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. 

Surprise!

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”

Am I Optimistic?

It’s so difficult to not get taken in by the headlines and be depressed, especially if you’re a baby boomer Democrat like me.

Conservatives targeting public libraries and their funding to ban books they don’t like

Indiana lawmakers ban abortion statewide with few exceptions

A 38% approval rating for Pres. Joe Biden, the worst ever recorded for a president.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  gleefully proclaiming to a crowd of his fans, my pronouns are kiss my ass.  Not to mention Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) authoritatively stating most Americans are Christian nationalists, despite all rational facts to the contrary.

Evergreen

But those are headlines, half-truths and provocative click bait that don’t tell the whole picture.  Still, it is easy to believe any one of these digestible thoughts in their entirety, or at least partially, because it takes time and energy to unravel them.

The fact is many Americans don’t have time or inclination to address these and many other issues, especially at the speed with which they’re hitting us.

And most of us definitely do not have the energy. 

For the majority of us, what little intellectual space we have left has to be doled out towards paying the bills and eluding the next airborne national/international virus.

I mean, polio is back?  POLIO????

I truly cannot

Nevertheless, and in truth, this week was a win for Dems like me, and for the country.

Voters in Kansas – a red state by any measure and somewhat of a bellwether for broad conservative thought – resoundingly rejected an abortion law that could have opened the door for the state to altogether OUTLAW abortion.

Toto, we’re home! #NoPlaceLikeKansas

July had an unexpected and exceedingly strong U.S. jobs report of more than half a million jobs added, bringing us back to pre-pandemic levels and more than doubling even the boldest predictions.

Gas prices dropped 70 cents per gallon in the last month from a record high and are predicted to further plummet back down to manageable levels.

The Biden administration tracked down and killed the #1 most wanted terrorist – Ayman al-Zawahri, the current head of Al Qaeda, and mastermind of 9/11 as Osama Bin Laden’s #2 in command, after a more than two decade search. 

Congress is about to pass a historic $740 billion bill that will tackle climate change and move us towards clean energy, reform the tax code to benefit average Americans, and take drastic steps towards getting prescription drug prices under control.

And this was all accomplished over a two-and-a-half week period when Pres. Joe Biden was twice diagnosed with Covid, the latter a rare rebound case.

Sleepy who?

If I were an optimist, which I generally am not, I might even write, who knows what could happen in the months going forward now that he’s testing negative?

The above events and my intermittent Ping-Pong thinking on all of them, reminds me of a life lesson I have to actually keep reminding myself of daily

It is always darkest before the dawn.  

Or as Shelly, my second mother and an avid reader, used to tell me to cheer me up –

Life is like a great book (Note: No, NOT a box of chocolates!) – you turn the page and you never know what can happen.  Good and bad.

Is this… optimism?

It is disorienting to be met with such anger and vitriol by people who don’t agree with you, not to mention your, ahem, lifestyle, whatever that might be.

But it is not determining of what awful things will literally occur in the world or in your life.

It is merely a take on a viewpoint or event you can’t control.

It is a snapshot, a fact, a statement or a misstatement at any given moment.  It is indicative of what is from a source, but not necessarily predictive of what will be. 

Certainly, it is not predictive of your day, unless you want it to be.

Whatever Francis!

This of course doesn’t mean I still don’t want to push Ted Cruz into a vat of his own bullsh-t or tell Marjorie Taylor Greene to go f-ck herself while she is suspended upside down in Macy’s window.

It only means I know the difference between my fantasies and reality. 

And that what I will actually choose to devote my time to do, much less believe, on a given day, is in my hands, not theirs.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” – viral Janitor performance (from ABC News)