Who Scammed America's Youth?

Comment: My response to a young friend who said: "This is so true! Getting a career in the US is non-existent. A four-year college degree is barely worth it!"

Dear Class of ‘13: You’ve Been Scammed


Class of 2013, No one else is going to tell you this, so I might as well.

You sit here today, $30,000 or $40,000 in debt, as the latest victims of what may well be the biggest conspiracy in U.S. history.

It is a conspiracy so big and powerful that Dan Brown won’t even touch it. It’s a conspiracy so insidious that you will rarely hear its name.

Move over, Illuminati. Stand down, Wall Street. Area 51? Pah. It’s nothing. The biggest conspiracy of all?

The College-Industrial Complex.

Consider this: You have just paid about three times as much for your degree as did someone graduating 30 years ago. That’s in constant dollars - in other words, after accounting for inflation. There is no evidence that you have received a degree three times as good. Some would wonder if you have received a degree even one times as good.

According to the College Board, in 1983 a typical private American university managed to provide a bachelor’s degree education to young people just like you for $11,000 a year in tuition and fees. That’s in 2012 dollars.

Instead, those of you at private colleges paid this year an average of $29,000.

And back then a public college charged just $2,200 a year in tuition and fees - in today’s dollars. You could get a full four-year degree for $8,800. Today that will get you one year’s tuition, or $8,700.

Notice, please, we are not even counting the cost of all the “extras,” like room and board. This is just the cost of the teaching. It is, as a result, no surprise that total student loans are now approaching $1 trillion. They have easily overtaken credit card debts and car loans.
My response:

  • Why my wife and I didn't borrow $$ for college way back when? Because you couldn't borrow $$ for college. We probably would have been foolish enough to walk into that trap. But that trap wasn't set! (I know Ma and DoDad (Kathee's parents) or Alvah and Cleone (my folks) wouldn't have co-signed for us or steered us that way!
  • Private college? Yeah sure. Kathee went to a 2 year community college (now a University). She lived at home with her parents and road a bike to college. And worked at various jobs like a bakery and a museum making minimum wage. See On the Value of Community College
  • Christian colleges: They have skimped on accreditation, are poorly run (Pillsbury), and flaky (Northland). Plus they offer "majors" like "women's studies", "camping", et cetera. To young people who love the Lord - great! Love the Lord. But don't think the you have to satisfy your Pastor or Youth Director by attending the latest fad school. Want to serve the Lord in a ministry vocation? (It's commendable!). Get a BA or BS from a decent college and then get an M.A. or M.Div from seminary. 
  • Can a young person still go to college and graduate debt free? Two of my own young adults did. It wasn't easy for either of them. One started working at 14 and saved and saved working as a coffee shop barista. All the way through college. Graduated debt free. With honors. Was offered a bonus (as I recollect of $ 5000) to be hired on with 3M. The other risked his life in the the USMC (served in Iraq and soon to serve with the MN National Guard in Afghanistan. GI bill paid for all tuition. Was that hard work? Yes ... finally graduated debt free from the U of Minnesota last year (Engineering)
  • There are plenty of jobs available. But one must match the education and training to the job. Kids think that they have to get an education in an area where they have passion. I know many who have degrees in Art, and other such areas where there just aren't jobs. We know a young person who got a degree in history and wanted to work at the Wells Fargo Museum. Fact is ... the workers here get by just fine with a HS education!
  • The perfect storm for failure: hard-headedness + averageness + an aversion to hard work and risk. I'm average. I mean completely average. But I was able to figure out how to get a half way decent education and graduate without debt (my parents and my wife's parents instilled in us an aversion to debt. I had HS friends whose parents filed for bankruptcy and that was considered a very shameful thing. My Dad's basic credo was "if you don't have it don't spend it". Frankly I violated that many times and sometimes overused debt. It was foolish! On risk: My risk-taking points: applying for a job to be on the road working for the phone company as a laborer (summer job). I was offered the job and even had accepted it ... but was offered a better job at a chemical plant and reneged (interestingly twice I was offered jobs from AT&T and twice I turned them down for better offers - once after college)
  • Here's the great thing about youth! You are not too old to learn and recover from your mistakes. Unsatisfied with your job? Met with a career counselor or a mentor. Ask yourself these questions: What would I like to be doing? How much would I like to be making? Do I have an aptitude for that? Be realistic! What options are there to get from A (where you now are) to B where you would like to be. 
  • For the Christian: It's not a shameful thing to have a career. Rather it's a shameful thing to lack ambition and gumption. I have more respect for the man working at the mundane job in industry but providing for himself, saving, being a productive member of society, active in his church and giving faithfully than for the dreamer who wants to "serve the Lord" and is dreaming about ministry glory. 
  • Who scammed America's youth? Pogo answers above!


  1. On whether this is a screed or rant against Christian colleges:


    We financially support a Christian college in Iowa. We have for a number of years and not for a small amount. The problem I have is that often Christian college is a one-sized fits all approach. And that Christian college is often poorly executed (the examples in my blog post)

    I would like to briefly highlight my niece who joined the Air Force after HS graduation and now has an Associates Degree paid for by the Air Force ... all the while serving her country AND providing for herself. No borrowing! (She is 25 or 26)

  2. Not much to add to that article. It is a scam. Between the cost of higher ed and the forced belief that *everyone* must/can/should attend college, it's hard to look forward to the future.

  3. There are two financial items I've thanked God for over and over in the last several years: 1) We sold our house in the Twin Cities in 2005, and were overseas during the crash of the housing market, and 2) My wife and I both finished our college degrees with no debt.

  4. Exactly my objection to most Christian colleges. Either they shortcut Christianity, or they shortcut learning. Very often both.


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