The College Scam Will Ruin Our Youth & This Country

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The image below is a metaphorical representation of the United State’s higher learning agenda.

At the head we have universities, corporations, businesses, financial ventures, and other individuals who control the colleges of the United States. Their mission is to lure students into their jaws and bite down. From there, they raise tuition prices, trick students into accepting loans, tack on enormous interest rates, and feed on the students for all they’re worth. At the end of the day, their haul is over a trillion dollars! Quite a profit.

The tail end being devoured represents the generation of young adults who are graduating high school and starting their lives. They don’t see just how broken and backwards of a system they are about to commit 4+ years of their lives towards, and what kind of an awful state it will leave them in thereafter.

Make no mistake, the job market is recovering from the devastating 2008 recession, but the caliber of jobs that are returning are largely not in specialized, well-paying fields. They are low-skill, grunt-labor jobs that don’t always require a college degree, (except for formality sake, in some cases.) That means many of the degrees which universities encourage students to pursue are in fact worthless, as it will do nothing but open the doors for even higher learning, sucking them further down the spiral. And that’s about it. Grad students are not the kings of the suckers, in fact most are pursuing excellent paths that will enrich us all. But some are there because they got a degree and realized the only thing they can do with it is to turn it into a masters and hope it comes to fruition.

I had a plan when I graduated Edina High School in 2007. I was going to major in psychology, then go to law school and become an attorney, just like my grandfather. But during my time at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, I came to discover the field of psychology is one giant guessing game of theories and inferences with very little concrete facts. It’s job market opportunities are bleak at best, even for law school. It was at this time I started writing screenplays. Before I knew it, I was casting aside school work to polish my spec scripts (scripts you write for no pay with the intention of selling later). By the time I realized I wanted nothing more than to be a screenwriter, it was too late- I had already vested 2 1/2 years in school at the University of Minnesota. I could finish it out, or drop everything, transfer to UCLA, rack up 6 figures in debt, and hope it all paid off. Luckily screenwriting is not a field that requires a college degree. It requires talent. It requires you to be a relentlessly creative writer and have a connection of some sort (whether you forge it yourself or you know someone) to get into the film industry. At this point, I began to see college as a waste of my time, but I had so much time already invested in it, I decided to just pick a major that interested me, Japanese Studies. (I also predicted Hollywood is eventually going to turn to Japanese cartoons for big-screen adaptation material,  so my major was not completely irrelevant.)

college_scamToday I write and produce with my company, Stone Arch Entertainment. I work closely on music videos, commercials, and films with my long time high school friend Tomas Aksamit of Future Frame Productions. Tomas is a director, cinematographer, editor, writer, and a producer who did not go to film school. Instead, he bought all the books a UCLA film class would have its students read and taught himself everything. He invested his college fund money into $50,000+ worth of film equipment. Because of this, the advantage he and I now have with our productions is unbelievable. He’s glad he never went to college, and frankly, I find that the most valuable things I learned at college were outside the classroom. It goes to show college is not this grandiose pre-requirement to success that society cracks it up to be. The old adage used to be go to college, get a good job, start a successful life. That is not the case any more. In regards to film school, a degree will most likely not land you a job. It will land you an internship, which you suffer through for years before you have a job. I find Tomas’s method to be an ingenious short cut to anyone considering a career in the film industry.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota in December 2012. In my home state, 70% of students graduate college with an average debt of $31,000, (and I’m right there in that statistic). From there, graduates are expected to get jobs and pay off their debts, or to go further down the spiral and continue on to grad school. No matter what they do, their student debt suffers an interest hike that is similar to a mafia shake down. The Great Lakes Borrower Service (the overseers of student debt in my region) are nice enough to work out repayment plans, but are curt to remind you the hole is only getting deeper. By delaying my repayment process a year, I incurred more than $2,500 of additional debt! As it stands, I have until next year to pay back my loans before they incur serious interest and, from there, could literally ruin my life. I suspect I am not alone.

Student loans are disgustingly easy to get. You can’t walk down a college campus without finding someone peddling or advocating loans. Once you get one, you’re trapped. They don’t just cover your books, they give you whatever dollar amount you request, up to a maximum figure sometimes north of $20,000. They pay your tuition and send you a check for the difference. So if you think “I’m in college, I’m strapped for cash, and I don’t really have time to hold down a job,” you will instead get a loan and then find yourself flushed with cash. The check comes with a mammoth 2000+ page small print book of all the rules which they expect you to read. In the fine print in the middle, I’m sure it says “you’re screwed, sucker.”

College prices are also skyrocketing out of control. When did the educational backbone of higher learning in this country become solely about money? When I first started at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2007, tuition was roughly $5,000 per semester for in-state students. When I graduated, it was pushing close to $10,000. That’s a 20% increase per year. It’s shocking to think a small collect interest group cares more about making money for themselves than for enriching the entire generation of American youngsters interested in pursing higher education. It seems they’ve not bothered to think about the consequences of what they are doing for future generations, and for the American college system as a whole.

And then there are the textbooks. I remember when I would discover that my class had a required hardback textbook, I would literally swear with anger. It meant that instead of paying $40 for a book, I’d be paying $140 or more. To add insult to injury, most buyback programs are a joke in themselves. For that very textbook, I’d be lucky to see 20% of my investment back, even if I kept the book in flawless condition. In fact, a number of books would be outdated by the end of the same semester (in Psychology especially.) Each semester, I’d buy between 10 and 20 textbooks and sometimes spend thousands. I imagine roughly $10,000 of my student debt is from overpriced textbooks. Now, most universities do offer rental services, charging a fraction of what the purchase price would be, but often times they do not stock every textbook for rent. I can honestly say there are some classes I chose not to take simply because I didn’t feel the need to spend $1,000 or more on the books. A learning curriculum should not be compromised in favor of profit.

A small group is bleeding an entire generation dry to get rich off of it, while simultaneously implement a damning system that will haunt the younger generation for years to come. Meanwhile, all across the globe in Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia, college prices are under control and the government often will pay for it. The only way an American can get this kind of benefit is if they volunteer their bodies and lives to the military. Given our track record, the military is not exactly the safest organization to be in right now. To be fair, there are scholarships available, but they are far and few between.

So what happens to the future of college when prices become so expensive, people cannot afford to go at all? To a degree, it’s already happening now. But further down the line, as all the other countries pass the United State’s position of student advancement, the United States will be the one who bares the damage. If we want to promote higher learning and the educational advancement of our younger generations, we need to stop thinking with dollar signs in our eyes and start thinking in regards to practicality and enriching the youth. An entire generation right now is incurring record debt with record interest rates, and we have yet to see the consequences. One only hopes that despite this dire outcome, a realistic solution is reached before cataclysmic damage can be inflicted —

The head eating the tail will finish its meal and kill the whole body.



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  1. Both of my children that are going to college made use of our community college system in Washington state which is largely free for high school students and much less expensive than our state universities for basic courses. You can also do much the same thing via AP/Clep/Uexcel exams. U of Washington will take up to 3/4 of the credit needed for a degree that way(which is less than 1/2 was the local community college is). There are also some bargains out there. Oxford University in the UK provides for credit online courses for about the same price as our local community college. Yes, college can be real financial burden–but a smart shopper can save quite a bit. Residential colleges provide things hard to get online, via credit by examination or at a community college-but there are other ways to get those things like volunteer work. I would also keep in mind that for the truly gifted, highly endowed schools like MIT or Harvard can give much more generous financial aid offers than state universities-though their admissions process is not purely talent based.

  2. WOW! Written by someone who didn’t know what they wanted to pursue in life after realizing their “dream” job was NOT it!


  3. John

    Clearly you have a very narrow view of the world. And the bitterness with which you write is almost palatable. The REAL truth is that college is not for everyone nor is it the best route for all fields. (It’s not a scam, which would mean it’s not for everyone, of course.)

    He that teaches himself has a fool for a master.
    — Benjamin Franklin

    Apprenticeship and formal education saves time and effort. It’s an investment. Just remember, as in all investments, you need to determine if it’s a good investment for yourself.

  4. Megan

    whats up Evan Kail? you should open up an instagram account for collective-evolution….like yesterday.

  5. DMW

    I suggest everyone who wants to study do so by enrolling in the free university courses that are now available even at the “ivy league” schools. Forget about getting a degree, do what you love! The world is changing so fast now, the future will look nothing like what we are in today.

  6. tom

    Don’t forget military and veterans educational benefits: Young people can grow up in a disciplined environment, develop leadership and followership skills while learning a job and earning a largely tax-free paycheck. The services also pay for GED, CLEP testing, and certify military experience toward college credits, so one can finish a degree rather cheaply. The USAF has their own Air University where one can get credits through correspondence in a topic of their choice at no charge. For qualified individuals they will also send members to Medical, legal or dental school while earning a paycheck and a job when you graduate. Not a bad deal for poor people.

    While on active duty most bases and guard units provide tuition assistance at nearby colleges, which doesn’t ‘consume’ the GI bill. Some of those colleges come to you and set up classrooms on base/post so people can take classes during lunch, nights or weekends.

    Then there are the veterans benefits. Many schools will accept what VA allows regardless of the list price of tuition because they know they’ll get paid.

    I got a bachelors and masters through a combination of those things, a steady job and retirement. Maybe not the row everyone wants to hoe, but I’ve never carried any debt while others are drowning in it.

  7. tom

    Oh, WRT the statement: “Given our track record, the military is not exactly the safest organization to be in right now.” I strongly disagree. Your odds of serving unscathed is excellent. There were half a million WWII casualties, 58000 in VietNam compared to 3400 in Afghanistan and 4800 in Iraq. Depending on your specialty, personal risk is microscopic. Here’s what says:

    • War of Independence: 2 percent (1 in 50)
    • War of 1812: 0.8 percent (1 in 127)
    • Indian Wars: 0.9 percent (1 in 106)
    • Mexican War: 2.2 percent (1 in 45)
    • Civil War: 6.7 percent (1 in 15)
    • Spanish-American War: 0.1 percent (1 in 798)
    • World War I: 1.1 percent (1 in 89)
    • World War II: 1.8 percent (1 in 56)
    • Korean War: 0.6 percent (1 in 171)
    • Vietnam War: 0.5 percent (1 in 185)

    • Persian Gulf War: 0.03 percent (1 in 3,162)

    Other data here

    and here

    The military knows that, and is very selective who they accept, so if you, your kids or friends are considering a stint in the military, stay out of trouble.

    And finish high school, an education that has already been paid for!

    • Hello, Tom!

      Question: Are these actual “casualties of war (those that actually seen combat) or “casualties of the Armed Forces (in general, ALL inclusive)?”

      • tom

        Evan: I scanned the references you provided. They are a bit dated, writ by journalists with a clear agenda, not medical personnel armed with facts. Active duty units have had post-deployment PTSD and suicide screening for at least six years.

        GI suicides are up, but are still less than or equal to the general population. PTSD is the new agent orange, a diagnosis many find profitable. The claim that the VA is willing to give PTSD disability to 30% addresses a job security issue: VA is losing clients as WWII & Korea vets die @ 1000/day of old age, so VA is losing their reason to exist. I’ve been to VA screenings, and they are overly eager to assign ‘disability’ to people who openly admit it’s made up, justifying it with “It’s a pittance for what I had to go thru.” The terrible things many went thru was boredom.

        Ask yourself this: Where was PTSD during WWII, Korea and Viet Nam?

        Injuries: Frequently ignored is that we have far better battlefield medicine than years ago and we have more survivors. We’ve come a long way from the punic wars when the french assigned the newest lieutenant the job of killing the wounded, because there was no alternative. The Civil War was brutal but at least both sides had surgeons who did what surgeons do. In Viet Nam the helicopter was a game changer, and we really began to save lives that would have been lost, and that has improved immensely in the SE Asian wars. So yes, there is risk, but it’s .03%. Lifetime risk of being hit by lightning while being eaten by wolves is higher.

        There are also turf wars for VA ‘customers’. You read of awful facility conditions at some of the big VA centers where they do risky procedures but rarely hear of the brand new state facilities that are overstaffed and looking for clients.

        • ALL “good points!”

          The problem with this “…rarely hear of the brand new state facilities that are overstaffed and looking for clients…” is that these facilities are NOT where they are needed! It’s “as if” the VA has a single blueprint for facilities (based on providing services for “X” number of clientele) and every facility is funded and staffed like the one before, whether the need is exists or not.

          • tom

            I’m not sure your assumption about VA facilities and staffing are accurate. I won’t quibble about the facilities – they are more political plums – aka pork – than needs based. But reputation aside, it’s cheaper to have vets go to local centers than pay the family to travel thousands of miles to and provide lodging at large facilities.

            However, staffing is different, at least for professionals. Remember the tv series “Northern Exposure’? The story line was a young MD conscripted to serve in a remote AK village. That’s an example of this. The public health service recruits docs, nurses, PAs and NPs to work in Inuit villages, VA hospitals, Indian health clinics or join the military etc for a given period in exchange to have their student loans paid off or forgiven. The upside is that all equipment and liability insurance is provided along with a paycheck, and often include housing, meals and a car or truck. Young docs know the latest and greatest procedures too, a plus.

            Which brings up another possible way to pay student loans or have them forgiven: The Peace Corps, World Health organization etc. I bet there are thousands of ways to help educated people with liberal arts and soft science degrees pay off the debt, or avoid it entirely.

            • Like I said (or I think i said) “…as if…” AND, “YES!” It is just an assumption! Nothing more.

              In Los Angeles, the V.A. is understaffed and overworked and Vets spend a good amount of time…waiting! While, as was pointed out, in other areas the V.A. has more than enough staff and NO VETS!

              Fully staffed with all the latest equipment on hand, just in case…right!

              Why not set up “satellite” offices throughout Los Angeles that can accommodate VETS for services that are most often needed? NAW! That’d be too logical and uses common sense!

      • tom

        Bobby: I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s a good one: Total casualties/total in uniform, or trigger puller casualties/total in uniform, or trigger puller casualties /total trigger pullers. The ratio of support to combat coded personnel is probably 1000:1 or higher. I might add that most combat slots are volunteer positions. I was a flier, and it’s rather surprising how few volunteer fliers there are.

        I provided the references, what do they say?

  8. evankail

    In regards to the military comment, between 20-30% of veterans of our recent wars have been inflicted with PTSD, and 20% of US suicides are carried out by veterans. You don’t have to be killed to suffer from the horrors of war or military service. I respect and support our troops and what they do, but I do not support sending them to situations that negatively effect them for the rest of their lives.

    • tom

      Evan: It seems clear you could have used better training in personal finance and how the finance world works. Considering how poorly K-12 teaches practical life skills, I’m not surprised.

      About ten years ago Forbes did a survey to evaluate how well HS grads could manage a checking, credit card and car loan account. The number who even understood where the money came from was in the single digits. Topics like compound interest, overdraw and late payent penalties and how lenders make money were simply never taught by the school or parents.

      The college loan system is no different than the housing bubble that depended on a never-ending supply of cheap money and buyers willing to sign away their earnings potential for quick and easy gratification. How it has stayed afloat is a tribute to those graduates who found jobs and can service the debt.

      Housing and student loans differ in that students agree they will never default on it even in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was an out that many home-owners took. The ten billion a month TARP payment between the federal reserve and treasury is the taxpayers unknowingly making the banks whole for lending money to people who didn’t have jobs. Much of that lending was mandated by federal law.

      Too late for you and others in your shoes, the best you can do is get the word out to future students to avoid debt at all cost. Get a job, do work study, save, go to vocational school and community college.

      Perhaps more important: Take some personal finance training. Schools, churches, scouts, 4-H and other groups offer it for free. There are individuals like who set up groups, books and workbooks to learn what your parents and school failed to teach: Personal finance. There are many others.

      People and talking heads use terms like supply and demand, economic theory, capitalism, socialism, US Treasury, Federal reserve, inflation, deflation, cost of living, national debt, debt servicing, bond, stock and foreign exchange rates without knowing what they mean. Searching those terms on Wiki or other sources can make a huge difference in understanding how government and institutions create and manipulate money and credit. Understanding the magic of compound interest can quickly turn the most hard core spender into a dedicated saver.

  9. robberator

    I just dropped out of a 4-year and pursuing dreams via my gut. We’ll see how that goes, everyone thinks I’m committing societal suicide. I see it as the beginning of a heart based journey. Thanks to this site and many others in regaining confidence in my soul.


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