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The New York Public Interest Research Group has launched the Don’t Major in Debt campaign which points out that college financing is a serious issue and “the cost of attending college continues to skyrocket” with the true meat and potatoes over at The College Finance Center where it breaks down paying for college and repaying college loans.

This got me thinking.

As each generation does economically better than the last, are we creating the perceived bar of expectation for the most basic standard of living so high that the only way to get it is for everyone to be independently wealthy from birth? Are our life goals aligned with the college we choose?

One of the things that struck me as my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I settled into our new apartment was how much we didn’t have, particularly by way of tools. Growing up on a family farm, there were tools for almost every function, accumulated over decades between my grandparents and parents. Now, I had a hammer and screwdriver (in the bag of tools my dad put together for me for my first car).

Was my first thought to go out and build the same vast library of tools and bankrupt myself in the process? No. Did I feel like I somehow deserved them? No.

I got it. I was starting out and needed to borrow tools and slowly build my own set. My “savings” was in borrowing. My parents, friends and neighbors had the tools and I could use them freely. I didn’t need to buy them.

I fear that those graduating college have not been disillusioned by the government or the schools or those providing student loans. They have disillusioned themselves by not realizing that their parents took years to build what they were born into. The house, two car garage and all the accouterments being the culmination of a life of hard work.

On top of it, have we convinced college graduates that it isn’t worth trying? News story after news story beats the drum of exorbitant higher education costs and woeful stories of unemployment. Tell a pig that he is a dog long enough and you might find yourself with a barking pig.

As I watch Josh note that he is worried about his ability to travel due to student loan debt and Shannon feeling an urgent need to find a job after graduation due to her looming student loan debt, I can’t help but think about what their expectations were? Loans or not, isn’t the idea to get a job out of college?

To Josh’s credit — he payed it off and can now do what he want and Shannon is aware of what she needs to do. Although it does make it seem like all debt is bad…

The reality is that we want it all now. We want in an instant what our parents took years to build. We want the best education (at least on paper) regardless of the cost and regardless of what we end up doing with that education. Somewhere along the way we forgot that it takes work or an inheritance to have the things we want (notice I didn’t say need…).

This is not sustainable and partially our own fault. Maybe it’s time to start keeping score at those tee ball games and bringing back Tom & Jerry cartoons. This isn’t a call to say that we need to realize that mediocrity will be our greatest accomplishment but rather time, work and or/luck can bring great things.

The world keeps score and we need to learn how to hit.


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