Screwing the Pooch, Part One

30Mar12

The statistics are alarming. For years, it was spoken about except in some vague general terms. If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, you could actually work your way through college. You’d graduate and maybe have a couple of thousand dollars of debt. These days, forget it. If you do go to college, you end up being so deep in debt you’ll be working for ‘the man’ way into your 30s. The chances of having a youthful adventure like going to Europe or traveling across the US are simply not in the cards. It seemed that everything is geared to making the youth of America beholden to society, or more exactly, trapped by society. Keep ’em in debt, keep ’em from questioning.

Even that argument pales to the facts emerging.

The cost of college is so high and the possible jobs out there so few, that the ‘boomerang generation’ has come to fruition. These are kids, who have graduated from college, deeply in debt and forced to return to their parents to live. This isn’t some sort of isolated, cherry picked statistic. 85% of America’s college graduates go back home to live with mom and dad. I’m not sure about you, but when I graduated college, I couldn’t wait to be on my own and start my own life. There is a sadness that things are so bad that both parents and child are compelled into compromises little dreamed of a few short years ago.

OK, this may not be so bad if the education children receive is cost effective. Forget about the obscene increase in college tuition that have risen 128% in 30 years. Despite this increased cost, the quality has declined – dramatically. One 2011 survey showed 45% of the students queried showed ‘no improvement’ in critical thinking, complex reasoning or even writing after graduating school. Another survey showed that American college students today do 1/3 less homework than those in 1965. In short, no matter how you want to parse it, the quality is not what is expected while the cost has increased. It is dysfunctional.

This dynamic is just part of a larger problem. The older generation, my generation, is investing in itself, taking the easy way out and giving short shrift to the very people we need to sustain our rapidly approaching retirement. In terms one old friend was found of saying, “We’re screwing the pooch.”

This topic will be explored in future blogs including how wealth as moved away from the young, how those without college educations are precariously positioned and how the dream of a better life for our kids is vanishing like a snow in March.

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