to the runway (though it was fenced off) and watching the Navy slam their planes into the numbers in preparation for actual carrier landings, or standing literally under a B-2 Spirit at about four hundred feet as it slowly lumbered into the air on takeoff, bound for wherever in the broad daylight.  There was an old Lockheed Constellation who was a resident there–named “Connie”–and her four huge engines never left the ground in both of the years I was there.  If you Google Salina, KS and zoom in on the airport in Earth view, she’s still there on the north end of the ramp, as a matter of fact.  (You’ll also see a bunch of buildings to the right of the North/South runway; that’s the Kansas-State at Salina campus.)

"Connie" the Constellation

I had such a great time there, so why’d I move back?

Well, for one, I was slacking in school, and hadn’t yet developed a work ethic related to studying properly.  By the end of my time there, my grades had gone down hill, I was broke (aren’t we all at that age?), and I had begun to really miss the friends I left behind, and the house I grew up in.  I returned home confused, aimless, despondent, and (by my own standards) a complete failure.  It hadn’t helped much that my own Mom, to combat her feelings of embarrassment among our extended family and friends, griped that she’d “sent me down there to learn to drink and smoke.”  The worst part was that she was right, and I knew as much as anyone else did.  I was as lazy in grade school as I was in college, and I’d given up trying to impress my parents long before, but that first night I slept in my own (old) bed was a new low for me.

What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I was trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to be.  Did I want to be like my Dad?  What felt normal?  What felt right?  What do I stand for?  What’s this politics stuff all about?  How do I feel about one night stands?  How do I feel about people who continually threaten to commit suicide when it’s so obviously for the attention?  How do I feel about a friend getting an abortion?  How do I feel about driving drunk, or being around those who do?  How do I feel about drugs?  How do I feel about a friend being a closet alcoholic?  I had a relatively uneventful teen-hood, and all of a sudden, I had an adult lifetime’s worth of situations before me that I was completely unprepared for.  

I didn’t know until after I’d already made the decision that I’d done the right or wrong thing.  Once, I went by a girl’s house whom I’d met at a movie theater while waiting in line.  I found out after I got there–and after she’d changed into the stereotypical “something more comfortable”–that she was engaged (the electric guitar gave her away).  I knew I had a decision to make, and twelve years later, I still feel good that I left.  Twelve years later, I see how stupid it was to have blown a portion of the rent money on beer, and to waste the chance of a lifetime–an essentially all-you-can-fly school program–in the endless pursuit of instant gratification.  I now see how sleeping in front of a toilet because of alcohol was not a bragging right.  How not remembering the night before isn’t funny, nor is puking in someone’s car.  How making nearly zero progress in two years was not helping.  How publicly embarrassing an ex-girlfriend to people she didn’t know was still hurtful, even from three states away. How being friends with everybody wasn’t paying my bills.  How taking your family for granted was foolish.

I finally kicked smoking for good about six years ago, and I haven’t shotgunned a beer since I lived in Salina.  Now, I tip for a server’s time, not for the $1.65 cup of coffee I drank six cups from.  I came out of A&P school with a 3.47 GPA in 2004, and have finally picked up the drive and motivation to develop myself into anything I want, knowing full well that it will take work.  I’ve tried a couple of times over the years to apologize to that ex-girlfriend for what I did, but I’d be surprised if she’s genuinely forgiven me for it.  In her shoes, I probably wouldn’t.  She’s part of the reason I try so hard to treat my wife well, though, I can tell you that.  My sister has made me an Uncle twice now, and I make it a point to call her, my brother, and my Mom at least twice a month–even if it’s just for a couple of minutes catching up.

So, why did I leave Salina, KS instead of getting my act together and finishing what I started?  Heh…your guess is as good as mine.  I guess it’s possible that without failure, there can be no success…but I’m sure it’s something far simpler than that.

Confessions Of A (Quasi) Boomerang Kid

I have to admit that this kind of makes me laugh.   Boomers are sitting around wondering why it’s taking so long for their kids to fly the coop.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html?_r=1 Now that I’m an adult, I can see both sides of the coin, but the kid in me has no problem figuring out why “boomerang kids” return home after school. The reason is pretty simple:  It’s literally because they have to.

They’ve just dropped thirty, fifty, a hundred grand on student loans, can barely afford the eight- or ten-year-old piece of crap they’re still making the smallest payments they can on each month, and they are having a harder time than nearly any other generation finding a good job.  Actually, it isn’t only trying to find a good job that’s difficult; for many students who got into a prestigious school but didn’t get enough financial aide to finish, or students who changed majors, or students who just partied too much, the credit cards are quickly doing them in.  Many students have come out into the real world into a place that was different than when they went in.  Now, if you don’t have decent credit (or if you have a mountain of credit debt from school, as my wife does, thanks to a shortage on her financial aide), your likelihood of getting a liveable-wage job drops dramatically.

And this isn’t to say that good jobs aren’t out there; they are (beginning to be).  The problem is that employers want people with experience, and there are currently plenty of those people–so a brad-new college grad is thrown out of that ring immediately.  What’s left, then?  These new grads are at that point relegated to either trying to get one of the remedial jobs they had to get through school (which they won’t get because those employers know how over-qualified they are and will leave the first chance they get to start their career), or they’re stuck accepting some kind of internship that pays below the poverty line for no other reason than to get their foot in the door of their field.  So, what else can they do? Well, the obvious choice for someone in this position is return home and grind it out until you can launch your career.  If you don’t have that option, you’ll likely suck it up and rent out a house with five or six other people just to cheapen the rent.  A large problem here is that, even in times of despair, a credit card still provides that instant gratification, and now we’re seeing twenty-five-year-olds filing for bankruptcy.  And even if we do have good or great credit, we’ve learned now from the last few years that even if we could pre-qualify for a half-million dollar home, there’s no reason to try and get one because we can’t even afford Christmas presents or wedding gifts for the people we love.

Let’s face it, it’s really hard to get out of Mom and Dad’s place anymore.  Without any real traction (read: contacts) in our career field, many of us simply have nowhere else to turn.  We’re trying, believe us.  We’re no more thrilled about living at home at twenty-five than you are, and we cannot wait to go from this to this !

Do any of you out there have a boomerang kid, or have had to BE one at an age you never thought would happen?  Tell us your tale.  And what if you never had to return home?  Was it by luck, or design?  How did you avoid it, and what tips could you give current college students?  The juniors and seniors in particular will appreciate your wisdom!

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