Well, now that a new chapter on my life is starting, I’d like to redirect traffic to the new blog that reflects the new me. It has a very similar URL to this one:

http://ilyaquant.wordpress.com

So yeah. I’m just going to keep this one for archives, considering that it spans some of the most trying times of my life.

The new one will also be Google-searchable!

Hi readers. I’m still alive. Anyhow, I’ve been cruising the net, because in addition to still looking for work, which has dismayed George Kledaras, I’ve been reading news articles.

So I came across this one

And, well, I don’t have too much to say about it besides:

I’ve outworked quite a few of these Chinese kids I’ve shared classes with. Of course, I suppose it helps that my beloved smother probably qualifies as a Chinese mother in many respects.

Anyhow, for all of this talk of China’s dominance, it seems that the one thing they have is that they have 5 times America’s population. However, on a person to person basis, why is it that most entrepreneurs are still Caucasian, and some of the best hedge fund managers (Soros, Jim Simons) are very much Jewish?

Of course, it’s not as though I’m talking from a position of power in my own individual case. Called a startup today that I found out about through a Lehigh alumnus and asked for some freelance work since one of their employees was interested in hiring me later in the year because they currently had to fill a more senior position. So I hope I can get something to do, since something would be better than nothing.

In other news, the G NO P has taken over the house of reps. I wonder what those republicans can come up with in terms of job creation, because I’ve been bored for the past eight months, and not being able to start a career is ticking me off.

Bleh…I’m still alive.

November 15, 2010

I don’t have much to say these days, mostly because my life has been utterly the same for the past six months. Do chores/cook (I’ve been learning quite a bit here–I can make all sorts of things with eggs and I can make soup and chicken, and some salads too.), job search, come up with nothing (as usual)…but, just to prove that I’m still alive, I thought I’d post something.

In high school (and maybe before that), when I read Homer’s (D’OH!) Odyssey, ever since, I’ve been a Greek mythology buff. Mostly because I happened to like the goddess Athena, because she was the goddess of wisdom, and battle, and in the Odyssey, helped out the protagonist (Odysseus…he’s the guy that came up with the Trojan Horse, and the reason that viruses are called Trojans by extension) by taking different forms throughout the story.

So yeah. Smart lady with bonuses. My type of woman :P.

Anyhow, I found this online webcomic (drawn by professional artists) that re-imagines Greek (and some other) mythology in a more sci-fi-ey manner. It’s called Wayward Sons, and here’s the linky.

In other news, I heard a former classmate of mine wrote a paper with Prof. Thiele (while working!). I’m hoping I can get a similar opportunity in the near future. Because I’m usually bored on this end.

I found this post from Prof. Thiele’s blog.

Some I agree with, but some just really get my goat. So I’ll go over them point by point, as it pertains to new graduates.

Honesty: I disagree wholeheartedly with this one. Currently, grads will take whatever job gives them an offer that tangentially pertains to their interests. It doesn’t have to be perfect (and it won’t be). But in my opinion, when presented with “enough rope to hang yourself”, sticking perfectly to values won’t help pay off student loans. Translated another way: employers shouldn’t expect grads (or any other potential employees) to shoot themselves in the foot. People will be honest when they have nothing to lose for it.

Paying attention to the small stuff: this one I agree wholeheartedly with.

Asking questions: this one I have a bit of trouble with. While I prepare for my interviews, I’m lost on what kinds of questions I should be asking that won’t make me look like A) I’m asking generic questions from a “please ask these generic questions at your interview” list and B) like I didn’t do my research on the role (EG: what exactly does this role entail? Answer in employer’s head: did you or didn’t you read the job description?). So my question here is: what kinds of questions will make us look like we prepared for the interview, rather than ones that’d go by the adage “better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”?

Thank you note: Common courtesy here. Agreed.

Enthusiasm: Of course I agree with the general premise. However, the quote “sounding like you’re eager to take any job as opposed to this one in particular, or appearing as if this is the only option you have.” could not be closer to the truth these days, with an emphasis on “these days”. In my opinion, when interviewing new grads (and perhaps others these days), employers need to realize that not a lot of people (at least my age) are voluntarily quitting their jobs, so if you are interviewing someone, it probably means that A) they don’t have an offer and B) given how insane the job market is these days, it’s a good bet that your firm is one of the few, or perhaps the only interview that person sitting in front of you, or speaking to you over the phone, has. If the candidate took time to apply to your firm, it probably means he’s willing to work there if extended an offer. Obviously, this is not an employee’s market, so I don’t think anyone is just out to get interview practice. The reality is that for today’s grads, “any job” (of those that the candidate applied to) is better than “no job”.

Real weaknesses: this feels like a subset of honesty. Why would any candidate want to give even more of a reason to reject him or her besides “there are only a hundred other people competing for this position, half of whom have more experience than you, and fifty percent of the remainder went to a better school”? Yes, canned answers such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m a workaholic” will sound, well…canned. But are employers really expecting for a candidate to really remove the biggest skeleton from their closet here? In *this* job market?

Overqualified: doesn’t apply to new grads.

Resume objective: in this case, I feel that this article knows best.

Phone interview not a casual chat: I agree here.

You should not count on our job offer: obvious statement is obvious. Of course, you can also add “abandon all hope” while you’re at it. Face it, for new grads, there isn’t a lot going our way. We have a mountain of debt in most cases, with little way to pay it off. At least *try* to keep our hopes up.

References beyond our list: how exactly do employers go about finding these people we don’t mention? None of us are perfect, and some of us (some more than others) may have ruffled a few feathers in the past. Furthermore, what’s the point of this? To keep punishing candidates for mistakes they can’t go back in time to correct? Couldn’t this have been stated in a more positive light, such as “be nice to people, because you never know who we may ask for a reference”?

We don’t like being stalked: I know I’m guilty of this one sometimes. Thank the times for that. However, from my (and perhaps many others’) end: would it be so much trouble to give us a set date as to A) when to call back regarding the status of our application and B) to actually pick up when we do call, or if we do get your voice mail because you may have been out sick/tied up at that moment/etc… to write us back at first opportunity and at least give a reason why you missed our call? Now, while recruiters are not obliged to be so nice these days (after all, they’re not the ones out of a job), is a little bit of sympathy too much to ask for? I can’t tell you how nice it is when someone who misses a call writes back and states “sorry, I missed your call because of X, Y, and Z.” rather than just ignores the message for a week.

Some of us care: major emphasis should be placed on the some in my opinion. Of the applications I send, most just give me a “this is an automated response thanking you for applying”, a fraction of those give me the “dear candidate, this is a generic rejection letter. We will keep your resume on file for X months.”, and only one rejection letter have I ever felt was actually written by a human being, rather than tossed out by the computer after the HR person clicked “reject candidate”. And just for that, I’m going to re-apply to that company if I ever live in Chicago and/or obtain a PhD.

Edge with a cover letter: if customizing a cover letter for a job is such a sure-fire way to go to the top of the resume stack, why do so many firms present themselves on CareerBuilder as “A prestigious trading firm” or some other generic title? I wish these firms would be easier to find! That said, I must be doing something very very wrong in my cover letters, because apparently, manual-writing so many of them hasn’t gotten me much. Maybe because other really qualified people might be doing this too.

Early to the interview: I’ve read arriving 15 minutes early was suggested. Apparently five now. Okay. Mental note of that.

Subjective things: noted.

Key question: what did I do that someone else wouldn’t have? The answer to that should always be nothing. In my opinion, candidates are hired to perform certain tasks. So if I did something that someone else wouldn’t have been able to do, I feel that that is an indictment against the hiring practices of an employer. I may be misinterpreting this one though. As to what makes the candidate unique? “You are unique, just like everybody else.”

New grads need experience: this is the part that got me to write this article in the first place. It’s that “do internships, paid or unpaid, etc…” This is what I can’t stand about the current employment environment. First of all, in terms of unpaid internships: I’d gladly do them if the cost of living was zero. But as a little Op Ed in an issue of “The Week” once said, unpaid internships are simply a way of maintaining the status quo, as only the rich really have a way of continuously paying for their kids’ room and board while they just “get experience”. I mean what the heck is the minimum wage rule for anyway these days? If I could have a place to live so that I could get to work on time and 3 meals a day, I’d work an unpaid internship unquestionably. However, the real issue here is that of cost. A lot of people (especially with parents losing jobs) simply don’t have the money to go and rent an apartment for $1000 a month in NYC while getting nothing for it. Furthermore, how many employers out there are willing to take new grads for unpaid internships, rather than ones currently in school?

Personality: okay. It would be nice if employers sort of specified the kinds of personality they wanted, though.

Conciseness: I know I’m guilty of breaking this rule, and I should be more concise. I’ll have to work on it. Though I do wish sometimes I’d get a “that’s the answer I wanted”. My Google phone interviews made this easy enough (which is why I got the onsite interview that got canceled for reasons out of my control).

Don’t spill about a bad boss: I’ll say it here: all of the work experience I’ve had luckily had me working with people I liked very much. The only reason I’ve quit a field was that I didn’t like the content of the work. In both of my internships, if the people there did the kind of work I currently dream of doing, I wouldn’t be searching for it. Period. I like them that much.

And that covers my take on the 21 points.

Superman Doesn’t Exist

October 2, 2010

Last week was “education week” on NBC, and as far as I hear, there’s some documentary going around, about some public schools that can only be described in two words:

Epic Fail!

The idea is that there was a lottery to get some school vouchers to go to charter schools. Anyhow, long story short, there are a bunch of poor minority children with a bunch of equally downtrodden parents hoping their youngsters get a better life, and that education is a big part of it, so it has to be good.

That’s all well and good, but my beef with all of this is the belief that “hey, send these kids to a ‘good school’ and *poof*, everything will be all well and good”. It reminds me of the time that one woman said something along the lines of now that Obama got elected, she won’t have to worry about her bills. Fantasies, meet reality. Reality, fantasies. Hope you two will become well-acquainted.

The reality is that if one performs a search for entry level opportunities today along such keywords as “quantitative, statistical, mathematics”, etc…, the opportunities just aren’t there, short of having a PhD (I’ll apply to a few schools this year), or meeting someone who would be able to bypass HR, or at least make sure you got a good consideration, rather than cast aside by the twenty-something HR girl trained to look for GPAs above 3.6 and the words Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, etc… (which sort of begs the question why they even hire HR people rather than just create a resume parser that can give candidates a generic rejection letter…think of it…the machine will first send the generic thank-you-for-your-resume letter, then a week later, the generic rejection letter, without ever putting your resume in front of a human being).

Now maybe any field demanding a solid background in a quantitative science besides “high school math teacher” will demand a PhD because employers can find those kinds of people. However, the real question is this:

What level of education do people really need for most lines of work? I remember in my actuarial internship, the FSA there (and a good friend my neighbor) told me: “in this business, the only math you need is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division!” For someone that wants to just go and be a construction worker, or a nurse or whatever, do they really need to know how to find cosines of angles, or take derivatives and integrals, or solve number theory brain teasers?

The gap between “the math a regular Joe would need” and “the math that a top level scientist/researcher would need” is massive, and I believe that after the arithmetic is finished, then the rest of that is just STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). However, why is there such a belief that everyone needs to learn this?

Because from personal experience, the opportunities for those that did “relatively well” in STEM throughout high school and college just are not there (I’ve been looking for them since mid-January and they’re just *not there*). The opportunities for those with the nosebleed GPAs from name-brand universities? Oh sure, they’ll get a half-decent paycheck, long hours, and “the opportunity of a lifetime” to be overworked by the same people that fell for the same propaganda before them (until they start their own companies anyway).

The question then is why must there be so much waste teaching things like algebra, trigonometry, calculus, etc… to people who never ever want to or will want to use it? America has a deeply anti-intellectual culture (hint hint, despite the fact that there are plenty of statisticians analyzing sports, what ads do you see? Ads for trucks and beer, joining the Army, and Intel processors), and forcing a bunch of children who’d rather play basketball thinking they’ll be the next Lebron James to act like trained monkeys isn’t going to make them into the next scientist.

The point I’m making is this: if there are children that genuinely like math and science and engineering and technology, they are the ones who merit federal funds in order to try and produce the next generation of professional researchers, college professors, etc…

Yes, I write this all the while having full knowledge that there are some people that write “I always *hated* math, but then I had such and such a wonderful teacher and then I got my BS in *insert quantitative discipline here* and now I’m getting my PhD in *insert another quantitative discipline here* at *insert prestigious university here*” and it’s such a heartwarming, feel-good story.

Well, that’s all well and good, except in my opinion, that’s just the law of large numbers at work. I’d probably be insulting my reader base by giving a simplistic example of it since most of them are from quantitative websites or whatnot, but if you put a million monkeys in a room and had them all flipping coins, a streak of ten heads (or ten tails) would, probabilistically speaking, not be surprising at all.

So in this case, our room is now the United States, and all of the students are the monkeys, and math is now the coin flipping. The law of large numbers will mean that you’re going to see some fraction of successes. Does that mean that those funds are being used most efficiently? I’d argue most certainly not. In my opinion, if there were fewer math teachers, but better funded and better paid (and paid for performance!), who only taught students who elected to learn, rather than were forced to, we could let the best teachers teach the best students who would later turn into the researchers and scientists that we need to advance our society.

In my opinion, rather than having so many mandatory math classes, you could have fewer and optional math courses, with better funding, full of field trips to, say, professional institutions that motivates the learning of the topic (hey, if you want to teach fractions to bunch of kiddies, what better way than to take the class to a pizza parlor?), and other activities, such as competitions, olympiads, etc… rather than “this is the math you need to learn, these are the equations, here’s a bunch of homework”.

In short, if children want to learn, let them. But don’t force them. Certainly, don’t force them to learn to hate the subject you’re trying to teach. That way, those that wanted it from the get-go will get their just rewards, and those that looked down upon the “geeks” and “nerds” in class will get their just desserts.

Of course, education at the k-12 level isn’t the only thing that needs an overhaul if America wants more scientists–it also needs to make an environment more conducive for its own citizens to even be able to obtain the degrees necessary to obtain these positions, so when a school only admits 5-10 PhD candidates a year, most of them being from overseas (some of whom then have their student visas expire and go *back* overseas), is that conducive to the propagation of innovation in America? But that’s a topic for another time.

More Educational Futility

September 24, 2010

So I’m sure some people may have gotten whiff of the fact that Mark Zuckerberg (facebook’s founder) gave $100 million to schools in Newark.

Now while it’s no secret that America needs help with its educational system, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), I disagree with Zuckerberg’s decision.

I simply think that throwing money down a rathole like Newark won’t exactly show much for it in a long, long time, if ever.

As Jim Simons has said in his speech that can be found on YouTube (don’t have the exact words, but…)

“At first I thought that it was just the average being dragged down for various reasons, but then I found that our top 10% aren’t as good as their top 10%”.

I think that rather than trying to bring up the bottom, we should focus on improving the abilities of those who wish to have them. I say that those who wish to learn math, who are involved in the math clubs, etc… should be the focus of the funding. As Jim Simons said, our top 10% aren’t as good as the top 10% of other nations. Once our top 10% are better than the top 10% of the rest of the world, let’s focus on the next 10% and so on.

Sure, it might mean that those at the bottom stay at the bottom for a long time, but let’s look at a bit of reality. Anecdotally, I have two quantitative degrees, and still have a great deal of trouble finding work. Does anyone have any delusions that a bunch of students from broken homes in Newark, are in general going to quickly become the new leaders of tomorrow? Sure, you might have the occasional success story against all odds that can go on and write a book and say “if I can do it, you can too” and be a feel good story, but, as anyone with a quantitative background would rationally conclude, that kind of thing is survivorship bias. In other words, just because one monkey flipped heads ten times in a row (a highly improbable outcome), it does not mean there is anything unique about said monkey. Clearly, this does not imply that anyone that defies the odds is just a monkey flipping a coin, but that their success was highly unlikely, and that there would be more cases of people succeeding as much as they did if they came from more advantaged backgrounds.

The moral of the story? I believe that funding of any sort should be merited by performance, and not by a sort of feel-good altruism. Granted, it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s money and he can do with it what he may like, but I believe that $100 million would be better spent making the good better so that said top 10% might one day be able to, much to his delight (hopefully), prove Jim Simons wrong by making our top 10% better than the rest of the world’s top 10%. And perhaps when other people see what’s possible with a good education, they’ll actually try to get one themselves, rather than trying to become actors, athletes, and rock stars.

Because according to William Falk, “Take, for example, the recent Marist poll that asked our fellow Americans, ‘What is your dream job?’ A third of our countrymen and women volunteered that they wanted to be an actor or actress–i.e., movie star. Another 29 percent wish they were professional athletes. And 13 percent responded, ‘rock star.’ So that’s 75 percent of the population who’d choose, above all, to be famous and rich (in that order).”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be famous (meh, that’s a crapshoot), or rich (hey, I want to be a billionaire, too, you know! In fact, I would have answered either quant fund manager or CEO of Google), but why not want to take the route that might, more probabilistically, get you there?

I believe someone more willing to entertain those lines of thought would be found in more affluent neighborhoods, who already puts his or her studies above things like, oh, committing some form of violence or doing drugs, like so many people in Newark.

Edit: while about 3 years old, I think this video says quite a bit. It’s called Stupid In America and lasts about 40 minutes.

I personally believe that our public school system should run in a similar fashion to our university system, sans the exorbitant costs, but that’s for another time.

The Tuition Bubble

September 8, 2010

My good friend Paul linked me to this article:

Yowch

Well, this is self-explanatory. In my opinion, we might see some student loans go into default in my generation. After all, the classes of 2009, 2010, and possibly 2011 (if not longer than that) will have been saddled with lots of student loans that neither their universities, nor really anyone else can help them recoup to too much of an extent, as there aren’t enough jobs to go around.

I believe this is what happens when an industry perpetuates its own demand.

24th Birthday.

August 27, 2010

Today’s my birthday. It’s like any other day except for the facebook happy birthday posts and the one gift or so. Nothing to really party over. Well, at least I can laugh at the whole ridiculousness of the world in which a 24 year old with two quantitative degrees is seen as worth either $0.00 by the job market, or $10.50 an hour (that horrendous 80 hour a week, $42k a year offer I had to turn down, and rightfully so since if not for garbage timing, I might have been starting at Google in a few weeks).

I have one potential candidacy with a Chicago data group, but if that falls though, then it’s more or less find something to do for a year and apply for PhDs and stop begging for work in this crapsack market.

Speaking of crapsack, here are just a few posts detailing just how crapsack it is.

One
Two
Three

Anyhow, it seems these days that without experience and connections, you won’t get any experience and connections. It’d be funny because this kind of bad recursion loop is what one would expect from an amateur programmer, except this is what’s happening on a massive scale across the USA. And the clowns in Washington DC? The Obama administration has had two years to do something about it. It hasn’t.

Worse yet, all of the stories about how this affects Gen Y/Millenials/aka us, the entry level kiddies, all focus on someone who got a liberal arts degree, which isn’t marketable even in the best of economies. You know something is screwed up when someone with a BS in engineering (although not the uber-programming kind) and an MS in statistics can’t find something.

So far, the plan seems to be to reapply for PhDs again, this time with that 3.81 Rutgers GPA that shows I can hack it at a high level. I suppose I should be thankful that I have the quantitative background, and maybe this is all part of some big over-arching plan that fate I don’t believe in has in store for me.

Ah, well. As I told the liaison from Open Data Group (who I’m still in the running with for a statistical position), I’m just rolling with the punches. Hopefully something breaks soon.

15% of Everything

August 12, 2010

First of all, congrats to Prof. Thiele for having her full manuscript looked at by two more agents. Unfortunately, she won’t send it to me until the book goes to print. ARGH.

Anyhow, given the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hiring situation for entry level people like myself, the crushing burdens of student loans (which you can find many a horror story on the internet about), and the fact that I tried writing fiction before (but it came out a jumble of cliche garbage based on a blend of all of the Japanese animation and paperback fantasies I’ve read and videogames I’ve played), I learned something about the literary industry.

Agents charge you nothing up front (besides a self-addressed stamped envelope…send out several thousand of those and it’ll eat your wallet a bit), but charge 15% of all royalty revenues if you get published through them.

In the same vein, I think, should education pricing be done. In my opinion, no matter how much money you make, or how rich or poor you were going in, for your first ten years after a reception of a degree from a university in which you are not enrolled in another (EG not getting an MS after your BS), alumni would pay a tax-deductible 15% of your gross income divided up between your alma maters weighted upon the time you spent in each.

However, those students would pay nothing up front.

That is, consider a school for which the average student would pay $150,000 net of any financial aid (that is between parents’ contributions, student loans, and other money that he or she and his or her immediate family would be responsible for). In order for this cost to be paid off in ten years, on average, said alumnus would need to pay $15,000 a year on average to said university. In order to pay this, said alumnus would need to make on average, $100,000 a year in his first ten years of working, which I think seems sensible for going to an expensive university.

In my opinion, this sort of pricing plan would solve many issues:

First and foremost, it would have universities be paid the going market rate for the production of talented, employable individuals. Because let’s face it, most people don’t go to college to “get educated”. They invest in a college education in order to have a good career to lead to a good life. In this way, the university is the student’s equivalent of a literary agent to the labor markets. Thus, rather than mercilessly selling “snake oil” to students who aren’t quite sure what to do with their lives, such as some institutes charging six figures for a low-paying “passion degree” such as design or culinary arts, the institutes would be paid 15% of their alum’s gross income, whatever that may be. If a degree would pay only $40,000 on average for the first ten years for a total of $400,000, said institute would receive $6,000 a year for a total of $60,000. Still not exactly bad. But not exactly $200,000 like if said person went to NYU for a theater degree. However, if said graduates simply cannot find work (because, say, they graduated in a horrible recession), those students aren’t going to be the ones to take the crushing debts for it.

Next, this would have the effect of slimming down universities, keeping programs that are in demand by the market, and culling the programs that aren’t. I’m sorry but after reading about so many people majoring in some crummy liberal arts major or another and then appearing in the NYT as poster children of the recession, I am extremely ticked off because even in a good economy they wouldn’t be able to find work. Such programs that prepare the graduates for nothing simply should not exist. This would be the market’s way of saying “we don’t need people who majored in XYZ!”

Thirdly, it would allow employers who hire graduates know exactly how much they’re paying for their student loans. If an employer makes an offer to pay $50,000 a year for someone not ten years out of school, said employer will know that $7,500 of it is going to said university. No longer will it be a question of whether or not there’d be enough pay to support absurdly high student loans.

Fourth, it would allow graduates to take any job they want without having to think about the crushing burden of student loans. Whether you’re a prodigy and are making a million dollars a year in your fifth year out of school or decided on following your ideals and work at a nonprofit for $40,000 a year, you’re not going to turn down that nonprofit because of student loans at least.

Fifth of all, and maybe this is redundant with the first point, but it’ll make the service providers be truly paid for the quality of their service, rather than attempt to provide a service. For instance, if you get your car banged in the snow and have to take it to the mechanic, if the mechanic fails to fix it, that mechanic shouldn’t get paid. You pay the mechanic to fix your car–not to try to fix the car. For many of us, it’s the same deal with a university education. We pay tuition not for some smoke-and-mirrors concept of “an education”, but for a degree which tells employers “this individual is qualified to work for you at an entry-level position”. After all, if we simply went to college for “an education”, then what exactly is the point of the GPA anyway? What is the point of all the rankings and quantitative ways to keep score? Why not just grade everyone on a pass-fail basis? Get through everything, get a degree, wham, you have “an education”. Because clearly there’s something more, and the whole idea of class rank and GPA and all those other metrics are simply for the purposes of having the next level up have an easier time of making a culling from the initial stack of applicants, whether it’s colleges culling applicants through high school GPAs and SAT scores, graduate schools culling applications through undergrad GPAs and GRE scores (and recommendations), or employers culling through the GPA (and possibly SAT and GRE scores), brand name of schools, and so on, it’s all about selectivity, selectivity, selectivity at the next level, rather than “an education” for its own sake. (Okay that was long winded.) ANYWAY…when students come to college, they pay for a product, and the value of that product is determined by their prospects at that next step that said education was supposed to get them to. The revenues that universities receive should be directly tied to just that, and not independent of the entire rest of the world.

Long story short: while some people may claim to go to college for “an education”, I believe a lot more (especially considering the cost of it) go to college as an investment, to be recouped in the same dollars that were spent attending it. In this way, colleges fulfill the same role to students as agents to would-be published authors, such as Prof. Thiele. Therefore, I believe that universities should be paid in the same manner.

I found a recent NYT article on Yahoo, which, like some others, picks out a random schlub that took out too many student loans for a ridiculously useless field of study and then uses her to talk about the whole student loan controversy.

Here’s the link:

Click it?

Anyhow, I’d like to say that I don’t think these articles ever hit to the true heart of the problem. Because in my view, there have been so many articles that pick a person that chose some stupid liberal arts major with absolutely no marketability whatsoever.

The true issue is this: student loans are being given out to kids that more or less still don’t know what they want to do with their lives. Some may have a better idea than others, and fewer yet will realize that they’re getting into debt, so their skills better be marketable.

However, just judging by the attitude of the other side to the students, it would seem that neither the universities nor the governments really care, because they’re at no risk whatsoever of losing anything on student loans. The government saddles someone with a student loan, and nothing will ever stop them from recuperating every penny. Not bankruptcy, not economic hardship, nothing. See, when someone takes out a mortgage, if the underwriter was foolish and wrote a loan that the borrower couldn’t repay, they’re left with a lower-valued piece of real-estate in a foreclosure process.

But you can’t foreclose on an education. It’s not like someone can suddenly “unlearn” what they learned, and then said material can be transplanted into somebody else’s brain. So, the promissory notes contain statements like “not repaying is not an option, even if you are unsatisfied with your education. In the event of bankruptcy, we will still garnish your wages”.

In my opinion, the whole process is screwed up. Here is the logic why:

Almost everyone goes to college. There are two exceptions to this:

1) Wunderkids like Bill Gates who have a stroke of genius and drop out of university to start a company which will later become entrenched in our daily lives while achieving untold wealth.

2) The more common kind: those who are just too stupid to actually go to one type of postsecondary school or another.

And my question is this:

If everyone is going to college, why not simply have the government and universities cover the costs for everyone, and instead instate a tax on everyone to pay for it ala medicare? Now some people might cry “SOCIALISM”, but honestly…

In the case of the first kinds of people, I’m sure they’ll want their employees at some point to be college-educated. So, consider that their investment in their future employees.

Now, for the second group: they would be the only kinds of people who get taxed for this, without actually receiving the benefit at some point. In this case, it’d literally be…a tax on stupidity. And in my opinion, this is a good thing.

Now while I’m no expect on the moral hazards of making education free (some people will stay in school a lot longer, etc…), from what I see, it seems to work extremely well in Europe–after all, look how great Prof. Thiele turned out ^_^.

(Speaking of whom, congrats again on the tenure, Prof. Thiele ^______________^. Hopefully you’ll have more time for yourself, now!)

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