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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guidance Counselors

"(High School) Guidance Counselors are considered most successful when they get students into name-brand schools. The problem is that, in all probablity, your guidance counselor has literally no training as a financial planner and is ill equipped to advise your kids on the long-term ramifications of large debt loads, much less to counsel you on depleted retirement savings accounts and home equity." Zac Bissonnette in his new book "Debt-Free U".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making college the most pleasant experience

Parents – as you send your kids off to Club College do not forget to pay for “keeping their life simplified” with Dormaid at This service provides dorm-room cleaning, laundry services and beverage delivery. Don’t make your kids late for the college party because you forced them to do clean their own dorm rooms.

What college did for April Northanian

“As a two-time college graduate, my work experience encompasses a wide range of vocations including: cocktail waitress, real estate agent, actress, collections agent, fitness instructor, college admissions representative, dot-com marketing manager, web designer, ESL teacher, and blackjack dealer. I know from my own experience, and that of my friends that many people with a college degree rarely work within their field of study.

Like many people, I naively followed the path of a costly college education without knowing if a college degree would actually help me be successful. As a result, I (like many others) owe a butt-load of money to student loan debt.”

April Northanian in her outstanding book "College is for Suckers"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What does one study for a $218,120 major in Women's Studies at Vassar College?

For $54,530 per year ($218,120 for four years) here is one post-high school option for those lucky enough to be accepted to Vassar College. Of course they offer financial aid, which only means that someone else is paying for it like the US government or alumni. Or one borrows to foot the bill.

If one was to use this $218,120 education to major in Women’s Studies, here are some of the classes that one might take in helping make America more competive in the global marketplace:

110. Gender, Social Problems and Social Change
This course introduces students to a variety of social problems using insights from political science, sociology, and gender studies. We begin with an exploration of the sociological perspective, and how social problems are defined as such. We then examine the general issues of inequalities based on economic and employment status, racial and ethnic identity, and gender and sexual orientation. We apply these categories of analysis to problems facing the educational system and the criminal justice system. As we examine specific issues, we discuss political processes, social movements, and individual actions that people have used to address these problems.

130a and b. Introduction to Women's Studies
Multidisciplinary study of the scholarship on women, with an introduction to feminist theory and methodology. Includes contemporary and historical experiences of women in private and public spaces. Examination of how the concept of women has been constructed in literature, science, the media, and other institutions, with attention to the way the construction intersects with nationality, race, class, and sexuality.

160b. Issues in Feminism: Bodies and Texts
This course is an introduction to issues in feminism with a focus on the female body and its representations. We read a variety of texts and analyze visuals from film, performance, art, cartoons, and advertising. Particular focus is given to women's bodies in art, popular culture and the media, and the intersection of race, class, and gender. This is a writing-focused course. In addition to three traditional critical essays, students experiment with other forms of writing such as journals, comic strips, film review, op-ed essays, and responses to visuals. This course stresses the development of analytical thinking, clarity of expression, and originality.

203. Women in Antiquity
Greek and Roman literary and historical accounts abound with vividly drawn women such as Helen, Antigone, Medea, Livia, and Agrippina, the mother of Nero. But how representative were such figures of the daily lives of women throughout Greek and Roman antiquity? This course investigates the images and realities of women in the ancient Greek and Roman world, from the Greek Late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BCE) to the Roman Empire (up to the III c. CE) by juxtaposing evidence from literature, historical sources, and archaeological material. Throughout, the course examines the complex ways in which ancient women interacted with the institutions of the state, the family, religion, and the arts. Ms. Olsen.

204. Gender Issues in Economics
An analysis of gender in education, earnings, employment, and the division of labor within the household. Topics include a study of occupational segregation, discrimination, the role of "protective legislation" in the history of labor law, and effects of changes in the labor market of the U.S. We also study the economics of marriage, divorce, and fertility. A comparative study of gender roles in other parts of the world is the final topic in the course.

205b. Topics in Social Psychology
Prejudice and Persuasion: This course introduces students to the discipline of social psychology via the in-depth exploration of two areas of inquiry: prejudice and persuasion. A central goal of this course is to advance your understanding of the processes underlying social perception interaction and influence. To this end, we shall examine classic modern, and implicit forms of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, and antisemitism, as well as explore ways of reducing prejudice and discrimination. We shall examine the mechanisms underlying effective persuasion techniques by using examples from advertising, propaganda, political interest groups, and hate-groups to illustrate research findings. In addition to exposing you to the relevant research and theories, this course should help you to develop ways of conceptualizing some of the social psychological phenomena you and others confront every day. Finally, this course should increase your appreciation of the central role that empirical research plays in psychological explanations of human social behavior.

218b. Literature, Gender, and Sexuality
This course considers matters of gender and sexuality in literary texts, criticism, and theory. The focus varies from year to year, and may include study of a historical period, literary movement, or genre; constructions of masculinity and femininity; sexual identities; or representations of gender in relation to race and class. Topic for 2010/11a: Queer of Color Critique. This course considers what interventions the construction "queer of color" makes possible for queer theory, LGBT scholarship and activism, and different models of ethnic studies. We will assess the value and limitations of queer theory's "subjectless critique" in doing cultural and political work. What kind of complications (or contradictions) does the notion "queer of color" present for subjectless critique? How might queer of color critique inform political organizing? Particular attention is devoted to how "queer" travels. Toward this end, students determine what conflicts are presently shaping debates around sexuality in their own communities and consider how these debates may be linked to different regional, national or transnational politics. Throughout the semester, we evaluate what queer means and what kind of work it enables. Is it an identity or an anti-identity? A verb, a noun, an adjective? An analytic mode or a kind of literacy?

220a. Medieval and Renaissance Culture: Women in Renaissance Culture (1)
Topic for 2010/11a: Before Feminism. From the fifteenth century until the end of the seventeenth century, European women and men argued about the nature and status of woman and their debates still engage us today. These discussions were the result of a number of critical developments, which included urbanization, increased female literacy, the rise of print culture, and Protestant and Catholic Reform. Furthermore, women, such as Isabella of Castile, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, and Christina of Sweden, became powerful rulers, as a result of hereditary accidents, which gave greater urgency to the definition of woman's nature. Writers and intellectuals raised questions about woman's essence, her lineage from Eve, and her proper position in society and family. While many accepted the more conventional patriarchal framework, others resisted and challenged the denigration of woman through writing, legal action and work. We read writers and thinkers from the writer and poet Christine de Pisan to the playwright Aphra Behn. Literature, political treatises, and polemical works reveal that the discussion shifted from theological to biological definitions of woman. Studying the question of woman in this era leads us to ask what was "feminist" and "feminism" in the past and even today.

231b. Women Making Music
A study of women's involvement in Western and non-Western musical cultures. Drawing on recent work in feminist musicology and ethnomusicology, the course studies a wide range of music created by women, both past and present. It explores such topics as musical instruments and gender, voice and embodiment, access to training and performance opportunities, and representations of women musicians in art and literature. Ms. Libin.

250a. Feminist Theory
The central purpose of the course is to understand a variety of theoretical perspectives in feminism - including liberal, radical, socialist, psychoanalytic and postmodern perspectives. We explore how each of these feminist perspectives is indebted to more 'mainstream' theoretical frameworks (for example, to liberal political theory, Marxism, and psychoanalysis). We also examine the ways in which each version of feminist theory raises new questions and challenges for these 'mainstream' theories. We attempt to understand the theoretical resources that each of these perspectives provides the projects of feminism, how they highlight different aspects of women's oppression and offer a variety of different solutions. We look at the ways in which issues of race, class and sexuality figure in various theoretical feminist perspectives and consider the divergent takes that different theoretical perspectives offer on issues such as domestic violence, pornography, housework and childcare, economic equality, and respect for cultural differences.

251a. Global Feminism
The course focuses on several different forms of work that women , mostly in Third World countries, do in order to earn their livelihood within the circuits of the contemporary global economy. The types of work we examine include factory work, home-based work, sex work, office work, care work, informal sector work and agricultural labor. We consider how these forms of work both benefit and burden women, and how women's work interacts with gender roles, reinforcing or transforming them. We also consider some of the general aspects of economic globalization and how it affects poor working women; migration within and across national borders, urbanization, the spread of a culture of consumption, and ecological devastation.

276. Gender and Social Space
This course explores the inter-relation of gender and key spatial forms and practices such as the home, the city, the hotel, migration, shopping, community activism, and walking at night. The course draws on feminist theoretical work from diverse fields such as geography, architecture, anthropology and urban studies not only to begin to map the gendered divisions of the social world but also to understand gender itself as a spatial practice.

288b. Constructing the Second Wave
Second-wave feminism was a political movement imagined and disseminated in the fiction and poetry of the era and energized by the recovery of a tradition of women's writing. Novelists and poets challenged traditional models of femininity while the presses founded in the 1970s and 1980s republished earlier women writers and assembled anthologies of new writing. Feminist bookstores provided a central location for the meeting of women as well as the sale of books. This course examines bestsellers of the movement and more experimental fiction, particularly feminist science fiction, within the context of the feminist presses and the founding of Ms. magazine. Writers may include, Lisa Alther, Margaret Atwood, Marilyn French, June Jordan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ursula LeGuin, Audre Lorde, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Marge Piercy, Adrienne Rich, and Alice Walker. Ms. Robertson.

Friday, September 17, 2010

College student loan default rates are going up!

Here is the press release about student default rates for college loans.

Here are a few observations about the release:

1) Although the data reflects the year 2008 (loans became due between Oct 1, 2007 and Sep 30, 2008) the Department of Education does not get around to announcing the results until September 13, 2010. You can count on the Federal government solving yesterday’s problems with this lightning fast analysis.

2) The default rates increased from 5.9 to 6 percent for public institutions, from 3.7 to 4 percent for private institutions, and from 11 to 11.6 percent for for-profit schools. But these default rates only reflect how many borrowers did not make the required payments on their loans in the first two years when the payments were due. This is like only counting loan default rates for mortgages if the borrower defaults in the first two years? Are you kidding me? Why would the government manipulate the findings like this? Obviously the default rate would be substantially higher if we consider if the loans get paid back in total over time versus the payment terms of the contracts.

3) The data does not show the amount of the loans being defaulted on. So student A may be graduating from Las Vegas Academy of Healing Arts with a certificate in Massage Therapy and that school has a 40% default rate but the graduates on average borrowed $10,000. So on average the government loses $4,000 per student loan (40% times $10,000). Where student B may be graduating from Rutgers with a BA in Sociology with a default rate of 10% but an average student debt of $100,000. So in the second case the average default cost per student is $10,000 (10% times $100,000). So let’s look at the total and average cost per student in these subsidies - not just the average default rates.

4) The conclusion stated in the government’s press release is that “This data confirms what we already know: that many students are struggling to pay back their student loans during very difficult economic times.” Could it be more a matter of too few engineering and science graduates and far too many folks studying at the Las Vegas Academy of Healing Arts?

5) As much as anything we need to break down the data in many more ways (by degree, by SAT scores upon entering the school and by overall cost of the education). Better yet let’s get the government out of the college student loan business all together.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Obama proposes more college subsidies.

Here is what Obama had to say in Ohio today about college education.

“We see an America where every citizen has the skills and training to compete with any worker in the world. That's why we've set a goal to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.”

“That's why we're fighting to extend the child tax credit, and make permanent our new college tax credit. Because if we do, it will mean $10,000 in tuition relief for each child going to four years of college.”

So Mr. President only 5% of our US college graduates today are engineers (compared to 21% in China and 19% in the European Union). And many of this meager 5% are foreign students who will take this valuable education back home to make their own countries to make them better at competing with the US. Instead of producing Science & Engineering graduates our “send everyone to college” approach is producing more Recrational Management, Physical Education and History majors. Who really thinks that sending more kids to college to study Ethomusicology, Sociology or Gender Studies is making our country more competitive? We need more graduating engineers and scientists to pull the rest of the economy along. The problem is when politicians (many of whom were Political Science majors in college) set up these subsidies and “programs” we will end up with more Sociology and Music History majors.

Let’s reduce the subsidies for college not increase them. And if we insist on subsidizing college at all then let’s narrow it down to Science and Engineering.

Obama also is talking about investing in our infrastructure. So are we going to use all the new graduate Classical Civilization majors to check the loads and structural integrity of our new bridges and dams when we don’t have enough Civil Engineers? Or will we be importing engineering assistance from India to build our new roads while financing the roads with loans from China?

The downward spiral of college subsidies

College student debt now exceeds credit card debt in America.

But it is such an important “investment” by our government? Maybe not.

College costs keep increasing at a faster rate than everything else. So politicians predictably try to subsidize the cost of college even more so that students don’t get priced out of going to college. Most of these subsidies take the form of loans and loan guarantees.

But what is the result? Instead of accepting the law of supply and demand, these increased college subsidies allow colleges and universities to notch up the price of college by the amount of the subsidy. That’s right; the benefits of these subsidies go to the college establishment (professors, administrators, football coaches and janitors). The subsidies relax the push back (and lower demand) that normally results when prices get too high. So it is a vicious cycle; subsidize college more; the cost of college increases enough to absorb the new subsidy; and then subsidize college even more to make up for the increased prices caused by the earlier subsidies.

The end result is a bubble like we had in the housing market. But instead of having neighborhoods full of empty foreclosed homes you have ghettos of young adults with degrees in Psychology or Sociology, $100,000 in student debt and no job prospects that would ever make it possible to pay off these loans. Not to mention the US government holding billions in unpaid student loan guarantees that penalize our grandchildren.

But this is only part of the problem with all of these subsidies. The silly college curriculums like Gender Studies, Sociology & Ethnomusicology get the same subsidies as Electrical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering and Accounting. At least the degrees in science and engineering have a chance of making the US more competitive.

And since so many families don’t really question what Johnny wants to study at college, we have far too many of Johnny’s friends spending six years of tax-payer and family-subsidized college education with little learning that will translate into a more competitive US. The average student cares simply about having enough cash flow (with loans and parent subsidies) to get though another year in college. The future pain of being deep in debt with no marketable job skills is the least of an 18 year-old’s worries.

As a country we need to discourage student debt and we need to start reducing subsidies for college. We might need to rely less on the traditional lecture format and find far more efficient teaching methods like computer-assisted and on-line learning. $160,000 degrees in Medieval German History are not doing the trick today.