Getting Schooled

As a student who attended a tuition-free city college in NYC and a private, tuition-heavy graduate school university in the Midwest, I have experienced the cost of higher education from both sides.

And let me tell you as a middle class kid, one side is A LOT more comfortable than the other.

So I was more than thrilled when this week Pres. Biden announced a plan to provide $10,000-$20,000 in debt forgiveness to roughly 43 million Americans drowning in student loans.

It’s not as generous a plan as I would like (Note: We’ll get to that in a moment) but it’s a start.  It also seems fair that these breaks are capped to individual incomes of $125,000 per year and in two-income families $250,000 per year.

I also figured, quite wrongly as it turns out, that the vast majority of Americans would be behind this. 

I mean, it’s hard enough to get out of college and pry your way into the job market but imagine doing it being so deeply in debt at such a young age?

Facing reality

You don’t even get make the mistake of taking a frivolously expensive trip, overpaying for some crappy used means of transportation or impulse buying some gold/diamond something or other.

Or maybe you do that or worse, as young people are wont to do, and it makes everything that much more horrible.

How much more horrible can the world seem in your late teens or early twenties than it ever did?

I don’t want to even think about that.

Life is hard

Granted, I got my B.A. at Queens College, CUNY in the 1970s when it cost exactly $69.25 tuition per semester. I remember the figure well because I had to pay for that AND my books with my part-time job and was damn proud of that.

Especially because it left me room to squander extra money on big platform shoes to make me look taller, and in my mind much more desirable, to whatever I was trying to attract at the time. 

Those shoes, alas there were three or four pairs, proved to be the first of many financial mistakes I would make since they netted nothing in the romance department and would be hopelessly out of style, nee useless, within a year. 

This was fashion

But at 20 years old, at least I had fun with them and the very occasional bag of bad grass I managed to purchase and pay for on my own when I split it with a friend.

But let’s not digress to the good old days that I only wish I knew were as good as they were when I was living through them.

The point is, all these decades and experiences later I very wrongly assumed the vast majority of adults in this country, having been young and likely financially strapped and dumb the way I once was, would embrace the idea, if not the details, of Biden’s new plan to give college students and the families that manage to put up with them, just a touch of a break.

Well, it’s not the first or even 10 millionth time I’ve been wrong about my fellow Americans.  And clearly, if history is any indication, it won’t be the last.

Truly in the Twilight Zone!

The sheer hysteria over supporting the education of our young (Note: A $1.6 trillion debt forgiveness as opposed to the $2 trillion plus in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that contributed to the US deficit) sent shock waves out across the country, especially among members of the GOP

I won’t quote them all, but the basic gist was Why should I have to pay for your education; Maybe you should learn to manage your money better; and my favorite, I PAID MY LOANS, NOW YOU PAY YOURS, FREELOADER!

So, my first thought: 

But I censored myself and instead posted the following on Facebook and Twitter:

If you’re so small minded that you are having a tantrum over young people having some of their college debt forgiven, you don’t deserve all the great things this next generation will do. And you’re a selfish assh-le.

My husband publicly jibed me for blithely calling people I don’t know A-holes on social media but at the end of the day he realizes this was harmless compared to what I wanted to say and still could be saying. 


There is no irony lost on me that we both work for a private college that charges a lot more tuition than I paid.  But it is one that also offers A LOT more scholarship money than most schools do, and most especially did in my day.

This is why the Biden plan is a start to a more just world when learning at the college and university level doesn’t feel out of reach when you’re not wealthy.

I say feel out of reach because lots of students these days who go to college and beyond do so knowing it is a given they will be moderately or perhaps severely in debt. 

Well, it is a given – like a not-yet out short-ish gay kid buying 3-4 pairs of platform shoes he couldn’t afford back in the 1970s,  but nowhere near as embarrassing.

Do not bring the 70s back, please.

Most adults nowadays do NOT get just how much the financial realities of where they once were as college kids have changed since they were in school. 

So rather than quote a lot of general statistics, here’s a simpler and more personal example of how it’s different.

Back in the mid-seventies it cost me $138.50 for one year’s tuition at Queens College.  The cost now, in 2022, is $7538.00 per year. 

Without factoring in living expenses and books, materials, etc. that’s a more than 5300% increase!

I made $4.25 per hour, almost double the minimum wage at the time, working at a part-time job typing health insurance claims into what was then a very, very early and large computer terminal.

I can’t say how well I did (Note: Not very but I was game) but my pay for an 18-hour week was $76.50.  I had my yearly tuition, books, etc. covered in less than a month of take home pay.

OK, staying with me

Minimum wage today in NYC is $15 per hour.  So let’s say a college kid gets lucky and makes $25 per hour (Note: Good luck!) close to twice the minimum.  That’s $450 per week before taxes. 

Do you know how long it will take that kid to cover tuition for two semesters?  That would be more than EIGHTEEN MONTHS after taxes are taken out. 

So it takes today’s college student at the same place and location I was at EIGHTEEN TIMES longer than me to pay off just one year of school at one of the less expensive but decent colleges in the state.

And this is WITHOUT food, room, board or…..  Certainly it doesn’t factor in platform shoes or even a bottle of wine or beer or anything else (Note: Ahem).

THE.     DECK.      IS.       STACKED.

a heavy load

No matter how imperfect my math or comparisons might seem to you.

Tell your friends, relatives and followers who don’t like the idea of giving the next generation some loan forgiveness to save their temper tantrums for something that counts.   

Like the future of democracy.

And if that doesn’t work, see every edited curse word above and add many more of your own.

Because they will all deserve it.

ABBA – “Money, Money, Money”

Going Nuclear

Imagine this:

A guy has super top secret information about the United States’ nuclear capabilities in his closet, the most top secret you can have, and refuses to give it back.

Well actually, at first he denies having it at all.

Perhaps a more accurate depiction of events

That is his response to the US government when they ask for its return, along with his surrender of other items and information that are merely dubbed secret.

So finally the government gets a court order to search his house for that and other stuff he’s not supposed to have in his closet, many boxes full, and they are all taken away from him.

See the guy hasn’t had super top secret or ever secret security clearance for almost two years and, even if he did, he could only possess or even look at said information in a governmentally secure and much more pristine facility than his…closet.

That’s how uber super duper national security TOP SECRET or SECRET all of this stuff is.

Does this make us moose and squirrel?

Oh and side note: This guy also hangs out with some of the BIGGEST power brokers in Russia and the Middle East, two countries that would do and offer quite a lot AND MORE to learn anything at all of our secrets OF ANY KIND on any level.

Now I’m not saying THAT is relevant to our guy several weeks ago hosting a bunch of those wise guys at a golf tournament he sponsored in New Jersey at another one of his closet-containing properties, where lots of games and conversations were played and had.

On the other hand, I’m NOT saying it is irrelevant; nor is more than half of the country.

This ain’t advanced calculus!

Anyway, now that we have our stuff back, stuff our guy has had for 18 months plus and, really, could have given to anyone at any time for any price or just for fun and/or frolic or bragging rights, what do we do with him, this guy, our guy????

Well, I’ll tell you what we do – we invite him to be the next president of the US and, in fact, we beg him to run. 

Yes folks, this is the belief of at least HALF of the voters in his political party, one of two major political parties in the perhaps now nuclear vulnerable, thanks to our guy, U.S.

And no, there is no hyperbole here.

Nor is this!

At NOTES FROM A CHAIR, we just report the FACTS when we reference stories about US nuclear power and the GUY, or even former guy, ultimately in control of the arsenal and strategies that enable and disable it.

Okay, here’s the truth of all of my above wordsmith-ness:

I don’t like to reference our 45th president’s name because, really, the mere click of the letters and/or the thought of them (and him) make me either physically nauseous or psychically angry. 

Or is it physically angry AND psychically nauseous?

Either way, someone get me a bag

Well, either is true in any moment where it is not a potent combination of all four.

So, aware of how his mere presence, image or existence gets to me, I instead try to analyze his newsworthy escapades, of which there are few despite the massive coverage he gets, in a separate, more potentially objective, third person scenario.

By calling him our guy (Note: Which technically he was since in 2016 he was legally elected {Note 2: As far as we now know} and this is still the UNITED States) it kind of evens the playing field a little bit more towards objectivity for people like me.

Of which there are also MANY

“Our guy”

We gain an opportunity to look at events, actions and facts without a Pavlovian instant response of near vomitus sickness or explosive, stroke-provoking rage.

In other words, it begs the question of who he is and allows us to focus on what that nameless individual whose name we dare not speak or see, has done. 

Or not done.

What do you do with an individual, a mere citizen (which he is now) who has indulged the actions, or inactions, he has? 

This seems right

How should THE LAW treat such a person, and what do we, his fellow individual citizens, think about the WAYS in which such a person behaves?

Here is a NY Times opinion piece this weekend that uses the real names:

I suggest you answer the questions raised in my scenarios first before you attempt to read it, then decide what you think.

But maybe not before reading this, which talks more about the possible wide berth of risks for nuclear secrets of any kind leaking, with one of our foremost experts.

I educated myself with those and many other sets of articles. 

Think Chip and Joanna Gaines can fix up my bomb shelter? #nuclearshiplap

Yet in the final analysis they caused me to conclude that, well, the best summary, and certainly the most succinct and entertaining, of all of the above comes from Randy Rainbow.

Yes, that’s his real name.

It fully encapsulates everything super informed me has to say on the subject so please have a listen in your safe space.

Mine’s an imaginary (Note: Or is it?) bomb shelter.

Randy Rainbow – “Lock Him Up, YESTERDAY”