Anexajesusof Dilbert

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

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:

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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