A reminder that credentials do not always equal intelligence

Insider (formerly Business Insider) published what was meant to be a heart-rending story about a single mom burdened with $430,000 in student debt and a sick child, all to help promote student loan forgiveness.  Instead, the article should remind us that degree jockeys in the liberal arts are, for the most part, incredibly foolish.

"Maria" is a 48-year-old with a Ph.D. in some unidentified major (but it's clearly in the liberal arts), who took out $360,000 in student loans to get her degree.  Insider assures us that Maria was very thoughtful about borrowing the money:

Maria had a goal to teach at a university full-time. Today, she "absolutely" regrets pursuing that goal.

While Maria's undergraduate education, which she completed in 2001, was funded through scholarships and Pell grants, she knew more advanced degrees would give her a leg up in university teaching — especially as a woman in the industry. So she pursued a master's degree and a PhD, the latter of which took seven years to complete.

It was not a decision she took lightly, and at the time she believed the commitment would be worth it. Maria, who requested her last name be withheld for privacy reasons, extensively researched the program, and its statistics for employment post-graduation looked promising. However, she was unable to land a full-time university job after graduation in 2014 and found herself unable to afford her student-loan payments.

Now, at 48 years old, Maria's student-loan balance is $430,000 — all from her advanced degrees, per documents reviewed by Insider.

No wonder Maria says, "I feel like I'm in a hole that I'm never going to get out of."  She's right.

The only genuinely sad thing about Maria's story is that her daughter got leukemia, sucking up much of Maria's money.  If we had a free market in health care, instead of one deeply perverted by government and insurance, that probably wouldn't have been such an onerous problem, but that's another post entirely.

The rest of the story, however, is a tale of stupidity.  This woman spent at least 15 years in academia, acquiring $360,000 in debt (the additional $70,000 is accrued interest), in the hopes that she could get a job in a university.

Image: Diploma and cap.  Piqsels.

Really?  I don't care how much she researched it.  There are only 1,452 U.S. News–ranked schools in America, with the rest being community colleges, beauty colleges, etc.  The latter may offer valuable degrees, but they're not offering big, Fauci-style bucks to their faculty.

Security-free student loans are ridiculous.  Free money drives up tuition.  It used to be that you could do what I did: attend a low-cost public university, work part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer, and get minimal loans to round out the difference.  Your expenses and resulting debt would be proportionate to the real world.

However, government-subsidized student loans have caused colleges and universities to jack up their tuition to extraordinary amounts, far in excess of inflation, salaries, and the cost of living in the real world.  In the hothouse of academia, $360,000 seems reasonable because it's monopoly money.  In the real world, though, other than along the California coast, you can buy a couple of houses for that money.

Maria also has the handicap of being a single mom.  The article doesn't say how she ended up in that state (it's not clear whether she was even married), but the financial and emotional burden of raising a child is one best shared.  A society that encourages single parenthood really destroys women.

I was not as foolish as Maria and was willing to switch out dreams rather than destroy my life.  I had long dreamed of getting a Ph.D. in history.  However, I paid attention to the fact that doing so would take me, on average, seven years, and that I would be used as something akin to slave labor during those years, teaching and tutoring for a pittance.  I would go deeper into debt and almost certainly be unable to get a job in my field.

I decided that, instead, I'd keep history as a hobby and get a useful degree — which I did, getting a J.D. at an affordable public university.  I paid off all my student debt within four years.  I'm not a genius.  These were obvious decisions.

Insider wrote the article to push Biden to cancel student debt.  That's completely wrong.  Maria and others like her behaved stupidly.  Why should people who made more intelligent, responsible choices end up carrying Maria's load?  If we're going to fund the Marias of this world, why don't we also fund all those people who, in the grip of gambling madness, blew all their money in Vegas and are now being chased by loan sharks?

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