Would you like to know what America’s young people are actually learning while they are away at college? It isn’t pretty. Yes, there are some very highly technical fields where students are being taught some very important skills, but for the most part U.S. college students are learning very little that they will actually use out in the real world when they graduate. Some of the college courses listed below are funny, others are truly bizarre, others are just plain outrageous, but all of them are a waste of money. If we are going to continue to have a system where we insist that our young people invest several years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars getting a “college education”, they might as well be learning some useful skills in the process. This is especially true considering how much student loan debt many of our young people are piling up. Sadly, the truth is that right now college education in the United States is a total joke. I know – I spent eight years in the system. Most college courses are so easy that they could be passed by the family dog, and many of these courses “study” some of the most absurd things imaginable.
Listed below are 20 completely ridiculous college courses being offered at U.S. universities. The description following each course title either comes directly from the official course description or from a news story about the course…
1. “What If Harry Potter Is Real?” (Appalachian State University) – This course will engage students with questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. By looking at the actual geography of the novels, real and imagined historical events portrayed in the novels, the reactions of scholars in all the social sciences to the novels, and the world-wide frenzy inspired by them, students will examine issues of race, class, gender, time, place, the uses of space and movement, the role of multiculturalism in history as well as how to read a novel and how to read scholarly essays to get the most out of them.
2. “God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path” (UC San Diego) – Who shapes our desire? Who suffers for it? Do we control our desire or does desire control us? When we yield to desire, do we become more fully ourselves or must we deny it to find an authentic identity beneath? How have religious & philosophical approaches dealt with the problem of desire?
3. “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity” (The University Of Virginia) – In Graduate Arts & Sciences student Christa Romanosky’s ongoing ENWR 1510 class, “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity,” students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work. For this introductory course to argumentative essay writing, Romanosky chose the Lady Gaga theme to establish an engaging framework for critical analysis.
4. “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” (The University Of South Carolina) – Lady Gaga may not have much class but now there is a class on her. The University of South Carolina is offering a class called Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame. Mathieu Deflem, the professor teaching the course describes it as aiming to “unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music, videos, fashion, and other artistic endeavours.”
5. “Philosophy And Star Trek” (Georgetown) – Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That’s the plan. This course is basically an introduction to certain topics in metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, centered around major philosophical questions that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments.
6. “Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond” (The University Of Texas) – Why would anyone want to learn Klingon?
7. “The Science Of Superheroes” (UC Irvine) – Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars? Would a “gamma ray” accident turn you into the Hulk? What is a “spidey-sense”? And just who did think of all these superheroes and their powers? In this seminar, we discuss the science (or lack of science) behind many of the most famous superheroes. Even more amazing, we will discuss what kind of superheroes might be imagined using our current scientific understanding.
8. “Learning From YouTube” (Pitzer College) – About 35 students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments. Class lessons also are posted and students are encouraged to post videos. One class member, for instance, posted a 1:36-minute video of himself juggling.
9. “Arguing with Judge Judy” (UC Berkeley) – TV “Judge” shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument [“from the stronger”] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on “Judge Judy” and “The People’s Court” and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning.” Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.
10. “Elvis As Anthology” (The University Of Iowa) – The class, “Elvis as Anthology,” focuses on Presley’s relationship to African American history, social change, and aesthetics. It focuses not just on Elvis, but on other artists who inspired him and whom he inspired.
11. “The Feminist Critique Of Christianity” (The University Of Pennsylvania) – An overview of the past decades of feminist scholarship about Christian and post-Christian historians and theologians who offer a feminist perspective on traditional Christian theology and practice. This course is a critical overview of this material, presented with a summary of Christian biblical studies, history and theology, and with a special interest in constructive attempts at creating a spiritual tradition with women’s experience at the center.
12. “Zombies In Popular Media” (Columbia College) – This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figure’s many incarnations. Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.
13. “Far Side Entomology” (Oregon State) – For the last 20 years, a scientist at Oregon State University has used Gary Larson’s cartoons as a teaching tool. The result has been a generation of students learning — and laughing — about insects.
14. “Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing” (Swarthmore) – Do clothes make the man? Or the woman? Do men make better women? Or women better men? Is gender a costume we put on and take off? Are we really all always in drag? Does gender-bending lead to transcendence or chaos? These questions and their ramifications for liminalities of race, nationality and sexuality will be our focus in a course that examines dramatic works from The Bacchae to M. Butterfly.
15. “Oh, Look, a Chicken!” Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing (Belmont University) – Students must write papers using their personal research on the five senses. Entsminger reads aloud illustrated books The Simple People and Toby’s Toe to teach lessons about what to value by being alive. Students listen to music while doodling in class. Another project requires students to put themselves in situations where they will be distracted and write a reflection tracking how they got back to their original intent.
16. “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur” (University of Washington) – The UW is not the first college with a class dedicated to Shakur — classes on the rapper have been offered at the University of California Berkeley and Harvard — but it is the first to relate Shakur’s work to literature.
17. “Cyberporn And Society” (State University of New York at Buffalo) – With classwork like this, who needs to play? Undergraduates taking Cyberporn and Society at the State University of New York at Buffalo survey Internet porn sites.
18. “Sport For The Spectator” (The Ohio State University) – Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business, and entertainment. Develop the ability to identify issues that affect the sport and spectator behavior.
19. “Getting Dressed” (Princeton) – Jenna Weissman Joselit looks over the roomful of freshmen in front of her and asks them to perform a warm-up exercise: Chart the major moments of your lives through clothes. “If you pop open your closet, can you recall your lives?” she posits on the first day of the freshman seminar “Getting Dressed.”
20. “How To Watch Television” (Montclair) – This course, open to both broadcasting majors and non-majors, is about analyzing television in the ways and to the extent to which it needs to be understood by its audience. The aim is for students to critically evaluate the role and impact of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture. The means to achieve this aim is an approach that combines media theory and criticism with media education.
Are you starting to understand why our college graduates can’t function effectively when they graduate and go out into the real world?
All of this would be completely hilarious if not for the fact that we have millions of young people going into enormous amounts of debt to pay to go to these colleges.
In America today, college education has become a giant money making scam. We have a system that absolutely throws money at our young people, but we never warn them about the consequences of all of these loans. The following is an excerpt from an email that one reader sent me recently about the student loan industry…
For example, one woman told me that her and her husband sat down and thought of every possible expense they could when they were applying for parent/student loan for their daughter. When the approval came back, they were approved for 7k more than they asked for…how about ****! Of course at 7%, why not! Funny thing is they kept the 7k, because she’s in wealth management and said she could “easily” get more than 7% in the stock market……awesome! I have another example of a younger friend of mine who graduated law school from Vanderbilt with 210k in student loans. I asked if tuition was that much there. She said kind of, but they kept offering more than the actual tuition, so she took it and used it for a better lifestyle. Now 20% of her income goes to pay those loans, and it’s still not enough to touch one dollar of the principal…so all she is doing is paying interest, and building on principal…like a revers amortizing mortgage. To make it worse, she was able to save 25k, so she is going to buy a house somehow. Having explained to her that the best investment in the world is to pay off a high interest loan, she said I’m tired of waiting to have a life.
In a recent article entitled “The Student Loan Delinquency Rate In The United States Has Hit A Brand New Record High” I detailed how nightmarish our student loan debt bubble is becoming. According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003, and it just continues to soar.
A college education can be a wonderful thing, but right now we have got a system that is deeply, deeply broken.
So what do you think about our system of higher education?
Please feel free to express your opinion by posting a comment below…
37 million Americans currently have outstanding student loans, and the delinquency rate on those student loans has now reached a level never seen before. According to a new report that was just released by the U.S. Department of Education, 11 percent of all student loans are at least 90 days delinquent. That is a brand new record high, and it is almost double the rate of a decade ago. Total student loan debt exceeds a trillion dollars, and it is now the second largest category of consumer debt after home mortgages. The student loan debt bubble has been growing particularly rapidly in recent years. According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003. That is a staggering figure. Millions upon millions of young college graduates are entering the “real world” only to discover that they are already financially crippled for decades to come by oppressive student loan debt burdens. Large numbers of young people are even putting off buying homes or getting married simply because of student loan debt.
So why is this happening? Well, a big part of the problem is that the cost of college tuition has gotten wildly out of control. Since 1978, the cost of college tuition has risen even more rapidly then the cost of medical care has. Tuition costs at public universities have risen by 27 percent over the past five years, and there appears to be no end in sight.
We keep encouraging our young people to take out all of the loans that are necessary to pay for college, because a college education is supposedly the “key” to their futures.
But is that really the case?
Sadly, the reality of the matter is that millions of young Americans are graduating from college only to discover that the jobs that they were promised simply do not exist.
In fact, at this point about half of all college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree.
This is leading to mass disillusionment with the system. One survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in college.
And because so many of them cannot get decent jobs, more college graduates then ever are finding that they cannot pay back the huge student loans that they were encouraged to sign up for. The following is from a recent Bloomberg article.
Eleven percent of student loans were seriously delinquent — at least 90 days past due — in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 6 percent in the first quarter of 2003, according to the report by the U.S. Education Department. Almost 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds aren’t employed or in school, the study found.
Everyone agrees that we are now dealing with an unprecedented student loan debt bubble, but none of our leaders seem to have any solutions.
The two charts posted below come from a recent Zero Hedge article, and they are very illuminating. The first chart shows how the amount of student loan debt owned by the federal government has absolutely exploded in recent years, and the second chart shows how the percentage of student loan debt that is at least 90 days delinquent has risen to a brand new record high…
How is the economy ever going to recover if an increasingly large percentage of our young college graduates are financially crippled by student loan debt?
And things are about to get even worse.
If Congress takes no action, the interest rate on federal student loans is going to double to 6.8 percent on July 1st. That rate increase would affect more than 7 million students.
And debt burdens just continue to increase in size. In fact, according to one recent study, “70 per cent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt – averaging $35,200 – including federal, state and private loans, as well as debt owed to family and accumulated through credit cards.”
This is one reason why there is so much poverty among young adults in America today. As I mentioned in a previous article, families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent. For much more on the student loan debt bubble and how it is crippling an entire generation of Americans, please see my recent article entitled “29 Shocking Facts That Prove That College Education In America Is A Giant Money Making Scam“.
And of course delinquency rates remain very high on other forms of debt as well. For example, delinquency rates on home mortgages have typically been around 2 to 3 percent historically. But as you can see from the chart below, the delinquency rate on single-family residential mortgages is currently close to 10 percent…
So are we really having an “economic recovery”?
Of course not.
Things are good for those that have lots of money in the stock market (for now), but for the vast majority of Americans things continue to get worse.
And we continue to forget the lessons that we should have learned from the financial crisis of 2008. Right now, we are seeing a resurgence of cash out financing. But this time, people are leveraging their inflated stock portfolios instead of their home equity. The following is from a CNN report…
The recent run-up in the market, financial advisers say, has led to a resurgence of the type of loan not seen since the end of the housing boom — cash out financing. But this time, though, people aren’t tapping their inflated house for money. These days stock portfolios appear to be the well of choice.
Financial planners say in recent months clients have taken out so-called margin loans to buy real estate, fund small business acquisitions, or to provide gap financing before a traditional loan could be secured from a bank.
“No one wants to be out of the market for 90 days,” says Mark Brown, a financial planner for Brown Tedstron in Denver. “People just don’t want to sell right now.”
We are a nation that is absolutely addicted to debt. We know that it is wrong, but we just can’t help ourselves.
We are like the 900 pound man that recently died. He knew that he was eating himself to death, but he just couldn’t stop.
In the end, we are going to pay a great price for our gluttony. Everyone in the world can see that we are killing the greatest economy that ever existed, but we simply do not have the self-discipline to do anything about it.
Every single year, millions of young adults head off to colleges and universities all over America full of hopes and dreams. But what most of those fresh-faced youngsters do not realize is that by taking on student loan debt they are signing up for a life of debt slavery. Student loan debt has become a trillion dollar bubble which has shattered the financial lives of tens of millions of young college graduates. When you are just starting out and you are not making a lot of money, having to make payments on tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt can be absolutely crippling. The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has now surpassed the total amount of credit card debt, and student loan debt is much harder to get rid of. Many young people view college as a “five year party“, but when the party is over millions of those young people basically end up as modern day serfs as they struggle to pay off all of the debt that they have accumulated during their party years. Bankruptcy laws have been changed to make it incredibly difficult to get rid of student loan debt, so once you have it you are basically faced with two choices: either you are going to pay it or you are going to die with it.
But we don’t warn kids about this before they go to school. We just endlessly preach to them that they need a college degree in order to get a “good job”, and that after they graduate they will easily be able to pay off their student loans with the “good job” that they will certainly be able to find.
Sadly, tens of millions of young Americans have left college in recent years only to find out that they were lied to all along.
As I have written about previously, college has become a giant money making scam and the victims of the scam are our young people.
Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600.
Today, it is over $35,000.
Why does college have to cost so much?
At every turn our young people are being ripped off.
For example, the cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade.
Has it suddenly become a lot more expensive to print books?
Of course not.
The truth is that an entire industry saw an opportunity to gouge students and they went for it.
The amount of money being spent on higher education in this country is absolutely outrageous. One father down in Texas says that he will end up spending about 1.5 million dollars on college expenses for his five daughters before it is all said and done.
Unfortunately, most young adults in America don’t have wealthy fathers so they have to take out large student loans to pay for their educations.
Average student loan debt at graduation is estimated to be about $28,720 right now.
That is a crazy figure and it has absolutely soared in recent years. In fact, student loan debt in America has grown by 511 percent since 1999.
And student loan debt will follow you wherever you go.
If you do not pay your loans when you graduate, you could end up having your wages, your tax refunds and even your Social Security benefits garnished.
In addition, your account could be turned over to the debt collectors and they can be absolutely brutal.
The student loan debt bubble is the best thing to happen to debt collectors in ages. The following is what one professional who works in the industry said in a recent article that he wrote for a debt collection industry publication….
As I wandered around the crowd of NYU students at their rally protesting student debt at the end of February, I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represented – for our industry.
It was lip-smacking.
At my right, to graphically display how she was debt-burdened, was a girl wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the fine sum of $90,000, another with $65,000, a third with $20,000 and over there a really attractive $120,000 was printed on another shirt. Guys were shouldering their share, with t-shirts of $20,000, $15,000, $27,000, $33,000 and $75,000.
There is no way that our young people can afford to take on those kinds of debt loads, and that is one reason why student loan delinquency rates continue to surge.
In fact, the student loan default rate in the United States has nearly doubled since 2005.
Today, one out of every six Americans that owes money on a student loan is in default.
One out of every six.
And it is going to get a whole lot worse.
At this point there are about 5.9 million Americans that are at least 12 months behind on their student loan payments.
So could the bursting of the student loan bubble do tremendous damage to our financial system?
Don’t worry – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is promising that the student loan debt bubble won’t cause a crisis.
And you can trust him, right?
For those living with the burden of unpaid student loan debt, life can be really tough. Some try to avoid the debt collectors, but it is easier said than done. The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….
Hiding from the government is not easy.
“I keep changing my phone number,” said Amanda Cordeiro, 29, from Clermont, Fla., who dropped out of college in 2010 and has fielded as many as seven calls a day from debt collectors trying to recover her $55,000 in overdue loans. “In a year, this is probably my fourth phone number.”
Unlike private lenders, the federal government has extraordinary tools for collection that it has extended to the collection firms. Ms. Cordeiro has already had two tax refunds seized, and other debtors have had their paychecks or Social Security payments garnisheed.
The biggest problem, of course, is that there are not nearly enough jobs for the hordes of college graduates that our system produces each year.
During 2011, 53 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.
So without a good job, how are those young people supposed to service their student loans?
Once upon a time, a college degree was a guaranteed ticket to the middle class.
Sadly, those days are long gone. Today, millions upon millions of college graduates have taken jobs that do not even require a college education. The following is from a recent CNBC article….
In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).
You probably know young people who have experienced the “wake up call” that comes as a result of entering the “real world” in this horrible economic environment.
It is not easy out there.
And this can be extremely disappointing for parents as well. How would you feel if your daughter got very high grades all of the way through college and ended up working as a waitress because she couldn’t find anything else?
Even those that pursue advanced degrees are having an extremely challenging time finding work in this economy.
For example, a Business Insider article from a while back profiled a law school graduate named Erin that is actually on food stamps….
She remains on food stamps so her social life suffers. She can’t afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.
“That has been really hard for me,” she says. “I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven’t been able to pay loans. It’s scary, and it’s a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money.”
And the really sad thing is that the quality of the education that our young people are receiving is very poor. I spent eight years attending U.S. universities, and most parents would be absolutely shocked at how little our college students are actually learning.
Going to college really has become a ticket to party for four or five or six years with a little bit of “education” thrown in.
But our society has put a very high value on those little pieces of paper called “diplomas” so we all continue to play along with the charade.
Some college students are finding other “creative” ways to pay for their educations other than going into tremendous amounts of debt. For example, an increasing number of young women are seeking out “sugar daddies” who will “sponsor” their educations. The following is from a Huffington Post article about this disturbing trend….
On a Sunday morning in late May, Taylor left her Harlem apartment and boarded a train for Greenwich, Conn. She planned on spending the day with a man she had met online, but not in person.
Taylor, a 22-year-old student at Hunter College, had confided in her roommate about the trip and they agreed to swap text messages during the day to make sure she was safe.
Once in Greenwich, a man who appeared significantly older than his advertised age of 42 greeted Taylor at the train station and then drove her to the largest house she had ever seen. He changed into his swimming trunks, she put on a skimpy bathing suit, and then, by the side of his pool, she rubbed sunscreen into the folds of his sagging back — bracing herself to endure an afternoon of sex with someone she suspected was actually about 30 years her senior.
Of course that young woman will probably deeply regret doing that later on in her life.
Once graduation comes, millions upon millions of our young people are discovering that it is really hard to be financially independent if you are drowning in student loan debt and you can’t find a good job.
So what are they doing?
They are moving back in with Mom and Dad.
One poll discovered that 29 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are still living with their parents.
So what do you think about all of this? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
Who ever imagined that Ben Bernanke would become a poster child for the student loan debt problem in America? Recently Bernanke told Congress that his son will graduate from medical school with about $400,000 of student loan debt. For most Americans, such a staggering amount of debt would almost certainly guarantee a lifetime of debt slavery. Unfortunately, Bernanke’s son is not alone. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, approximately 167,000 Americans have more than $200,000 of student loan debt. The cost of a college education has increased much more rapidly than the rate of inflation over the past several decades, and most students enter the “real world” today with a debt burden that will stay with them for most of their working lives. In an economy where there are so few good jobs for college graduates, it can be incredibly difficult to get married, buy a house or afford to have children when you are drowning in student loan debt. It would be hard to overstate the financial pain that student loans are causing many young adults in America today. The student loan debt problem is a national crisis and it is not going away any time soon.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that the total amount of student loan debt in America now exceeds the total of all credit card debt in the country. It also exceeds the total of all auto loans.
The New York Fed says that there is a total of $870 billion owed on student loans in the United States right now. Other sources claim that the total amount of student loan debt in the United States will soon exceed one trillion dollars.
Either way, we are talking about an extraordinary amount of money.
Sadly, approximately two-thirds of all U.S. college students graduate with student loan debt these days. The average amount of student loan debt at graduation is approximately $25,000.
That might not be so bad if the economy was full of good paying jobs for college graduates, but that simply is not the case.
As college tuition continues to soar, the student loan debt problem continues to get even worse. U.S. college students are borrowing about twice as much money as they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation.
That is not a good trend.
The truth is that it has simply gotten way too expensive to go to college.
Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600.
Today, the price tag is $35,568.
So why is a Harvard education 59 times more expensive than it used to be?
Somebody is getting rich off of all this, and it isn’t the students.
In fact, many students are looking at a life of debt slavery for decades to come.
The following is a quote from one recent graduate from a recent Politico article….
“I pay almost $1,000 a month just in student loan repayment. I will have to do so for the next 30 years. How will I ever afford to buy a house, have children or save for the future?”
After working so hard all the way through school, is that any kind of a “future” to look forward to?
The system is failing our young people.
Many young college graduates have found themselves unable to make their payments or have simply decided to quit making payments.
Officially, the student loan default rate has nearly doubled since 2005. But a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that things may be even worse than that. According to the New York Fed, approximately one out of every four student loan balances are past-due at this point.
But it isn’t just young people getting into trouble with student loan debt.
These days, financial institutions are increasingly targeting parents. Federal student loans often do not cover all of the expenses of college in this day and age, and so increasingly loans are being made to parents to make up the difference. Student loans made to directly to parents have increased by 75 percent since the 2005-2006 academic year.
Unfortunately, what students and parents are getting in return for all of this money is not that great.
I spent eight years of my life studying at U.S. colleges and universities. The institutions that I attended were supposed to be better than most. But most of the classes that I took were a total joke. A 6-year-old child could have passed most of them.
Almost everyone agrees that the quality of college education in America is in a serious state of decline. The goal is to get these kids through the system and to keep collecting the big tuition checks.
When I was in school, I could hardly believe how little was being required of me. But being as lazy as I was, I certainly did not complain.
If only more parents realized what was really going on.
The following are some facts about the quality of college education in the United States from a USA Today article….
-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”
-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”
-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”
-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”
-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”
Are you starting to get the picture?
If you are in college right now, enjoy the good times while they last, because when you graduate you will find that there are very few good jobs available for the hordes of new college graduates that are pouring into the labor market.
For a new college graduate, things can be rather depressing. Just consider the following statistics….
*About a third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.
*In the United States today, there are more than 100,000 janitors that have college degrees.
*In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.
There are millions of college graduates that are unemployed in America today. There are millions of others that have been forced to take very low paying jobs because that is all they can get.
It is no coincidence that incomes for households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation since the year 2000.
Young people in America are under intense financial pressure right now.
Many are unable to make it at all and have moved back in with Mom and Dad. As I wrote about recently, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents at this point.
The system of higher education in this country is badly broken and it desperately needs to be fixed.
So do you have a solution to these problems or do you have a student loan debt horror story to share?
Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….
How do you decide whether you are wealthy or not? Do you determine that by how much money you spend at the stores? Of course not. You can tell if you are wealthy or not by comparing your assets (the money in your bank account, equity in your home, etc.) to your liabilities (your mortgage, credit card debt, student loan debt, etc.). Well, a lot of Americans seem to believe that just because a lot of money is circulating in our economy that it must mean that we are a wealthy nation. But that is simply not true. To tell whether or not America is a wealthy nation, you need to look at the balance sheet numbers. And when you look at the balance sheet numbers, a very sobering story emerges. Over the past three decades, government debt, business debt and household debt have absolutely exploded, but our assets have not. That means that we are getting poorer as a nation. Hopefully the shocking charts and statistics in this article will help a lot of Americans to wake up. Yes, we once were the wealthiest nation on earth, but today America is no longer a wealthy nation.
We live during a time when U.S. households are becoming poorer. This week the Federal Reserve announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.
That is a staggering decline. The total net worth of U.S. households plummeted by $2.2 trillion during those three months. When you break that down, it comes to approximately $7,800 for every single U.S. citizen.
But this is not the first time we have seen a huge decline in U.S. household wealth in recent years.
A recent article posted on CNN detailed the stunning drop in U.S. household wealth that we saw from 2007 to 2009….
Household wealth plunged $16.3 trillion in the two years from early 2007 to the first quarter of 2009, and has slowly been climbing since then. But with the drop in the third quarter of this year, households find their net worth still $9.4 trillion, or 14%, below the high they hit in early 2007, before the bursting of the housing bubble.
So right now the total net worth of U.S. households is $9.4 trillion below what it was back in 2007.
That certainly is not good news.
But not only is the total net worth of U.S. households going down, our incomes are going down as well.
Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.
Not that incomes were rising very quickly prior to that time either.
Between 1979 and 2007, income growth for the bottom 90 percent of all U.S. income earners was only about 5 percent for that entire time period.
Meanwhile, household debt was absolutely skyrocketing. Take a look at the following chart which shows what total U.S. household debt has done over the last three decades….
So income growth has been pretty much flat over the past three decades but household debt has been rising at an exponential pace for most of that time.
Yes, there has been a little bit of deleveraging during this economic downturn, but there are now signs that the deleveraging is rapidly coming to an end.
According to a recent CNN article, credit card use in the United States is experiencing a major upswing once again….
Purchases made with credit cards rose 8.2% in the first quarter of 2011, 9% in the second quarter and 10.6% in the third quarter, according to First Data.
That is not good news.
The truth is that U.S. households owe way, way too much money already. According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.
We are up to our eyeballs in debt, and our incomes are not keeping up.
In addition, we have seen massive amounts of home equity wiped out in recent years.
An unusual thing has happened during this economic downturn. For the first time in U.S. history, the banks have more equity in our homes than we do. If you do not believe this, just check out this chart.
The truth is that the American people are not becoming wealthier. They are becoming poorer.
And a shocking number of Americans are falling into poverty. In 2010, 2.6 million more Americans fell into poverty, which set a new all-time record for a single year.
But this is not a new thing. This is a trend that we have seen building for many years. Back in the year 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty. Today, 15.1% of all Americans are living in poverty.
So obviously U.S. households are not doing well.
But what about the government?
The U.S. national debt is completely and totally out of control. Right now it is sitting at $15,046,397,725,405.16. That means that it is nearly 15 times higher than it was just 30 years ago. Just check out this almost unbelievable chart….
So is our ability to pay these debts 15 times greater than it was back then?
Of course not.
Our liabilities are exploding at an out of control rate but our assets are not.
Whether you are a running a family or running a government, that is a recipe for financial disaster.
The U.S. government has been running budget deficits of over a trillion dollars for several years now, and there is no sign that these trillion dollar deficits are going to stop any time soon.
So how much money is a trillion dollars?
If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
Yet somehow the U.S. government has accumulated a debt that is well over 15 trillion dollars.
The Bush administration was a nightmare when it came to running up debt, but they have definitely been outclassed by the Obama administration….
*During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.
*The U.S. national debt has been increasing by an average of more than 4 billion dollars per day since the beginning of the Obama administration.
*Since Barack Obama was sworn in, the share of the national debt per household has increased by $35,835.
And most U.S. government spending does not do a thing to build real wealth for this country. For example, the total compensation that the federal government workforce brought in during 2010 is estimated to be about 447 billion dollars.
So did federal workers create 447 billion dollars of real wealth last year?
Of course not.
The truth is that our bloated federal government is a massive drain on our society.
But the federal government is not the only one with a debt problem.
State and local governments all over America are also drowning in debt. In fact, state and local government debt in America is now sitting at an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP.
The following chart from the Federal Reserve combines government debt, business debt and consumer debt. As you can see, America is swimming in an ocean of more than 50 trillion dollars of debt….
To get an idea of how bad that is, just look at where total debt was at back in 1970 or 1980.
Over the last three decades we have seen an orgy of debt that has been absolutely unprecedented.
Meanwhile, we are bleeding national wealth at a staggering rate.
Every single month, tens of billions of dollars more goes out of this country than comes into it.
In fact, it is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars.
This represents a transfer of wealth that is so vast that it is almost impossible to believe.
Our dependence on foreign oil is greatly contributing to this. It is being projected that for the first time ever, the OPEC nations are going to bring in over a trillion dollars from exporting oil this year. Their biggest customer is the United States.
When we send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas, that is hundreds of billions of dollars that does not go into the pockets of American business owners or American workers.
The United States has had a negative trade balance every single year since 1976, and since that time the United States has run a total trade deficit of more than 7.5 trillion dollars with the rest of the world.
For a moment, imagine a giant map of the world. Then imagine a pile of 7.5 trillion dollars sitting on the United States of America.
That looks pretty good, eh?
Well, then start taking big chunks of that money and start exchanging it for oil and for cheap plastic products until the entire pile is gone.
Are you starting to understand?
We burn up the foreign oil in our cars and most of the cheap plastic products end up being discarded fairly quickly.
But our loss of national wealth is permanent.
Meanwhile, we are facing national financial obligations in the years ahead that are absolutely nightmarish.
According to Boston University Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, the U.S. government is facing a “fiscal gap” of $211 trillion in the decades ahead. The following comes from an article that Kotlikoff wrote for CNN earlier this year….
The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes.
If you went out and liquidated all of the assets owned by all American citizens, all U.S. businesses and all levels of government in America, it would only cover about a third of that bill.
Are you starting to get the picture?
America is no longer a wealthy nation.
We are like that family down the street that is always throwing around tons of money but that is always on the verge of bankruptcy.
So when they tell you that the economy “grew” by 1 or 2 percent, please don’t think that means that America is becoming wealthier.
The truth is that our debts are growing at a far, far faster rate than our assets are.
That means that we are getting poorer.
Is there anyone out there that disagrees with that?
Today, millions of smart, hard working Americans are flipping burgers, waiting tables or working dead end retail jobs not because they want to, but because they have no other options. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 14 million Americans are currently unemployed and another 9.3 million Americans are currently “underemployed”. During this economic downturn, a lot of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because they have been unable to find full-time jobs. For many, this can be a soul-crushing experience. It can be easy to become very bitter when you have worked very hard all your life and yet you find yourself having to take a job that only pays you a fraction of what you used to make. A lot of young college graduates end up hating life because the only jobs that they can seem to find do not even require a college degree and don’t even come close to enabling them to keep up with their crippling student loan debt payments. Sadly, the underemployment problem continues to grow even worse. In September alone, the number of underemployed Americans rose by close to half a million.
There are other measurements that indicate that unemployment in America is even worse that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is indicating.
For example, a recent Gallup poll found that approximately one out of every five Americans that currently have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.
In addition, according to author Paul Osterman about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.
When you try as hard as you can and you still can’t pay the bills, it is easy to end up hating life.
What some Americans are going through is absolutely heart breaking. Just consider the following story from a recent article on Fox News….
Damian Birkel, of Winston-Salem N.C., found himself in similar circumstances. He was a marketing manager at Sarah Lee in the early 1990s when he was downsized. Since then, he has been laid off from three other jobs, including one at a recruiting firm.
“I felt like I had ‘loser’ tattooed to my forehead, and ‘will work for food’ tattooed to my chest,” he says.
The hardest part was telling his young daughter that there might not be enough money to pay the bills — among them, sending her to summer camp. “She brings her piggy bank and says, ‘Daddy, why don’t you break into the piggy bank so that you can pay some of the bills.’”
How would you feel if your little daughter said that to you?
Unfortunately, the number of good jobs just continues to decrease.
There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.
And the mix of jobs that our economy is producing continues to change.
Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs. Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.
What that means is that the middle class is shrinking.
A lot of young people are coming out of college right now and are having their dreams absolutely crushed. Large numbers of them are entering the “real world” with nightmarish student loan debt burdens and only a limited number of them can find decent jobs.
A recent USA Today article told the story of one of these very frustrated young Americans….
Kate Wolfe chased a dream when she moved to New York after college, looking to break into acting while working as a maître d’.
Her $50,000 worth of student loans were a distraction she could handle. Then the uninsured 25-year-old was mugged last year, and the final indignity was the $30,000 emergency room bill.
We are pumping out tons of college graduates, but we are not pumping out nearly enough jobs for all of them.
If you can believe it, in the United States today there are 317,000 waiters and waitresses that actually have college degrees.
That is an absolutely horrifying statistic.
But the truth is that the lack of good jobs is hitting every age level really hard.
For example, the average American family is under a tremendous amount of financial stress in this economy. Once you adjust it for inflation, median household income in the United States has declined approximately 10 percent since December 2007.
Meanwhile, the cost of food, gas, health insurance and just about everything else a family needs has gone up significantly.
Our politicians keep talking about “jobs, jobs, jobs” but the number of decent jobs continues on a very clear downward trend.
Back in 1980, 52 percent of all jobs in the United States were middle income jobs. Today, only 42 percent of all jobs in the United States are middle income jobs.
Sadly, it now looks like even the low income jobs are starting to dry up.
Mall vacancies recently hit a brand new all-time record. Major retail chains all over the country are announcing layoffs. Things do not look very promising for the upcoming holiday season.
So what are our leaders doing about all of this?
Well, unfortunately they continue to fumble the football very badly.
According to a recent ABC News report, the U.S. government actually gave a $529 million loan guarantee to an electric car company that decided to make its cars in Finland….
Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department’s $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.
If we don’t figure out how to stop millions of jobs from leaving this country we are going to be in a world of hurt.
The trade policies of the federal government are neither “free” nor “fair” and they are causing the standard of living of American workers to rapidly sink toward the level of the rest of the world.
We are told that it is “inevitable” that we are going to be deindustrialized and that we are going to become a service economy.
But guess what?
Service jobs generally pay a lot less than manufacturing jobs do.
A “one world economy” where our labor force is merged with the labor forces of the rest of the globe is not a good thing for the average American worker and it is not a good thing for America.
But of course trade is not the only reason why we are losing good jobs. There are a whole bunch of reasons why this is happening. For many more reasons, just check out this article.
A lot of you that are reading this article are unemployed or underemployed right now.
Unfortunately, there is not much hope that the U.S. economy is going to experience a significant turnaround any time soon.
In fact, it is likely that things are going to be getting even worse.
Our economic system is dying. Now is the time to try to get as independent of it as you can.
Don’t count on a job (“just over broke”) as your only source of income. In this economy, no job is safe.
There are millions upon millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans that never dreamed that their lives would go so horribly wrong.
But they did.
Our nation is experiencing the consequences of decades of very bad decisions.
There is no help on the horizon and the cavalry is not on the way to rescue us.
You better prepare accordingly.
If you think the U.S. economy is bad now, just wait for a few months. Things are about to become absolutely nightmarish. None of the long-term economic trends that are hollowing out our economy have been addressed and more bad economic news seems to come out virtually every single day. Now there is constant talk of the “next recession” in the mainstream media. But did the last recession ever truly end? The number of good jobs continues to decline, more stores are closing, incomes continue to go down, credit card debt and student loan debt are soaring, the housing market resembles a corpse, the number of Americans living in poverty continues to rise and government debt is at unprecedented levels. We are losing blood fast, and almost all of our leaders are either too corrupt or too incompetent to be able to do anything about it. The U.S. economy really and truly is about to go into the toilet, and if something is not done very quickly we are going to experience a complete and total economic disaster in this nation.
Americans have been promised over and over that this economic downturn is just “temporary” and that things will return to normal soon. During this upcoming election cycle, the Democrats will swear that they have all the answers and that if we just elect them everything will be okay. The Republicans will also swear that they have all the answers and that if we just elect them everything will be okay.
Well, both sides are lying. The economic plans of both major political parties are a joke. Neither of them can restore economic prosperity to this nation.
Our politicians could delay the coming economic collapse by borrowing gigantic piles of money and pumping all of that cash into the economy. But stealing from our children and our grandchildren is not exactly sound economic policy.
Yes, the U.S. economy is in bad shape right now, but things are about to get even worse. The long-term problems that are destroying our economy have not been fixed, and the leaks in our ship are going to continue to grow.
The following are 30 signs that the U.S. economy is about to go into the toilet….
#1 An increasing number of unemployed Americans have become so desperate that they have started to look for work overseas. For example, the number of Americans that are submitting applications for temporary work visas in Canada has approximately doubled since 2008. Other Americans are willing to learn foreign languages and travel to the other side of the world if that is what it takes to land a decent job. Just consider the following quote from a recent USA Today report….
Job placement firms are reporting a surge in American worker interest in booming economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, China and, increasingly, India. Hunt Partners, an executive search firm, estimates that it’s getting 50% to 100% more unsolicited résumés from Americans looking for Asia-based positions today than before the recession.
#2 When Barack Obama first took office, the official U.S. unemployment rate was 7.6 percent. Today it is 9.1 percent.
#3 The number of Americans that are concerned that they will lose their jobs continues to hover near record highs. According to Gallup, 30 percent of all employed Americans are worried that they will soon be laid off.
#4 After three straight years of very high unemployment, you can feel frustration and desperation in the air almost everywhere that you go. Many unemployed Americans are now at the end of their ropes. The following is from a testimonial that was recently posted on The Atlantic….
The most difficult part of the job search is:
1. that I don’t live near a factory or outsource outlet in China, India, or Malaysia.
2. trying not to appear desperate for a job when I am, in fact, quite desperate for a job.
3. that I am subject to everyone’s advice on how to get a job, but no real job leads.
4. that I am reminded that having a good job is not an entitlement.
5. that when I become depressed from my job search, I’m told told to cheer up or else give a bad vibe to prospective employers … yet when I become happy through non-search related activities, I am reminded that I should be looking for work
7. that when I confide to friends and family that I have “given up” to pursue more fruitful interests, it elicits a crushing look of disbelief, disappointment, and disgust
8. waiting for permission to give up.
#5 The percentage of American men that are employed continues to plummet. In July, only 63.5 percent of all men in the United States had a job. Since 1948, that number has only been lower one time (63.3 percent in December 2009).
#6 Back in the 1950s, manufacturing accounted for about 28 percent of U.S. GDP. Last year, it accounted for just 11.7 percent. Meanwhile, manufacturing now accounts for about 25 percent of GDP in China and they now actually have more factory production each year than we do. Sadly, Barack Obama is pushing for even more trade agreements that will send millions more of our jobs overseas.
#7 The percentage of Americans that are working low paying jobs continues to relentlessly march upwards. Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs. Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.
#8 According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, after you add in all short-term discouraged workers, all long-term discouraged workers and all Americans that are working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, the real unemployment rate should be approximately 23 percent.
#9 We are starting to see another huge wave of store closings and layoffs. For example, the parent company of Payless stores has announced that it will be permanently closing 475 stores. Borders is in the process of closing every single one of its 399 stores. Also, Bank of America has just announced that it will be closing about 600 branches, and that could result in the loss of about 30,000 good jobs.
#10 Median household income has fallen for three years in a row.
#11 Americans are really starting to rack up consumer debt once again. According to Time Magazine, U.S. consumers are on pace to collectively add 54 billion dollars in credit card debt in 2011.
#12 Student loan defaults are rising very sharply. Just consider the following excerpt from a recent New York Times article….
The share of federal student loan defaults rose sharply last year, especially at for-profit colleges and universities, where 15 percent of borrowers defaulted in the first two years of repayment, up from 11.6 percent the previous year.
#13 According to a chart in The Economist, whenever the number of newspaper articles in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal that mention the word “recession” goes over 1,500 in a particular quarter, the U.S. economy almost always goes into a recession.
#14 The U.S. housing crash just continues to get worse. The index of home builder sentiment put out by the National Association of Home Builders fell once again during the month of September. With such a glut of unsold foreclosed homes on the market, it is making things really hard of home builders. Things have gotten so bad that even the U.S. government now owns nearly a quarter of a million foreclosed homes. The impact of this housing nightmare on families has been absolutely devastating. Just check out what a recent Time Magazine article had to say about what has been going on in California….
The impact on children has been brutal: since 2007, 7% of the state’s children have had a foreclosure process started on their homes, the fourth-highest level in the nation, according to a study released this month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
#15 Many believe that due to much tighter lending standards, it is now harder to be approved for a mortgage than at any other time since World War II. This is absolutely crushing the housing market.
#16 Most Americans don’t seem to expect housing prices to recover for an extended period of time. One recent survey found that 54 percent of Americans believe that there will not be a housing recovery until “2014 or later“.
#17 The combined debt of the largest GSEs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae) has increased from 3.2 trillion in 2008 to a whopping 6.4 trillion in 2011. If that debt goes bad, U.S. taxpayers will be left holding the bill.
#18 There are now nearly 50 million Americans that do not have health insurance, and the percentage of Americans covered by employer-based health plans has fallen for 11 years in a row. Meanwhile, Americans now spend about 3 times as much on health care as they did back in 1990.
#19 The Postal Service has publicly announced that it is “on the verge” of financial collapse.
#20 The number of small businesses continues to fall. I recently noted this fact on The American Dream Blog….
The number of “self-employed” Americans continues to rapidly shrink. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006. Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million. Even though we have 14 million unemployed people in this country and jobs are incredibly difficult to come by, the number of people trying to work for themselves continues to decrease because the environment for small businesses in this country has become so incredibly toxic.
#21 American consumers have become tremendously pessimistic. According to one recent survey, 61 percent of all Americans believe that they will not return to their “pre-recession” lifestyles until at least 2014. According to a different recent survey, 39 percent of Americans actually believe that the U.S. economy has now entered a “permanent decline”.
#22 Many U.S. investors certainly seem to believe that trouble is coming. According to CNN, last month the number of bets against the S&P 500 was the highest that we have seen in about a year.
#23 The number of U.S. households that are “doubling up” continues to grow. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of combined households has increased by 10.7 percent since 2007.
#24 When Barack Obama moved into the White House, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States was $1.83. Today it is $3.58.
#25 The number of Americans living in poverty grew by 2.6 million last year. That was the largest increase since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.
#26 Back in the year 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty. Today, 15.1% of all Americans are living in poverty.
#27 On Barack Obama’s first day on the job, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps. Today, there are more than 45 million Americans on food stamps.
#28 If there is a financial collapse in Europe, that will definitely plunge us into another recession. Right now, things do not look promising. At this point, headlines all over the world are proclaiming that Greece is dangerously close to defaulting.
#29 At some point soon, investors all over the globe may decide that it is time to start dumping U.S. government debt. For example, Chinese officials are now openly talking about the need to “liquidate” their holdings of U.S. Treasuries.
#30 The U.S. national debt continues to explode in size and spiral out of control. According to Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, the U.S. “fiscal gap” increased by about 6 trillion dollars last year. In fact, Kotlikoff makes a compelling argument that Greece is actually in better shape financially than the United States is.
Do you now understand how much trouble we are in?
The long-term trends that are destroying us continue to get worse.
The United States is steamrolling directly toward an economic collapse.
When this economy hits bottom and splatters all over the place, it is not going to be easy to fix.
The America that we know today is going to be wiped out by a gigantic mountain of debt and by the consequences of decades of really bad decisions.
We were handed the keys to the greatest economic machine in the history of the world and we have wrecked it.
So prepare for really, really hard times ahead.
The era of endless prosperity is ending.
Next comes the pain.