Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Pay Your Bills

A couple of years ago I saw Toad the Wet Sprocket play in Midtown Sacramento, and opening for them was an attractive and talented singer named Jessie Payo.  To ensure we pronounced her name correctly she said, "I'm Jessie Payo, as in pay yo bills!"  That moment came back to me today as I read the following two articles.

The first one is from Joanne's site:
A Missouri high school teacher owes the federal government $410,000 for student loans. Liz Kelley, 48, hasn’t made a single payment, so the interest keeps mounting.
She got a bachelor's degree in English in 1994.  She enrolled in law school, adding to her debt.  She quit law school and took on more debt to get a teaching credential.  Upon becoming a school teacher she went to grad school in order to get a pay raise.  When the 2008/2009 recession hit, she and her husband lost their home and their marriage broke up; this allowed her to defer paying for three more years.  She can't defer any longer and now owes over $400,000.  She currently teaches at a parochial school.
If she found a public school job, she could use income-based repayment, which would link her payments to her income and erase the remaining debt after 10 years. “But that would still mean a decade of what she describes as ‘futile’ payments that won’t even cover her monthly interest expenses, leaving nothing to put away for retirement.” Carey writes.
I don't think I'm hard-hearted for having no sympathy for her--she hasn't paid a cent on her student loans, and interest has been accumulating for 21 years now.  I think she should pay her bills.  That doesn't make me hard-hearted, that makes me an adult.  Her sob story is straight out of this Toad the Wet Sprocket video (from 1:00-1:07).  She probably wants Uncle Sugar to forgive her debts and cleanse her of her bad decisions, to that I say boo-freakin'-hoo and no-freakin'-way.

Our next story, which is slightly more sympathetic, comes from CNN/Money:
For the past 20 years Susanne Walsh has been dreaming of a retirement where she'd travel the world.

Unfortunately, those retirement plans are now on hold -- indefinitely.

That's because Susanne and her husband Bill helped pay for their two sons' college education and even cosigned on some of their student loans. Despite graduating with four-year degrees, neither of them have found stable jobs.

Now Bill and Susanne are shouldering the brunt of roughly $189,000 in combined student loans.
Does it surprise you that one of those sons majored in something ending in "studies"?  And he's having a hard time of it with his career in Hollywood.
To help support their sons, the couple also has a side business providing editing support for a technical engineering journal. 
I just don't understand how college students can be adults--they can vote, they can sign contracts, they can join the military--but they're not held responsible for paying for their own college degrees.  Why, for chrissakes, are parents expected to pay for college?  Why does a parent's income factor into financial aid at all, just because the colleges can get away with it?  That just sounds like a racket to me.  That's bad enough, but Bill and Susanne also cosigned for their sons' student loans, which makes them financially responsible for those loans.

This, boys and girls and parents, is why the only people who should go to college to self-actualize are those who can afford to.  The rest of us should get a degree in something that will allow us to be financially responsible, contributing members of society.

Yes, college costs are too high.  They aren't going to get any lower by forgiving student loans, making college "free", or any other of the wacky ideas that many people, mostly on the political left, are tossing around lately.  If you can't afford Expensive Private University, they you don't go to EPU.  End of story.    By the way, for those who worry about a "quality" education, the two most intelligent people I've ever known both went to state schools here in California.  Both got engineering degrees, and both have been very successful--including financially--in their respective fields.  There's more to it all than the school name listed on the sheepskin.

In closing:  make good decisions.  Pay yo bills.  Be an adult.


Jean said...

The fact that it's hard to get a job and college is expensive is why almost everyone I know is encouraging their kids to get practical degrees at affordable prices. We've told the kids that BYU is what we can afford--and incidentally, they can get a world-class education there. How about a degree in, say, optometry?

As a matter of fact, most of the high school kids I know are very concerned about these things. I'm often impressed by their practical plans--very different than when I was starting college and a lot of us were English majors because we liked books and we didn't really know how to connect the college part with the job part. This worked out surprisingly OK for many of us because we graduated in the middle of the 90s tech boom, but it's not gonna fly any more.

Ellen K said...

When our kids were small we opened Texas Tomorrow Funds for them. We only had one income and didn't have much money, but we paid those bills. While it didn't pay for the entire bill of a four year university, it made it where the loans my kids had to incur were manageable. While other families were taking lavish vacations, buying new cars, bigger homes and spending money on things that wouldn't last, we paid the bills so our kids could go to college. A combination of scholarships and this grant helped my two oldest get through school. Unfortunately due to poor advising, my youngest lost some of his money and we had to cash out when the program ended. It was a great way to save for college and it's one that would require universities to keep costs manageable. Instead we have college recruiters who come to high schools telling kids not to worry about the high cost of college, but to "invest in themselves." Down the road that kind of mentality leads people to linger longer in college. My son, who doesn't have a high paying job considering his degree, has not only paid off his loans but bought a house at age 29. My daughter and her husband are working to do the same-although her husband has the cost of a Master's to pay for. So it can be done. But it means you don't get all those perq's that Oprah and others suggest you deserve. But the problem is that right now we have a large swath of society that don't think they should have to pay for the basics-that they deserve the fringe benefits. I have no sympathy for these people. If my kids can work full time, go to college full time, pay off their bills by the time they are 30, then so can others-especially those who get outrageous amounts of help due to being part of special populations that get far more in grants, loans and scholarships than the average student.

PeggyU said...

I have to wonder about the sanity of those who keep lending her money.

Darren said...

Tic tac toe, three awesome comments in a row.