Monday, October 4, 2010

An angry Mother vents: "College has become just a business to feed the ones at the top of the food chain."

This mother is an amazing support to her struggling son. While he is lucky to have a nurturing and gentle parent, it's not enough for this man's daily troubles as an indentured educated citizen. That's why we must radically restructure the system, so that young people (as well as everyone else) don't have to face insurmountable student loan debts. As for this particular story, the young man's hopes - let's call him R - were dashed recently. He will never be able to be of service to the U.S. as a meteorologist. He was told not to bother by an Air Force Squadron Commander who came to visit him at his lousy job as a sack boy at a grocery store. Why will he never have the opportunity to pursue this career, a career he spent years studying for in college? Well, he can thank his student loan sharks and that brutal, predatory system. So he spent all this time in school and for nothing.

Here's what R's mother wrote:


I had to email you today. I feel helpless, but I need to chat and only you understand.
You will remember my son, who has the degree in meteorology. We have been trying since his graduation in 2007 to find him a job. If you recall, the United States Air Force turned him away (although he got a 98 on his entrance exam, and he would have entered as an officer because of his degree) because of his student loan debt.

Well today a friend of my son's (who is also a meteorologist) had his Air Force Squadron Commander look him up at his grocery store job. R said he was very nice, but very honest too. He told R that he can quit applying for anything related to meteorology jobs in the Air Force, even as a civilian. Incidentally, meteorology jobs all are linked to the Air Force. Because he will be taken out of the list of possibles every time. Why is this the case? He has too much student loan debt.

I am so hurt for him, saddened, and furious, all at the same time. I don't know whom to turn, what to do, what to say . . . I am a mess. R worked so hard for his degree. There was frustration and doubt, worry and fears that he wouldn't get through it. But he did, and he proudly walked across that stage to received that worthless piece of paper. I know with this recent personal visit [from the Air Force Squadron Commander] that R will give up. He will see this as the final horrible truth the he will have to live with.  And I don't know
if he is strong enough to do that.  

He has gastroparesis and ulcers of the stomach now. He barely eats and has very few friends. He does go to a gym a couple of days a week. And maybe he will go to a bar and watch football, but otherwise my 27 year old is always home and hibernating in his basement apartment (our house). I am sorry. I just needed to vent.  

This United States of America is a free country all right. Free to crush your fellow man. Free to make the rules up as you go. Free to treat the poor like paupers, the rich like royalty, and the middle class like slaves. Slavery didn't cease to exist, it only switched to a different class of people. The future is not good. Our children and grandchildren will be slaves to the rich. 

This will never stop unless we die or can't take anymore and kill ourselves. I see the country as money driven and on a spiral to complete destruction, and it won't be but another 25-30 years before the only people existing will be the royalty and its slaves.  College has become just a business to feed the ones at the top of the food chain. And feed them well. 

I was concerned about R's devastation and his mothers concerns about what might happen to him after this conversation. Immediately I wrote her back and told her that if R were contemplating suicide to seek medical help (I've written on the topic of suicide before, and that post continues to receive responses from people). R's mother replied reassuringly:

I don't think R would ever do anything to harm himself. He lives with us and I am constantly monitoring his mood. Here nothing really gets past me because R wears his feelings  on his shoulders.

Thanks for being there for me, Cryn. And thanks for all you have done and are still doing.  I don't know if you realize how important your work is for some of us. Your work has become that miracle that we are all hoping and praying for. And I do pray for you. I pray that God will give you courage for the mission, strength for each day and restful nights for your body, mind and soul.  I pray that your husband and family understand and support your efforts too.  You are my friend, whom I have not met, but that I love very much.

I pray for R and R's mother, too. In fact, I pray for all of you, and I hope that my mission will result in a good outcome for every single indentured educated soul. I want you to know that your suffering is not in vain. Your suffering has not gone unnoticed, and it is my duty as a public servant to carry this burden and to fight for your rights. Let's thank R's mother for having the courage to share her story. Let's thank God for good mothers like her. Keep your son close.



Klaire said...

Why offer student loans in a field that you cannot get a job in if you have a lot of student loan debt. It's crazy. "R" you aren't alone, I too have a worthless degree and a low-wage job. I feel cynical and angry at the world, if only I hadn't gone to school...the way things have ended up for me have led to me losing friends because I am so depressed and angry most of the time. I don't know what else I can say except you aren't alone.

Anna said...

Interesting that the Air Force claims the reason he was denied employment was because he has too much student debt. Nothing like covering up the real issue. You have a worthless degree. The government paid for that worthless degree, through student loans and made a lot of people rich by doing so. I bet you were told that you could make lots of money by getting that degree.

This is a Ponzi Scheme! The government will never admit that because they have dirty hands. The government issues Student Loans, pays the for-profit schools, which in return pays the investors of said school. I do hold the government responsible. Also the likes of Goldman Sachs. They know exactly what they are doing.

Spekkio said...

I wonder how many of us now consider our degrees "worthless?" It's an awfully strong statement, but I hear it a lot. I personally "brag" about my two worthless degrees (Worthless BA and Worthless BS), and I'll soon have a third (Super-Worthless MLIS). Isn't that exciting?

I mean...hell's bells. I was cleaning my office the other day. I don't actually do much work in there, as my desktop Mac is dying - the LCD is losing pixels. (Aside: isn't it weird how computers seem to slow down over time? Even wiping them clean doesn't seem to improve the situation. Is it just perception? I don't know.) Anyway, all of my books and papers and computer parts are in there, along with my toy collection and tools. And in the process of cleaning, I ran into my graduation stuff...two tassels, three honors cords, two diplomas, and my honors program certificate. The honors program couldn't even get the certificate right...the first time they misspelled my last name, and the second time I got referred to as a "her." (I let that one go.) There was also a stupid paperweight from my failed year at WVU and stuff from my honors program trip to Ecuador in 2003.

I know that people used to hang their diplomas on their walls. Maybe they still do. Me - I don't want to see that stuff. It smells like failure and broken dreams. So it's all stored in the top of my closet closet in a plastic container.

I really do feel badly for R and his mom. He's lucky to have a mother that understands, because my parents still don't seem to understand how bad things are. I just don't talk to them about these matters anymore - it's not worthwhile.

It's not supposed to be this way. It really isn't.

Anonymous said...

My ex-wife and I divorced a couple of years ago, mainly over the strss my ex-wife was under bacause of my student loans.

But my wife had a car and I had a car.

Because my credit was ruined due to the student loans, my car loan had to be co-signed by my ex-wife.The interest rate was pretty low. 6 percent maybe.

During the divorce, I tried to have the loan for my car transferred into my name, and went to my bank--the same bank that had issued the loan.

I remember sitting opposite the bank officer's desk, and when she looked up my social security number on the screen she exclaimed: "Wow" you owe one-hundred and something thousand? What was that for?"

And I told her it was for student loans.

Needless to say I was turned down by the bank for the loan, and had to go to a used car dealership, where I decided to trade the car for a truck, and got a loan, but at an interest rate of around 14%.

I think the highest interest rate allowed for a car by law is 17 to 18%, but not sure.

I am truly sorry for R and R's mother.
I am living with a similar siutuation, and am always looking back with regret, and forward with an uneasiness and sort of knot that I feel around the center of my chest or solar plexus. area.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath. How long do you think that R can hold on without hope.

Anonymous said...

As an education debt slave that has searched and networked for almost two years with little success, I can tell him that the time has come for him to make the move to Asia. Hopefully his mom can help shoulder his student loan debt and assist with this move. As a former corporate environmental attorney, I actually have a decent feel for his market (meteorology). I looked for jobs in anything remotely related to the environment - meteorology was one such field. The only thing I found outside of USAF was at state environmental protection divisions and the salary there is below 30K. I never could find a job outside of law because law is sooo lucrative that employers assumed that I would jump ship for one of those awesome attorney jobs as soon as it appeared. I'm a full time "hustler" now, juggling 3 jobs and getting close to be able to leave the US myself. Good luck to "R" and other readers

Anonymous said...

This is going to be me very soon. A worthless degree, and no where to go but my mother's apartment. Until she dies. Then I will be homeless.

I've been trying to explore ways out of the country, but beyond teaching English in Asia for the rest of my life, I'm not quite sure where to turn. I fear on a daily basis....nowhere to turn...and nowhere to go but down and out...

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Oct 5 7:52 AM - Thanks for posting. Why not teach English in Asia? That's where I am, and it's done wonders. You're degree isn't worthless. Think about teaching here. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about what it's like and how to do it. I'm in, as you probably know, South Korea. I am probably going to be promoted soon, and have been hired by my company (they're a big hogwon) to be a reporter at an upcoming forum about business in Asia. So things are looking up for me professionally, too.

I am encouraging educated people to leave the U.S. for work abroad. I mean, if nobody wants us there, then the hell with it. We'll take our skills elsewhere.

Mike said...

Hello. This is the first time I'm here at your blog and this is the first article I read. I have lots of friends teaching English in South Korea and they are doing quite well and enjoying their life there. However, I think one thing that escapes them is that teaching English there for most of them is only a temporary thing. None of them wanted to teach English. They are there because they couldn't get the jobs they wanted here. Granted, they are getting paid well over there and living a good life but do you think they will all want to settle down, get married, have kids, and spend the rest of their lives there? I think the problem with people these days is that no one thinks about the future. Everyone lives in the moment. After teaching say 5 years of English in Korea, many of my friends are planning on moving back to the states. I am having a hard time believing that they will be able to get more then entry level jobs when they come back. They will be better then the people who have no jobs, but let's remember that a high majority of the population are still employed so they will still start out at the bottom of the ladder. The only difference is that they will be 30 years old or so. I think staying in the states and temping or just sucking it up and applying each day everyday to jobs is a better alternative then going to a foreign country to teach English (unless that is what you actually want to do at this point in your life). People need to stop taking the easy way out and actually think about the future impact of their present decisions. They already made a risky choice by going to college for a degree they should've known would have a hard time paying well. I hope they really weigh the cost/benefit of going abroad to teach and then coming back in a few years expecting anything better then an entry level job. Are there exceptions? Of course. But if you were the exception, you probably would've planned better. This is all my opinion from what I've seen and am in no way trying to offend anyone. I look forward to a discussion.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mike, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You haven't offended me, and I'm glad you decided to discuss this issue. I strongly disagree with your argument that teaching in Asia is an easy way out. Have you ever lived in a foreign country and tried to work? Have you ever left your country for a new start? If the answer is no, then let me tell you that this type of decision is far from easy. Moreover, this opportunity has helped me professionally. For instance, my company selected me recently to be a reporter for an upcoming forum with world leaders and business moguls (Tony Blair, Richard Branson, Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, among others will there). It's connected to the upcoming G20 talks in Busan, South Korea. I am writer, so this will allow me to actually be paid (again) to do just that. That will be a great thing to add to my resume. Plus, living in a foreign country provides you with amazing skills. Again, this opportunity to write for my company is a rare one, and I had to compete internally to obtain this. However, for me, it will be enormously positive, as I will be published and so forth. So, perhaps I am an exception, but I firmly think that if you can't find decent work in the U.S., then there is no reason why you shouldn't consider exploring other options. And who's to say that people who left didn't apply every day for a job in the U.S.? I know I did. Mike, I didn't want to leave. However, I was in training to become a professor, so I love to teach. They wanted me to teach here, whereas NO ONE wanted me in the U.S. I applied for jobs every single day, and at that time I had two jobs. I applied for thousands of jobs. I have the evidence to proof it. I tried everything. But it wasn't working, so I came here. It was not a step backwards. It is was step forward. Moreover, you are wrong in thinking that many just come here short-term. Many people are now deciding to stay here permanently, and I know a number of folks who are raising families here. I, on the other hand, won't be staying long-term, but that's because I am an advocate for thousands of debtors in the U.S., and I will be far more effective if I return. I'm doing all right here, but straddling two time zones and working 80+ hours a week is taking its toll. Plus, I have political ambitions. That's my story, but this has definitely not hurt me, and I doubt it would, or is, hurting others. Again, it's not an easy thing to do.

Mike said...

I'm not sure what your degree is in but it seems to me that you're definitely an exception. Most people go out there to teach English. You said that you love to teach. My friends don't. You are a writer and have political ambitions so you are afforded the opportunity to further your career there. My friends have degrees in aviation management, retail sales, psychology, sociology, linguistics, hotel management etc. I do not see how teaching English will further their job prospects if they come back (which many are telling me they plan on) in 5 years. If you're in one of those majors and you decide to come back to the US, what are you going to be able to get besides an entry level job in 5 years? I have friends in recruiting. I asked them how they would judge people after this recession and how they are judging them during the recession. The answer is always the same: if you don't have a job or have a BS job, then you will have a hard time finding another decent job. If you have a legitimate job ie you're a marketing major doing marketing instead of teaching English overseas (unless you work for Teach for America or a similar program), then you have a higher probability of getting the next job while these people currently abroad will be viewed as "couldn't hack its." This is from my recruiter friends. And it seems logical to me. If I'm hiring someone, why would I hire someone who couldn't find a job here so they decided to go abroad and teach? And again, I think you are the exception instead of the rule here. But I'm curious to see what other people think as well. Maybe I'm way off base here...

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mike, it's true, there are people here who don't care about the work they do and don't do a good job of it. However, that is not the case at the company I teach at. Just because a few of your friends in the field of recruiting hold that opinion does not mean that that is the final say. For instance, a fellow teacher of mine has an interest in working for a large oil company. He would like to teach in other countries besides South Korea. A prominent employee at this company is associated with his father. He spoke to this gentleman about coming here to teach, and was told to do it in order to be considered for a job with the company in the future. I think you are being awfully presumptuous when you conclude that this is a bad move. It depends. I do think, in many ways, you are off base. If you have an interest in reading about my background, I encourage you to read the piece about who I am here:

As you know, it's a tight job market. People go where the work is, and I hope you are more open to that fact.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how it feels to be a worthles piece of flesh in US society scouting around in vain for jobs. Yea, I could get nearly minimum wage jobs that were pretty crap...but wouldn't pay back the loans I owed which are hefty. Well, now I'm abroad and I've found out that I rather like the expat life. I intend to stay abroad and evade those soul-crushing loans. It's not fair that I had to go abroad just to make ends meet AND have to pay back student loans to get ahead in life while the banks get trillions in bailout money and credit card users can file for bankruptcy while honest, hard-working people taking out student loans get indebted for life. Screw that. So, I suggest to go abroad...anywhere. There are more options than staying at this point. There are lots of countries willing to hire native English speakers...and maybe those with other special skills to boot. If you don't like one country and/or your contract ends, just hop ship to another... Yes, payment varies, but with no debt, even a little money abroad can go a long way. If you can, take as much money with you and don't look back...(especially if you owe student loans) Anyway, if I go back to school for another BS or get a MA, it sure as hell wouldn't be in the States again! For example, education in Europe is about 20x cheaper and nearly free for its citizens.