I have a bad habit of reading ahead of myself. Take the Indy story, “Good Luck 2017 Grads.” Laguna’s mayor pleaded with graduates, “We want you to stay in town, please.” I was sure the next line would read, “Until all of your student loans are paid.” And then the next, next line would read, “And with what you had to borrow for higher education, graduates will be detained in Laguna until retirement when loans are paid in full. And then at the time of your financial release, we will celebrate your life long assistance in not following your passions, but rather the passions of fellow business students now retiring from the lucrative student loan/banking industry.” So imagine my surprise when I read instead, “The class of 2017 can add a youthful zest to a town founded by activist artists.”
Geez, I can’t remember what youthful zest felt like. I do remember that my grandfather’s annual tuition was $30 to the University of Pittsburgh. My father’s annual tuition was $300 to Carnegie Mellon University. My annual tuition was $3,000 to Allegheny College. My son’s annual tuition was $30,000 to the University of Michigan. So, the grandkids should pay $300,000 a year. What? “Ahh, grandkids…listen up. Say no to school. Say yes to drugs. Burn out any feelings of youthful zest.”
I heard recently that student debt is twice the amount of all American credit card debt. Wow. And that’s just my family. I don’t want to rain on graduation day, but today’s graduates are being saddled with a tremendous burden before they even get started. A recent grad told his mother, “I’ll live in your basement. I won’t get underfoot. Remember, I graduated with a degree in interior design. I’ll make this basement look like the attic in no time.”
Another graduate with a degree in cinematography is equally hopeful. “I was a teenager when they shot the movie ‘Savages’ here in town. This Oliver Stone picture was my inspiration. I plan to be a pharmacy benefit manager in a fantastic love triangle not requiring FDA approval.”
Other graduates are not so optimistic. “There are no jobs out there. I suffer from PTSD. That stands for post-traumatic stress degree. I have a piece of paper that I’ve framed, but can’t hang it on the wall because I can’t afford a house with a wall to hang it on. I’m forced to carry my degree around with me. This has become a heavy burden over the years. I have developed carpel tunnel syndrome. I’m now on partial disability and volunteer at the Social Security administration helping other American graduates deal with PTSDs. There are a lot of us whose youthful zest has been smothered by debt.”
All is not lost. Habitat for Humanity will soon build self-storage dorms across college campuses to house and hang diplomas until graduates can get out from under and afford a house of their own. Hang on graduates. There will be walls in your future.
Crantz tells the Indy that he still believes in higher education. He was high throughout much of it.
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