About those college loans

sea wall Santa Barbara Harbor
Flags along the seawall at Santa Barbara harbor. Photo is from my summer beach vacation.

Whatever you think about forgiving college loans, something jumped out at me on Twitter yesterday.

There were a lot of people on Twitter in favor of college loan forgiveness who are pompous elitists. I was going to use stronger language but I stopped myself.

Here is one of the tweets I saw:

She implied that a person who didn’t go to college is lazy and partied their senior year. Also, that a college graduate is “more understanding and well-rounded.”

Someone else tweeted that a nail salon owner took PPP money “wink wink” to pay her staff. Does this person believe shop owners aren’t honest? Seems judgmental to me. But then I’m being judgmental also.

Someone else commented that people who decided not to go to college in favor of working SHOULD have taken out a loan.

I saw over and over that college is the only path to a success for an enriched life.

I know many people who did not go to college. For example, in my high school graduating class probably 25% went to college. That estimate is probably too high. Our small town was filled with small businesses and farmers.

Our good friend who died Thanksgiving night never went to college. He was hardworking and spent his days managing and fixing up his 300-plus rental units. He enjoyed his work. He had two adult kids he loved to travel with. Would his life have been better with a college education?

I have another friend who owns a construction company who ironically builds buildings at California universities. He has a waterfront home with a yacht parked out front at his private dock. He and his wife have kids and grandkids who fill their life with joy. They spend their summer weekends on their boat at an island that they helicopter back and forth to. Would he have been better off going to college?

Another friend has owned several auto mechanic and tire shops. He and his wife are proud of their family and work hard at their business. They devote their free time volunteering at their church.

My point in this rant is that college is not the only path to success or a life filled with joy. I have a college education because it was never an option in my family not to go. My dad was first generation college grad with his parents immigrating from Finland. On my mom’s side, I’m not sure how many generations went to college. My great-grandfather owned a printing press and a newspaper. My husband’s grandmother was in the first class at UCLA that graduated women. So, yes, our kids were off to college, too.

In my humble opinion, college does not guarantee success nor happiness. Life is what you make of it.

Do you have any thoughts about the college loan forgiveness? How about whether a college education makes you a more understanding person as I read on Twitter?

33 thoughts on “About those college loans

  1. I think it cuts both ways but a good education can try to make you a better person, but no guarantees. On the other hand many people without a college degree do extremely well too. As for loan forgiveness, some current and former students are buried deep under this debt and need to be rescued.

  2. Good post! I ran into MANY happy, successful soldiers while in the service. Many were brilliant, they just did not have the college itch. They were outstanding young men and women with loads of integrity, and a great work ethic. Those with ambition rose through the ranks, had specialties they loved and transferred to civilian jobs that paid very well (translators, engineers, welders, electricians, computer geeks, communications, mechanics, etc). They retire at 37, get civilian employed, and get two healthy checks the rest of their lives. Uncle Sam paid for the training. Amount of college? None. Amount of debt? None. If they want to go to college or trade school to get better, guess what? Uncle Sam pays for that too. Oh, and they get VA home loans, discounts at most local businesses, and (in most cases) profound respect from those around him/her.

  3. I would never say that college is a must do for everyone. You made very real points- people can and do have wonderful careers and lives without that diploma. College offers lots of opportunities, but not everyone wants or needs to learn how to be “successful” in a college setting. I am someone who would be in favor of a universally free system of community college, or the same with versions of tech school programs. I’m also a big fan of individuals doing as much homework as they can on things like scholarships and grants to help offset costs. I know there’s controversy about this loan forgiveness but honestly the amount is a drop in the bucket (helpful yes) when you consider the typical costs associated with higher ed.

      • I think that the concept of college attendance is still a huge social norm, a long-standing expectation that just isn’t right (for lots of reasons) for so many.

      • Absolutely. I was part of a scholarship committee where we interviewed high school seniors. All of them said they were going to college to be doctors. Yet most didn’t have the SAT scores that would predict they could do that. But they were all convinced that was their only path.

  4. I don’t like it. My problem is it makes it that college is a given and necessary. While I admit that some professions need college, most don’t. I’m ok with forgiving loans of people in nursing or doctors as we need our best and brightest. Otherwise, I don’t want to use my tax dollars to fund someone who has a 2.5 in philosophy so they can be a barista. No offense to baristas, but you don’t need a college degree to do that. My daughter said that only 33% of Americans have graduated four year college. Yet, something like 88% have attended college. Why are loans for people who didn’t value their education being forgiven?

    • Those are interesting stats. I agree with you. I don’t think it teaches personal responsibility either. I know there is a problem with the cost of college and debt but I think there must be a better solution. Did you know universities don’t pay taxes?

  5. The problem nowadays is that children/students are taught that if they don’t go to College they won’t find a decent paying job. That is true. It’s how society has become. To be skilled in a TRADE is frowned upon these days. You need the four year degree, even if you don’t use it. A FEW YEARS ago, there was a Wall Street Journal article about America being in discussions with Germany to learn how we can encourage students in High School to go for Trade jobs (plumbing, electrical, home building, etc.) like they do in Germany. Germany is very successful in allowing kids to choose College or a Trade job. THAT is our big FAILING right now making kids feel that they ALL have to go to College or no good paying job. Not everyone is cut out for College.

    • Absolutely correct. We should learn from Germany. When I was in high school there were classes for trades. Woodworking, auto mechanics, shop, etc. We need to get back to that. My plumber at my old home said he was working part time as a plumber while enrolled in college. His goal was to become an attorney. He said he looked at the plumber he worked for with a nice house, family, boat, etc. and dropped out of college. He does not regret it at all. He has his own business and is successful.

      • Exactly, they make good money and usually own their own businesses. We, in America, not sure WHO started that need to STOP frowning on people who have Trade jobs and INSTEAD start teaching them in HS like you said.

      • Also, when my kids were looking at college it was all about the prestigious schools. When my son didn’t get accepted into any of those name brand schools he was devastated! Also my daughter lost our on a job because she went to Utah and the person they hired went to UCLA. She was recruited by UCLA and turned it down for Utah because she liked the atmosphere, coaches and costs better!

      • Yes, there is that too, kids being made to feel they MUST go to prestigious schools. I lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years there was a lot of pressure for the Ivy Leagues. Sad about your daughter. However, as we grow older it doesn’t matter. ALSO with COVID and all these issues with College loans, parents going to jail because of cheating to get their kids into top schools — I HOPE/THINK the College issue being a necessity is going to change.

  6. Changed my login info to see if I can comment here. You may know me as Scr4pl80) My daughter is hopefully going to be one of those whose debt is forgiven. Because of my husband’s disability, for the last two years of her college she got a Pell grant but for the first two years we had to take loans and she took loans also. Her debt was a total of about $10,000 of which she has already paid $2,000 (she graduated 4 years ago). If she qualifies the rest would be forgiven and that takes a big burden off of her. Also fortunately, because of the disability, our part of the loans was also forgiven and that was $25,000+ for which I am so grateful. I also agree that kids seem to be forced into college now and wish they would go back to teaching the trades in high school. That’s been one of my pet peeves for years.

    • I’m so glad you can comment again! Congrats to your daughter. I think most students today believe that college is the only way to success. It’s far from it. There are many degrees that don’t lead to high earning jobs.

  7. There is no one right answer to issues like this. Like in Germany, we learned the Dutch set kids on three different paths based on their aptitude, not all go to college (it’s roughly identical to the US at 39%). Part of the problem is the high cost of the “right” schools. There are many affordable ones out there. There are scholarships and grants people don’t apply for. Oh, and then there are those places that charge $25k and promise to teach you to be a programmer and will get you a job, too. My brother fell for that one. Just a big waste of money. No, you don’t need college to be successful and happy, unless you really want to be, say, an architect. Good luck doing that without a degree. Loan forgiveness isn’t in itself a bad idea. The devil is in the details. How to implement it fairly. If you can’t, then leave it be.

    • My kids’ high school set tracks at one point and I was against them. I think freshman year of high school is too early to determine if you’re on a college, health care or any path. I agree with all your points. I do want my architect or doctor to go to college 🙂

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