A news photo shows a college graduate in a cap and gown with a ball and chain attached to his leg.
The ball is actually a beach ball spray painted black, with $25,490 lettered in white on it. It’s the graduate’s way of protesting the amount of debt someone forced on him to get his education.
No wait, I have that wrong. The ball and chain is his way of protesting the amount of debt he incurred to get his education. And he’s aiming that protest at someone who forced him to get an education.
No, wait, that doesn’t sound right either. The ball and chain is his way of protesting the amount of debt he incurred to get his education, and he’s aiming that protest at the high cost of getting an education, and expects that someone else (the college or the government or the taxpayers) should pay for the debt that he’s imposed on himself to get his education.
Hmmm. That doesn’t sound right either. None of this does.
Does getting an education cost a lot of money? It does.
Is it worth it? Some say yes, some say no, some say it depends on how much you spend on it, and what you do with it.
Obviously, if you incur a ton of debt to get an education and then protest it to the point that someone else has to pay it off for you, you’ve at least learned how to avoid consequence.
There’s an irony here, based on the high cost of learning. And I’m not talking about book learning. A news story last week reported an interview of another protesting graduate, who said (I’m not making this up) that after she graduated and got her diploma, she added up her debt and she didn’t know how she could get it paid off for a long time. She thought the whole situation was so unfair.
Say what? She just finished six years of college, and then added up how much it would cost her?
Shouldn’t an educated person’s experience include some kind of consumer math? Some kind of spreadsheet moment when she inputs her income and outgo, and notices that the one exceeds the other? This educated graduate said that what really “angered” her (actually, she used a non-family-friendly word) was that she should have never been given those loans because they were the worst money she ever spent. So, she felt justified in demanding that someone else pay for the worst money she ever spent.
She needs another round of education. In the school of hard knocks.
There is a way to get through college without incurring a mountain of debt, and the graduate ends up learning more than just a textbook education. The drawback is — it’s hard.
When I married my husband, I was in college on a scholarship. I gave that up to go to work to get him through three more years of college. We did this because it never occurred to us to incur more debt than we could afford, then chain a beach ball to our leg and expect someone else to pay for it. He worked a night job, and besides my full-time day job, I worked a second job. We lived in a tiny apartment, scrimped every dime, ate lots of macaroni and beans, and still ran out of money before we could pay for his last semester of tuition. Fortunately, someone ran into our car and the insurance money covered that last semester. So we drove to his graduation ceremony in an ancient, bashed-in Ford Pinto hatchback.
Was it worth it? You bet. Every moment. And we learned so much more than the textbook stuff. We learned character, strength, self-denial, and discipline. We learned economy, accountability, and creative ways to fix beans and rice. We learned how amazing we were when we worked toward a common goal. Most of all, we learned that we can do hard things.
Those whiney, demanding, ball-and-chain graduates need to learn one more thing: You can’t buy the kind of education that real life gives you. And you’d never expect someone else to pay it off for you.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.