Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Time to Rethink Financial Aid

Some of my USN shipmates, from years past.

Although I am far from the best and brightest graduating from USF in the Spring of 2009, I’m older than most. As a result, I've seen and done things that other students haven't.

It’s my experiences in life, outside of college, that have lead me to the conclusion that most financial-aid programs for students need to be revamped or outright scrapped. Start with the Pell Grant. In the 2005-2006 school year alone, this program cost taxpayers over $12 billion. And what did the taxpayer get for it? Nothing, as the students did nothing to earn this money. The students don't even have to pay it back, as it's a grant.

The below op-ed makes the argument that Pell Grants pay for themselves, as college graduates pay more in taxes, and thus "pay back" the grant. However, such an argument is facile, as it ignores the fact that it's possible to go to college without these grants. It just takes more work, and fewer classes per semester.

Pell Grants to My Eyes

Also, the author fails to consider the G.I. Bill as a source of funds. She could have served four years in the military, then gone to college, with plenty of money to spend. It was an obvious possibility for her, yet she didn't even mention it in her op-ed.

God forbid she serve her country. She could have made friends who flip her the bird every time she attempts to take a picture of them.

Then there's student loans. Some are taxpayer-subsidized. Again, as with
the Pell Grants, I would suggest scrapping these. There’s simply no reason for the taxpayer to subsidize a college student’s education, even to a limited extent, unless that student provides some kind of service to the taxpayer. No service, no payment. Kinda like life.

Also, the collection tactics of the federal government are almost sinister. It can garnish 15% of your wages, and even take your away your Social Security. I would think it would be wise to avoid dealing with someone who does that.

As for private loans, the limits need to be reduced. Multiple news articles show just how much in debt some of these students have gotten themselves. Many will have to work the rest of their lives just to repay them. Some never will be able to. Though the private lenders don't have the same power that the federal government has, they can still wreck a student's credit.

The pictured gentleman in the below article owes $150,000 in student loans. His payments are $1,500 a month. And like the other graduates in the article, he has no full-time job.

Grim Jobs and Student Loans

A similar article by John Stossel, questioning the utility of college degrees in general.

Stossel, on Debt Laden Grads

Also, one has to consider what college is really worth. At best, going the high-school/college/career route, where one graduates college by the age of 22, prepares one for nothing better than the "bland affluence" featured in this Peggy Noonan column.

Sure, you're wealthy. But you're also boring. You've done nothing in your life but sit in an office.

Bland Affluence

I think it's important for people to have a diversity of memories. And sitting in classrooms until the age of 22, then sitting in an office until you're 65, isn't the way to get that diversity. Rather, it's important for young people to do something different, really different, from what they'll be doing the rest of their lives, so they can one day look back and think, "Wow. I can't believe I used to do that."

For me, that was serving in the USN. I got to shoot fairly sizable guns, such as the one in the picture.

Friends with gun.

I can't imagine not having the memories of those days. I remember how the ship would lose its natural rolling motion when those guns fired, the ship actually shaking a little with each shot. I remember seeing our air-bursts on our gun camera. They looked like puffs of white smoke with thousands of white streaks coming out of them, giant airborne sea-urchins appearing above the target, with thousands of chunks of shrapnel making their spikes.

I remember being on deck, and seeing the USS Iowa, several ship-lengths behind us, shooting her 16" guns. Though probably a good quarter-mile away, the pressure from the guns could be felt. With each shot, the pressure hit me like a big pillow. Not entirely unpleasant, but I was glad we weren't closer.

And I still remember what a fire mission sounds like, when called in from a forward observer. Although ours sounded exactly like Dick Cavett over the radio, he knew his stuff.

"Fire mission, alpha-bravo, one-six, five-two. Direction, one-six-two mills magnetic, spotter's grids 154778223207, add two hundred, danger close, one round HE, fuze quick, fire, over."

And to this day, I would know exactly what to key into our fire-control system to put our round onto its target.


I suppose one of my best arguments against financial aid, like Pell Grants and student loans, is that they enable young people to avoid doing what I did when I was their age. Though going to college has been mostly pleasurable for me, it's pretty tame compared to what I used to do. And honestly, I don't think we're doing young people any favors by preparing them to live tame, quiet, boring lives--lives of "bland affluence." It would give them a more-rounded existence, if they served for a while in the military.

College will still be there when they get out. And due to the G.I. Bill, it will be much more affordable for them then.

I will be graduating from USF soon. However, I think I will always consider my true alma mater to be my ship. I truly feel sorry for those who didn't get to have the experiences I had.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on graduating! Good luck, sorry I read your comment so late. I have been busy writing on a college student blog site and had been neglecting my personal student blog haha.

I personally don't qualify for anything for loans because my parents make too much money. I really hate it because they don't help me at all with my education, they had no savings or anything, and I'm denied even subsidized loans.

Kirk said...

Hey, thanks for the comment. I'll be doing the commencement thing this weekend, so I'll post some pics.\\