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Of 55 students in my class at Columbia’s Film program, 4 made a career out of it (twitter.com/jstoteraux)
410 points by luu 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 448 comments

The entire thread is pure gold. If you scroll down, he writes:

> The Chair [of the Columbia Film program] reached out and said he was confident that we could work out an arrangement to get my degree. But he insisted that I fly out to NYC immediately for an in-person meeting. So I spent a fortune on a last-minute flight in order to hear his proposal.

> But instead of telling me what I need to do to satisfy the requirements to get my degree, the Chair began pitching me his idea for a TV pilot. In excruciating scene-by-scene detail. I nodded along, waiting to get back to the terms of me getting my degree.

> But to my horror... I slowly begin to realize this IS the deal. He made it pretty clear if I wanted my degree, I needed to help him sell his tv pilot. Yep, the Chair of Columbia’s prestigious graduate film program tried to shake me down in order to jump-start his own stalled out career.

This should be a red flag to anyone studying film at Columbia. How much can your degree possibly be worth if your department chair can't sell a TV pilot without shaking down a former student to jump-start his own career?

Film critic here, who knows a lot of ex-Columbia filmmakers. The situation is the same everywhere. Columbia is still the very best film school in the US. But it's not comparable to other countries with proper film university programs. There the burn rate is probably below 10%.

US film schools are more like the shady private film schools in Europe, which focus more on practical tasks and where you have to pay everything by yourself or by external sponsors. Teachers are horrible. A bit like in art schools or theatre, bit more extreme on the financial side. Less harassment though.

I mean, in Vienna (Haneke) they only take about 8 a year, sometimes only 2. They take only the best, where they see they will make it.

Maybe we should not tell kids to follow their dreams for work, but work for money so they can follow their dreams?

Majoring in film making, writing, and most non-stem degrees is a quick way to be deep in debt working minimum wage jobs. Even business (my degree) is a waste of money for most kids.

I am telling my kids to major in computer science or architecture, then they can mess around with fun stuff in their free time.

This is advice I wish I heard a long time ago. What makes it extra hard is when your dreams do line up with your work.

It then becomes nearly impossible (for me, anyway) to disassociate what you do with who you are. When times are rough, it's personal. When mistakes happen, it's personal. And when you score a big win or are sitting atop an awesome opportunity... the dial just gets turned up another notch.

Taking up gardening (in truth, being taken up by gardening) has been a huge sanity saver, but it's still hard to not look back and feel like I lost my way over time: what was an insatiable curiosity gave way to the expediency of being a paid performer. I still love it, but just not like before, especially after the shift ends.

I would love to send my kids to school to get a philosophy/english lit/history degree and then let them get a masters in something job relevant, but this is not how kids from the working class get to spend their early/mid 20s. Our kids feel the pressure to make money early and so it is crucial that kids from this economic class get a degree that has job and earning potential. If we were able to support our kids to 30, you bet I would encourage them to start with a liberal arts degree.

I'm pretty the situation is not confined to Columbia. This is how crazy the film/movie world is.

> I'm pretty the situation is not confined to Columbia. This is how crazy the film/movie world is.

It's not limited to the film/movie world either... this is the unfortunate truth of most MFA programs: they don't launch careers, unless you're looking to become a MFA teacher yourself.

In other words, Multi-Level Marketing

Indeed this is certainly more broadly applicable. But if this is the case for a school as prestigious as Columbia in New York City (i.e., a city with a thriving television industry), things must be even more dire at no-name liberal arts colleges in flyover states.

"Those who can't do, teach" is fitting for many fields of study

Actually, those who "can't do", generally "can't teach" either. One surefire way to get better at doing something is trying to teach it, in fact.

I get what the quote is trying to imply, (and why) but it's totally backwards.

It always annoys me when I see that quoted. The original idea applied to people like athletes - you do it when you can, but when you're too old to compete, you can still teach. Nothing to do with ability, and in fact, it assumes more ability on the part of the teacher.

From my experience, athletes who were really good at the sport wasn't the greatest teacher; since they kind of intuitively understood how they should conduct their body to do something, they had a real tough time trying to transfer that knowledge to me who has no idea how I should move my body. They often tried to use imaginary that didn't really connect with me. It was far better to be taught by someone who was good but wasn't a natural as a beginner since they seemed to have a better grasp on what kind of struggles normal people had.

Obviously this is just anecdotal and probably changes at the Olympics levels and other places where the learner competency and affinity is already high.

I've tried tutoring people in academic subjects I know really well. I find myself unable to explain what they're doing wrong because I cannot put myself in their shoes. Try teaching algebra or calculus to someone who doesn't get it, and let me know if your skills really help with that.

Depends on what you're teaching. In engineering circles it's been said that those who can, do; those who can't, become Six Sigma consultants.

Or agile instructors / scrum masters.

That'd be the SW equivalent, yes.

Not really. One can have the knowledge and understand the mechanics of a trait, and is still unable to succedd in this trait. Especially creative fields are guilty of this. Similar is sports. A great coach can still be lousy player. Because at the end for success you need far more than just knowledge.

I studied a social science (economic history) with the suspicion (I am can't recall why) that a lot of people in universities who do more vocational subjects are there because they can't actually make money using those skills (so I would only do a course that was totally useless).

When I got to university that was confirmed in spades (and I was glad to actually get something for my money, because the subject was "useless", I got great teaching, great feedback on my work, etc.). Obviously, business was the absolute worst (one professor taught a course on investing, he literally wrote a book on investing, he left at the same time I graduated to run a fund...just before the pandemic, he got fired because his fund was down 10-20%/year, he was one of the worst-performing fund managers in the UK at the time), stuff like law was pretty decent (although most people who studied law never became lawyers either, I don't understand how because the school was number #1 ranked for law...after I left, I saw quite a few lawyers who got a job due to family...so it might be that), and even CS had a great reputation in teaching but the actual linkages with industry were non-existent, so the teachers taught the theory and things they thought were fun to teach (lots of students struggled, I spoke to startups who said they had trouble recruiting, even though this school turned out hundreds of grads every year, because they all just went to larger companies that didn't require actual development skills).

It isn't the case everywhere but I think the idea that university is required for success outside university is misleading, particularly for high school students. A lot of the knowledge is definitely very useful but life outside university tends to be about things that aren't in any books. University is orthogonal to life.

I had a writing professor who encouraged us to write more and do workshops with him often. Go figure he had his linkedin publicly available so I snooped around. Not only had he not made much mainstream success as a writer in hollywood, but he doubled down for a PhD to get out of it and has been a professor ever since. Although, probably a lot less cooler than Hank Moody from Californication.

> It isn't the case everywhere but I think the idea that university is required for success outside university is misleading, particularly for high school students. A lot of the knowledge is definitely very useful but life outside university tends to be about things that aren't in any books. University is orthogonal to life.

Outside of certain subjects where the ability to work is tied to the education, university is mostly about signalling that you're able to learn stuff. Note I didn't say that you learn stuff.

To the extent that I "learned" stuff at uni, it was quite superficial and due to the sheer quantity it ended up getting very exam focused. So people would learn how to numerically solve PDEs, but only enough to pass the exams, which of course could not test this knowledge in a sensible way. The format of answering five questions in three hours by hand while wearing formal academic clothes just isn't suited to how a lot of these things work.

There were a load of subjects like this, where the content itself was interesting, but you just had to do a load of context switching because of the nature of the degree. One exam is PDEs, another is hydro, thermo, electronics, and so on.

Nobody would be unable to learn any one of them, but many people found it soul crushing to do all of them. And that's a shame, because in the world of work I've never needed to dive deep on 6 or 8 subjects at once. At most it's one or two broad topics, done with sane tools, judged in a sane way.

So at the end of university I'd indexed a bunch of knowledge in engineering and business. Useful, but still only scratching the surface of what is in those fields. It also gives you a beginner level bullshit filter, which is maybe even more useful than the survey of knowledge. You won't give time to the crackpot who claims to have a perpetual motion machine, because although you might not have all of thermo down, you'll have a very good intuition that such machines aren't possible, and you will know which arguments sound right in the field. You might give the emdrive a bit of an investigation though.

The BS filter is especially useful in the social sciences. I did Economics and Management as part of my degree, and while I don't have a cohesive theory of how everything works, I can spot an overconfident crackpot from a mile away. People who oversimplify how the economy works, people who think they can explain it all, people who say they know what will happen. You will know where the weaknesses are in arguments simply by having read the back-and-forth.

As for the real value of university, I think it's hard to spot. I have a suspicion that if we forced a reduction in places, we'd be just as well off. All the knowledge that you're taught is free for everyone to read, and in the modern world you can fund the best explanation of anything on the internet. All those intuitions I mention above can be learned by anyone who bothers to do so. My working theory is that it's a form of intellectual hazing. Prove that you want to be part of this group (intellectuals).

Where previously someone reasonably smart and eloquent could be found at the end of high school, that person now needs to complete university to get a chance to do a whole swath of roles. So the person who could have taken a professional job at 18 now has to be 22 to get the same job. We can tell because there's firms like PWC who have a program to hire exactly such people. Or for instance I had a private banker in Switzerland who started as an apprentice doing work/study, that seemed to work perfectly fine and seems economically sensible. I once worked with a talented guy who didn't have a degree, and he had self-confidence issues because he didn't have a fancy Oxford degree. Others I've met have felt compelled to go back to uni after years of doing a job.

Those who can, do; those who can't, teach

George Bernard Shaw

What an abysmal quote. It is completely false, and does nothing to encourage intelligent people to go into teaching which we desperately need.

I hate it too and wish I hadn't shared it. I thought it was basically what the parent was saying, but more succinct.

Makes you wonder about those sex-ed teachers, eh?

"And those that can't teach, teach gym" - Jack Black, School of Rock

If you can’t do it you can’t teach it. This quote, while being dumb as shit, does show the incredible low value we place on teaching. Teaching is for losers, and yet as a society we’re incredibly confused why we aren’t being taught well in schools and universities????

I wasn't convinced they could teach either. It is like being taught cycling by someone who not only hasn't cycled, they haven't even seen a bike.

Being able to do, and being able to teach aren't separate. I got value because my professors could teach and do, they were experts. If you can't do, don't teach either...just do...something else.

Teaching seems to attract all the dregs from society.

this was probably my favorite part its grift all the way down!

Columbia has a pretty questionable record with other masters programs in creative fields. The school is exploiting the Ivy brand, the NYC location and talent, and legions of students desperate to stand out in highly competitive creative fields. For instance, a 10-month MS in Journalism is $116k (including living expenses) while a 12-month M.S. in data journalism is $160k (https://journalism.columbia.edu/cost-attendance).

Yes, studying under true experts in NYC is a wonderful experience for people in film, theater, journalism, writing, the arts, etc. But there should be no expectation that a very expensive degree will lead to high-paying jobs in those fields. The fact that every year Columbia is setting up all of these new grads with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and little hope of repaying it in those professions is downright predatory.

The WSJ article that prompted the original Twitter thread is worth reading. A few graduates have managed to find low-paying, entry-level jobs in the film industry that pay under $50k per year, and probably did not require a master's degree. One of the grads they talked with is working at the local TJ Maxx ... the same job he had as a teenager.

Via one of the WSJ reporters who worked on the report:

At least 43% of the people who recently took out loans for master’s degrees at elite private universities hadn’t paid down any of their original debt or were behind on payments roughly two years after graduation.

It’s not just arts degrees. Other high debt, low-earning master’s programs: NYU publishing (debt: $116k, earnings: $42k), Northwestern speech-language pathology (debt: $148k, earnings: $60k), USC marriage and family counseling (debt: $124k, earnings: $50k).

All this is made possible by Grad Plus, the no-limit federal student loan program. Created in 2005, it’s now the fastest growing program. Based on partial data from the 2021 school year, grad students were on track to borrow as much as undergrads for the first time.


Wow I had no idea a Masters could be that expensive! I paid $16k for a Masters in Computer Engineering at a local unglamorous state university (half paid for by my employer) and immediately got a promotion for $30k when I was done, so it was a pretty good rate of return!

The general advice I give to anyone considering grad school, and the same advice I was given by professors, is: unless you are absolutely certain it will be worth it, do not go to grad school unless you are paid to do so by the school or through some other form of compensation.

This is always interesting, because when I went to my crappy state school people always said "Oh, but you can always go to a top grad school!".

It seems like if you're not cut out for success at 17 you'll never have it.

Fundamentally, it's about whether the university views the applicant as a valuable resource or as a bag of money. At good research programs, professors convene to decide which PhD applicants they want to accept, with the knowledge that the people they accept are going to work with them for years as on their research projects as advisees. To receive an un-funded acceptance means that the consensus of the professors reviewing applications was that covering the applicant's tuition and stipend to have them as an advisee would be a waste of grant money. It's essentially a rejection, because it means nobody actually wanted to be the applicant's advisor.

Starting a PhD under those circumstances is just setting yourself up for failure. If a PhD program in science or engineering (or any discipline where professors have a fair amount of grant money to spend) isn't willing to pay you to attend, take that as a rejection and move on.

Edit: This is why you generally have to pay to attend a Master's program, but get paid to attend a PhD program. Teaching Master's students is just a waste of time, while teaching PhD students pays off when they become productive research assistants for the remainder of the time it takes them to write a thesis. The pro tip is that if all you want is a Master's degree, you should still apply for a PhD program and then leave with your Masters degree after a year or two.

Plenty of top grad schools are worth it, pay for their students, and are accessible from students who went to state schools in undergrad.

Also, top school names only matter when starting your career. What you do counts a lot more and can easily get you to many good jobs. It turns out good 17 yr olds can ride their momentum only so long. At some point you have to produce in your career.

Also, top school names only matter when starting your career... At some point you have to produce in your career.

I agree with this 100%. But, your school name influences your first job, and your early career is what usually, obviously not always, influences the rest of your career/life. If I didn't do well on my SATs and got into a local state school, no matter how hard I work for $35K at a $500K nonprofit I'm likely never getting past the first screens from DE Shaw, Renaissance, etc.; again, there are exceptions, like a friend who went to a state school, then Ivy grad, and ended up at a FAANG; or a guy I know who went to community college, got a job at a bank, then through a series of mergers outside his control he ended up C-suite level at one of the largest asset managers. But I don't think that's the norm by any means.

I went to a state school (undergrad and grad), worked for FAANG, and have interviewed at DE Shaw.

I’m guessing you got into better schools than VTech. DE Shaw rejected me after I sent my SAT scores (I got a 1500/1600).

Nope, I just didn't apply right out of school.

Do you mind sharing your SAT score?

> Also, top school names only matter when starting your career

Yes, and then it determines the next phase, and then the next....

I'm sure there are some mediocre (strictly career wise, not academically) people who graduate from Styvescent and Columbia and go to work at no-name mid-tier companies (I've met one personally). But these people are still orders of magnitude better off than people like me, who are destined for failure and disappointment. If you ever looked at my resume you'd agree.

No they don't. What you actually do in your job matters a lot. If you're actually good, you get picked up by better firms. I've interviewed literally hundreds of candidates for top-tier companies I've worked for, and those candidates mostly cone from the 'rest' of the schools, not the top 10. I didn't come from the top 10 either.

Also, for grad school, the top 10 don't matter as much to an employer as relevant research to something they care about. Grad rankings are nearly useless.

I went to state school (VT) undergrad and grad. I've worked in plenty of very good places.

What you actually do in your job matters a lot. If you're actually good, you get picked up by better firms... Also, for grad school, the top 10 don't matter as much

This depends on the industry. I have plenty of tech friends who quit school, went to a local state school, etc. and ended up at a FAANG or launched a startup well-funded by VC. However, at the top management consulting, law, investment banking, private equity, hedge fund firms, etc., it is unlikely you'll get hired without a top 10 undergrad or grad degree, family connections, or something unique like you have a documented 150% return in the market over a decade.

I only work at Amazon so I’m not actually good. The “rest” are still only large in proportion because of their population size - most are like me and will never get into companies like Two Sigma or Google. I sure can’t.

If you're at Amazon, please make use of their mental health benefit through Lyra. You sound worryingly depressed.

I actually ended up looking on lyrahealth.com - doesn't seem like Amazon offers it yet, and if it does it's not available on the internal site either.

(Of course, Google does offer it)

You work at Amazon in IT? I don’t know your specific situation but you sure have a pretty defeatist attitude. That won’t serve you well. In my experience the most important factor for improving your career situation is finding opportunities and taking them and that requires a bit of a positive outlook and energy to expenditure.

I'm an SDE2, yes. I have no energy or a positive outlook because I already know that I'm considered an untermensch by everyone and society. It truly does feel like I have nothing, even my family thinks I'm a failure.

So you work for one of the most valuable companies in the world as a software developer, making decent buck, and you are a failure? I think you are young and have unreasonable expectations. You’re doing very good in the grand scheme of things; find your self worth and don’t listen to anyone that tells you you’re a failure, including yourself.

> I think you are young and have unreasonable expectations. You’re doing very good in the grand scheme of things;

The grand scheme of things includes people who have guinea worm and make $1/day, it's not a terribly useful metric.

If the people I trust the most think I'm a failure...I don't know how else I should interpret that.

Most people are mostly wrong about most things most of time.

So it's a safe bet that you and your personal board of trustees are probably wrong about you being a failure.

Also, I rather like how you write. Very droll. Please keep it up.

First, you're a really good writer, and no one can take that away from you.

The big picture is this - we are nearing the end of this society, and thus (in general) bad people succeed and good people fail. (I personally am doing OK if not stellar, this isn't sour grapes.)

You seem like a thoughtful, compassionate guy so it's no wonder that you aren't doing well.

My suggestion is artistic detachment. Treat life more like a surrealistic comedy and less like a game with live ammunition - it has aspects of both, of course. If you think of life as a dramatic presentation for your entertainment, even the bad parts will be more entertaining.

Turn on a "professional personality" at work which has nothing to do with who YOU are and then learn to turn it off after work.

Find something unrelated to... all this... to keep you entertained - something small and cheap and fun. In the past I've studied magic tricks and origami - right now my wife is doing watercolors and I'm reading 50 year old SF books.

And best wishes from one random to another!

In my case, people I met usually categorized me either into "everything is awesome" or "you're a failure". Few people took the time to listen and understand that things are going OK but of course there's always things to improve.

If you can get by financially and maybe save a bit for a bad day, then you're objectively doing OK or better. After that point, whether you're a success or a failure depends mostly on what you yourself think about it. There's a surprising amount of mean and selfish people out there. It's how they cope with difficulties in their own live.

> If the people I trust the most think I'm a failure...I don't know how else I should interpret that.

It means you're surrounded by assholes.

Why do you trust those people? Do they have a proven track record of accurate judgments?

At my old job, my manager was an ex-Amazonian. On my way out the door, he gave me one piece of advice - never work for Amazon. He left because of what they made him to do his reports.

You work for a company that negs its employees as part of its management playbook, and that’s bound to affect your mental health. If you can survive Amazon, you’re smart and can also hack it at other companies who treat their employees better. Don’t be obsessed with FANG. There are many many companies who pay as well as Amazon SDE2 but don’t systematically abuse their engineers.

No, the reason why I hate myself is because people think I’m stupid not because my employer negs me.

It’s hard to believe that a SDE2 at Amazon is genuinely stupid. It sounds like imposter syndrome. Have you ever talked to a mental health professional? I’ve benefited greatly from that and I know many others in the same boat.

> because when I went to my crappy state school people always said "Oh, but you can always go to a top grad school!".

In engineering, you definitely can, and it's not unusual.

This doesn't conflict with your parent. Do not pay for it out of your own pocket. Get funding (teaching/research assistantship).

From my school? Yes it is. To get into a top grad school you need multiple first author papers. Most research groups at state schools straight up don’t have that research capacity.

I had 2 2nd author papers and people that I've shown my profile to say I have straight up no chance at good schools. They then trot out the 'ol "It matters more who your advisor is".

> To get into a top grad school you need multiple first author papers.

What field are you in? Most engineering programs will not require this.

I’m in CS. I’m basically hopeless at this point of ever being considered more than an untermensch.

I'm curious: What are you considering as a top CS school? At the one I went to, virtually no incoming student was a first author. Granted, this was a while ago, but it was still the case about 10 years ago.

2nd question: Did you actually apply, or did you merely ask around and get discouraged? My experience is that most of the advice people give on this topic is wildly off. That includes advice from professors in top schools.

Finally, GPA mattered in my time, and I'm sure it still does. It's not at all sufficient, but a poor GPA would almost always kill your chances. I those days, beneath 3.5 would be a guaranteed reject, and around 3.5 would be a weak candidate.

1) I'd consider MIT, CMU, Stanford, Berkeley as the top, as well as the top schools that aren't CS top schools but are still well regarded (Columbia CS PhD, Cornell CS PhD, Princeton, Harvard). University of Washington and UIUC among the top as well, as well as Georgia Tech, UMass Amherst, and UMD, though those are hardly of the same recognition outside of the field as the other ones that are well regarded.

2) I talked to a 7 (off the top of my head) professors at a few institutions about this as well as a 5 PhD students, one from my undergrad (people from my undergrad don't generally go to top schools for PhDs in CS). All of their profiles had multiple first author papers and none of them got into any other top school than the one they went to. Ofc, the ones that went to top undergrads did get into multiple. The circles your professors runs around in at state schools absolutely matter. Mine is very well regarded in the research niche but that doesn't transfer well to even adjacent research niches.

I got a 3.92 at my undergrad, CS GPA around 3.98 or so.

I went to GaTech, picked a random PhD student and looked at his CV. He had only one paper prior to starting at GaTech, and he was the last author. Picked another one and that one did have a first author paper. Couldn't find CVs for the others I picked.

Went to UIUC. First random student I picked had no publications prior to joining UIUC. 2nd one I picked had one, but not as first author. 3rd one I picked had none prior to joining UIUC.

Might be a subdiscipline thing.

No particular subdiscipline. I just now picked a random MIT EECS grad student who went to a state school of equivalent ranking to mine (rest went to top schools or MIT itself) - he had 2 first author and 1 book chapter as well as a workshop (also first author).

I do want to emphasize that the people that go from Undergrad to PHD at the same school does skew the profiles a bit, especially if they already researched with the same professor.

Nothing to see here. The system is performing its desired function -- creating a reserve army of the underemployed to sustain a continual erosion of workers' real wages at all levels of skill and education.

I worked on my Chemistry Masters around 1980 and it cost me nothing, they paid me a pittance as a grad student to teach but I got free tuition at a public university. Strange how much things cost today.

Chemistry, at least c. mid 2000s when I was looking into it, is largely paid for by GAANN. There aren't many grad school slots available but those there are tend to be full-ride.

Sounds like they paid you a masters program tuition… granted back then that probably wasn’t a lot, but they were paying more than just your teaching salary.

Engineering Masters can be even less than that. I don't remember what my Engineering Masters cost all-in but it wasn't a lot including CoL at an Ivy.

I have a question

Universities still think that there is a large enough population that is only interested in the pursuit of higher knowledge, but the private sector formed around attending these universities prompting the underclass (sorry, no other word in this context) to clamor to attend them and simply become debt serfs

So we can complain about the universities, refrain from calling the debt laden alumni dumb simply because they are so numerous now (degree-positive movement?), or complain about the federal government but the question is:

What organization does exist just for the upper class to pursue knowledge and maintain their connections?

Universities and fraternities were doing that loooooong before the private sector noticed

and its only controversial (it being: college admissions practices, debt, purpose, degree choice, admission corruption etc) because people that were never intended to be there feel they need to be there

So what is the replacement? Private clubs with professors? Summits and exclusive apprenticeships? Just admitting the same family’s children to universities anyway and they just pretend to be struggling students indistinguishable from the proletariat?

Universities will enter a period of consolidation. Many will shut down entirely but some will merge with larger fish. Highly motivated individuals will eventually be able to get their foot in the door to corporations via YouTube learning, IQ tests or replacements (SATs), provable signals like acceptance to the (remaining) good schools, and whatever else pops up that can distinguish people. The private sector is the first to realize what bullshit is happening because of their profit requirement, so as the university system falters they will be actively promoting its replacement.

I agree that separating the rich from the poor will continue to be an important function. Frats and other social clubs are proxies for wealth. I think simply that getting access to certain schools will be limited by wealth via the restriction on loans to certain schools and majors, and the academic world will revert to an earlier time of privilege.

> The school is exploiting the Ivy brand, the NYC location and talent, and legions of students desperate to stand out…

Sharp analysis. For film, an NYU degree is less bad (I hesitate to say “better”) bc at least you’re in the village, where some of the art scene still remains, rather than stuck in the boonies uptown.

But the real issue is that a masters in the humanities is only for the independently wealthy. In particular the MFA gets you a pan unpaid internship at a gallery where they home you’ll bring in your parents’ wealthy friends. In that regard not that different from the private banking business.

NYU seems to create a better network for the grad film students. It doesn't guarantee success any more than Columbia, but basednon the tiny sample size of one friend and his classmates, most of his film masters degree class ended up working in the industry in one way or the other.

For reference, when I went to Columbia for a master's in computer engineering from 2008-2009, it was ~$33k in tuition and ~$14k in living costs. It's _insane_ that's it nearly 2.3x'ed since then.

It's hard to discount how much the room&board aspect plays in as well. 2021 NYU has $20K room&board, you could go to UConn Stamford with in-state tuition for only $15k still!

A lot of these prestige schools are in places with very expensive real estate. Additionally for marketing reasons the schools tend to have much too fancy housing. For many NYU grads for example, its quite a come down having to actually rent an apartment on their post-graduation budget.

For reference I had friends who lived in NYU dorms the summer we all got bank internships in the the city. They were the nicest apartments any of us had for about the next 10 years.. working in finance!

Very true. I got lucky living in the International House which is a big dorm. 7.5x10ft rooms for $750/month with food included. I didn't mind it but I can't fathom folks who have families or want to live alone manage that.

Columbia also has the School of General Studies bachelors program for non-traditional students that costs $85k (including living expenses) a year, and it’s notorious for offering little to no financial aid for it.

You end up paying $340,000 to take the same classes as regular Columbia students while being almost cut off completely from the college social experience.

This seems like a very clear case of the need for personal responsibility. In light of these facts, why in God’s name would anyone opt into this?

I went to Columbia. Many reasons folks wind up in General Studies. Two common ones are you didn’t get into good schools but your dad is both loaded and encouraging that a Columbia degree is worth it. Another is you’re between 40 and 60 and trying to reinvent yourself and/or your love life.

It’s a cash cow, akin to the Learning Annex.

What does your love life have to do with a Columbia degree?

The implication is that you meet the students grads and professors of the university and they are now part of your social circle and your dating pool.

A while back a friend in her thirties went to Columbia's teachers college and ended up marrying one of her professors so I guess it's more common than I realized.

What I was remarking on was that there was a certain subset of the 'back to school' cohort, in my day, who were basically reinventing their life, and often post-divorce.

Brand name, nothing more.

Having a brand name on your resume, can open up doors which would most definitely be closed otherwise. And the longer you are in your career, what you studied will count less and less.

And, as someone else mentioned, if your parents are loaded - then how much something costs may not mater.

> This seems like a very clear case of the need for personal responsibility.

I would rather that people didn't bring their religious cant phrases into this otherwise adult discussion.

The one about SLP making only 60k I truly do not understand. My daughter has speech problems and is doing 5 hours/wk of speech therapy with SLP for $180/hour (average rate for area) - just from us she is making almost 40k/year. All good SLPs are booked solid 2-3 months into the future and most do not even take new clients.

Two Possibilities: they work for a non-profit or government entity (school district, social services organization, etc), or they work less than full time. About 85% of speech pathologists are women, who tend to prioritize other factors (work-life balance, family care, etc) over raw earnings (https://www.zippia.com/speech-language-pathologist-jobs/demo...).

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average is about $98K. The NY state average is $101,491 (https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-Sp...).

A lot probably go to work for school districts rather than into private practice.

YMMV. A friend/former coworker of mine left to get his Masters in CS at Columbia. He was always a driven, strongly self-directed kind of guy.

The connections that he made in his Masters program led to him founding a security company with his professors and landed government contracts through their contacts in the federal government. That infosec company is one of the most competitive/exciting local employers.

Respectfully a Masters in CS is completely different from a masters in a 'creative field' because CS has an excess of demand for talent and tons of new opportunities.

Writing, Journalism, Fashion, Fine-Arts, Film - all of these master programs are producing legions of high-debt students with bad prospects, which is the point of the original article that the start of the Twitter thread.

I think another things is, these MFA programs aren't about scholarship or research. They're essentially exorbitantly expensive trade schools. Even weirder: in the past the idea of going to some ultra expensive trade school to learn how to make films would've been considered bizarre. Hollywood operated with an apprenticeship model (with, obviously a shitload of luck) that was kind of similar to the way a plumber-student would need to apprentice.

Even journalism schools when they first started, weren't bathing in the cache of a MFA program, they were trade schools for making reporters. They taught you bare bones shit about writing a column to set lines, and had you interning at newspapers and shadowing reporters right away. MFA programs and the rise of "creative non-fiction" are now making journalists think they're artists.

I don't have a problem with MFA programs existing (I mean, some CS programs are awful and churn out students who can barely code), but I think some applicants need to take a hard look at whether they even serve a purpose for their future employment beyond the letters "MFA" after your name; and, whether Columbia is actually the best MFA program to go to.

I worked in the film industry for about six years post college (camera: loader, 2nd AC mostly) and a member of the Cinematographers Guild. The apprenticeship model is still largely in place and folks come into the industry from all sides. That said, above the line and below the line are different worlds, and people I knew who came from money/Hollywood legacy did seem to have real advantages there. I ultimately left because the lifestyle wouldn’t be good for me long term (even if it was fun in my 20’s).

Both of the journalism masters programs that the parent mentioned that I was responding to were MS, not MFA.

It's a rich environment where you can build relationships with world class faculty. It's also an excellent launching pad to work in finance. There was, when I went there, a tight relationship with IBM Watson. I remember taking a course with a guy who helped design the Cell processor found in the PS3.

I don't know if I'd do it today given how expensive it has gotten. But it made sense when I went there a decade ago.

> …through their contacts in the federal government.

In other words it’s not what you know but who you know and the key is to know people who know other people who can get you that sweet sweet tax payer funded government money. Not to get political but that’s why you had Trump’s son in law and daughter working in the White House and Biden’s kid went straight from rehab to $10M contracts with the government of China to selling his art for $500k a pop.

Not exactly. I'm familiar with my former colleague's research and his firm's work. It was groundbreaking, novel work with high utility. He broke ground on an important, mostly-overlooked area of hardware security and built a world-class product.

The DARPA money and contracts were well-deserved and exactly the sort of research that government money should be going to.

The connections are what enable you to create that in the first place. He’s not going to create it in his bedroom by himself and by virtue of that, have contracts land in his lap. There are lots of great things people could do, but they never get the opportunity to do them.

He got it by working hard in his masters program... of course the professors are connected to darpa, that's where the grants come from!

Issue still being the money was gated through academia, which bugs a lot of the people involved in this discussion.

They should at least let you know how long you'd need to work in an average, entry-level-plus job in that field, to realistically pay back the loan. That should be on the disclosure form for the loan.

Not just creative fields. A relative of mine did an MPA from Columbia-SIPA. He spent around $200k all told (including indirect costs like housing), and on graduation the best offer he got was for around $60k. Eventually he took up a job (outside USA, as his visa expired) based on his previous experience, so the entire expense on the degree was just sunk cost.

... Most top tier universities exploit masters programs. It's pretty much what a masters is in the US.

They're estimating $45k for living expenses. I'm not sure we should be lumping that in.

I was one of these film MFA students, seduced by my own delusional idea that I could continue to develop my own work for several years (I was already a flailing filmmaker) and then re-launch my career. And then, if necessary, teach in a college film program with my MFA - and continue to develop my own work. It was all going to work out!

I’ve made many mistakes, but high-tailing from that program after 9 months and finding something else to do in life was not one of them.

Hindsight being 2020, I missed a fabulous opportunity to shoot a documentary about my MFA classmates, who were a very fine cross-section of the kind of students from around the world who would find and spend about a hundred thousand dollars in the year 2000 for the privilege of having a teaching assistant show you how to operate a video camera while simultaneously trying to read and understand the instruction manual. Probably for the first time.

The most successful of my classmates who stuck with it makes commercials in the Midwest. The nicest one never made a film at all yet somehow is a tenured professor at a small college in California. I stumbled my way into technology and am making up for years that were fun but deeply unprofitable.

I must say that the faculty at my program were the Woody Allen punch-line incarnate: because the stakes are so low.

Many folks say to just take that money you'd spend on tuition and make a short film. What's your opinion on that? I got an AS in film production, and that was cheaper than making a mid-budget short film, and also helped make contacts. I was in city w/o much film program so even PA gigs were hard to come by and paying for my contacts was a great shortcut. There's a very short chain of links between the guy who sat next to me in Stagecraft 101 and my present job 20 years later.

And get this: turns out I hated film production itself and the long hours as well as unreliable life of a freelancer. This meant taking a day job and missing out on a lot of freelance gigs due to weekday availability, but even with that handicap I managed to be gainfully employed (although the first 5 years out of college were pretty rough).

That's the playbook there, make the documentary about the program. Would be great! I could see an Exit Through the Gift Shop type of vibe. It has all the elements.

I feel a problem is that at 18 you still have "main character bias"

You spend a lot of time consuming uplifting media during childhood to where you unconsciously think of yourself as the main character of the story.

When you're picking a major you just can't imagine things not working out, that's something that happens to side characters.

In rural India where science stream - Math + Phy + Chem - was almost automatic for me for 2 years 10+2 schooling (before 3-4 yrs of college began) because I had scored quite well in my 10th board examination.

Because, for the world around me it was obvious that I would be studying medicine or engineering (I chose engineering as I had seen number of thick books a relative had - he was a medical student - that had scared me).

Fine arts and creative fields are reserved around there for people who didn’t score well in school level, or have very rich patents or are women (don’t kill me, I am just stating it), or have rich patents and are kinda “aware” (in a “woke” sense; hope this term is not highly offensive). For the rest it’s just - what will pay and pay ASAP.

Almost after more than a decade and a half later when all this happened and now that I am a senior software developer I really wish I had picked creative fields to study but that thought goes for a long pause, every time, the moment I think about the definite hardships I would have had to face and almost definite failure (statistically).

I do believe the ecosystem around me at that time collectively nudged me towards a wise and practical choice, even though I barely do not hate software development (sure I do not like/love it) and almost every day I think/fantasise about getting into writing, history, film making etc. I hope I am able to maintain this dream and reality balance for long enough to retire safely and comfortably.

Never confuse "passion" and a "job". In very rare cases, your job will be your passion. You can always follow your passion on the side and make it your main thing, if it picks up.

Any software developer job at least lets you live comfortably. Creative fields though, totally different ball game. If you are a "hit" you will make it, else you will flop.

> I really wish I had picked creative fields to study but that thought goes for a long pause, every time, the moment I think about the definite hardships I would have had to face and almost definite failure (statistically).

This reminds me of this web comic that explains that exact situation[0]. Also here are a few others[1][2]. It really is a "grass is always greener" scenario. I personally love music (know guitar, wanna learn piano), making pottery, and drawing (if I could honestly devote the time to it). The reason I don't do them "professionally" is because there is very little money in it and it's extraordinarily difficult to make a career out of them unless you have been playing since you were very young and everything is muscle memory. I was not that fortunate. Regardless, I do them for fun now. I work my office job during the day to support those things during the night. Hopefully one day I can phase my day job out for those :)




Students come from an environment in which everyone is exclusively telling them "you're so special and unique" until they graduate from college and real life yells "lol get the fuck out of my face"

When we're talking about famous schools, there's also the big fish small pond effect to remember.

I mean...you are the main character of your life

Sure, but the story isn't going to be like a movie, for most of us. (It's more likely to be closer to soap opera, but more plain).

I disagree. Life is the ultimate expression of direct cinema and thus the apex of what a movie "is", ontologically speaking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cin%C3%A9ma_v%C3%A9rit%C3%A9

Someone's life but not anyone's life. Not sure why the films listed on that page are about JFK and Bob Dylan if you can make a move about anyone.

My personal favorite film about an "anyone" https://vimeo.com/64421202

There's a lot of incredible cinema created from home movie footage as well as just letting the camera roll in your town https://www.topic.com/the-bard-of-braddock

Tell that to someone on minimum wage or have a terminal disease

I really don't get your point. There are tragic, soul-wrenching films about these very subjects. Not every film is a Marvel movie

Like those YouTube videos where somebody is being altruistic for the video content.

Maybe the poor is more interested in having food to eat than being in the spotlight

OP said "Sure, but the story isn't going to be like a movie, for most of us." I'm just pointing out that life is, in fact, experientially like a movie just maybe not the feel good story of the year we'd like it to be

Not really. You're primarily the side character of many others first and foremost. You are essentially unimportant.

Do you not see the logical fallacy here? If the generalized "you" - that is to say, the randomly sampled human - is merely a side character to someone else and essentially "unimportant", then that implies by induction that we are all unimportant which is surely not the case, as this distinction implies and indeed requires a hierarchy of important "main" characters. So who is a main character?

Probably not you? Probably not me?


The real world is purely emergent so thinking you are a main character is just a fallacy, an absurdism.

What you seem to be pushing back on is that when someone describes themself as a side character it implies that they still buy into "narrative drive" and they just think poorly of themselves.

I think while one could argue that there are no main or side characters the simple fact is you can look at the friendship paradox to inform how you think about the problem.

Let's forget narrative in the manufactured sense and talk about what scale of perception a person referring to themselves as a "side character" may be implicitly using as a reference. Does the universe revolve around you to any impactful degree and the answer is that it doesn't at all, one asteroid and we are all done, we are here by happenstance, on any cosmic scale or timeline we currently hardly exist.

From an experiential human society scale some people function as higher power nodes than others and there is a good chance you are a lower powered node than the people you know, meaning each person is their self probably the least significant person they know.

I'd argue that internalizing the friendship paradox and what we know about social graphs could reasonably lead someone to refer to themselves colloquially as a side character, "pretty much everyone I know is probably more important than me." is a fair self assessment for people to make.

You know you can talk about things in the world without using deductive reasoning? Jeez...

Don’t call me Shirley.

You're the main character in 1 life, a side character in hundreds, and irrelevant in billions.

I don't know what media you consume but I've consumed plenty in which not everything works out for the main character

As a side remark, physics phd programs are a pretty awesome.

The better programs pay a living wage if you aren't supporting a family.

You can often travel the world for free by attending conferences in exotic locations.

The subject matter is fascinating, and the people tend to be interesting.

You learn skills that are highly sought after. The degree is well respected and transferable to multiple industries.

Your peers are collegial and want to see you succeed. Physicists tend to enjoy knowledge sharing.

You can generally exit at any time and immediately transition into lucrative careers in, for example, tech and finance.

It has it's downsides, but for how whimsical it is, it's a pretty soft landing if you decide you want out.

Disclaimer: I decided to drop out of a electrical engineering PhD program, so take the below with a grain of salt :)

This is not limited to just physics, but all STEM PhDs.

Actually, you should never join a PhD program if it’s not funded! As for the pay.. you’ll need to define “living”.

Yes, you will likely travel, but research funding is more often than not very tight and restricted. As a result, travel conditions are not always ideal.

As far as the subject matter goes, it’s as interesting as you make it out to be. The more crucial point is that you must enjoy what you’re doing to be able to pull through the 5 year+ program.

Your peers can be collegial and friendly, yes, but make no mistake: competition can get fierce in academia too.

Exiting is always an option, but once you’re a few years in, it can be hard to jump ship due to the sunk cost fallacy.

> Yes, you will likely travel, but research funding is more often than not very tight and restricted. As a result, travel conditions are not always ideal.

Tell me about it. I once had to travel to Japan for a conference. Problem was, I couldn't fly any carrier that wasn't American due to the conditions of the grant. What would have been a very long trip from the East Coast of the USA turned into multiple days and 4 flights (Philadelphia, Atlanta, LA, Seoul, Tokyo) just to satisfy the requirements. I was so exhausted by the time I got to the venue, I passed out for 14 hours and practically missed the first day of the conference.

I enjoyed grad school in physics. But I can't look you straight in the eye and tell you that it had a positive ROI in dollar terms. I married another grad student and between us we earned enough from our stipends to cover our modest living expenses and put away enough money for a down payment on a house.

On the other hand, delaying my career by X years probably came with an opportunity cost. That's more speculative. I could have skipped college and become a computer programmer, in 1982. How long would I have lasted at that? Would I have enjoyed it enough to stay motivated? Would I have been any good at it?

Would I have enjoyed working in finance? Another unknown. The one person I know who got a lucrative "superstar" career in NYC burned out of it and went back for a second degree in journalism.

But a widely known rule of thumb is: Never go to grad school unless either someone else is paying for it, or you are in a job where each degree level guarantees an automatic salary bump.

Can confirm most of the above :)

Specifically, let's talk about "cost." I did a biology PhD at a respected school in a low COL area. The annual stipend, when I graduated in 2019, was around $31k. It was enough to afford basic necessities (rent, food, car) with a few hundred dollars to spare. Obviously, not enough to start a family, but I wasn't subsisting on ramen noodles either. Plus, the work I did as a researcher is something I can put on my resume as actual work experience.

Stories like the above, about people going into massive debt for graduate degrees, send chills down my spine. I can't imagine the cost/benefit calculus that steers people onto that path.

My school's CS grad students [0] currently get a net stipend of $17,664/academic year ($19,188 stipend minus $1,524 in mandatory fees) if they are either a teaching or research assistant. In my college town, that's a tight budget but doable with a bit of effort

However, given the state of even the CS intern job market, there's an interesting possibility where grad students could pretty easily make more in the course of a 10-15 week summer internship than they make over the course of an entire academic year (not counting the value of the tuition remission).

[0]: https://www.cs.purdue.edu/graduate/financial_support/assista...

That's what I was paid in a high cost of living area. It taught me a lot about being broke and all the different types of leverage. E.g. if you can rent the 2bdrm in your name and then rent out a room you get more leverage. Too be honest I couldn't make the salary work and had to fund via credit cards and student loans as well.

I thought it was a scam that the university paid so low... that and their anti union activities.

If they did a cost/benefit calculus, they wouldn't be on that path (or that field, most likely). I have to remind myself that most people don't think like I do. There's a confirmation bias, where I'm surrounded by people who do - build mental models, analyzed them, then play what-if. My goal is to understand; for others, it's to experience, or to connect socially.

That's a rather dismissive attitude; it's perfectly possible to think analytically and prize understanding without specifically wanting to get a STEM PhD.

> You can generally exit at any time and immediately transition into lucrative careers in, for example, tech and finance.

This is what's known as a "dick move" in academia, and it's a good way to burn bridges. Generally, the academic who is putting down the money to pay your tuition and stipend is making an investment. In return for a free education and $30k per year, you do research, you study, and eventually you are expected to graduate. Good academics will make sure you don't fail at this. Then, when the academic goes up for tenure or promotion, the committee will be looking at among other things, the students who graduated under their tutelage. If you decide you'd rather not stick it out, that's potentially years of work they invested in you, gone.

All in, a graduate student can cost an academic upwards of $50-100k per year, and they are typically expected to foot that bill for at least 4 years, up to a max of 10. To get this money, the academic needs funding from grant agencies, whose funding rates can be as low as 20%. When submitting a grant proposal, academics generally do so with a particular student in mind who will do the research. If you leave in the middle of the grant, it likely spells failure (or at the least a huge setback) for the project, and possibly future grants, as it's too late to train up a brand new student to the point you were at.

Just something to think about before entering a Ph.D. program. Remember these communities are small and have a long memory. Best not start something unless you really are committed, and won't just pack up shop at the first hint of dollar signs from Wall Street or Silicon Valley.

I mostly agree with your sentiment, but would like to add that individual situations differ.

In practice, the PhD experience is a full-time job for a student, and the one that is hard to quit psychologically. Many students start it right out of undergrad. They have not seen the world outside of academia, and having worked for a couple of years on their degree, they feel obliged to finish. That's when some professors choose to abuse their power and push some students into ridiculous working conditions. I have seen quite a number of students at my school reduced to nervous wrecks, while forced to stay in their programs for sixth year and beyond.

That is, working on a PhD degree with a professor involves adult people who do it consentually for mutual benefit. If such relationship breaks, it is not fair to assume that it is the student who is a dick.

Agree that a PhD shouldn’t be taken on lightly, however I think students should also leave if it’s not a good fit too. Years doing a PhD that they don’t like at near minimum wage can be a horrible experience.

Re: Silicon Valley wages. I can’t fault someone for leaving a PhD for a 10x (or more for ML/AI) salary increase. There’s a huge opportunity cost to doing a PhD for those with the right skills, and the various funding agencies need to provide much better salaries otherwise the brain drain into private industry is just going to continue. Also compounded by the number of permanent positions available in academia too.

> You can generally exit at any time and immediately transition into lucrative careers in, for example, tech and finance.

I work in both and routinely interview PhDs in physics. I would not say that the transition is immediate nor easy, as the quote implies. Both tech and finance have specific knowledge, e.g., programming skills and understanding of the markets, and most PhD graduates have to pick those up on their own. Having a degree from one of the Ivies will facilitate the screening round, but past that point it hardly counts.

What you're seeing is top-school privilege here. Drive on I-40 for a few miles and the Physics PhD's aren't getting the same treatment, at all.

Everything is true even in a non-top school, except perhaps the "exit anytime". For that, I can easily believe Wall Street looks at top universities.

OP went to Duke, and no, people at (picking a nearby school) UNC can't generally move to finance, maybe data science at tech companies. And people at the also-nearby Wake Forest and NC State probably can't even do that.

Agree. Merely pointing out that most of the other points the commenter made is correct.

How do people feel about making this a regulatory requirement for your students receiving federal aid?

Track how many people graduate: - Go into a career in their field - Continue on to a different field of their own choosing - Never use their degree.

This information would align the goals of students with the goals of institutions a little bit better.

I know that it would be hard to track, but that kind of program feedback would have guided my choices more than graduation statistics.

I ran a trade school and that's exactly what we already have to do. Trade schools have to show 70%+ placement in the field to continue to be accredited and qualify for financial aid. Yet one political party likes to go on TV and talk about "predatory trade schools" when this is what goes on at credit-hour colleges. Trades also get attacked for having higher default rates, with no consideration of mediating variables like the fact that they serve more people from poor families.

one political party likes to go on TV and talk about "predatory trade schools"

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this sentiment from anyone, regardless of political affiliation. The only criticism I’ve ever heard about trade school is that the jobs can be tough on your body as you get into your 50’s and 60’s.

I think the dichotomy GP is referring to is between non-profit institutions and for-profit institutions. In general, Democrats are more critical of for-profits, and Republicans are more supportive of them.

I work in edtech and have heard arguments on both sides, and of course the extreme positions aren’t very thoughtful. One thing that would be helpful is more data on student outcomes, as suggested above.

Could you elaborate on the political activism behind this (the why and the who). I can not guess which the party (or sub-party) is and what their (honest or hypocritical) agenda is, but I am sincerely interested in your point of view. (Yeah, I know you might suffer knee-jerk downvotes for mentioning something about Dems or Reps)

CNN: Biden has canceled $1.5 billion in student debt for victims of for-profit school fraud


Those schools, like ITT Tech and the Court Reporting Institute, probably deserve to be shut down, but somehow it's only trade schools that receive this punishment.

Columbia Film, despite having a far worse career placement rate than ITT Tech, won't be accused of fraud. (At least not officially.)

Well yeah, but it's often because the trade schools make pretty strong claims about employability to prospective students, which courts found to constitute fraud. Top Ivies don't make these claims.

>Yet one political party likes to go on TV and talk about "predatory trade schools"

Not doubting that it happens, but who does this?

I'm gonna guess it's the libertarians or the communists

Really? I've legitimately never heard even them state such a thing.

Why Libertarians of all people? They are generally laissez-faire and against accreditation entirely.

i had a very interesting conversation with a ccny professor on the subway once where he explained that he was facing a bimodal distribution in grades. those who were full-time residential students and those who were working their way through with one foot in the real world.

i imagine that trade schools can face similar problems.

that said, there has been no shortage of scams in education. this is why i think financing for it is best run and regulated through the government.

How about just making college cheaper? That's the root cause of the grief.

I have a masters degree in Japanese studies. It helped me get my first commercial software job at Sybase, testing localized products for the Japanese market. I have not done anything related to Japan since then, but the critical thinking skills and understanding of economics stayed with me my whole career. Not to mention the discipline of defending ideas when other people try to beat the crap out of them.

Looking back, it was one of the more worthwhile things I've ever done, up there with learning Latin and reading Cicero.

I would hate to see a scheme of incentives against following your curiosity.

>” it was one of the more worthwhile things I've ever done, up there with learning Latin and reading Cicero.”

I think it’s important to remember that a large number of college students aren’t there to partake in the fruits of a liberal arts education. They are enrolled because they know good jobs require a college degree. Or it was expected for middle class students to attend college and not go directly into the workforce.

I don’t want to be a cynic, but college was much more of a life experience for myself and my peers than an enlightening process that taught me how to think critically.

Thinking critically is not an enlightening process, it is a thing that helps you make money. Being able to understand information, balance it appropriately, and then make decisions is a major shortage within most institutions.

As an example, I used to work in equity research. It was 100% possible to tell within ten minutes of talking to an analyst what their UG was in (and whether they did the CFA). If they studied accountancy or finance, it was like talking to a brick wall. They would list a series of data points, they wouldn't really know how to balance them, and they would never ask second-level questions like: how did the company gather this data? Why did they gather this data? Those kind of questions just didn't compute.

To give you another example, I later did a lot of work with retail investors. I got to see how people from different backgrounds made decisions. The number one worst investors were engineers, by a long shot. They had huge confidence in their own reasoning ability, (again) would overemphasize the data that was available, and ask no real relevant questions...they didn't even seem to know what questions were relevant (and btw, the best were usually lawyers...they usually had no information but they were able to think at that second-level...I also worked somewhere that had a former world heavyweight boxer as a client, and he was unbelievably switched on...again, literally no knowledge of finance but his reasoning ability was out of this world, he asked the right question every time).

It is very hard to say whether this can be taught to everyone, it is almost intangible...but this kind of general critical thinking/reasoning is vitally important. And, imo, the US produces far too few of these people (with some reason, liberal arts in the US has been hijacked, I studied econ history but I would have studied a science in the US if I grew up there...US business schools are top notch in this area though, I will grant that). If you look at countries, East Asia particularly, that (often for political reasons) don't teach these subjects, it has a macroeconomic impact: company creation, r&d, how companies function, etc. And to be clear, what I am saying here is that these skills are universal...it isn't about science vs social science, that is just a dichotomy that doesn't exist (both areas need more of the other).

That's certainly true of undergrad, but good graduate programs teach you to think. A lot of technical businesses are run by people with doctorates. I doubt that's simply a matter of technical knowledge, as specific technology becomes obsolete. It reflects the mental discipline necessary to get through a good program.

> How about just making college cheaper? That's the root cause of the grief.

Part of the reason it's so expensive is easy government-backed student loans have enabled that.

I'm fine with people studying film at Columbia, but at $250,000, not with government subsidized loans. Follow your dream, just don't make me pay for it.

Right. I'm sympathetic with the general thrust of the arguments here (and agree the incentives are misaligned), but intellectual curiosity isn't a good beast-of-burden.

I work as a programmer, but have an MFA in creative writing (poetry).

The messy human story is that I started undergrad in CS and was quickly worn down by pulling all-nighters on projects I wasn't invested in while trying to hold down a part-time night job. I realized it was over at the beginning of my second semester, in the first session of my required technical writing course.

Writing was one of very few sources of joy for me, and I knew I couldn't throw it under the steamroller, too. I'll leave a lot out--it took me a while after this to even realize I could major in writing--but I eventually came back to programming through creative projects and literary analysis in grad school.

I realize _studying art for several years to find yourself_ is a bourgeois luxury few get, but I was just a bright lower-middle-class kid from nowhere who'd never been intellectually engaged. Being engaged helps you build muscles you won't build warming a seat, but then you can use them for whatever you set your mind to.

Many of us took strange paths to get to where we are today. But finding yourself isn't just a bourgeois luxury. I would argue that any society that does not allow the cross-pollination of ideas that emerges from those journeys is poorer both spiritually and economically.

On problem is that many of the government interventions on "making college cheaper" had the reverse effect. Loans and grants made students price insensitive (and financial aid disguised the true price). Couple that with the fact that universities compete for students by spending money - nicer facilities, more programs, more administrators/support personnel.

It will be interesting to see how the experiments by Purdue and Texas pan out. Both have initiatives in "affordable" degrees, and both have enough of a brand to be attractive alternatives.

Why do you need to go into debt in order to learn and follow your curiosity?

That's basically what collegescorecard.ed.gov is. I suspect that the reason you didn't know about it is this sort of "tell people spinach is good for them" style intervention has limited efficacy.

I tried playing around with it and I didn't find the information that OP was posting. The closest I could find was the median salary per graduating degree / median amount of debt per degree

You're completely right, that's why I said basically. I suspect median salary is a decent way of answering what's behind most of their questions.

Edit: End up using their degree is also poorly defined, although the bureau of labor statistics measures something similar with underemployment.

Another thing students can do before taking on debt is to google career prospects. None of this is secret information, nobody needs to surprised if graduates in their chosen field are unemployable.

So many college reps don't suggest basic things like this, it's insane with how much money you're investing.

It's been a while since I faced this, but I'm guessing it's even worse now with uni's becoming less financial viable.

I just can't understand how someone can go through 4 years of intensive training, and not once do a google search on starting salaries in their major.

Heck, in my day, long before the intertoobs, a common topic among students was starting salaries for the various majors. It was well known, for example, that you couldn't get a job in AY. The AY students would do a double major - AY for fun, the other for money.

> I just can't understand how someone can go through 4 years of intensive training, and not once do a google search on starting salaries in their major.

Most college students are not good at gauging what a good salary is. They don't have family, and haven't dealt with expenses, and know little about retirement. When I was in grad school, $70K sounded like a lot to almost every student.

Google says the average starting salary for film majors is $22,656, not $70,000. That's $10.90 per hour.

What is AY short for

Astronomy, in the Caltech course catalog


No need to Google it, the BLS (for the US of course) has the data and projections right here...

Occupational Outlook Handbook - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/

or just eliminate the nondischargability clause for private student loans, which then means the spigot will close and the sensible maximums built into federal loans will put back pressure on soaring tuitions...

The problem with dischargeable student loans is it incentives people to follow the most rational choice. Accrue a spectacular amount of debt, get your degree, declare bankruptcy and discharge it. You can buy a house in 7 years when all those earnings you saved from not paying the debt adds up.

Loaning to people with nothing to lose is going to look like 15% interest rates.

so the banks stop making those loans and as a result tuition stops climbing.

as long as those loans are plentiful and uncapped, the upper bound on tuition remains so as well.

Dumb question (and actually a question, I’m not trying to JAQ here) - wouldn’t that make the dominant strategy for many to as quickly as possible declare bankruptcy upon graduation? Sure it would make it way harder to buy a house in the future… but many are resigned to renting forever anyways.

Also wouldn’t this make it very hard for the poor to ever get student loans?

If you have $200k of student debt, yeah, sure... but you probably wouldnt even get that much credit, and you'd have to pick a cheaper college. Going bankrupt with eg. $30k debt is a lot harder, because you can realistically pay that back in some sane amount of time.

Colleges will have to adapt though, because there are not that many rich people to sustain such high prices.

Colleges have already adapted - they've widened the net, looking for rich parents globally. They admit more foreign students, who pay full rate. That's particularly controversial for public schools because of taxpayer funding.

> wouldn’t that make the dominant strategy for many to as quickly as possible declare bankruptcy upon graduation

Why not do that now as soon as you get any type of loan?

You don't just "declare bankruptcy". And bankruptcy law can be changed as desired to prevent that. There's nothing special about student loan debt versus other types of debt.

In any event, requiring repayment based on income (like 7% of income up to a certain monthly amount) is almost certainly a better policy. The students and lenders both have the right incentives with those schemes.

That makes sense. The only thing I’ll say is:

> Why not do that now as soon as you get any type of loan?

With other assets your bank can repossess something - but there’s no real way to repossess an education.

A better compromise might be Income Share Agreements. Yes, Lambda School did do some shady stuff with selling ISAs. But that payment structure does incentivize the school to actually improve the earning prospects of their students. The concept shouldn't be thrown out because Lambda School sold their ISAs while continuing to tell students that the company has a financial stake in their success.

Some complain that this will make universities effectively become vocational schools and cut liberal arts and humanities programs. But I see that as a feature: putting more emphasis on education on the fields with higher labor demands.

I think the idea is that it would shift the incentives to take on less debt, make college cheaper, and encourage shorter payback times.

that's correct. it would be market forces pushing down on tuition.

that said, it also makes it harder for individuals to make big bets on themselves until the market corrects (assuming it even would)

If you're going to do that you might as well remove federal backing for student loans. Otherwise it turns into a handout program disguised as "loans", but it wrecks the students' credit in the process.

federal loans are limited in total lent and interest. federal loans are also much more forgiving at repayment which protects student credit.

It would be simpler to track loan repayment delinquencies. If a physics PhD is a pipeline to a well paying quant fund job, from a loan/career perspective that's probably a win. If the loans aren't getting paid, even if somebody does find work in their field, that's probably poor value.

This is a bit of a gray zone...

If you study math, and then go coding videogames.... technically, you're not in a math field anymore, but a math degree helps you a lot with programming.

On the other hand, if you flip burgers in McDonalds, no matter which degree you have, it's gone to waste.

Not if you figure out a cheaper way to flip burgers, which you can make a mint selling.

As it turns out there's also money to be made in making the burger flipping more expensive. https://www.wired.com/story/they-hacked-mcdonalds-ice-cream-...

I feel like students are already aware of this.

The question for me in a country that almost (90%) fully funds students going to college, is about whether we fund them as much as students going for degrees that will lead to jobs.

I sort of feel that the right way to pay for higher education should be to set up some sort of income-based payback system, where some percentage of the income a student makes over the income a high-school graduate makes would be given to the school.

The government's role would likely be to collect and distribute the income, but the actual financing would be set up between colleges and banks, both of which would have a vested interest in student success.

Not sure the government needs to be involved at all. Purdue has an income-based repayment program. It's not a loan - technically it's an income sharing agreement. A sophomore, junior, or senior receives an amount, say $10,000, and agrees to repay 4% of gross salary for 100 months after graduation.

Graduation, employment, and starting salary are factored into the US News ratings for law schools. Law schools responded by offering graduates who could not find jobs "fellowships" to move them into the "employed" category.

What you measure is what you will get.

> most of the instructors were struggling to establish a career themselves

One of my best friends is an architect in Europe. After years of struggling in the field, they went to be an instructor.

I dunno, I feel like it's a pyramid scheme, and it makes me sad.

Not sure. All the people I know that make a living off of art, musicians, sound designers, illustrators, film makers, fashion designers, etc. have one thing in common: a 10+ year grind of barely scraping by, working ridiculous hours and multiple jobs before getting in a somewhat comfortable spot.

There is just not much demand for certain jobs while it is a dream of many many people. As an average software engineer you'll still easily make an above median salary somewhere. But from what I've seen, as an artist, if you are not in the top few percent, not in terms of skill but perseverance, networking and self-marketing, you'll starve.

But I assume you knew that before you went to college, right? Not trying to be a jerk here, just trying to gauge what peoples’ expectations are.

I didn't really have a frame of reference for what was realistic or enough to get by with. 40k sounds like a lot when your high school job paid 150 a week. I thought 100k a year was rich. I didn't realize until the end of college music would only ever be a hobby for me unless I wanted to sacrifice everything else in my life

Peoples priorities change over time. And young people don't really understand how much the low status and grueling grind they are getting into sucks.

And then you are 28, already in debt, having wasted a decade without a decent career to fall back on.

Also, people tend to expect positive outcomes for themselves. "It is going to be hard..." yeah, sure gramps. But I'm different.

Sure you heard and read about it, but I don't think at that age you fully realize of just how hard it is and how long 10 years can be.

Personally, I didn't study anything related but was in music semi-professionally (more on the production side) for about 5 years until I decided to just keep it as a hobby. In my case, I realized that in the end, I'm just not passionate enough about it to keep accepting the trade-offs. The ones that made it are. Deeply so, and they don't regret anything. Nobody wishes they had picked another career path.

Overnight success takes 10 years... this is basically true for all jobs.

But for some jobs the road to it is more comfortable than others.

Architecture is a trip in that regard, at least in my experience. Gruelling hyper-competitive school*, high tuition, and terrible job prospects.

* Anecdotally, I’ve never seen a group of students more willing to undermine each other than the architecture students where I took university. Because of the “accept many then weed the lowest XX%” approach it seemed like they were always trying to tear each other down. I’m sure it’s not like that everywhere, but I saw this firsthand at one school and heard secondhand for another.

Architecture also has an additional risk factor in that it is somewhat market dependent. You might graduate when construction is hot and firms are hiring, or it might be a downturn and no one is hiring. It's a roll of the dice unfortunately.

>they were always trying to tear each other down

Or demolish each other, you could say.

I grew up wanting to be an architect, so I became a software engineer. Theres less red tape and more funding in the ether.

If you do UI, its essentially the abstraction of the architect profession.

Looking forward to an immersive vr web where I can start really building out digital built environments.

Of all fields, do these students _honestly_ expect that going to a 6 figure film program to will turn them into a successful filmmaker? Look around. All the people who have made it in Hollywood did so through via nepotism/cronyism or by busting their ass making their own movies and getting lucky.

You probably have more chance of success investing all your time and money into real projects and trying to market/distribute them than spending years in school and drowning in debt.

Easier said than done, but there's no way into that industry that isn't tough and an MFA degree isn't going to impress anyone.

Precisely. I really don't understand the arts education industrial complex.

How many high level artists were taught their art in a prestigious university setting? And those that did.. how many actually finished their degree versus those that dropped out early because they were already on their way to success and didn't need the stamp of approval?

Picking someone at random off the list


> He attended the University of Southern California, graduating in 1977 with a degree in film production.

> It was eight years before Beimler sold his first script, during which time he earned a living as a documentary cameraman – the same type of work that his father was involved in


The University of Spoiled Children may not be the best example for counterarguing nepotism/cronyism ;)

Right, first example I pick:

Will Ferrell, via wikipedia:

After graduating with a B.A. degree in sports information in 1990, he knew he did not want to do broadcasting.

He took up a job as a hotel valet where, on his second day, he tore a baggage rack off the top of a van by trying to drive it under a low beam. He also worked as a teller at Wells Fargo, but came up short $300 the first day and $280 the second; he was not stealing the money, but was just careless and error-prone.

In 1991, encouraged by his mother to pursue something he liked, Ferrell moved to Los Angeles. He successfully auditioned for the comedy group The Groundlings where he spent time developing his improvisation skills.

I think it's more likely that they aren't really comprehending the numbers. They look at the generations of film students before them who went to film school at a much cheaper price. In that case, those that didn't make a career out of it weren't trapped by the decision to go in the first place.

“ All the people who have made it in Hollywood did so through via nepotism/cronyism or by busting their ass making their own movies and getting lucky”

Having worked in the film industry, you’re more wrong than right here.

Based on your industry experience, which high-profile filmmakers owe their careers to posessing an MFA degree?

The New Hollywood crowd (to some degree, I guess - not my point); I’m pushing back against the cynicism of stating all successful people in the industry got there through nepotism and luck. Is there nepotism? Sure. Is there luck. Sure. But the same is true in business, politics, you name it. The vast majority of people who work in the industry just show up to work everyday and push it.

You're ignoring GP's "busting their ass" observation, which is probably key to this. No-one is going to hire someone to write or direct a movie based on their having a degree from some institution. It's either going to be because of their track record in the industry (because they busted their ass at the start of their career and had some lucky breaks) or because they have the right connections (so, nepotism). So I'd say GP's observation is right on the nose. Some successful filmmakers may have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a relevant subject, but their success in the industry has almost nothing to do with that qualification. Which raises the question of why anyone in their right mind would pay Columbia six figures to get such a degree, especially since their own faculty appear to be industry failures.

I fully agree that the MFA route is ridiculous (and exploitive).

I’m disagreeing with the premise that all successful people in the film industry only got their by luck, nepotism, cronyism, etc.

Everyone in a competitive field busts their ass. Do we say every businessmen, doctor, or software engineer is only successful in their career because they’re lucky/nepotistic/cronies?

Can you elaborate?

Yeah it may be better to try to make it on youtube or to participate in productions that go to youtube, to get into the field.

I think the problem is that in the American education system, anything needs to be taught at a university. There are trade schools, but there are no "real" trade school degrees that actually mean something.

The idea of academic research is valuable in pretty much any field. Do we want academics studying film as an art form? If you mediate about this question, I think you'll come to the conclusion that we (as society) do want that. Similarly, I have no doubt that these professors care first about their research, second maybe about teaching, and consider anything else as sideshow. Because that's how it is in any academic discipline (with whatever rigor you want to attribute to the scientific aspect of it).

However, in the US, people go to university to learn a skill. I'd ask: Why? I have a friend who became an extremely skilled TV producer, and he has never seen a university from the inside. He did a dual-path education, working for a public broadcaster and visiting a trade school for film at the same time. This dude is superb at what he does.

I see this pattern in many areas. University and practical skills are often distant. In some sense, they should be. Yes, the Humboldian ideal states that researchers should also teach. But they teach research. Today, to become an excellent researcher, you essentially have to forgo practical experience - there is so much pressure to be excellent in other areas.

The weirdest arena to see all this are business schools. These schools exist to educate practitioners. They make their money making MBAs, who generally have zero interest in academia.

However, talk to any academic professor (which is the high status position compared to "professors of practice") at a business school. What do they really care about? Their research, their academic peers, their PhDs. Everything else is a nuisance that pays the bills.

You mention the “Humboldian ideal,” do you have any insight into why that particular part of the German education system seems to have been picked up in North America, but the rest of the system (universities of applied science, technical universities, apprenticeships) wasn’t?

These programs are absolute cash cows for universities. One of the primary reasons that tuition has considerably outpaced inflation is government guaranteed loans. Two of the primary 'cost-disease' areas - healthcare and education - are some of the most regulated areas of our lives.


Imagine what might happen if the US government made all college education free.

I am all for the government potentially paying for degrees, but I do see how it would be helpful for taxpayer dollars to pay for hundreds of kids to get a Columbia MFA.

If the government is going to be paying for college, it's also going to limit the cost of degrees very harshly, making these kinds of programs barely profitable if at all.

If there still is profit after such a reform. Universities don't make a profit where I live.

The amazing thing to me now is that friends of my children are going to prestigious schools to major in video game design. This is so strange to me, as a person who has made his adult living making video games. Obviously when I started no academic would take it seriously and considering it as a career seemed like a fantasy.

I am sure it is fine to study whatever interests you. And learning to think critically about anything is useful. But in the arts the real teacher is experience and everything important to know is currently unknown. I think Friedkin never went to college. He just worked at a TV station and shot news, shot dramas, learned how a camera worked, etc. You can go to a class and learn about what he did, but what he did he didn't learn about in a class.

A lot of the most famous New Hollywood directors (Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese) did go to college, and among famous film directors they were more or less the first to have done so. In that context, Friedkin was an outlier. Since the 70s it would seem people went overboard trying to emulate the motions that led to the earlier successes they saw--as happens so often.

That said, it's probably no coincidence that all this happened after massive amounts of federal money started pouring into higher education starting in the 1950s, and the academization of arts and crafts (a term I use with great respect!) seems to have proceeded in lockstep in many fields after that.

I take your point but I also think actually Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese are the outliers to have studied film, but the schools they went to really make a big deal about it.

But to get more into the weirdness of the video game thing.. My kids went to a pretty fancy high school($). Many of the parents think it is key that their kids get a STEM education and go and be engineers/ programmers. Many of these parents work in entertainment. For example, really good friends who are very successful TV producers have their heart set on their daughter getting an engineering degree. I mean, that is great but I want to say to them very very few STEM graduates enjoy the success you have had. Could you teach your daughter how to be a TV producer?

Also, when we talk about these MFAs at regular universities, that is different than dedicated art schools like Cal Arts, RISDI.. They are a whole different kettle of fish and I think lots of people recruit there just like tech firms recruit from certain CS programs.

“I want to say to them very very few STEM graduates enjoy the success you have had. Could you teach your daughter how to be a TV producer?”

Perhaps, I’m reading you wrong- but isn’t that exactly their thinking? They understand the tenuousness (or luck or whatever) of their success and wish an “easier” path that’s less ‘winner take all’?

Anyone who works in film/media industry will advise their kids against it. Or to at least learn a trade that is completely unrelated first, then do media arts if your heart is set on it. Even Denzel Washington got his kid to do other things.

Im 31 and working in the field I’ve just been enjoying the first few months of professional stability. In my career. Yes it’s great that I can finally do that, but like someone else said I wouldn’t recommend the first 10 years to anyone.

The most applicable knowledge I ever got was from a seasoned vet seeing promise in me and taking me under their wing as a mentee. 2 people in 2 different careers helped shape my path and gave me a perspective of the world that my parents and schooling could not. I hope you reach out to your kids friends, and give them that mentorship(even the subtlest kind of mentorship, e.g. "hey if your interested in this, please reach out if you have any questions or seeking advice" can make such a large impact on confidence, grit, and determination.)

My sister is a tenure-track professor of media studies at one point.

She told me at one point that there are as many film schools in the US as working videographers in Hollywood.

Of course, most people the Hollywood product jobs (film, sound, lighting) literally inherit those positions.

So four people? Pretty good.

I've heard there's a big market for wedding videographers, however. But that's not what most people thinking.

There are a lot of corporate jobs in media/video too - those 10 seconds Facebook ads or cringe corporate trainings do shoot themselves.

Isn't this the typical experience for a field that's winner-take-all and have tons of people who are "passionate" about it and are willing to do anything to get in? Or is columbia especially bad here?

Columbia seems to be especially bad here. My close friend got an MFA in film from a fancy art school and the majority of her cohort (who didn't come from money) are working professionally and clearing 50k+

It's probably because they had lower standards (in a good way!) If they're making 50k they're probably working in the industry as staff, while most starry-eyed students who get into Columbia are aiming to become big name directors or writers.

I saw some sensible commentary that basically.. these types of degree programs have always existed for the bored children of the rich. It just seems some didn't get the memo and took on huge debts to join them. This could be said of a lot of elite, expensive, liberal art degree programs..

The scale of these degree programs and the irresponsibility of upscale universities marketing them to those that clearly cannot afford them is evil. Just absolutely ruining peoples lives.

An interesting idea I saw was the idea of making schools have skin in the game on these degree programs by requiring them to back some percent of the debt of these federal loans. I'd imagine admissions criteria, prices and career outcomes would adjust accordingly.

Also a question of when personal responsibility comes into play, I mean sure we can side with the 18 year olds making bad financial decisions taking on debt for a BA degree. But by the time you are 22.. 24...26 and going for these six-figure MA/PHD tracks .. cmon.

Lastly - the idea that the professors in these programs were basically failed in making themselves careers in the fields themselves is not entirely shocking. Even in many STEM universities/programs, teaching is not very career outcome focus.

My personal experience was that professors cared about research first, PHD track students second, and career track BS degree students.. somewhere a few more notches down.

We all coach/develop people into molds of ourselves, and professors have a hard time looking beyond turning students into more professors. Obviously this does not scale..

Part of the issue is that there is no mechanism to discourage universities from doing this. With the state underwriting student debt without limit, and universities effectively gatekeeping the path towards middle class employment, there is effectively no social or financial mechanism to push back on them.

Heck, there is a huge amount of social pressure pushing 18 year old kids to do this. They can’t possibly know better, but the adults encouraging such reckless behavior really should not be doing this.

Right this is why I like the idea (that will never happen) of having schools being on the hook to backstop some % of federal loans on their degrees. May quickly change how many kids they allow to get $300K in debt for useless degrees.

What about loan companies, who definitely issued the loans, being on the hook? It's a lot simpler and it follows the chain of moral responsibility.

Note: All it takes is changing the law back to the way it was before - debts forgiven in an ordinary bankruptcy.

Student loans would evaporate. Full time students have no income or collateral, since the degree and knowledge and skills cant be taken away and sold to recover losses.

All this would do is ensure that higher education is utterly inaccessible for anyone not rich enough to pay cash.

Student loans would evaporate.


Let education be paid for by grants and the student own income, most grants. Plus force the universities to make their tuition cost effective.

Edit: However many years ago, public universities charged a fairly nominal tuition and survived for many doing that (financed by their respective US states). These public universities today have massively expanded their costs, primarily based on capital spending and follow the model of private universities.

Here's an article in Fortune from 1957 arguing college is too cheap. Seems like it was really taken to heart: https://fortune.com/2013/05/05/colleges-are-too-cheap-fortun...

> massively expanded their costs

While I attended college, tuition costs almost doubled, but since haven't increased much per year. It wasn't massive increased spending, it was the state cutting off basically all finding. There's certainly fat to be cut, but the admin costs are mostly imposed on high.

Every student would with good cause declare bankruptcy immediately upon graduation, because they have debt and no assets and no job. I get where you're coming from, but this is not a workable solution.

As someone with a relative currently going through bankruptcy, I can assure you that every student would not go through this process. It is incredibly difficult, intensive, and horrible process that takes years. It is not pleasant and I think that the idea that it would be utilized in this way by students is totally coming from a place of ignorance of what modern bankruptcy actually entails.

I totally understand that this is an unpleasant and long process, but I think you in turn come from a place of ignorance about what it means to live the best years of your life under hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt. It eats at you, every time you spend money, for decades. It's soul-crushing.

I know people who would GLADLY throw away two years of their life in bankruptcy proceedings if it means they could be free of their crushing student debt.

It didn’t happen that way until many, many years after student loans started to be a thing.

Some enterprising law students figuring out they could get a loan to learn how to get out of the loan - and end up with a very valuable degree out of it that could not be repossessed - and by the time they needed good credit, it would be off their records.

It took awhile for word to get out, and then they banned getting out of student loans.

So blame the lawyer (students) I guess?

The issue is that then you gatekeep higher education to the wealthy. What's more likely? Harvard reducing tuition because underprivileged kids aren't able to attend and can't get loans. Or Harvard keeping the same tuition and only admitting the wealthy people that are able to pay it (of which there are plenty).

Harvard reducing tuition because underprivileged kids aren't able to attend and can't get loans.

Harvard in particular is so wealthy it always charges tuition based on ability to pay. The poor who go to Harvard pay nothing. But, of course, the poor seldom go to Harvard because they aren't admitted.

Just saying. There are mid-range school where, all else being equal, your scenario might be true. But those school depend on those same lower income students and, well, I'd be in favor of them buckling and charging less.

Driving education policy based off anything Harvard is doing is a mistake. Pay attention to state schools only, that’s what policy should be tailored for.

Ivys are basically majority privileged kids already anyway. There was a stat that 1% of Americans go to Private High School but 40% of Ivy admittance is from Private High Schools. Add to that: the % who go to elite selective public HS in systems like NY, the large number of full-freight paying foreign students who represent their local elite and legacy admissions..

If underprivileged kids represent anything above about 5% at Ivy's I would be shocked. One stat from Boston Globe was that only 3% of Harvard comes from the US bottom 20% economically.

The Ivys do more to perpetuate the existing power dynamic than they do to raise anyone up. They are far too small and far too nepotistic to do otherwise.

If you want to raise the middle/bottom up, you need to look at the large state university systems which are orders of magnitude larger.

Good thing there is a whole market of ranging degrees of education quality and price distributed a cross the US...

Also there are lots and lots of programs state and private to fund low income higher Ed. It is not a dichotomy.

>> Student loans would evaporate.

Good. When I got my degree, almost nobody had student loans. The kids from lower middle income and below tried for scholarships, Pell grants, and even had jobs that slowed them down due to fewer hours available for school. Tuition was a tiny fraction of what it is today. Oh, and a couple years taking transferable courses at community college was a thing too.

If you want to help the poor, then do that but dont corrupt the system the way it has been the last 25 years. Now everyone is screwed.

Not sure I understand this sentiment.

I went to a good university, majored in history, took out 100k in debt totally for said degree, and have been working as a programmer ever since.

Why does my outcome feel so rare? I think 100k was a fair enough price. (25k per year including food and a room).

If you got the same degree for 10k (what it used to cost inflation adjusted), why would that not be better for everyone?

Every professor or co-professor I know gets paid peanuts, gets poor support, and gets waaaay too many students. These folks are at Yale, Princeton, etc. It’s a scam and the money disappears into the machine with little accountability and a ton of hand waving.

How would it be possible for 4 years of education to cost just $10,000? The cost of my food for 4 years is higher than that alone.

My tuition was around $15,000 per year. You are more than welcome to investigate where that disappears to (presumably not all to staff salary), but requiring me to pay $100,000 upfront would have killed my career before it ever started-- unless of course you convince employers that a degree isn't needed.

It used to be possible (albeit required significant work, but it was not 20 hrs a day of work + school - more like 6-8) to literally work your way through a 4 year degree while working a minimum wage job - including using that job to rent a room or an apartment somewhere, or live in a dorm.

$15k for tuition alone (not counting books/materials/food, room and board) obviously makes that impossible.

It isn’t going into teaching staff. It goes into administrators salaries, bloated programs/overhead in sports, recruiting program costs, fees for housing, fees for food, and ever larger endowments that somehow never trickle down - among other things.

For what is being taught 99% of the time, the economies of scale make $2500/yr for tuition perfectly doable in a typical undergrad environment - if anyone wanted to. And it is done all the time in Europe, for instance.

If you’re taking out a loan to cover all your living costs + tuition than obviously that is going to be more expensive than tuition alone. In Europe where school tuition is covered, there are also separate programs to cover student living costs - which are also not super high generally. My ex-gf got her physics degree from a well known university in Spain, and they paid her $500 per month or week (forget) to cover living costs at the time I believe which was more than enough.

She wasn’t eating imported caviar, but students in general have always been able to get by (and have fun/a social life) without big expenses.

Because inflation adjusted it used to be a few grand a year. It’s not like college is 10x better than it was in the 1960s or 1970s.

What if we put a time limit on it? Say that student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy only 10 years after graduation?

Then few students would want to stay poor for ten years just to get rid of loans. But lenders would also have incentive to not back very poor career paths.

Then private loan terms would change to a max of 10 years, thereby increasing the monthly costs due to accelerated payback.

> All this would do is ensure that higher education is utterly inaccessible for anyone not rich enough to pay cash.

Which would cause significant negative price pressure on that education.

It might even make it affordable (cash wise) for many people like it used to be. Wouldn’t that be scary?

Which would put obscene pressure on the legislatures to re-fund the education systems they’ve been purposefully defunding for a while. Arguably this is good.

I wouldn't want my alma mater funded entirely by the state. They went on a real estate and related spending binge while I was in school. Some of my friends worked at the alumnus center, spending all their hours calling up alumni begging for donations.

Meanwhile, really useful classes that students wanted and professors wanted to teach didn't exist, because the school wouldn't fund the extra class time.

In short, out of all the school's top priorities, the students were nowhere to be found. Change that, and maybe I'll change my mind too.

I doubt the state would fund the university without oversight and forcing them to show 'value for money'.

> What about loan companies, who definitely issued the loans, being on the hook?

These days almost all student loans (90+% of the dollar amount) are being issued by the feds.

>> What about loan companies, who definitely issued the loans, being on the hook?

> These days almost all student loans (90+% of the dollar amount) are being issued by the feds.

Well that makes it easy. Forgive those loans and then stop issuing them. Force the universities to come up with reasonable programs with reasonable tuition. Universities have gone from institutions of learning to scams exploiting students and low-paid lecturers alike.

> forgive those loans

And what about the people who have already paid off their federally backed loans via their own hard work? They seem to get the short end of the stick in this case.

> Forgive those loans and then stop issuing them

Yes! I would not want to see these loans forgiven if they didn't also stop them at the same time.

Assuming the political impetus is there to stop issuing them. I'm sure there's the will to forgive those loans, though, which will probably just end up being a blank check from the feds to universities.

> I'm sure there's the will to forgive those loans, though

There's pretty clearly not, not even in the dominant wing of the Democratic Party, despite people—mostly in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party—expending a lot of effort to try to build it. It's possible there might be in the future, even perhaps the near future, though having a plan to prevent the problem from recurring and tying it in with the forgiveness makes that a lot more likely.

Student loan forgiveness is a mainstream topic. Biden is supporting cancelling $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person. On the other hand eliminating student loans, or even a segment of student loans (as GGP suggested) is not something you will see proposed outside of Reason Magazine or a Ron Paul newsletter. Any possible reform you could make will inevitably reduce the amount of income taken in by academia, a notoriously politically active bunch. So I foresee only indefinite band-aid solutions going forward.

I'd be skeptical of that stat, almost all of my loans 10 years ago were private ( although I'm sure there is a federal backstop )

This change occurred in 2010:

> Prior to 2010, Federal loans included 1) direct loans originated and funded directly by the United States Department of Education and 2) loans originated and funded by private investors and guaranteed by the federal government. Guaranteed loans were eliminated in 2010 through the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act and replaced with direct loans because of a belief that guaranteed loans benefited private student loan companies at taxpayers expense, but did not reduce costs for students.


> Most student loans — about 92%, according to a June 2020 report by MeasureOne, an academic data firm — are owned by the U.S. Department of Education.


The MeasureOne link: https://www.measureone.com/resources

This. Its their job to calculate risk, and bet on it. Let them and let em set the interest rate accordingly. This would also solve the ever inflating tuition costs and cause schools to be competitive. In general it would curb academic tomfoolery.

Weird what happens when the government assumes liability. Everyone wants to blame the banks for '08, and they have some fault but it was all enabled by federal encouragement and liability. At least in the private sector the companies live and die by their decisions and the banks were held accountable /s.

BestBuy isn't on the hook if I buy $20k of stuff on my credit card and can't pay it back. The bank that gave me the card is on the hook.

We don't blame BestBuy for having prices that are too high, or not educating shoppers that their quantum dot TV's will be obsolete and valueless in a few years.

The main problem is that not only is the government subsidizing the loan, but they're never dischargeable in bankruptcy.

The banks are the ones that truly have no skin in the game. Universities at least need to be able to point to graduation rates and successful graduates of their programs, the quality of their internship opportunities and career services department. Not that they're worth $250k/student, but the universities at least have some vague reputational stake in this that will impact their ability to recruit more students. For a little while when someone google's the quality of Columbia's program they may see these posts. The more these issues come out, the bigger the impact on schools.

Banks on the other hand? They won't lose money, business, reputation, prospective employees... Nothing.

There's programming bootcamps that basically take a fraction of the graduate's income for a few years instead of charging tuition. But since they optimize for quick employability, and not necessarily a more depth/breadth oriented curriculum as is common in traditional higher education, they have relatively superficial curriculums and thus they don't have the greatest of reputations among companies looking for brainpower rather than fad cookie cutters. Incentives are hard.

I worked for a company that hired a few from these. We weren't expecting them to know everything, but to have the drive, determination and perhaps a bit of natural skill in understanding programming.

They were easily the best junior developers we had hired, and all have done quite well in their careers.

Perhaps we just got lucky?

I've worked with one, hired right before I joined, I became lead 6 months later. He would ask for help and then when I gave him things to do or lookup he would just fail, and would subtly try and get others to do it for him. Total mooch. Multiple meetings and attempts about it. Couldn't fire him. Had him on a plan immediately after being lead. It was so bad at one point I had his desk moved to be next to mine and I had to tell him he can talk to me but stop interrupting other seniors. Eventually that became work in whatever you want so long as you don't need anyone. He sat there for 3 months and did nothing before he was finally payed off. Parent company transfered him to his own department essentially and then "restructured" it.

He had a mech engineer background, two years out of engineering school went to code camp.

Ceo was an idiot and payed him 90k starting which was a lot more than one of the other seniors who was an self taught English grad. He worked his ass of an was performing as a senior. Ceo stiffed him on the raise, he didn't know any better until he found out code campers salary and was gone in two weeks.

My director left shortly after and so did I. They haven't kept a lead for more than 6 months since, that was 3 years ago... Sorry I digress.

There's something to be said for the drive of someone who has had to strive to get where they are versus those who take it for granted.

Bear Stearns had a hiring mantra of not liking MBAs and instead hiring PSDs: "Poor, smart and had a deep desire to be rich" :-)

How did that work out for them?

We’ve had some outstanding juniors hired from bootcamps, self motivation is powerful.

How about students pay for college with a state-brokered income share agreement? As in, for every year of university, a student pledges to pay that university .25% of their annual income, for life. The government could easily facilitate this via the income tax process. This would eliminate the issue of student loan debt, and finally put the incentives of our universities in line with the students they're supposed to serve. I imagine we'd see a lot fewer frivolous degrees once it was in the universities interest to actually equip their students for financial success. The way things are, I doubt these institutions care. They get paid either way!

How many kids are currently induced into that situation per year?


I can think of a dozen people who got schnookered into 3+2 business/mba programs. They graduated with $150k in the hole (this was in 2000) and ended up in retail banking or working for the government in some civil service job that required 15 accounting credits.

The classic example of this phenomenon is art majors, who are basically unemployable in a “job” outside of teaching, and those job openings are usually cyclical.

Many means many things. It could be a few hundred annually and someone might still call that "many."

I'm dubious that many art majors wind up $300k in debt. Undergrad doesn't cost that much.

If your parents are wealthy enough to not qualify for need based aid, but not enough to be rich, your $50k tuition + $30k NYC living situation adds up quick.

Ok, so we've got $320k debt for NYU grads. They're at around 6.5k students graduating each year. I don't know what portion have "useless" majors paid entirely by debt. Let's say half. That's probably one of the worst offenders, but let's imagine there are around 10 more schools in a similar situation. Ok, 30k students out of around 4 million students graduating college each year in the US ... that's a tad less than 1%.

More than I thought, and enough to call "many", but perhaps still an acceptable level.

Tie the ability for a student to take out a loan to go to a particular school to the ability for its graduated students to pay back said loans. Put simply, incoming Colombia film students can only borrow money Colombia film graduates have paid back.

Schools that have always graduated successful people with valuable degrees will prosper, and schools which prey upon idealistic young people will quickly find themselves only able to entertain rich dumb kids.

It's an indirect solution which will fix future and past wrongs, without giving any University the right to sue. It doesn't impose any unreasonable burden on institutions, other than the most reasonable one, that they're giving young people educations that actually have value.

One key thing to recognize is that terminal masters programs like this are different from the bachelor's degrees and the PhD programs. They are generally smaller, and are very much run as cash cows for the departments.

Moreover, they will accept almost anyone regardless of how well they are prepared. It's not often a faculty decision, as it would be for a PhD.

> They can’t possibly know better.

This seems to be kicking the can down the road a little. College applicants and students absolutely should bear some responsibility in making sure that their programs, degrees, and desired careers are actually feasible and practical in the long-term. Where you're spot-on, though, is that they don't bear all the responsibility.

The big problem, it seems, is that there's no safety-valve for those students who didn't (whether through their own fault or not) get the memo about programs being worthless. In those cases, making other stakeholders (schools, the state) have some skin in the game seems like it'd make the problem solve itself.

Like you said, if the students are the only ones incentivized to have universities give a good education, we're going to have a bad time.

> They can’t possibly know better

C'mon. Google "starting salaries for [my major]"

Let's look at the top result for google for "film and media studies major salary".

- Job Growth (8% writers & authors, 12% producers and directors, 5% advertising and promotions managers)

- Average Salary ($73k writers and authors, 89k producers, 133k advertising and promotion managers)

Sounds pretty good right? the part that's missing is that the placement rate of "Film and Media majors" into these fields.

That doesn't sound like starting salaries. Who starts as an advertising and promotion manager?

The average starting salary for a film and media studies is $22,656 per year. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27828557

Now, given 2087 working hours in a year, and $15/hr, that yields an annual pay of $31,305. 50% MORE than a FAM studies college graduate.

All with a few seconds of effort, with a device in everyone's pocket.

Right, the more important stat is if/what the school publishes for - % employed at graduation and average salary. My school had this online in the 90s, though I suspect many hide this now.

Right, if STEM kids could figure this out in the late 90s on dial-up and pay by the minute internet, then 2020s kids with iPhones in their pocket can check this in seconds in between classes and TikToks.

You're discounting the impact of aggressive marketing for these programs in the 2020s vs. virtually zero back in the 1990s.

As well as there being less non degree career options that pay decently, causing many young folks to feel "a degree" is only option.

Part of the issue is that there is no mechanism to discourage universities from doing this.

It's very specifically the loan companies that do this and the universities just sell their stuff. But stopping would be good, yes.

Best disincentive: Debt forgiveness. Forgive those "unforgivable" and people will think twice about ever doing this again.

The vast majority of student loans are originated and backed by the federal government, for most cases there is no "loan company". It's the federal government that these students owe the money to.

Not at these ultra expensive universities. Federal loans cap at high but vaguely reasonable annual limits, to get 200+k of debt from a 4 year degree takes massive loans from private companies. https://lendedu.com/blog/federal-student-loan-limits/

However, the federal limit is still sky high $31,000 for dependent undergraduate students. A loan cap of say 20k/year would dramatically change what goes on at these private collages.

Grad PLUS loans can be as much as tuition.

> The loan limits for Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS Loans also differ from Stafford Loans. There is no annual limit as a set dollar amount, but students or parents may not borrow more than the total cost of attendance, less any other financial aid received.

These aren’t available to undergraduates. Such programs can really screw people over financially, but more often it’s a question of lost earnings and interest on initial loans rather than graduate tuition on it’s own.

Most of these horror stories you hear about students being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt come from people who have graduate degrees in, for example, film from Columbia University.

Yes, but compound interest from deferred payments make undergrad prices more important than a 2 years masters alone.

Let’s assume 40k / year at say 5% interest compounded annually. That’s ~82k for a 2 years masters which is serious money. But tack on a 4 year undergrad at 40k/year with that same 5% interest and your up to ~272k all said which means that 4 year undergrad cost ~190k. Add a gap year and things look even worse.

Not that 40k and 5% are norms, but it shows how costly deferring payments is independent of graduate tuition rates.

Well, that's why these ultra-expensive universities have very generous financial aid packages for their undergraduate programmes (although presumably a large chunk of this aid also comes from the feds). For example, let's look at Columbia's tuition by family income:

$0-30k pays on average $10,245

$30k-48k, $3,409

$48k-75k, $6,864

$75k-110k, $14,421

$110k+, $41,002


This falls comfortably below a cap of $31k, or even $20k for students with family income below $110k. But these financial aid packages are for their undergraduates; clearly they are not so generous with their graduate students, presumably because there's no cap to how much those students can borrow. Other Ivy League universities are very similar in this respect.

It seems clear from the WSJ these massive debts are just the balance that comes from graduate degrees:

> Undergraduate students for years have faced ballooning loan balances. But now it is graduate students who are accruing the most onerous debt loads. Unlike undergraduate loans, the federal Grad Plus loan program has no fixed limit on how much grad students can borrow—money that can be used for tuition, fees and living expenses.

> It has become the fastest-growing federal student loan program and charged interest rates as high as 7.9% in recent years.

> The no-limit loans make master’s degrees a gold mine for universities, which have expanded graduate-school offerings since Congress created Grad Plus in 2005. Graduate students are for the first time on track to have borrowed as much as undergraduates in the 2020-21 academic year, federal loan data show.

> “There’s always those 2 a.m. panic attacks where you’re thinking, ‘How the hell am I ever going to pay this off?’ ” said 29-year-old Zack Morrison, of New Jersey, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in film from Columbia in 2018 and praised the quality of the program. His graduate school loan balance now stands at nearly $300,000, including accrued interest. He has been earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year from work as a Hollywood assistant and such side gigs as commercial video production and photography.

> ...

> “As a poor kid and a high-school dropout, there was an attraction to getting an Ivy League master’s degree,” said Mr. Clement, 41. He graduated in 2020 from Columbia, borrowing more than $360,000 in federal loans for the degree. He is casting for an independent film, he said. To pay the bills, he teaches film at a community college and runs an antique shop.

The infographic here is making it clear that the debt for Patrick Clement is just from Columbia; from his website, it appears he went to the University of Kansas for his Bachelors.


>"to get 200+k of debt from a 4 year degree takes massive loans from private companies"

So we are enabling private investment to profit from bad loans again? Have we learned nothing in 2008?

> Part of the issue is that there is no mechanism to discourage universities from doing this

certainly not a root cause, but am enabling cause is whem student debt changed to not be dischargeable in bankruptcy. there is literally no longer a way to get rid of it.

seems like an obvious false dichotomy. perhaps we look at how much tuition "should" cost (god knows what that means) and make some percentage dischargeable. ~50%?

... and make the issuing university be on the hook for the other 50% that defaults

Allowing easy bankruptcy would clean it up very fast. That’s how it was prior to 2005.

I think we need to acknowledge the utter deluge of marketing material that liberal arts programs and the loan industry that backs them foist on students, pre-college teachers, and parents. It doesn't help that the odds of the teachers from K-12th grade having a liberal arts degree are pretty good as well.

We can try to say that students should educate themselves about the odds, but that's kinda like telling someone sitting in a McDonalds that they should get something healthy.

Even students going on to MA/PhD programs have a good chunk of sunk cost fallacy goading them on. No one entered these degrees without honestly wanting to make a go of it, but when they pop out the other end with 120k in debt, no idea how to pay it and a ~10% job placement rate - deferring for another 4 years and getting more credentials sounds pretty appealing.

> I saw some sensible commentary that basically.. these types of degree programs have always existed for the bored children of the rich. It just seems some didn't get the memo and took on huge debts to join them. This could be said of a lot of elite, expensive, liberal art degree programs

There's a pretty good book that explores that phenomenon and what happens when people don't "get the memo": Paying For The Party: How College Maintains Inequality, by Elizabeth A. Armstrong (https://www.amazon.com/Paying-Party-College-Maintains-Inequa...).

That might be true of liberal arts, but I don't know about film school. USC's was the first American film school and opened in the 1920s. NYU, Columbia, and Cal Arts followed in the 60s. Everything else came later than that. These aren't prestigious past times for the nobility. They're relatively new things. Film degrees don't have much prestige associated with them any way. Schools can certainly try to argue they make a difference, but the vast majority of successful filmmakers don't have film degrees. It's not like you go apply to direct a film and the studio gives a crap about your education. It's completely driven by portfolio and nepotism, and the only possible advantage a school can offer is helping you make that first film to build the portfolio, but if they don't even do that like this guy said, and you have to self-fund your film on top of paying for tuition, well, it's hard to see what value they can even claim to offer.

I don't want to dismiss this guy's tweet thread or anything. He definitely seems to be saying Columbia tried to market the program as giving you a better chance, but students have to know becoming any kind of artist at all, filmmaker included, is purely a lottery. There's at most a few hundred people in the world at a time making any real money doing it. Schools can't just pretend that isn't the case.

For what it's worth, I think it's a disastrous career choice either way, unless you're relying on nepotism and your parents were famous actors or directors. I had a girlfriend 20 years ago going through Rutgers' MFA program, and she realized some of her dream for a little while, being a working producer for a cartoon studio and even moving to LA for a few years, but burned out eventually from every place she ever worked going out of business and moved back to Jersey and opened a bakery. My best friend from college actually did not study film, but did succeed in becoming a Hollywood writer and even won an Emmy a few years ago. It didn't make any difference. He's even poorer and in more debt than my ex who owns a bakery now. Even "success" in the art world doesn't mean you won't be begging for table scraps for the rest of your life. Hundreds of people work on any given project, but even if a project is wildly successful, wins a ton of awards, and makes a billion dollars, maybe five actors, the director, and possibly the head writer if that isn't also the director, actually see any of that money. The rest goes to the studio.

The way I've viewed it for a long time is that they're a spin of the roulette wheel for wealthy young adults. You expect to lose, but there's a slim chance you'll win big, and even if you don't, you've not lost that much, relatively speaking, and may be able to keep playing. The problem emerges when the player is unwittingly risking more than they can afford to lose.

That’s exactly right. I work in film and TV, and there are great, high-paid jobs in those fields… if you win the equivalent of a professional lottery. Unfortunately these MFA programs are (of course) not transparent about that. And, unfortunately, the people who can pay to play tend to already be pretty well off.

Totally agree.

To a degree, many of these 'prestige' degrees amount to a kind of version of "become the next president of the USA and if you don't, you can become a volunteer part-time mayor of a small town"

If they sold it like this, people would see the odds in this lie. Very few people in the US will become president of the USA. And while filmmakers are somewhat more abundant, it cannot accommodate as many as there are enthusiastic pupils, so they end up doing other things like massage therapist when thigs don't work out but they now have a mountain of debt.

There are many more degrees like that. Ironically, when there is some slack in demand for something like EEs, suddenly people abandon that track en-masse. But these liberal arts degrees don't seem to suffer the same attrition they actually deserve.

The scale of these degree programs and the irresponsibility of upscale universities marketing them to those that clearly cannot afford them is evil. Just absolutely ruining peoples lives.

Indeed. The only question is, do you crush their dream now or later? Is more evil to crush their dream now without debt or later with debt?

And the kids? What are the odd they are know and would prefer a fun youth to an ordinary career? If we're talking a world where global warming looks like doom?

Global warming is a real thing but there are no plausible scenarios where it will affect quality of life of current 20 year olds in US in a meaningful way in their lifetime. If Miami get flooded they can just move a bit inland. With that debt they won’t own waterfront property anyway.

And to your question - much better to crush dreams earlier like they do it in Europe.

I disagree. I live in the western U.S. and climate change is already a real and present part of life here. Wildfires are a more prevalent threat due to many factors, and climate change is a leading driver. Consistent drought is challenging water rights and allocation - most notably with with Colorado River Compact. More common heat waves threaten agriculture stability in the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Great Plains. These are all things that are happening now, and are projected to get worse.

On a more country wide scale, we can expect foreign migration to the U.S. to increase. Sure, some folks can migrate inwards from the coastal U.S., but what will people in coastal El Salvador or Guatemala do?

None of that is going to meaningfully impact a typically mobile, non-property owning, ‘wanders to find a job’ 20 something. If anything it opens up new opportunities for them in the chaos.

What percentage of the population of 20 somethings fall into the category of "mobile, non-property owning, wanders to find a job"? 1-5%? And you don't think that peripatetic workers will have to deal with the political and societal implications of climate change? What will the impacts be when California and Arizona decide between allocating water for urban areas or agriculture? What happens when the Columbia Plateau is too hot for sustained crop yields? Those workers can't just travel somewhere entirely removed from those realities.

Even ignoring the absurd reduction to a small proportion of 20 somethings, the original comment was about 20 somethings in general, not just a hypothetocal mobile workforce. The majority of 20 somethings will not be able to load up their $40k sprinter van and head for greener pastures.

We’re in a thread talking about college students, of which almost all of which are moving to go to these schools. It’s that percentage. And a whole lot more than 5% of American 20 somethings move for jobs or school away from home during this time.

It’s literally the most flexible and already mobile portion of the population, and the segment most trying to establish itself (while having some useful skills). They are the ones who are most capable and who will benefit the most from disruption.

It’s the folks too young to have useful (job) skills or capital, or who are already established in a place, or who are physically frail/getting more so, that will be the most put out and hurt by these changes.

And the human race will survive, as terrible as it will be. Compared to the world wars, the expected impacts are likely to be relatively mild - albeit more widely spread.

Global warming is a real thing but there are no plausible scenarios where it will affect quality of life of current 20 year olds in US in a meaningful way in their lifetime.

It's extremely hard to determine cause but 100s of people just died in the heatwave in Oregon, Washington and Canada. Here in California, unbearalbe heat and noxious smoke seem like they'll be with us a third of the years (it's started now where I am and went to October last year). Doyle, Ca was destroyed a couple days ago. It's a pretty small place I hear and towns destroyed last year were also are small.

All this may be coincidence but it's coincidence that makes people think (well, the jet stream slowing is what creates extreme heat and cold aside from average temperature increase, so well, telling people "no problem isn't credible to me, an oldster even less likely to see further futures).

These are all things impacting property owners (aka not 20 somethings with massive college debt), folks in rural areas (also unlikely to be 20 somethings with massive college debt), and old people (same).

It’s not that these things aren’t happening, it’s just unlikely to concretely cause problems for this demographic.

> will affect quality of life of current 20 year olds in US in a meaningful way in their lifetime. If Miami get flooded they can just move a bit inland

If Miami get flooded it won't be the only place flooded, the housing crisis alone will bankrupt the country.

Now, without doubt. If you allow them to take on debt then you lessen the need for industry to create onboarding positions.

> I saw some sensible commentary that basically.. these types of degree programs have always existed for the bored children of the rich. It just seems some didn't get the memo and took on huge debts to join them. This could be said of a lot of elite, expensive, liberal art degree programs..

And the world would be no worse off if only rich children with trust funds got degrees in film, Russian literature, or art history. And if the Government stopped propping up college loan programs, tuitions for practical degrees would drop like a rock.

Requiring the universities the back some, or all, of student debt would get rid of a lot of wasteful programs, majors, and hopefully, professors. My university, large non-elite state school, was overloaded with tenured professors who taught courses for majors that would not lead to most of their graduates.

> The scale of these degree programs and the irresponsibility of upscale universities marketing them to those that clearly cannot afford them is evil. Just absolutely ruining peoples lives.

50% agree, and I'm not in the US (UK) so our experience (and reality) may differ.

But are 'upscale [up-market?] universities marketing', or are governments and people with votes deciding that everyone needs a university education (because people with degrees have higher income and correlation is synonymous with causation) and when 'everyone' inherently isn't interested in.. 'traditional' subjects, we end up with this? Vocational degrees not even leading to the vocation.

I think theres a fallacy that US education is just universally debut induced indentured servitude level expensive.

Fancy schools, and popular out of state universities are expensive. So is paying for room&board in NYC & Boston because you "had to go to school there". You do not need to go to somewhere costing $75k/year and pay full sticker price.

There are plenty of community colleges, in-state (dorm or commute), etc that you can match your aptitude, parental savings and future income prospects towards.

My parents did well enough that I wasn't going to get any need based money, and I was like top 5% of my HS class.. but I didn't stretch and apply to Ivys, MITs, etc. My wife came from a similar background and was actually #1 in her class but likewise took a similar path.

I applied to ~5 good state unis & competitive but not ultra selective engineering institutes, where I either was going to get favorable in-state tuition or merit based scholarship money to take me well below sticker price.

I always worked during high school so I had an idea of income & savings. I also had a concept of how much my loans were going to cost me as I started paying interest payments after my first year, and saw how it stacked up over time.

My dad went to a technical school for an associates degree first because he thought he'd end up being drafted so why bother, and then ended up living at home and working while getting his bachelors.

Some of this is education as high end brand consumerism.

My personal experience was that professors cared about research first, PHD track students second, and career track BS degree students.. somewhere a few more notches down

I know little about film school, but in many research-based departments, there's a very practical motive for this. PhD track students work in your lab, and you are listed as an author on their papers. Basically, they help accomplish the first goal.

> mean sure we can side with the 18 year olds making bad financial decisions taking on debt for a BA degree. But by the time you are 22.. 24...26 and going for these six-figure MA/PHD tracks .. cmon.

Person doesn’t find meaningful employment after step 1, it is natural to assume (and universities push too) that a higher degree is the differentiator.

Sure but we also can't discount that some just enjoy being in school perpetually.

I had a dorm roommate who did go on to do very well in the end, but spent another 8 years getting a PHD.. anyway I'll always remember a couple years into my career we were having drinks and he said to me something to the effect of liking continuing his education due to the the lack of responsibility.

I have a neighbor who is 10+ years into getting a PHD in liberal arts. He gets a lot of feelings of prestige from being associated with very well regarded universities and he has no career intention when he finishes due to being funded.

However I think of all the BA/MA students for the classes he is the lecturer for and what debt they have taken on to go on their own fruitless journey. They aren't all funded the same ..

There just shouldn't be loans for these degrees. At all.

If student loans were discharchable in bankruptcy there likely wouldn’t.

"I mean sure we can side with the 18 year olds making bad financial decisions taking on debt for a BA degree"

Lets call it what it is: institutionalised debt bondage. Non dischargeable debt is a mind-boggling violation of liberty.

It's creating a class of serfs that will always owe their lord.

The solution I’d prefer is to remove federal student aid eligibility from all study programs that don’t result in sufficiently increased earnings for their graduates.

There’s lots of arguments to be made about how having lots of history/English/whatever graduates benefits society in some intangible way, and they might have a lot of merit to them. But that’s not the purpose of federal student aid. The purpose is to improve social mobility. It’s not difficult at all to measure which programs achieve that goal, which don’t, and which are in fact harmful to social mobility.

Limit loans to median first-year earnings of a graduate of the program. Better universities can charge more, no one can go too far into debt.

The best college teachers are he really grad students / postdocs with social skills / the personality for teaching. They are still fresh on the material, energetic, and know some of the applications.

Exactly, my best "professors" were not, technically "professors".. a few were basically grad students, but the best were paid instructors who came from industry to teach. I'm sure perversely they were also the worst paid & treated.

Agreed. I went to a four year University in the U.S. However, I decided to take an accounting course at the the local community college. The “professor” was a tax accountant by day. He taught at night because he wanted some extra money.

I learned more from that “professor” than most of the rest.

Exactly my experience. Often the professors held us undergraduates in open contempt.

One in particular said straight up on the first day, “I do not like teaching. I am required to do this in order to do the research I want to do.”

I guess I at least appreciated his candor, it gave me insight to what many of the other professors felt but never said out loud.

…and actually he was in the better half of instructors (there was an admittedly low bar with a few excellent standouts).

Exactly. The joke was our department also paired us with a faculty advisor. When I met with him and mentioned my intended career track, his immediate response was to go talk to the career center. That was it, he was done with me.

Categorically the field I work in industry have no idea how to teach. They are good at what they do for work but not at engendering any kind of critical thinking of self learning in students.

And haven’t had their hope and will ground down by the academic system yet.

I think there is a disconnect here between different people's expectation and reality.

Having been on both sides. I can sympathise.

In the UK the responsibility of preparing students for wider world lies with the University. (this is the perspective of many lectures who teach within stem)

The departments believe their commitment to teaching is finished after assessing the students ability within their chosen field, that's their job and the universities provide external optional support material which they believe covers everything else.

The students that teaching staff spend the most of their time with are doctoral students. Speaking frankly these students have passed a filter to being students willing to work at a problem for hours. This is not a guarantee they're the best, but they are normally the most hardworking. There is a huge expectation that these students teach themselves missing skills and abilities. This is what teaching professors expect from all students. Although it would help if they said that.

Some lectures are just plain awful at teaching. Like some Coders make bad managers. Some are doing it because their successful position to pay for their really expensive toys in labs demands it. Imo these lecturers need to be taken aside and disciplined for failing at their job because a single bad lecturer in the wrong topic can do a _lot_ of damage to a department's reputation and functioning...

However most lecturers work assuming they're speaking to PhD students mainly because they spend so much other time with them. It's difficult to identify that for 2 hours a week you're speaking to a room of people without the common skillset to be a PhD student. (I'm not spreaking of raw ability and intellect, it's the mindset to focus on a problem for days or weeks until you understand it by yourself)

The problem is for UG students that often don't know what skills they're missing to be of most use to outside academia. Being about to identify and work on this is askill in and off its own right.

Imo it's much less that staff try to mould students to academia and much more that students who are of the correct mindset find their way there.

The expectation is that UG students would identify where they need to work to become more attractive to an employer. And that they will seak extra material out and train for this. (academics are the people who setup how the university works and they follow the academic model amidst everywhere, which, well... works when you understand the unwritten rules)

This is different to the expectation that teachers teach you everything you need to be useful. (my background is coming from a state school which was demolished down for failing)

I can see how paying huge amounts of money creates an expectation now that the university should prepare you to enter the workforce straight away.

It took me until PhD to appreciate this and my grades at UG weren't exceptional but from comparing notes to colleagues over the years this is one of the cultural differences which seems to come from expensive private schools vs state funded local failing "sports specialist" schools.

Fighting against this at a institutional level is like shouting at a wall imo so I just make the best effort I can to make a difference with students who cross my path who are falling into the same traps and feeling let down by the uni overall. (my favourite being a lecturer I keep arguing with that is bad at his teaching because I (a native English speaker) need a thesaurus to follow his lecture slides, this does not help meaningfully convey the finger points of data driven physics labs to international students, despite the fact that's how it was taught at Eaton)

> An interesting idea I saw was the idea of making schools have skin in the game on these degree programs by requiring them to back some percent of the debt of these federal loans.

Since little short of death can cause a student loan to be discharged, I don't think that would actually put any skin in the game.

I really hope your comment made you feel all big and smart!

"The scale of these degree programs and the irresponsibility of upscale universities marketing them to those that clearly cannot afford them is evil."

But also kinda Darwinism at work? Ask 100 random strangers to clean a loaded gun while staring down its barrel. You'll probably get at least 5 people to do it. Student debt isn't even that evil.

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