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Higher Education and Higher Bills

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This is a subject that my kids are dealing with directly, the high cost of higher education and the loans they have accumulated in pursuit of their educations. Unfortunately their parents weren’t well healed. We couldn’t pay their ways through college or even supplement their scholarships and student loans. They were fortunate enough to earn scholarships, though, which helped them along the way but, the two oldest amassed a lot of debt pursuing advanced degrees.

The reason higher education is high priced is simple supply and demand. It always has been. If everyone could afford a Master’s degree the value of a Master’s degree would diminish in the economy. The more people who have a certain degree the less valuable it is in distinguishing an individual in a job search and the less an employer is willing to pay for the skill set accorded to that degree – and the more competition for the job.

Currently is is very easy for anyone seeking and associates or bachelors degree to receive financial assistant through government loans for education. That also means that, for the most part, those degrees are about as valuable a high school diploma was thirty years ago. These days a prospective candidate for nearly any entry level position in any company is s expected to have at least some college education.

Since the government made college loans easier to obtain the price of tuitions have skyrocketed. This means the government gives out even more money in loans to students to pay for a bachelors degree that is worth less and less. Even worse, student who focus on degrees that are not in high demand can expect to struggle finding a job, have exorbitant debt and end up working at something just to pay bills and probably nothing related to his or her field of study.

Colleges and universities have become credential factories – at least for bachelor degrees. The educational requirements may not have changed over the years and perhaps have become more stringent in some areas of study but with more people earning degrees the value of the credential has become greatly impacted. At the end of a four year degree program many student find it necessary to pursue advanced degrees to distinguish themselves for the masses of others with bachelors degrees – incurring even more debt. But at least loans for Masters and Doctorate degrees are still subject to credit approval and are, therefore, more restricted and still retain higher value in those fields where there is a strong demand in the economy. However, the competitive forces drive the prices for those degrees as well as the demand for them soars.

And so you end up with a large number of graduates with five and six digit debt going to work at low paying, entry level positions in fields or which why were not directly trained. The employer invests in some job specific training, incurring expense in the process of trying out a new employee. After months or even years of training and development the employee may be promoted into a higher paying position. In the meanwhile the interest on the accumulated debt has accrued and paying off the student loan has become more difficult.

I’m not sure what needs to happen except that, as a general rule, I would prefer the government stay out of the economy as much as possible. The presents of federal money almost always inflates something and causes disruption and distortion. One has only to look at the impact of FEMA money in New Orleans directly after Katrina where demand for even unskilled workers in fast food establishment forced the employers to spend upward of $12 an hour and cut back hours of operations to sunrise to sunset because prospective employees were guaranteed that wage and those hours working clean up jobs. Despite good intentions most government programs wind up accomplishing exactly the opposite of stated goals.

Yes, if a student wants to have a job directly out of college he or she needs to study subjects in college that are in demand in the economy. That has never changed and the presence of government in the system has virtually no effect on such demand for skills. To some extent students who study subjects that are not in high demand must accept that they will probably not find a job in their chosen field and, when a job is found, they may be required to work for less money and spend several years growing within a company. It kind of goes against the concept of pursuing dreams, but reality is like that.

I think the real issue is that lack of quality received in primary an secondary education – the so called free education system. For years students have been graduated without basic skills in reading, writing and math. You might want to debate this with me but, just understand that I have spent over twenty-five years going over job applications to fill entry level retail positions. I have had to screen applicants who had minimal verbal and math skills. I can say that because words were misspelled on applications. The handwriting was awful. And for those positions requiring basis math, the scores were generally low – higher only if allowed the use of a calculator. So it is perfectly normal for employers to seek better educated candidates – those with some college – for jobs paying at or slightly above minimum wage. Again, this is a distortion that is directly attributable to government policies.

We have a Pandora’s Box situation in higher education – now that government has opened the flood gates and colleges and universities have adjusted their budgets around the idea of easy loans for students. It is next to impossible to remove government from the system. Likely as not, in the future a college education will be offered to anyone willing to do the work and be federally subsidized to a large extent. Perhaps, as a model, something along the lines of what Florida provides for 75% and 100% tuition grants in the Bright Futures program that is funded from proceeds of the Lottery. Maybe higher education or technical training will be guaranteed past high school for anyone willing to do the work. Again, I hate to see government enter into anything that is not strictly involved in defense or interstate commerce – as proscribed under the Constitution. But once government is involved in something it is next to impossible to get rid of the interference. Expect degree inflation to continue.

#StudentLoans #SrudentDebt, #Education #HigherEducation #Degrees #GovernmentLoans #DegreeInflation

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Hot Under The Collar About Things

Sun glare

Okay so it is hot in The Sunshine State, AKA Florida. It’s August. It’s supposed to be hot, right? How hot is it? Just about as hot a two gerbils farting around in a wool sock, I’d say. In Orlando in the summertime you either get used to the heat out of necessity for simple survival or you spend your life running from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building.

I’m sort of acclimated, I guess. I’ve spent most of my adult life living in Florida. I do all sort of crazy crap like riding a bike to and from work. Also, I ride a bike when I go shopping. I ride a bike to take a tour of the neighborhood and get some exercise. I ride a bike for a mile in 95 degree F heat and hardly break a sweat. Yes, I’m acclimated.

I ride a bike because mass transit in Orlando virtually does not exist int eh area where I live. This is also sadly true of most places in the US. You see, somewhere back in ancient history, right around the time I ws born, there was an absolute commitment made to being a car-nation (not to be confused wight he flower). So, except for really big cities mass transit in America is a joke. And even in some of the big cities it is not all that hot.

Which brings me back to the subject of heat. In Florida you can smell it I’m serious. You wake up on a summer morning, step outside the door, the day already smells hot. There really is no other way to describe it. I guess Floridians complain about the heat/humidity around this time of year just like Yankees whine about the cold in January and the foot of snow that fell last night on top of the seven accumulated feet already covering the ground. Yeah, opposite ends of the heat scale to be sure, but its weather related. People will forever complain about the weather until congress takes control of it and then we can blame them for all the stagnant air outside of Washington DC as well as everything else that never seems to change quickly enough.

I miss living up north but only when it is cooler there than is here and not cold. I left the north sometime after the Blizzard of ’78 – or was that ’77? It’s hard to recall that far back. But somewhere in the late ’70’s there was a blizzard and that was one of the main reasons my family moved South. Silly me I net back North for 9 years in the 1990’s, though. And experienced other blizzards.

North_building

So, the kids in Florida are back in school and the day they started the new school year was the hottest day so far in 2014. Imagine that! When I think of school I think about fall, leaves turning an a nip in the air first thing int he morning. But those memories come from a long time ago in a different very world. But for all the lacking of anything for me to grab hold of and relate to, the busses were running and it seemed like a good day. It was peaceful enough just to have the ambient noise level diminish as the hooligans were locked away in their assigned rooms for some force-fed, Common Core complaint instruction.

I doubt the kids learned much of anything not he first day of school. It always seemed a wasted day backk when I was in school, in Ohio. Here, because of the oppressive heat, except that how much kids hate sitting in a classroom after having a few weeks off, there isn’t much similarity. Since the invention of schools one thing has never changed, most kids would rather be anywhere else. And it’s because the way we teach kids is the way we think they need to be taught instead of the way most would actually learn. I’m just saying. From my experience back in prehistoric times when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I did a lot of self-educating.What with my dyslexia, I would have never learned how to read had I waited to be instructed while serving my 12-year, state-mandated sentence for no other crimes than being born and turning age 6. I kind of had to take charge of my education at times otherwise I would have wasted most of those twelve years and come out of it with a diploma and no common sense. But now we have standards. Common core in lieu of common sense.

It win’t gettin’ better. Yeah, I know I used ain’t. I live in the South. It;s somewhat expected, right. And, besides, I come from a long line of Rednecks, some distinguished, others not so much. Anyway, had i not decided early on to take charge of my education I might never have learned much of anything except what i started out with. Oh yeah, I learned how to tie my shoes. I did learn that while in school. I probably learned some other things but I can’t recall what those things are at the moment, which kind of makes my point.

Yes, I’m being facetious, But I firmly believe that if kids are in charge of their learning to a large extent and the teacher is there to give them direction and guidance, things go more smoothly and there will be some learning taking place. Force feeding creates resentment and little real learning. If you need an example, here it is. Do you remember how to take the square root or anything? Have you ever used that arcane knowledge? Unless you’re a mathematician or an engineer, I doubt you do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating the cessation math instruction – Far from it. I’m saying make education relevant. Prepare kids for the real world not some hypothetical utopia that does exist where there will be jobs for every idiot the system churns out. Don’t teach for the intent of administering some stupid tests that measure nothing except how well kids were prepared to take a damned test. Yes, I’m including the dreaded SAT and ACT examinations in that as well. And while we are seriously looking at the educational system take another look at how long kids need to be in the classroom in their attempts to learn something. Starting school on the hottest day of the year is kind of crazy. And, anyway, whether it is 160 days or 180 days or some other number of days that kids are required to attend school having a body present for the process doesn’t mean the mind will follow. I recall spending the last three months of my mandatory education marking time, because I had already completed everything rehired of me to receive my diploma. Kind of silly, isn’t.

Florida

#Florida #heat #schools #education #CommonCore

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An Exercise In Publicity

Senior HS pic 1974

 

We are always defining and refining ourselves, even before graduation from high school. But maybe that’s the first time most of us really begin to think about the real world in terms of ‘now what?’

Some like me deferred answering that question completely, extending adolescence artificially, going away to college. But it was always there, int he background. I’m not sure I ever truly answered that question. Maybe fact we never do. There is always something else, isn’t there?

For publicity’s sake I need to define who I am in succinct sound bites that can be offered rapid fire during interviews. Why? Because most people in the media have the attention span of a gnat. But then, they are merely a reflection of their audience. Who wants to hear about my life when they could  get all the latest dirt on the Kardashians?

Here is what I know about me. I’m a storyteller. Always have been; always will be. It’s what I do now, though not yet for a living. But that is also why I’m doing this exercise in publicity.

My storytelling began long before high school but I think it was around the time I was in Mrs. Hibbett’s 9th grade English class that I first decided I wanted to be a writer. She told me that was a mistake. Her actual words were I’d never be a writer. By the time I was a senior she;d forgotten ever having said that.

In college I expanded the whole storyteller concept to encompass a broader range of expression. I suppose part of that came form dreaming of being a rock star. My single greatest achievement was writing a rock opera based on Beowulf. That fact you’ve never heard that composition indicates the effort skyrocketed my band and into obscurity. But throughout the beginning part of college I was marking time until I became famous. I was absolutely convinced I would be famous once day, After all with a name like mine, Elgon, one hardly anyone can pronounce correctly, I had to do something great. Yeah, I’m aware that’s not logical but that was how I thought in the mid ’70’s. I figured I could use my first name alone. After all, other than my dad who never went by it, no one else I knew was named Elgon.  There is a mountain in Kenya and a cosmetics company in Italy. As far as I know that’s it for namesakes and those are coincidences. I was named for neither. I think my grandmother couldn’t spell. Either that of the story about the traveling salesman who had a similar name was true. But we won’t go into that.

Mount Elgon

So, in college I studied mass communication, which by definition is communicating to the masses, right? I was a DJ at a campus radio station. I produced an old school radio drama and a TV news show about music. I interned for a local TV station and at a local newspaper. At the end of all that I figured out I didn’t really like being a journalist. So I decided to focus more on public relations advertising and such. That’s how I got interested in marketing.

I studied Spanish in high school and college, not enough to be fluent, but I can read it to some extent and I generally get the gist of what someone is saying. Seeing how important Spanish has become as a second language,especially where live in Florida, perhaps I should have spent more time learning it. I should have learned a lot of things in college but didn’t. Despite my stubbornness I learned some things, though. One was that regardless of the level of education nothing guarantees you success, or a job for that matter. Eventually I stocked shelves in a grocery store by night and worked part time for a small advertising agency by day. Although I was good at doing both, neither position struck me s having great potential for advancement. So, on a whim and figuring I had a college education, I decided to follow in my sister’s footsteps and join the Air Force. I wanted to be an officer like her but they were being particularly picky about college majors and mine wasn’t what they were seeking. However, in the process of taking the tests for military service, someone figured out I had language ability. Imagine that!

AF picture 1983

You see, after college I interviewed with a lot of companies for positions in management. The economy was limping along in recession so businesses were looking for excuses not to hire people  One of the companies I dealt with was a particular large international bank with an operations center in Miami. After a series of interviews they decided not to hire me. In the rejection letter that stated that based on my at my resume which largely consisted of college transcripts that I lacked sufficient ability to learn a foreign language. How ironic was it that merely a few years later the US military was going to pay for me to learn Chinese Mandarin because I tested very high in the ability to acquire a language over a short span opt training.

I ended up on the other side of the planet for a while, saw a lot of places and met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. On balance, despite all the bad aspects of being in the military, it was a valuable experience. One thing I learned was that people are people no matter where you are and we all figure out solutions to our problems in culturally distant ways. Another thing I learned was that people in other countries like Americans but don’t necessarily like our government and its policies. A third thing I figured out was that I didn’t always need to speak another person’s language to be able to communicate.

Upon returning home and leaving the military my role as a communicator shifted to training and leading others in retail management. As things evolved, I began to train customers about products as well. For someone who was painfully shy as a child, comfortably leading training seminars and giving presentations to hundreds of people at times was an extreme departure.

All along my journey I was only delaying what I set out to do, tell stories. During college I wrote in my spare time. In the military I wrote in my spare time. Even after marrying, having children and working seventy plus hours a week in retail management , I wrote in my spare time. When the hobby evolved into a vocation did not happen over night. I had been working on my first novel for years. The second one took less time. Then novels three through twelve came all at once. Over a twelve year span I produced forty stories of novel length, twenty of them in some semblance of a finished state as manuscripts. Still, even though I was a published author I didn’t think I was a professional writer. I wasn’t making a living at it, anyway.But I have always been a storyteller.

I guess as writer you are always seeking a story. Some of it comes from experience, a lot of it comes from inspiration but most of it comes from determination. Writing is an art. Like most artistic endeavors it is not particularly lucrative. Money isn’t why artists produce what we do. To be successful as an artist you need to market the art and that takes publicity, building a support base of fans and general exposure to the the public through some form of communication and networking.

One of the many lesson I learned from the study of communication was a rather basic one. You cannot NOT communicate. Even the decision not to talk to someone is communicative. As much as I’d love to be able to just write the only way to persuade anyone to read what I write – which is the entire point of writing professionally – is to promote it in some way. That requires communication whether through media or more directly, one on one.

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#writing #communication #language #culture #education #experience #publicity #newreleasebook