In the USSR, we didn’t have credit cards. We didn’t have them for at least a decade after independence, either, so when we emigrated, we had no idea what they were. When my husband discovered the concept of a credit card he was well into his thirties.
I explained how credit cards worked and urged him to get one to build a credit history.
N didn’t believe me. He said that the story I was telling made no sense. If credit cards really worked as I said, credit card companies would be out of business within months.
We actually had a fight because I got tired of saying, “I swear to God. That’s how it works. I swear. Just Google it if you don’t believe me.”
What N couldn’t believe was that anybody would carry any credit card debt instead of paying it out immediately. This behavior was so irrational that he couldn’t accept that it existed among large numbers of the population. Why would anybody pay a 20% interest without being coerced into it by some violent means? Long story short, he finally did get a bunch of credit cards, never held a dime of debt, and is exploiting these cards for every perk and giveaway, sending me to travel everywhere in business class for free because he has so many points. “I still don’t believe everybody isn’t doing this,” he says.
The reason why I’m telling this is that I keep hearing how college tuition used to be so low you could go to college without any loans. And now everybody needs to get deep into debt to get a college degree.
But that’s not true. Even if you qualify for zero rebates based on race, sex, ethnicity, parental income, academic ability, athletic ability, immigration status, or a million scholarships, fellowships, etc that we give out (and it’s a small minority of our students who qualify for absolutely nothing), one semester’s tuition if you go full time is $8,000. I don’t think it’s ruinous and undoable. We have excellent employment rates post graduation. Excellent earning potential. I’ve been studying the numbers in detail for my report, and they are good. All of these fairy-tales about useless degrees in gender studies or whatever, that’s all a load of BS. Fancy expensive colleges have them. We don’t. We have, for example, an undergraduate degree in chemistry with the earnings of $78,000 in the first year after graduation with 100% employment. We have my foreign language teacher education program with 100% employments even before you graduate. And so on. We couldn’t offer “useless degrees” even if we wanted to. If I can’t demonstrate that my graduates find good-paying jobs in their field upon graduation, my program won’t be allowed to exist. Are people even aware of how persecuted we are over every single graduate who spoils our numbers?
Is it possible that what changed isn’t the expense as much as the discipline and the lifestyle expectations? Yes, the fabled $50 tuitions are gone. We can’t offer them and keep the lights on, literally. But if you go to a local state school and work, I honestly don’t see why you need to accumulate gigantic loans. Are we misdiagnosing the problem? Is the issue of college loans similar to the issue of enormous credit card debt that people carry because they can’t limit their lifestyle needs?