The GERS grind slowly, but they grind

How long does it take to change directions? If you push towards a given goal for 22 months, against a lot of expert advice, what exactly does it take to switch directions?

This week, USED announced that #PIRS would have no ratings. (Might note that they did not say there wouldn’t be rankings.)  Instead:

Taking into account that feedback, and to advance the overarching goals set by the President, later this summer we plan to release new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes. This college ratings tool will take a more consumer-driven approach than some have expected, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value. And as part of this release, we will also provide open data to researchers, institutions and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.

This is probably a smart move. I never thought the ratings idea itself was a good idea. Government does not belong in the ratings business, other than in ways that are very much program-specific. You can read about my thoughts here and a bunch of places on this blog. One of things I have suggested is that my cynical nature causes me to wonder if “PIRS is simply a way to justify GE for all programs as a reasonable compromise.” With that in the back of my mind, and while linking to this article I noticed the posting date- June 24, 2015 – 3:00 am.

GainfulRuling
 Yeah, that was about right. I remember the ruling being announced the previous evening.
And then I remembered this article:
“The department announced this significant shift in its approach to the ratings in a Wednesday afternoon call with Inside Higher Ed, on the condition that the news not be shared until Thursday. (Click here for a Thursday blog post by Studley.)”
If you read the judge’s decision on Gainful Employment, there is a fascinating discussion beginning on page 32 about unit record data. Now, It might be just my wild-eyed optimism and interest in IPEDS-UR, but it seems to me the decision clears the way for the Department to do some very interesting things with NSLDS and other data. Emphasis on the “other data” may not be hard to overstate. So I wonder if it is possible that the Department read this ruling and said, “Whoa. We can do now universal GE – we don’t need no stinking ratings.”
I don’t know. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist. Generally I assume conspiracies are for the weak-minded that can’t conceive that their beliefs are not fact or universal truth. But I know how hard PIRS is. I also know that a number of people against GE have suggested that GE should be universal. On the other hand, I don’t know that the Department (and anyone else that might be involved) can move this quickly. I guess I would like to believe that they can, or, perhaps that they had multiple decision-trees ready based on a variety of events, specifically an up or down on GE.
After all, does the Department really need both GE and PIRS? I’ve never thought so.
Forgive me this nonsense, but just in case I am right, I want it documented. This is the way my mind works – I see opportunities and connections.

What, me rate colleges?

This is what we learned from used today. PIRS will be rating system without ratings. This is probably a good thing as I have never felt the original proposal was a proper role for government. I do think it is appropriate to rate colleges based on Title IV participation. This would be quite simple to do as it already exists and merely needs tweaking.

Title IV Eligible, No Conditions

Title IV Eligible, Conditional (USED management or Accreditor actions)

Title IV Ineligible, Failed to Maintain Standards

Title IV – Non-participant

I am pretty sure the ratings would have captured about the same concepts, perhaps adding an additional top category to try and distinguish most-favored from less-favored.

Pretty simple, huh?

A cautionary tale

I thought about changing the names to make the subject matter obvious, but it is more fun this way.
LEADING PLAYER
INTRIGUE – PLOTS TO BRING DISASTER
The Royal Chapel at Arles.
(She goes. Lights up on CHARLES, MONKS, and PIPPIN who is dressed as a monk)
CHARLES
(Sensing his presence)
It’s all right, Father. You may come in.
PIPPIN
(With the voice of an old man)
I’m sorry to disturb you, my son. I know you like to pray alone.
CHARLES
You know who I am, Father?
PIPPIN
Yes. Yes, of course, my son.
CHARLES
You want something father? Perhaps a favor or an advancement?
PIPPIN
No. I’m here just to be with you for one moment. Yes, to look in your eyes.
CHARLES
Oh, well. And what do you see?
PIPPIN
I see two eyes, a little cloudy with age, a sunset.
CHARLES
Anything else?
PIPPIN
I see death of thousands, the slavery of more… terror and bloodshed.
CHARLES
You see all that in my eyes?
PIPPIN
Do you deny it?
CHARLES
Deny it? I’m proud of it. I brought order out of chaos. If slavery, bloodshed and terror are part of that
order, so be it.
PIPPIN
(Losing the voice)
But those are words form the past! Time has passed you by!
(A pause, then the old man voice again)
…My son.
CHARLES
And your time has come… my son?
PIPPIN
(Taking down the hood on his robe)
Yes, Father.
CHARLES
It’s easy from where you stand to judge the things that I have done. Eagles, ospreys, even vultures had a
better view. From the heights all things are very clear. But when I marched, the dust of the road was in
my nose, and when I fought, the blood of the enemy was in my eyes. But, by God, I blew my breath
across a continent and shaped an empire with it.
PIPPIN
Father, maybe you did the best you could, but things have to change!
CHARLES
Oh, and you’re the one to change them!?
PIPPIN
Yes! I am.
CHARLES
(Holding out a knife)
Well, if you truly believe that, there is only one thing you can do.
PIPPIN
(Producing his own knife)
Thank you, I brought my own.
CHARLES
Use it, or go and leave me to my prayers.
PIPPIN
What do you pray for, Father?
CHARLES
Strength. And may God give you the same.
(PIPPIN strikes, sinking the knife into his chest, CHARLES stumbles, and PIPPIN catches him,
easing him to the ground, he kneels over his father’s body)
 PIPPIN
(Sings)
WHY WON’T MY HAND STOP SHAKING
WHEN ALL THE EARTH IS STILL
WHEN ANCIENT GHOSTS ARE WAKING
(He removes his robe)
SO MANY STEPS NEED TAKING
SO MANY PLANS NEED MAKING
I THINK I WILL
I THINK I WILL
(The LEADING PLAYER enters. Followed by FASTRADA and LEWIS)
LEADING PLAYER
Your majesty.
FASTRADA
King Pippin.
LEWIS
Your majesty.
LEADING PLAYER
Your Highness.
ALL (except PIPPIN)
King Pippin.
(Over the course of the first verse, the company converges to cover CHARLES in his funeral shroud)
PIPPIN
MORNING GLOW, MORNING GLOW
STARTS TO GLIMMER WHEN YOU KNOW
WINDS OF CHANGE ARE SET TO BLOW
AND SWEEP THIS WHOLE LAND THROUGH
MORNING GLOW IS LONG PAST DUE
(The LEADING PLAYER places her hands on the corpse and begins to levitate it under the shroud,
then tossing it up and over her shoulder, as if CHARLES body has disappeared, exiting at the end of
the verse)
PIPPIN ALL
MORNING GLOW FILL THE EARTH AHH AHH
COME AND SHINE FOR ALL YOUR WORTH AHH AHH AHH
WE’LL BE PRESENT AT THE BIRTH AHH AHH
OF OLD FAITH LOOKING NEW AHH
MORNING GLOW IS LONG PAST DUE
ALL
OH, MORNING GLOW, I’D LIKE TO HELP YOU GROW
PIPPIN ALL
WE SHOULD HAVE STARTED LONG AGO AHH AHH AHH AHH
PIPPIN AND ALL
SO, MORNING GLOW ALL DAY LONG
WHILE WE SING TOMORROW’S SONG
NEVER KNEW WE COULD BE SO STRONG
PIPPIN ALL
BUT NOW IT’S VERY CLEAR AHH AHH AHH AHH
PIPPIN
MORNING GLOW IS ALMOST HERE…
PIPPIN AND ALL
MORNING GLOW BY YOUR LIGHT
WE CAN MAKE THE NEW DAY BRIGHT
AND THE PHANTOMS OF THE NIGHT
WILL FADE INTO THE PAST
PIPPIN
MORNING GLOW IS HERE…
PIPPIN AND ALL
AT LAST
PIPPIN AND ALL
MORNING GLOW BY YOUR LIGHT
WE CAN MAKE THE NEW DAY BRIGHT
AND THE PHANTOMS OF THE NIGHT
WILL FADE INTO THE PAST
PIPPIN
MORNING GLOW IS HERE…
PIPPIN AND ALL
AT LAST
LEADING PLAYER
WE’VE GOT MAGIC TO DO
JUST FOR…
YOU
(She places the crown on PIPPIN’s head)
PIPPIN AND ALL
AT LAST
At the opening of the act, the curtain rises once again on the spectacular circus setting, only now it is far
more lively and energetic. The PLAYERS run up and down the aisle performing acrobatic feats, and
tricks and wonder happen onstage, including a PLAYER who uses her entire body to spin upwards of
fifteen hula-hoops.
The LEADING PLAYER spins on the trapeze, and welcomes back the audience.
LEADING PLAYER
Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to the show!
(PLAYERS ad lib welcomes to the audience, as the entr’acte crescendos, the activity reaches a
completion. The PLAYERS bring a platform to the stage as one PLAYER prepares for a daring
balance act. Another PLAYER brings metal cylinders and a plank, and the first PLAYER calls to her
and begins to stack them, staggering them horizontally and vertically so that each cylinder is rolling
and balanced. The PLAYER than mounts the board at the top and climbs, slowly standing.)
Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on the most difficult and intricate balancing act. Only they can
perform such feats as this.
(When the balancing act is completed, the company segues right into Glory (Reprise), they dance and
sing)
ALL
THE GATES, THE GATES
THE GATES OF HEAVEN
THE GATES OF HEAVEN AWAIT
THE GATES, THE GATES
THE GATES OF HEAVEN
THE GATES OF HEAVEN AWAIT
THE GATES OF HEAVEN AWAIT
THROWN WIDE BY PIPPIN THE GREAT
(PIPPIN enters, crowned and jubilant)
WE FOLLOW HIM THROUGH BY SERVING HIS STATE
DOO DOO DOO DOO, DOO DOO DOO DOO
DOO DOO DOO DOO, DOO DOO DOO DOO
THE GATES, THE GATES
THE GATES OF HEAVEN
THE GATES OF HEAVEN AWAIT
THE GATES, THE GATES
THE GATES OF HEAVEN
THE GATES OF HEAVEN AWAIT
THROWN WIDE BY
PIPPIN AND ALL
PIPPIN THE GREAT!
(As the song ends, the throne enters from upstage, accompanied by a TREASURER and a SOLDIER,
the PLAYERS clear the way for the throne.)
LEADING PLAYER
Long live the King!
ALL
Long live the King!
(PIPPIN steps onto the throne platform, he is handed the orb and scepter, but has no idea what to do
with them)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire is prepared to hear petitions.
(A PLAYER bearing a sign that reads “POLITICS” steps onto a drum, shows off her sign, and then
exits, as she does this, a crowd of PEASANTS and of NOBLES, one group on each side of the throne,
enter, talking in a cacophony of pleas)
PIPPIN
Come ahead. You will all be dealt with fairly. My invitation extends to high and low alike.
(A PEASANT kneels in the light, it is the same actor who played the THIRD NOBLE in Act I)
PEASANT
Sire, I am a poor man-
PIPPIN
You may stand. You may all stand.
(THEY all stand, PIPPIN sits)
PEASANT
Thank you, sire. I am a poor man, a peasant, and I own not one millimeter of land on which I have
worked so hard all my life. Is that fair?
PIPPIN
No. That’s completely unfair, and I shall do something about it. I hereby decree that, from now on, all
peasants will own the land that they cultivate.
(The PEASANTS all applaud, the NOBLES react with displeasure)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, the Just.
FIRST NOBLE
Sire, now that you’ve given all of our land to the peasants, we loyal nobles have no source of income.
Therefore, we can no longer pay taxes.
PIPPIN
Well then, I hereby abolish taxes.
(THEY ALL celebrate)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, the Generous.
PIPPIN AND ALL
PIPPIN THE GREAT!
(As the song ends, the throne enters from upstage, accompanied by a TREASURER and a SOLDIER,
the PLAYERS clear the way for the throne.)
LEADING PLAYER
Long live the King!
ALL
Long live the King!
(PIPPIN steps onto the throne platform, he is handed the orb and scepter, but has no idea what to do
with them)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire is prepared to hear petitions.
(A PLAYER bearing a sign that reads “POLITICS” steps onto a drum, shows off her sign, and then
exits, as she does this, a crowd of PEASANTS and of NOBLES, one group on each side of the throne,
enter, talking in a cacophony of pleas)
PIPPIN
Come ahead. You will all be dealt with fairly. My invitation extends to high and low alike.
(A PEASANT kneels in the light, it is the same actor who played the THIRD NOBLE in Act I)
PEASANT
Sire, I am a poor man-
PIPPIN
You may stand. You may all stand.
(THEY all stand, PIPPIN sits)
PEASANT
Thank you, sire. I am a poor man, a peasant, and I own not one millimeter of land on which I have
worked so hard all my life. Is that fair?
PIPPIN
No. That’s completely unfair, and I shall do something about it. I hereby decree that, from now on, all
peasants will own the land that they cultivate.
(The PEASANTS all applaud, the NOBLES react with displeasure)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, the Just.
FIRST NOBLE
Sire, now that you’ve given all of our land to the peasants, we loyal nobles have no source of income.
Therefore, we can no longer pay taxes.
PIPPIN
Well then, I hereby abolish taxes.
(THEY ALL celebrate)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, the Generous.
SOLDIER
(With an obnoxious accent)
You realize, sire, without taxes you’ll have no money to support an army.
PIPPIN
(Imitating the SOLDIER’s accent)
Well, that’s all right! I don’t need an army.
(His normal voice)
That’s it. No more taxes, no more army!
(THEY ALL applaud)
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, the Peaceful.
(LEWIS enters)
LEWIS
Hey, Pippin! Pip- er- sire, it is my duty to inform you that the Infidel Hun has attacked in the East. He has
destroyed three villages and murdered thousands of your royal subjects.
PLAYERS
(horrified)
No!
PIPPIN
Can he do that?
LEWIS
But he will withdraw on one condition…
PIPPIN
Well, that’s very reasonable. I’m certainly willing to make any small concession. What’s the condition?
LEWIS
He demands your reproductive organs on a pike staff.
(PIPPIN crosses his legs hastily)
PIPPIN
Oh. Well, then you should go and destroy the infidel.
SOLDIER
But sire, we have no army.
PIPPIN
Oh, right, uh… Excuse me a moment, noble? You remember that decree I made a little while ago about
land and taxes?
NOBLE
Yes, sire.
PIPPIN
That’s off.
NOBLE
But sire, without land, we have neither money nor power over the peasants.
PIPPIN
Oh! Uh, peasants!
PEASANT
Yes, sire?
PIPPIN
I hereby suspend land reform.
PEASANT
Suspend land reform? You mean give it back!?
PIPPIN
Yeah, give it back.
PEASANT
Up thine, sire!
PIPPIN
Take that man away and hang him!
PEASANT
Oh, not again!
(The crowd erupts into a hubbub as the LEADING PLAYER produces a noose and wraps it around
the PEASANT’s neck, starting to lead him offstage)
No. Stop! Wait! Could you just give me a moment to think, please?
FASTRADA
(Coming to PIPPIN)
Darling, you’re a born ruler. You’re doing a wonderful job. Nothing has changed since your father died.
Now about my royal allowance.
(ALL the PLAYERS close in on PIPPIN now with their demands: “Sire, I am a poor man”, “Sire, I am
a peasant”, “Sire, I am a,” until they’ve surrounded the throne adlibbing their demands. PIPPIN is
becoming more and more confused)
PIPPIN
Denied!
LEADING PLAYER
King Pippin, the Unpopular.
PIPPIN
(Handing off the scepter and stepping from the throne)
I need to pray.
LEADING PLAYER
Pray? You’re the King. What in the world would you pray for?
PIPPIN
Strength?
LEADING PLAYER
Is there anything else you’d like?
PIPPIN
Yeah… I’d like my knife back.
LEADING PLAYER
You want it? You got it!
ILLUSION, FANTASY TO STUDY
(The PLAYERS drape a large cloth over the throne. When the LEADING PLAYER pulls it away,
CHARLES’ body is revealed, sitting on the throne. With a wave of her hand, the LEADING PLAYER
causes CHARLES’ body to rise and step forward. PIPPIN steps behind CHARLES and forces his
hand through the hole in his father’s body, we see it come out through the front, wrap around the
knife, and tug it back out. CHARLES jolts to life with a gasp. PIPPIN immediately removes the crown
from his own head and places it on his fathers)
PIPPIN
Sorry, Father.
CHARLES
That’s all right, Son. Only don’t let it happen again.
(The crowd converges on CHARLES with their petitions, immediately he begins shouting “Denied!”
in response. The throne is removed through the upstage portal and the crowd goes with it)
Denied! Denied! Take that man there and hang him again!
(PIPPIN and the LEADING PLAYER are alone onstage)
PIPPIN
Well, that the way I thought it would. And I still haven’t done anything fulfilling with my life.
LEADING PLAYER
But you will, Pippin. Hey! You will.
-“Pippin”, Stephen Schwartz

Acknowledgment, Courtesy, and Discipline

The cloud hid the moon, and as Mowgli wondered what would come next he heard Bagheera’s light feet on the terrace. The Black Panther had raced up the slope almost without a sound, and was striking—he knew better than to waste time in biting—right and left among the monkeys, who were seated round Mowgli in circles fifty and sixty deep. There was a howl of fright and rage, and then as Bagheera tripped on the rolling, kicking bodies beneath him, a monkey shouted: “There is only one here! Kill him! Kill!” A scuffling mass of monkeys, biting, scratching, tearing, and pulling, closed over Bagheera, while five or six laid hold of Mowgli, dragged him up the wall of the summer-house, and pushed him through the hole of the broken dome. A man-trained boy would have been badly bruised, for the fall was a good ten feet, but Mowgli fell as Baloo had taught him to fall, and landed light.

“Stay there,” shouted the monkeys, “till we have killed thy friend. Later we will play with thee, if the Poison People leave thee alive.”

“We be of one blood, ye and I,” said Mowgli, quickly giving the Snake’s Call. He could hear rustling and hissing in the rubbish all round him, and gave the Call a second time to make sure.

“Down hoods all,” said half a dozen low voices. Every old ruin in India becomes sooner or later a dwelling-place of snakes, and the old summer-house was alive with cobras. “Stand still, Little Brother, lest thy feet do us harm.”

Mowgli stood as quietly as he could, peering through the openwork and listening to the furious din of the fight round the Black Panther—the yells and chatterings and scufflings, and Bagheera’s deep, hoarse cough as he backed and bucked and twisted and plunged under the heaps of his enemies. For the first time since he was born, Bagheera was fighting for his life.

“I am not sure that they have not pulled me into a hundred little bearlings,” said Baloo, gravely shaking one leg after the other. “Wow! I am sore. Kaa, we owe thee, I think, our lives—Bagheera and I.”

“No matter. Where is the manling?”

“Here, in a trap. I cannot climb out,” cried Mowgli. The curve of the broken dome was above his head.

“Take him away. He dances like Mao, the Peacock. He will crush our young,” said the cobras inside.

“Hah!” said Kaa, with a chuckle, “he has friends everywhere, this manling. Stand back, Manling; and hide you, O Poison People. I break down the wall.”

“So this is the manling,” said Kaa. “Very soft is his skin, and he is not so unlike the Bandar-log. Have a care, Manling, that I do not mistake thee for a monkey some twilight when I have newly changed my coat.”

“We be of one blood, thou and I,” Mowgli answered. “I take my life from thee, to-night. My kill shall be thy kill if ever thou art hungry, O Kaa.”

“All thanks, Little Brother,” said Kaa, though his eyes twinkled. “And what may so bold a hunter kill? I ask that I may follow when next he goes abroad.”

“I kill nothing,—I am too little,—but I drive goats toward such as can use them. When thou art empty come to me and see if I speak the truth. I have some skill in these [he held out his hands], and if ever thou art in a trap, I may pay the debt which I owe to thee, to Bagheera, and to Baloo, here. Good hunting to ye all, my masters.”

“Well said,” growled Baloo, for Mowgli had returned thanks very prettily. The python dropped his head lightly for a minute on Mowgli’s shoulder. “A brave heart and a courteous tongue,” said he. “They shall carry thee far through the jungle, Manling. But now go hence quickly with thy friends. Go and sleep, for the moon sets, and what follows it is not well that thou shouldst see.”

“True; it is true,” said Mowgli, sorrowfully. “I am an evil man-cub, and my stomach is sad in me.”

“Mf! What says the Law of the Jungle, Baloo?”

Baloo did not wish to bring Mowgli into any more trouble, but he could not tamper with the Law, so he mumbled, “Sorrow never stays punishment. But remember, Bagheera, he is very little.”

“I will remember; but he has done mischief; and blows must be dealt now. Mowgli, hast thou anything to say?”

“Nothing. I did wrong. Baloo and thou art wounded. It is just.”

Bagheera gave him half a dozen love-taps; from a panther’s point of view they would hardly have waked one of his own cubs, but for a seven year-old boy they amounted to as severe a beating as you could wish to avoid. When it was all over Mowgli sneezed, and picked himself up without a word.

“Now,” said Bagheera, “jump on my back, Little Brother, and we will go home.”

One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles all scores. There is no nagging afterward.

-Rudyard Kipling, The First Jungle Book, “Kaa’s Hunting”

Jeff and Me

From: Edwards, Alan (SCHEV)

Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 12:38 PM

To: Hix, Dan (SCHEV); ExecStaff (SCHEV)

Subject: RE: College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one. – The Washington Post

 

Jeff Selingo at WaPo agrees with Tod; it’s colleges’ fault if/that higher ed is seen as a commodity:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/06/16/higher-ed-as-a-commodity-colleges-have-only-themselves-to-blame/?wpisrc=nl_highered&wpmm=1

 

 

—–Original Message—–

From: Massa, Tod (SCHEV)

Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 9:56 AM

To: Hix, Dan (SCHEV); ExecStaff (SCHEV)

Subject: RE: College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one. – The Washington Post

 

Perhaps if colleges stopped advertising as if it were a commodity things might change. Colleges, and their associations, make the comparison of student debt of graduates to a new car and they have been doing this for years before graduate wage reports were done.  Also, many institutions have used graduate outcomes as selling points for decades, to blame it on governors and legislators is just a bit misleading.

On the AAU website is a link for “Economic Impacts AAU Universities.” I guess it is appropriate to talk about the economic impacts of institutions broadly at the macro level, but not specifically about students on the micro level? I disagree.

Great idealism combined with mixed-messaging is why American higher ed is in trouble. It is not the result of measurement.

 

Tod R. Massa

Director, Policy Research and Data Warehousing

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

“Someone Cares for Higher Education in Virginia”

 

________________________________________

From: Hix, Dan (SCHEV)

Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 9:14 AM

To: ExecStaff (SCHEV)

Subject: College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one. – The Washington Post

FYI…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/06/09/college-is-not-a-commodity-stop-treating-it-like-one/?hpid=z11

Why is accessibility so difficult to understand?

When I first encountered the term “ablist” I was taken aback. I didn’t like it and felt it was an effort to intentionally create difference and dischord.

I was wrong.

Spending the last year helping my wife navigate life with a variety of mobility devices I continue to be amazed how inaccessible certain places are.

Such as nursing homes.

Just for reference, or as a pro-tip, if you are going to have a kick-off meeting to plan a patient’s rehab, and you  have invited the patient, and you KNOW the patient is is non-ambulatory (after all you have her file in front of you) it seems common sense that the conference room be accessible.

You know:

A clear space at the table for a wheelchair.

A 36″ wide (or greater) pathway to that space.

It seems a no-brainer to me…especially when you have dozens of such patients.

Of course, making the patient rooms easily accessible might be a greater priority. But for goshsakes just do at least one of these things!

At least this place is not the warehouse of death I was afraid it might be. Closer to a fulfillment center, I think.

Anexajesusof Dilbert

A friend took great offense at yesterday’s Dilbert strip.

http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-05-11

The idea that someone would turn down a job paying $34,000/year was offensive in that it was “a lot of money.” Of course, the amount of money considered to be “a lot” varies greatly where you live. In the San Francisco Bay area, $34,000/year might not be enough to afford housing. In Joplin, MO it may be enough to live quite comfortably.

In the strip, the job applicant complains he would have to live under a bridge for that salary because he has $200,000 in student loans. Here’s the problem.

I don’t know how much Adams knows about student loans. Maybe he has bought into the hype based on extremes that are reported. Maybe he just doesn’t care because, after all, this is a daily comic strip. But, let’s talk about it anyway because, after all, student debt posts get the most clicks.

Do students actually graduate with this much debt?

Undergraduates? Very, very few. I haven’t seen any quite that high so far. The highest I have seen is about $171,000. Nationwide I am sure there are some, and if so, the debt likely includes private loans.

Graduate students, with degrees or not, rack up this much debt. MDs do on a regular basis.

Should we be concerned or feel bad for this DIlbert character? Certainly not if he is a conscienceless sociopath writing for the New York Times in which case living under a bridge and foraging for food is better than he deserves. All the news fit to print and all the op-eds to line a bird cage. The fact is that if these are all federal loans he probably qualifies for some kind of income-based repayment his payments could be well under $200/month. If these are all private loans, his situation is not good as his payments might well exceed $2000/month.

Life is rough and one really needs to think long and hard about signing on the bottom line. Are the things you have been promised? Or more appropriately, the examples of students that went before you and were successful, just how much like them are you?

For the record, $34k out of college is not bad. It is about the median in unemployment insurance covered jobs for recent college graduates in Virginia. Of course, that means half of graduates earn less than that. This bears repeating since I don’t think a lot of people understand: Half of college graduates earn less than the median wage for college graduates. In fact, half of those graduates earn MUCH less.

Much less.

A college degree is a great investment for a lot of people. But it is not a guarantee of a high-paying job, it is also still up to the individual and a fair amount of luck.

Advice is available though: