A recent TIME magazine article showed five higher education students and the amounts each had borrowed. The highest shown, though not necessarily the highest amount borrowed by any student, was $120,000.
So what happened to common sense? What was the student thinking who borrowed that amount? Who is loaning such amounts to students? What happens if our society gets too many such borrowers? Will they expect the government to bail them out?
To see the absurdity of owing that $120,000, suppose that the interest rate is just 5 percent. That would mean that each year the amount owed for interest alone would be $6,000. What would a job have to pay to allow paying off of that debt in say 10 years? Twenty dollars an hour multiplied by a rounded off number of hours worked in a year to 2,000 gives just $40,000, 2000 hours meaning approximately a 40-hour work-week. Given the current job situation, what is the chance of landing a job that pays that amount? Of course during those 10 years, it will be very difficult to buy a home and raise a family, goals that a full 75 percent of college freshmen say they want.
Oh, it is possible to get a good paying position, but clearly not all college educations lead to such positions. If the borrower has majored in engineering (mechanical, electronics, computer) or related field or if the borrower has picked up a Certification of Public Accounting or something similar, then maybe that loan would work.
In the last 50 years, the financial help provided to students has undergone a significant change. It used to be that a large number of scholarships were awarded based on being a scholar, on being at the top or near the top of a high school graduating class or high-scoring on a competitive exam. Grants made on the basis of need (however that was defined) were smaller and often required the recipient to also take a part-time job.
The higher education institutions also share part of the blame for some of the costs. At one time, there were stronger admission standards. There were few remedial courses and few tutors. Now a full 20 percent of students in high school believe they will need remedial courses to attend college and a Higher Education Research Institute Survey (UCLA) found that about 40 percent of those admitted into the freshman year of college said they would need remedial work or special tutoring. Many of those remedial courses are being counted as credits toward obtaining a bachelor's degree. Doesn't that mean that the college graduate today may not be as qualified to enter the work force at whatever profession as they were some years in the past?
Add to all of that the grade inflation phenomenon so that it is difficult to determine how students compare to one another. Local elementary and high schools sometimes publish a list of their honor students that comprise half or more of the entire student body. Colleges are no different where C is no longer the average, but even a B may be below the average grade given in classes. Wish I knew the answers to change all this. Oh, Fiddlesticks!
Despite the problems indicated, education still seems to pay off in that the recent unemployment figures show just 4.7 percent of bachelor's degree holders are unemployed, compared to 10.3 percent of those with just a high school education and 14.9 percent unemployed who were not high school graduates.
Similarly the median average earnings for a bachelor's degree for those 25 and older is more than $20,000 more than those who hold just a high school diploma.
About 45 years ago I took up stamp collecting - actually accumulating is more like it. A philatelist in my way of thinking is one who not only collects stamps, but knows what he/she is collecting and puts those stamps into albums of special collections to show off various aspects. The philatelist is able to "talk stamps." I, however, merely accumulate and I definitely do not "talk stamps."
There are so many possible collections it would be impossible to list them all. There are those that collect old stamps (think 19th century), new issues, maps on stamps, stamps from a particular country (think of all the countries of the world that issue or issued stamps), flowers on stamps, sports on stamps, scouts on stamps, etc.
In the United States, however, the one overriding rule to having a person's likeness on a stamp was that the person had to be dead. Not only that, but at one time there was a restriction that they had to be long dead, but that was overturned fairly recently for dead presidents of the U.S.
Who is on a stamp is about to change. The United States Postal Service in 2012 will allow living persons to be depicted on stamps. Picture this: Several years ago, one of the great investors of all times was Bernie Madoff who supposedly made many people wealthy. Further, he chaired the NASDAQ stock exchange. At his peak he might be a candidate for being depicted on a stamp. His downfall (Ponzi scheme) occurred later. Suppose he had been honored on a stamp. What would that now say about the selection process and the "honor" of being so depicted? Oops! Maybe there was a reason only the dead qualified.
Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!