Many tell us what to think. I ask my readers to be skeptical. Question me and others.

Life and politics, Media

A volcano of complaints

Photo by Pierre-Yves Burgi on Unsplash

It started innocently, but I got into trouble, and it is my fault. At least Ashley Strahm, a colleague writer on Medium, sees it that way. Recently, Ashley posted an article about losing sanity over the cost of her college education.

As a political writer, I have my eye on American problems. A rapid increase in the cost of a college education is one of them. When Medium curators recommended Ashley’s article to me, I read it. I found no substance, only hollow grievances. I commented: “Instead of complaining about the system, look at your steps and try to tell others what you could have done differently, and still get your education, without a burden of a loan.” I cannot help Ashley with staying sane under the burden of her college debt. But it would be newsworthy if Ashley would give some practical advice to young people planning their college education today. Or, she might have suggestions for tweaking the system so others would avoid the hardship she experienced.

Her mind was somewhere else. Ashley responded with a dismissive sigh, “I knew I’d get at least one of these.” Then she lectured me on not carefully reading her article. In her response, there was no trace of her losing sanity over her college debt. It was the opposite; she has a good income, sizable savings, and a house with substantial equity. She struggles to pay the college debt, but she does not lose sleep over that.

I have to ask Ashley when she was lying. Was it in the title of her article claiming that sanity was the true cost of her college, or was it when she assured me that most definitely she is not screwed? Things start getting interesting when we look at why Ashley wrote her article.

She believes that her debt should have been forgiven; ergo, she is upset that she needs to pay it back. She advocates for others who have faced more difficulties, and she prays “every night for the millions of folks still paying endlessly to the government to get their loans forgiven.” I doubt it will work because, when it comes to money, God is an atheist.

My readings on the subject indicate that government-sponsored student loans are the culprit. A diploma in science or technology can almost guarantee an income justifying a loan, but Americans are not much after math-intensive subjects. Many went to study liberal arts, where high salaries are not as typical, but took loans on the assumption that they would earn as much as engineers. It seems to be a reasonable explanation why so many college graduates struggle with paying back their debt.

Getting applicants with access to easy money, colleges kept cranking up tuitions. To make things worse, that extra income did not go for hiring more professors. It went for extravagant sports buildings, hiring more bureaucrats, and higher pay for top administrators, who manage the whole humbug. It means that with the government-sponsored loans, more youngsters went to college, paid more for it than they would have without government involvement, enjoyed new Olympic-size swimming pools and impressive chandeliers in the hallways. Likely they did not see extravagant president’s offices, but unfortunately, most likely they did not get a better education either. Easy-to-get loans made colleges more expensive but not more valuable. Many young people borrowed more than they should for the overpriced education. Likely, thanks to easy credit, some people who did not qualify went to college as well. I have heard that the most tragic are the college debts of those who dropped out.

I know all these things just by reading about the subject. Ashley was in the center of it, but she did not mention in her article anything about the facts I know. She omitted them because they did not fit her political mantra that the system is bad and college debts should be forgiven.

Also, I sought in Ashley’s article a piece of information about how others pay for college. I know several youths from families of modest means who are graduating from universities with good reputations without any debts. Each case is different, but taken together, they prove that with a bit of family help, a whit of ingenuity, and hard work, one can still graduate from college without drowning in debt. In the world Ashley presents to us, these people do not exist. Could it be that she did not see it? She sounds like a sharp person, but unfortunately not clever enough to foresee that someone can publicly say that her article is naive propaganda.

I need to add that I would never criticize Ashley if the Medium curators had not recommended her canvassing. In the Medium format, Ashley has the right to write whatever she pleases. But I am getting upset when my membership fee is used to brainwash me with “ideas that matter,” as Ev Williams, the Medium CEO, phrased it in the email he sent to me after I joined Medium.

PS. It looks like that within the next two years, Ashley will repay her debt. After that, taxes will be her biggest burden. Then, she will realize that things like forgiven loans and other government giveaways will need to be paid for somehow. The government gets money from taxpayers like Ashley. After feeling that pain, Ashley will adjust her point of view.

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