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« FMF March Money Madness, Round 2, Posts 1-4 | Main | John Hancock Thinks I'm on the Path to Retirement »

March 19, 2013


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Yeah I agree. The real problem is the people getting useless (or at least marginal demand) degrees that have debts.

I also don't think that throwing more money at the education system is the solution either.

Honestly I think we should do something to limit the degrees given in each field so its related to demand. At least in public schools where tax dollars fund education. We really don't need 90k kids getting bachelors in psychology each near nor do we need to spend a lot of tax dollars to subsidize them doing so.


@ Jim

The AOTC you referred in an earlier post applies to public, private, and these "for profit" institutions like University of Phoenix. Why would you shackle the public institutions when it is the other two categories that are causing the most problems with student debt? Having government get involved in the game of picking and choosing valuable degrees would create a major catastrophe IMO. My feelings on the situation would be to do away with the tax credits altogether and focus more on incentivizing scholarships and sensible loan programs for public institutions only.

Here's another huge sign of the times.

In June 2011, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou announced plans to deploy one million robots across factory assembly lines, as part of a company-wide effort to adopt more automated manufacturing processes. The company has been reluctant to discuss any progress toward this goal, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the automation process is already underway, and some workers are beginning to feel its effects.

One such employee is a man known as Zhang, who has spent the last two years working on the assembly lines at Foxconn's Shenzhen plant. Zhang told the Journal that he and some of his colleagues were recently transferred to different positions after factory managers began deploying robotic arms to plug components into a motherboard. "There were about 20 to 30 people on the line before, but after they added the robots it went down to five people, who just pushed buttons and ran the machines," he said.

When I worked at Lockheed between 1960 and 1992 I saw the introduction of numerically controlled machines for manufacturing complicated, high precision 3-D parts. The worker for each machine was just standing there watching the machine do its thing and was really only there in case something went wrong or if he had to start making a different part.

This year when my wife was in the hospital I saw robotic carts that were delivering items from one part of the hospital to another. I also have read where Amazon is using robotics in its warehouses. I imagine when an order comes in the information is transmitted to a robotic device that goes and gets the product and delivers it to the right place in the shipping department.

However there are still a lot of occupations in the healthcare industry where all that's needed is an AA degree from a nearby Junior College or sometimes just a training program of several months. Two examples are a "Nurse's Aid", or a "Phlebotomist". Granted these aren't high paying jobs but they have good benefits, can't be outsourced, and where I live even the minimum wage just went up to $10/hour.

@Old Limey,

No doubt the robotic revolution is coming. It will probably take longer than some people are predicting but its slow march is inevitable. Any repetitive job that can be programatically defined will be done by a robot some day and the robot will do it better, cheaper, and non stop.

The middle class faces many challenges in the coming century. It will be interesting to see how it plays out but I am afraid it will not go well for unskilled labor.

I continue to be amazed about all of the people who are so stressed about going to a top college. I went to a very small college and still landed a great job right out of school. I graduated with no student loans and I don't regret my choice of a smaller no-name college at all.

Luis, I personally wouldn't be opposed to limiting tax breaks and other tax funding to public schools. But private schools are a major part of our college system and I think they add value and don't 'rip off' students or the public in general. Student loan funding is already limited and the amount of debt you can get from govt. subsudized loans is fixed. I think thats reasonable. I'd like to see the for profit schools heavily regulated as I do believe they are basically rip offs that give medicore educations, cost too much and rely 90% on the government loan systems to fund it all, leaving students with a pile of debt and a low quality degree.

As far as limiting the # of degrees, I'm just looking for an answer there. I don't distrust government. I don't see why schools can't limit degrees based on some reasonable measure of demand. I do think its a problem that so many kids get degrees that are in little demand. I don't see a reason to subsidize that. It dodesn't help the students nor society. If you don't like government telling people what they can / can't do with our tax dollar subidized educations then whos choice is it? How do we stop 6% of kids from getting psychology degrees?? No offense to the psychology field, but there just aren't that many jobs out there for those kids.

Jim, I agree there are too many kids majoring in psychology. A friend and my younger brother were unable to land jobs specifically in their field of choice mainly due to the fact that you need a master's or PhD level education and they were not accepted after multiple tries. Unfortunately for them a 3.5 cumulative GPA was not enough to gain acceptance due to a large competitive pool. On the plus side, a degree in psychology made them desirable hires for companies who saw in them potential transferable job skills. I believe Marketing is an excellent example, right FMF? I would tell anyone truly passionate about becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist to expect to perform at nearly perfect GPA in undergraduate school in order to reach their ultimate goal.

I'm still leery about expanding government involvement. It's not just mistrust of government but through them by powerful lobbying groups lining politicians' pockets. Locally, our community is constantly reminded of recent events that happened at the University of Virginia. See here


Government runs the majority of the colleges and pays the majority of the cost. So yes I think government should medddle in the institutions that it runs and pays for.
Private schools are of course free to do what they want (assuming they don't get a dime of government money, which means almost none of them).

That article on Slate is way long and I've not got the patience to read the whole thing. I don't know what one president getting fired/ resigning/ pushed out, or whatever has to do to prrove that government shouldnt' meddle. You think that kinda thing doesn't happen all the time in private industry??

In some circumstances, you really do need a degree from an elite school. In academia, for example, every opening for a full-time, tenure-track position attracts upwards of a hundred unemployed and underemployed PhDs. If you don't have the terminal degree at least from Berkeley or Michigan but preferably from an Ivy League, you'll be teaching adjunct for the rest of your life -- or until you smarten up, learn to operate a cash register, and get a job at Costco.

Similarly, if you hope for a heavy-hitting career in certain fields, you need a degree from a top-ranking school. Check out, for example, the number of people with national and international reputations for literary journalism -- the kind of people who make a living writing for The New Yorker or The Atlantic. Very, very few of them come from ordinary state universities. Same is true of the law and of upper-level business executives.

Most of us will never have elite careers, and so we don't really need elite degrees and the high-flying social and business contacts that four years at an elite college can bring.

Good Will Hunting bar scene-

Guys, I am a planner, and do not agree with lots of what is written above. Here are my thoughts, and I am pulling it off. It is working out FANTASTIC for me.

1. Two boys, one grade apart.
2. Planned College Education when they were 8 and 10, and paid into a 529 plan where I could prepay for 8 semesters.
3. Kids selected the best of the universities and the 529 is paying 100% of the tuition.
4. Put another lump sum into another 529 since I knew boarding and other expenses will not be covered. That is covering everything else minus the tuition.
5. Since they are only 1 year apart, and now at a big state university, they are leveraging the plans and I am home free.
6. I am guiding my kids heavily, letting them put in their preferences with logic/emotion, and planning out the Univ, Major/Minor, Making all of it part of their 4 year and 8 year goals (documented) and guiding them through it with the help of advisors from the univ.
7. We have everything written including the courses by semester for all 4 years (within the 1st 3 months of entering college), detailed in a spreadsheet, so we can change it if things have to be adjusted (God willing).
8. Now kids are in their 1st and 2nd year of Univ, going after BioChemistry. Both have Internships locked in place, and Research projects.

NONE of the above would have happened, if I would have hee-hawed about pros and cons, and not executed.

NOTHING in life is perfect, and there are many sides to the 'cube of life', but doing nothing is MUCH MORE imperfect than doing something that some imperfection in it.

Make the best imperfect plan, and put it in motion, and then tweak it, since LIFE HAPPENS, and WE (as parents) have to DRIVE THE BUS.

I believe 100% in the above, and executing all of it without any guidance (do not have parents living anymore, and even when they were alive, they were not in the US to guide me and my wife).

529 plans are wonderful.....Little tax savings is worth it, but more importantly, it is putting money aside and cutting off the sword on your head by putting the money aside!

Leaving kids to their own destiny is a BIG NO-NO. Every kid out there is not going to be as good as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. By guiding them, we do not take away their chance of becoming a Bill Gates, but even if they do not, at least you guided them on a wide path, letting them choose the options on that guided (collaborated) path, and then moving towards knocking down milestones.

All of the above sound a little too aggressive for some parents, but that is why I am driving my bus, and you are driving your bus. Ultimately, our destinations are usually the same> Successful, Independent, Kind-hearted, and Soulful kids with Integrity.

Good luck parents......Lots of variables to manage, and lots of things to juggle (we definitely are the sandwich generation and crunching a lot).


FMF - I think it's very enlightened of you to possess an MBA but still feel accepting of the possibility that your children might choose not to attend college, and that non-college attendance might be a viable option. I'm glad that you've developed that perspective.

I come from a traditional, conservative South Asian family that believes in higher education, no matter what. College is religion to them.

Fortunately, I'm doing fine -- I have no student loans and I made a very solid income.

But I have peers who earn fantastic money doing jobs that don't require a higher education degree, like being a general contractor or running their own electrician company or working as a real estate agent. So I definitely see that a college degree is not a necessity in modern America. My family would freak out, though, if they heard me say that. :-)

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