Monday, June 8, 2009

Reality Check

Reality Check from the Atlantic: I have a soft spot in my heart for Minnesota Public Radio, having spent four years living in Garrison Keillor country back in the early 1990s. If you have that much snow and sub-zero weather in your life, maybe you have to have both an enduring, and slightly wry, sense of humor about things. Or maybe you don't. But ... you betcha ... it certainly helps.

Collins (from MPR) corrected his statistics on his own page: The average student [undergrad] loan debt last year [2008] was not, in fact, $50,000, it was $21,899. The average income for graduating seniors in 2007 was $60,000 $46,000, making the total debt 36.5% 47.6% of annual salary.

The problem facing most of the people I know in the Environmental Health Sciences department here @ Rodent U. is the fact that we're returning to school. This means:

-- Losing your income while trying maintain your mortgage payment
-- totally scrapping your adult life in order to go back to school
-- missing all of the 'social' activities because you actually have other obligations which are inevitably at the wrong time
-- desperately trying to manage to get to the optional-yet-really-important events directly related to your program
-- abruptly finding yourself truly financially dependent upon someone for the first time in your adult life
-- still bearing debt from your undergrad degree
-- being a parent with other financial obligations besides school (read: daycare)

None of this sissy "I just graduated with debt pity me" will be acknowledged by me. Pity them? Balderdash. Sure, if NIOSH wasn't paying my tuition, I'd be sucking up a huge pile of debt doing this. Would I be whining about it? No. Bitching about it, yes. Whining, no.

Why? Because I chose to do this. Because I figured it was a good enough investment based upon the salary increase I expect to get afterwards. Same reason I went to college. For this degree, though? Good-bye $60k, hello $75k with no more promotion ceiling.

What the hell did these kids think was going on, when they kept signing away their souls to the Financial Aid office? What idiot is so totally disconnected from reality as to not know ahead of time that following their chosen course of action would lead to massive debt? Not the students at Hennepin County Technical College (low tuition). Not the students at Berea College (no tuition). Not the students who went for quality, rather than a brand name.

Yes, U of Mn is expensive. Grad school is stupendously expensive. Why am I here? Because Mr. Gopher is here. And, unlike the engineering or English majors at the U, the closest School of Public Health is in Madison & the closest one with an IH program is either Chicago (and next after that is Ann Arbor).


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