STUDENT LOANS – ARE THEY THE SICKNESS OR THE CURE?

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the world looked to the United States as the standard for education.  Now, the recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.  There are many problems is our system that account for this, and, surprisingly, few of them are related to teachers and teaching.

As in any profession, there are those who do not perform as well as others.  We do need ways to remove those who won’t make it even with additional support.  But as the strike in Chicago clearly demonstrates, teachers can’t feed and house their families on “You didn’t become a teacher to get rich.”  They might, and actually do I many cases, put up with awful working conditions.  They need health care whose cost doesn’t eat into an already less than professional salary.  However, for the most part, our teachers are professionals who love children and work very hard to see them get a good education.  They are also highly underpaid, given the amount of education required to enter and stay in the profession.  Many states have laws that outlaw strikes by public employees. Many teachers have had it with the lack of appreciation demonstrated toward them.

Part of the problem that exists for teachers and others who have been through our educational system is that they are saddled with loans (34% of them have undergraduate loans and 37% also have graduate school loans), often guaranteed by a quasi government agency known as Sallie Mae.  The terms of these loans as presented are misleading, and even law students are under the mistaken impression that they are not paying interest on these loans during the time that they are in school and shortly thereafter.

Student Interest And Fees From Financial Institutions Help Pay For Sallie Mae’s Luxury Headquarters in Reston, Virginia.

During the time that students are attending school, the interest on their loans is capitalized and becomes part of the principal.  The result is that the loans end up being far greater than the students ever anticipated.  A student who borrowed $50,000 during a 4 year term could actually owe $100,000 or more.  And then as the new graduates enter the labor market, they are offered forbearances during which more interest is capitalized, making those debts grow even larger.  We used to call this usury.

There is another Sallie Mae government program that allegedly helps.  In effect, it allows the students to pay what the government determines is 15% of their disposable income for 25 years toward keeping the loan current.  At the end of the 25 years, any balance left is forgiven.  Of course, during the 25 years, the interest continues to capitalize, and as the debtor’s income rises, the amount of that 15% continues to rise.  In the end, the graduates have paid far more than they ever borrowed.

Some college graduates who are in these loan programs cannot afford even the simplest amenities of life, rent, cars, going to an occasional movie.  This discourages them from working hard at a profession in which they are undercompensated and underappreciated.  This is the reason that many young people who intended to make education their careers choose to leave after a very few years.  They need to earn more to pay the stifling debts that they have accumulated as a result of college loans.

There has been some talk about changing the rules for these loans, or possibly forgiving them in return for some sort of government service.  However, the current political and economic climate has put these important decisions on the back burner.  They need to be brought front and center.  This not only affects teachers, but also doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

Of course, I understand that many potentially good educators, doctors and lawyers could never have attended college without these loans, but the reality of compounded interest and payments stretching out for decades has turned what should be a good program into a nightmare.  For some it has become so basic as to make them question whether they can afford to have a family.

Shackled By College And Grad School Debt

We are burying our recent graduates in a lifetime of debt, and the problem must be addressed and fixed.  This problem not only affects individuals, but it affects our economy.  It eats up money that could be used for a down payment on a house, rent , furnishings, etc.  .  The CEO of Sallie Mae doesn’t have any problems.  He made 5.4 million dollars in 2010 (the last year for which data is available), including salary and bonuses.  Sallie Mae is a publicly traded corporation (NASDAQ symbol SLM).  It makes money on interest payments by the students.  But around 70% of its earnings come from fees banks and other private financial companies are charged for Sallie Mae servicing their loans.  All loans are guaranteed by the federal government.  If a student doesn’t pay the loan, the government will.  If that happens, tax refunds are seized and an individual’s wages can be garnished.  The individual can’t win and the investors can’t lose.

We can’t afford to burden the prospective teaching pool with outrageous debt, pay them less than their education and skill would earn in another professional field and expect to attract the best and the brightest .  It’s time to step up and address this issue as was done with the housing crisis, now.

What do you think?  Please leave a comment.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US ON TOP MOMMY BLOGS
WE NEED YOUR VOTES TO GET BACK INTO THE TOP 10

ORDER A SCHOOL DOODLE OR A CLOTHES DOODLE TO DONATE TO A CHILD IN A SHELTER BY CLICKING HERE AND TYPING SHELTER INTO THE COUPON BOX AT CHECK OUT

 

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN . . . ?

My husband drove me to work that day as usual.  I was an Assistant Principal at an elementary school in The Bronx.    We were not yet aware of the horror at P.S. 67.  There was announcement, “Ms. Paris.  Come to the Office Immediately.”  As I ran down the stairs, staff in passing said the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane.  The day came to a halt as too many lives also came to a halt.  We could not dismiss the children because there was likely nobody at home to care for them.  They might be working or grocery shopping or. . . We had  to keep them calm as the news continued to filter in about the tragedy that was occurring downtown in my city.  There was misinformation circulating, including the belief that one of the children’s father had been killed in the attack.  Staff was also affected.  One of my teachers was in tears because one of her dearest friends worked in Tower 1.

WHAT WE SAW ON SEPTEMBER 10

We organized children by grade and then class in central areas as frantic parents started to arrive to pick their children up.  My colleagues and I were able to make sure that all children were taken home by an authorized person in a fairly short time.  My colleagues included aides and secretaries who checked student records to make sure that those records indicated that a person other than a parent was allowed to escort the child home and made numerous phone calls when an authorized person wasn’t available.  The custodial staff made sure doors were secure and helped teachers calm nervous children.  Only a few educators were on the front line, but school staff also did a remarkable job that horrible day.

Once all the children were gone, we all began to think how we would get home to our own children, husbands and wives. One of my colleagues, who also lived in Manhattan, had a car.  We thought we could just get home, but it wasn’t going to be that easy.  It took a long time, but we were finally able to get to one of the bridges which carry traffic to the borough we all call “The City.”  But when we got there, we were told that no cars were being allowed on any of the Manhattan bound crossings.     We abandoned the car in The Bronx and walked across the bridge, eventually finding a livery car to drop her in Harlem and me on the Upper West Side. We were unable to reach our husbands to let them know we were OK.  When I finally got home, it was as if I had been away forever.

THE MORNING OR SEPTEMBER 11

My husband was home that day waiting for the super to do some repairs in our apartment.  The super had come up excitedly telling my husband to look out the living room window from which we had a view of the Twin Towers.

In the days that followed, we heard all of the stories being told on the news and by friends and acquaintances.  We heard of the two sons of one of our friends who walked out of the Financial District

for several miles covered in toxic dust.  We heard about a friend of my husband’s daughter who was killed in the Twin Towers.  And we heard about an acquaintance of my husband’s boss who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and had gone to his office on his day off to pick up golf clubs.  He too was killed.

AND THE FUTURE

3,000 lives were ended that day by a group of fanatics led by a lunatic.  3,000 people from all walks of life that were just doing what they did, going to work, seeing clients or visiting a New York landmark.  More lives were damaged by heroic efforts to save people or by just breathing the toxic air. How could this have happened?  Why did it happen?

People with far more information than me have been unable to answer.  What I am able to answer is the question, “Where were you on September 11?”  No year is necessary.  And the answer is something I will not forget.  Neither will any New Yorker who was here on that infamous day, or, for that matter, anyone else who was anywhere.

HELP US GET BACK IN THE TOP TEN. CLICK HERE TO VOTE

CLICK HERE TO DONATE A DOODLE TO A CHILD IN A SHELTER. JUST TYPE SHELTER IN THE COUPON BOX WHEN YOU CHECK OUT. WE’LL DO THE REST

SMOKING KILLS AGAIN

On September 5, my cousin, Korin, died of lung cancer at the age of 57.  Far too early.  Her father died at the same age of emphysema .  They were both heavy smokers.  She leaves two grown sons, both great guys, her mother, two sisters and two brothers.

My parents and my sister both smoked.  They stopped when my uncle, my mother’s brother, died.  Unfortunately, my father and sister started again many years later, and I think it contributed to ther deaths as well, my father at 67 and my sister at 60.

DO YOU REALLY THINK SMOKING IS COOL?
IT’S NOT!

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I often have issues with the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, but one of the things I support is his work to ban smoking in most public spaces,including restaurants, theaters and, most recently, city owned parks and beaches.

We ban narcotics without question because they are addictive and can often lead to death.  Yet smoking which not only endangers the smoker, but harms anyone who is in the same space as the smoker is allowed.

Inhaling hot smoke is poisonous.  It leads to lung diseases such as cancer and COPD.  It causes heart and artery diseases and can often lead to kidney failure.  There is nothing good about smoking.  It is not cool.

Tobacco manufacturers load their products with nicotine, a highly addictive substance.  Some believe it is nearly as addictive as heroin or cocaine.  Yet, because the tobacco industry is politically strong, contributing huge donations to politicians of every persuasion, and because tobacco sales generate huge tax revenues, our legislatures do not do anything to take this  poison off the market.  The fact that the cost in lives and public health far exceed the combination of  those tax revenues and donations seems to have little, if any, effect on these supposed legislative  leaders.  Some argue that if tobacco is banned, it will just become an underground product like hard drugs and marijuana.  Perhaps that is true.  However, if that happens, at least the smokers will have to indulge in their disgusting habit under cover and not blow their noxious fumes in the faces of others.  At least it will protect me and others from having to breathe in their smoke when we are sitting in outdoor cafes or just simply taking a walk in the street.

WHY START SMOKING WHEN YOU KNOW IT WILL KILL YOU?

In my generation, teens often took up smoking.  We did not know of its dangers because the  research was just starting.  We probably should have figured it out by just seeing how most people who indulged had a smokers’ cough, something that shouldn’t have developed from doing something healthy.  Tobacco companies back then often advertised their product as having beneficial effects, and they got away with their lies.  Many of my generation thought it was cool to walk around with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths, thinking and acting like this made them cool.  I didn’t.

Today, however, everyone knows that cigarettes kill.  There is no reason that anyone should start smoking.  There is no reason that this poison should be allowed to remain on the market.  It kills.  It killed my cousin and my uncle.  It must be banned.  It’s too late for my cousin, but it’s not too late for my kids, your kids and all of our grandchildren.

HELP US GET BACK TO THE TOP 10. CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US AT TOP MOMMY BLOGS

 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE A DOODLE TO THE DOODLE NOODLE SHELTER. KIDS PROJECT. JUST TYPE IN SHELTER WHEN YOU CHECK OUT.

PLUS SIZE FOR TODDLERS?

Clothing manufacturers and department stores are creating special sizes and sections for tots through pre-teens to accommodate tall and overweight kids.  Putting pretty in front of plus is not going to make little ones or older children feel any better as they shop for fall and back to school wardrobes.

Why can’t they just put a size – a number – on them in the regular racks?  Moms and dads know how to count.  They know 14 is larger than 10.  They’ll find it, and their child won’t be stigmatized by going to a separate section.

Sometimes, children need a larger size because they are tall, not because they are overweight.  One sized does not fit all, no matter how hard manufacturers try to tell us it’s so.   How about some extra material so hems can be let down?

Obesity in children is now a national problem, one that affects us all, if not personally, in greater health care costs.

The federal government sponsors many studies that seem absolutely ridiculous (Does cocaine use increase sexually risky behavior in Japanese rats?)  I wouldn’t mind seeing one that compares the cost of cuts to school physical education programs to increased health care costs resulting from children being overweight.   It’s a penny wise pound foolish situation.  Instead of bringing her to the Pretty Plus section, maybe Honey Boo Boo’s mom could get her started on a fun exercise program.  She’d be cute and healthy too.

Please support our Doodle Noodle Shelter Kids Project.  Buy a School Doodle or a Clothes Doodle at a 10% discount and we will send your purchase and a free children’s book to a child living in a shelter.  Just type SHELTER into the coupon box when you check out, and we’ll take it from there.  The shelter closest to my home has 50 families with children between the ages of 3 and 10.  They need your help.  You can donate by clicking the Doodle icon on the right, or the Our Store banner below, and placing your order.

And don’t forget to click the Vote For Me Icon to help us get back into the top 10 on Top Mommy Blogs by clicking the banner below or the icon on the upper right.  Please recommend us to your friends and ask them to visit the Doodle, help our Shelter Kids Project and vote for us.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER A SCHOOL DOODLE OR CLOTHES DOODLE FOR A CHILD LIVING IN A SHELTER.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE US BACK INTO THE TOP 10 AT TOP MOMMY BLOGS