Friday, October 26, 2012

More on Student Debt

My main character doesn't have a lot of money but does have a lot of ambition.  Like many young people, she's made the decision to pursue a college education to make sure she has a solid foundation as an adult.  The specter of debt and a life spent paying it off is one of the motivations behind what some might consider a really questionable choice.

With that in mind, here are some schools she would not attend.

My character is not white, and unfortunately non-white students are disproportionately affected by the high cost of college.  Note: my character is part Asian, not Latino or African American.  However, while that group is not the focus of this study cited, they note here:

The foreclosure crisis wiped out economic gains made by many minority families and set in motion the largest stripping of their wealth in American modern history. The average Latino family lost two-thirds of its wealth between 2005 and 2009, while Black and Asian families lost more than half of their wealth.
Not surprisingly, these families rely more on college loans, and increasingly on riskier private loans, to offset losses in home equity and dwindling savings.

In other words, the losses and threats may not be as deep, but they are still a concern for many Asian American families.

The story I've written is not about how to fix higher education in this country because, as far as I'm concerned, that would be a boring story: demand legislation providing funding for higher education institutions.  Also, not everything here is about the desperation a tuition bill can cause.  But it is about a person who, like many in her generation, is trying to dot every i and cross every t without ruining her future in the process.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Student debt grows

The high cost of college is the elephant in the room for my main character.  Her resolution comes after a lot of heartache, but it's a fairy tale compared to what real-life students and graduates go through.  Here's the latest about how much student debt is going up.

Not surprisingly, they note here that students in the Northeast were among those with the greatest debt- but so were students in the Midwest.  Students in the West and South have the lowest.

The implied advice hasn't changed: go to a less expensive state school.  However, those aren't the bargains they used to be as higher education has been cut almost across the board in all states.

The article notes that private student loans account for a fifth of student debt.  Consider my heart chilled.

There are things that can be done to prevent high debt: attend a state school, do some of your work at a less expensive community college, work over the summer (if you can find a job while unemployment is high).  But frankly, all of them seem like bandaids when state support is being reduced.

The best answer I've heard so far: invest in higher education institutions to lower the cost of attending college in the first place.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What I'm Reading, What I've Read and What I Want

I used to review a lot, but for a couple of reasons I've stepped away from it.  I still read a lot, but for the most part I'm not sharing my thoughts on everything, especially if they're on balance negative thoughts.  I consider it a little bit of a luxury to not have to be overly critical.  (If I said I'm a Virgo, would you understand?)

But I don't want the world to think I've stopped reading.  Even if I haven't had time to sit down for a proper review, I can at least give a shout out to what's on the table where I keep my books.

  • Oxford Messed Up is the story of a Rhodes scholar who suffers from OCD and her path to wellness and love. A lot of Van Morrison music.
  • Daughter of Time Young widow Meg thought the 21st century was filled with challenges.  Will 13th century Wales be any better?
  • A Thirty Something Girl Hope Jackson's thirtieth birthday is anything but welcome after she's lost pretty much everything she ever thought she had.  Things you can get back and people can come into your life, but does any of that help when you can't let go of your mistakes?
  • Molly Hacker is Too Picky!  Finding Mr. Right is hard; looking for that person when all of your friends plus the town's busy body thinks it's their job to "help".
  • Resurrecting the Street is an account of how the Government Securities Markets came back after 9/11.  As much a story about what happened that day to the people as to the infrastructure.
  • The Gargoyle After a man who had no inner life and made money off of his looks is burned in a fire, a mysterious, eccentric woman arrives at the hospital to help him recover.  It's a love story that will delves into history and mysticism.
  • Self-Printed If you're contemplating self-publishing, this is an excellent guide.  This is not a get-rich-quick scheme; rather it's a make a develop-a-reliable-long-term-income-stream book.  There is quite a bit of technical advice about how to publish on Kindle and Smashwords, with all of the attendant problems that can arise.  If you end up deciding that you want to hire someone else to do this for you, you're not alone.

What I'm waiting for with bated breath

What I Really, Really want more of

  • Good economic history. Please, don't even breathe Niall Ferguson's name in my direction.  This is the kind of stuff of my dreams.
  • A grown up book about solar power. There's a fair amount for kids, but I want something I can sink my teeth into- history, applications, goals- the whole shebang.
  • An Asian country's economic outlook, and preferably one that reflects that Asia is not a monolith.
  • More on education policy, including K-12 and higher education.  I'm picky though, and do NOT recommend Diane Ravitch unless you'd like to hear all of the reasons I can't stand her.

Don't Even Bother Recommending

  • Anything by Emily Giffin.  Her bullying- ahem, her husband's bullying- this summer soured me on anything she may ever write.