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WSJ Journal highlights FA students with crushing student debt

TSwizzle

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The WSJ put out an article about the crushing debts incurred by some Fine Arts students at Ivy league schools. Unfortunately the WSJ article is paywalled but the gist of it is covered in the Daily Mail;

Students pursuing graduate degrees at some of the nation's most prestigious universities are being slammed with loan debt of up to $200,000, yet most only earn $30,000 two years after graduation. A recent Wall Street journal article detailed the strife students faced in highly competitive programs that leave them financially crippled and wondering if the degree was worth being saddled by six-figure debt. The Wall Street Journal cited Columbia University as one of the main perpetrators of charging inordinate tuition fees and offering little financial help or guidance in return. Recent film graduates had a median debt of $181,000 while making a median income of $30,000 just two years later. 'There's always those 2 a.m. panic attacks where you're thinking, 'How the hell am I ever going to pay this off?' ' said 29-year-old Zack Morrison, of New Jersey, who graduated from Columbia in 2018 with a Master of Fine arts in film. He currently owes about $300,000, including accrued interest, and earns between $30,000 and $50,000 a year as a Hollywood assistant with independent film side gigs. After the Wall Street Journal article was published, Morrison shared it on Facebook and wrote 'I disagree with the notion that masters degrees 'don't pay off' or the idea that the school doesn't provide the necessary training or skills to succeed . . . These loans are the real deal though, but it was a decision I made for myself before starting the program. At the end of the day, I hope this article is read as a criticism of the insane costs of higher education and a gig economy that still pays its workers wages that were set in the 1980's.'

Columbia MFA theater student Brigitte Thieme-Burdette, 31, earned an annual scholarship of $30,000, but still has to borrow $102,000 in federal loans. She is set to graduate in 2022.

Another student, Patrick Clement, 41, was also in the film MFA program and graduated in 2020 with $360,000 in debt. 'As a poor kid and a high-school dropout, there was an attraction to getting an Ivy League master's degree,' he said.

DailyMail

WSJ Article paywalled

This system is fucked up.

Interestingly, the WSJ was actually touting FA degrees as being a good thing just a few years ago;

Think that art school dooms graduates to a life of unemployment? The numbers paint a very different picture.

"Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income," says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. "And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives."
A 2011 report from the center found that the unemployment rate in the first two years for those graduating with bachelor of fine arts degree is 7.8%, dropping to 4.5% for those out of school longer. The median income is $42,000.

WSJ Article paywalled

Something has to give here. People are being conned out of money and saddled with huge debts.
 

J842P

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Masters degrees, in general, are basically money-makers for Universities. They are exploiting that, and it's no surprise that the outrageously expensive Columbia and NYU are the ones that are saddling their students with the most debt.

The cases that really get to me are people who come from low-income backgrounds. Everything about an Ivy-League degree screams "ticket up the social ladder" in our culture. It's hard to fault a 22-year old, first-generation college graduate for being naive in this regard.
 

TSwizzle

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Masters degrees, in general, are basically money-makers for Universities. They are exploiting that, and it's no surprise that the outrageously expensive Columbia and NYU are the ones that are saddling their students with the most debt.

Technically isn't it the government that saddles the student with the debt by providing loans ? But whatever, the university and the government are creating this unsustainable mess.

The cases that really get to me are people who come from low-income backgrounds. Everything about an Ivy-League degree screams "ticket up the social ladder" in our culture. It's hard to fault a 22-year old, first-generation college graduate for being naive in this regard.

It's disgusting that these universities are sitting on billions of dollars of endowments and cash while consigning many of their students to a lifetime of crushing debt. People need to wake up to this scam.
 

J842P

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Masters degrees, in general, are basically money-makers for Universities. They are exploiting that, and it's no surprise that the outrageously expensive Columbia and NYU are the ones that are saddling their students with the most debt.

Technically isn't it the government that saddles the student with the debt by providing loans ? But whatever, the university and the government are creating this unsustainable mess.

The cases that really get to me are people who come from low-income backgrounds. Everything about an Ivy-League degree screams "ticket up the social ladder" in our culture. It's hard to fault a 22-year old, first-generation college graduate for being naive in this regard.

It's disgusting that these universities are sitting on billions of dollars of endowments and cash while consigning many of their students to a lifetime of crushing debt. People need to wake up to this scam.

Yeah, there's plenty of blame to go around.
 

bilby

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The system works perfectly.

It gives wealthy people's children access to the upper levels of society, while debarring talanted people from stealing their rightful places by dint of being better than them, while having the poor taste not to be aristocrats.

The USA was never a classless society, and while it's true that for a short time they allowed unthinkable levels of social mobility compared to the British class system they pretended to abhor, they never let it get too far out of hand, and are now consolidating the class divisions to prevent further erosion of privilege which was beginning to threaten the idle rich with having to actually be competent in order to secure an easy life.

Arts degrees, particularly from the most prestigious institutions, have always been a way of laundering social class barriers to make them appear to be merit based. Letting merely talented people gain such degrees would undermine the whole system.
 

Politesse

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Masters degrees, in general, are basically money-makers for Universities. They are exploiting that, and it's no surprise that the outrageously expensive Columbia and NYU are the ones that are saddling their students with the most debt.

The cases that really get to me are people who come from low-income backgrounds. Everything about an Ivy-League degree screams "ticket up the social ladder" in our culture. It's hard to fault a 22-year old, first-generation college graduate for being naive in this regard.

Yes, how dare they pursue degrees inappropriate for their social class?

This patronizing attitude of feigned care and quiet social violence is very common, even among college counselors, and it disgusts me. The right degree for a student is the one they want to pursue and have the initiative and perserverance to follow through. Not what some asshole who knows nothing about them but the neighborhood they're from with considers "more reasonable" for someone of their background.
 

TSwizzle

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Masters degrees, in general, are basically money-makers for Universities. They are exploiting that, and it's no surprise that the outrageously expensive Columbia and NYU are the ones that are saddling their students with the most debt.

The cases that really get to me are people who come from low-income backgrounds. Everything about an Ivy-League degree screams "ticket up the social ladder" in our culture. It's hard to fault a 22-year old, first-generation college graduate for being naive in this regard.

Yes, how dare they pursue degrees inappropriate for their social class?

Nobody said any such thing. Do you think it is appropriate that the Ivy League schools fleece their customers with mostly worthless degrees that saddle them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt ?
 

Politesse

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Masters degrees, in general, are basically money-makers for Universities. They are exploiting that, and it's no surprise that the outrageously expensive Columbia and NYU are the ones that are saddling their students with the most debt.

The cases that really get to me are people who come from low-income backgrounds. Everything about an Ivy-League degree screams "ticket up the social ladder" in our culture. It's hard to fault a 22-year old, first-generation college graduate for being naive in this regard.

Yes, how dare they pursue degrees inappropriate for their social class?

Nobody said any such thing. Do you think it is appropriate that the Ivy League schools fleece their customers with mostly worthless degrees that saddle them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt ?
"Letting" someone choose their desired major is not fleecing them. It's exactly what a university is supposed to do.
 

TSwizzle

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Nobody said any such thing. Do you think it is appropriate that the Ivy League schools fleece their customers with mostly worthless degrees that saddle them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt ?
"Letting" someone choose their desired major is not fleecing them. It's exactly what a university is supposed to do.

So you’re fine with it. That’s cool.
 

Politesse

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Nobody said any such thing. Do you think it is appropriate that the Ivy League schools fleece their customers with mostly worthless degrees that saddle them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt ?
"Letting" someone choose their desired major is not fleecing them. It's exactly what a university is supposed to do.

So you’re fine with it. That’s cool.

Of course I'm fine with it. It is not an institution's job to decide what majors are suitable for each student. You wouldn't put up with that kind of manipulation if it were levied at you personally, would you?
 

TSwizzle

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So you’re fine with it. That’s cool.

Of course I'm fine with it. It is not an institution's job to decide what majors are suitable for each student. You wouldn't put up with that kind of manipulation if it were levied at you personally, would you?

For some reason you’re addressing a different matter. But ok.
 

Politesse

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So you’re fine with it. That’s cool.

Of course I'm fine with it. It is not an institution's job to decide what majors are suitable for each student. You wouldn't put up with that kind of manipulation if it were levied at you personally, would you?

For some reason you’re addressing a different matter. But ok.

What concrete behavior do you propose changing, and how? The activity you call "fleecing their customers with worthless degrees" is just letting students major in art if they feel like it, yes?
 

Swammerdami

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I agree that there's plenty of blame to go around. There were other ways for the Federal government to subsidize education; guaranteeing loans was a way to "paint" itself and students "into a corner." And lending more than could be repaid with projected salary seems almost like criminal fraud.


The USA was never a classless society, and while it's true that for a short time they allowed unthinkable levels of social mobility compared to the British class system they pretended to abhor, they never let it get too far out of hand, and are now consolidating the class divisions to prevent further erosion of privilege which was beginning to threaten the idle rich with having to actually be competent in order to secure an easy life.

The earliest U.S.A. and its colonial predecessors had significantly less income and wealth inequality than most other countries of that era. IIRC this is true even when slavery is properly accounted. U.S. wealth inequality was much less than that of Europe until the 1950's. (This change was due in part to the Wars' destruction of European wealth.) Income inequality was also low in the mid 20th century; it was only in the 1970's that income inequality began accelerating rapidly in USA compared with Europe.

And the cost of a public-university education was very low until recent decades. In those olden days, taxpayers and policy makers thought government existed to serve the human population.

Piketty's Figure 11.11 shows an interesting fact about rising wealth inequality. Only 2% of those born in 1920 inherited wealth equivalent to a lifetime of labor; for those born in 1950 it was 5%; in 1970 it was 12% and more than the highest 19th-century level; he projects almost 15% for the cohort born today. (I think this Piketty data-set is just for France, but rising inequality is a problem in much of the developed world.)

Huge wealth inequality means that Americans are often unable to understand each other or communicate. At Google News one sees ad-baits like "I've only saved $1.5 million. Can I stop working yet?"
 

atrib

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Something has to give here. People are being conned out of money and saddled with huge debts.

Kids should be free to study whatever they want to study. And private colleges should be allowed to charge whatever they want to charge for an education. There is almost always a middle-ground solution for someone to go to school to study what they want without taking on crushing debt that severely inhibits their ability to become financially successful later in life. The problem we have with student debt in the US stems from a couple of reasons, in my opinion:

1. There is very little education on financial management at the high school level. I think every student should be taught the basics of responsible financial management at an early age so they they can become educated consumers as students, and so they possess the tools to effectively accumulate wealth during their working lives.

2. The government should not be in the business of underwriting tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans to 18 year olds who have no collateral. This would never happen in the real world (ideally), and it amazes me that people with no credit history and no income are allowed to borrow such large sums of money.

For me personally, I had parents who taught me the value of money. I chose to go to a reasonably-priced state school for undergrad engineering because of how much less I would have to spend there (as compared to an "elite" school). I also had help from my parents to cover some of the costs, and I worked part-time to cover the rest. My MS and PhD education was fully funded by fellowships and assistantships, and I had practically no debt when I was done. I had to live like a destitute monk and work part-time during my school years, but it was worth it.
 

TSwizzle

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Something has to give here. People are being conned out of money and saddled with huge debts.

Kids should be free to study whatever they want to study. And private colleges should be allowed to charge whatever they want to charge for an education. There is almost always a middle-ground solution for someone to go to school to study what they want without taking on crushing debt that severely inhibits their ability to become financially successful later in life. The problem we have with student debt in the US stems from a couple of reasons, in my opinion:

1. There is very little education on financial management at the high school level. I think every student should be taught the basics of responsible financial management at an early age so they they can become educated consumers as students, and so they possess the tools to effectively accumulate wealth during their working lives.

I agree with you there.

2. The government should not be in the business of underwriting tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans to 18 year olds who have no collateral. This would never happen in the real world (ideally), and it amazes me that people with no credit history and no income are allowed to borrow such large sums of money.

I think the government lending large sums of money (tax dollars obviously) is a huge part of the problem. To allow a young person to go hundreds of thousands of dollars in to debt is just absurd.

For me personally, I had parents who taught me the value of money. I chose to go to a reasonably-priced state school for undergrad engineering because of how much less I would have to spend there (as compared to an "elite" school). I also had help from my parents to cover some of the costs, and I worked part-time to cover the rest. My MS and PhD education was fully funded by fellowships and assistantships, and I had practically no debt when I was done. I had to live like a destitute monk and work part-time during my school years, but it was worth it.

I would hope this is more typical of what goes on. Both my kids are going to state schools and I am paying the bulk of it. There is no way I would let my kids get into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for their education.
 
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