by John Walters

Starting Five

College Debt: Warren’s Piece

A day or two ago—we are too busy living an active retirement community lifestyle to keep precise track of time—Senator Elizabeth Warren suggested in a town hall two things: 1) eliminating student debt for millions of Americans and 2) making public universities tuition free. It should come as no surprise that if you Google “Elizabeth Warren” and “student debt” this morning the top stories you find are from righty sites such as Fox News or The Washington Examiner discussing the “slap in the face” to other Americans. There really is nothing quite like the American habit of being born on 3rd base and wondering how come so few people are able to hit a triple.

Our thoughts: 1) no college should be completely free. You shouldn’t be able to pay less for college than for your Netflix or Hulu accounts. But yes, public universities should be much cheaper, 2) far too many college grads are spending 10-20 years of their working lives being taxed for their schooling via paying back student loans on a monthly basis, and that’s before we even talk about grad school debt. It’s not only bad for them but it’s bad economically because that’s money they’d otherwise be using to purchase a home or all sorts of material goods and…

3) there’s something far too familiar and wrong in this corporate tax break ——-> stock buy-backs ——> only the corporation itself and its shareholders prosper environment about the massive student debt crisis. Now we realize there are thousands of colleges and universities out there, but the top 25 in terms of endowment have more than $4.3 BILLION in funds (but yes, most of those are earmarked for specific purposes). Meanwhile these schools are posting annual tuitions of upward of $50,000 per year, or a solid middle class annual income. So what’s happening? The very rich (the schools) are erecting a portal through which only the other very rich or the very poor (through need-based scholarships, and yes it helps greatly if you’re a minority) may pass. They have the capacity to make tuition more affordable for all, but they’re far too obsessed where the U.S. News & World Report is going to rank them next year to care about that. It’s an arms race on the south quad.

Drunk, stupid and in six-figure debt is no way to go through life, son…

We suggested this years ago and we stand by it still. If your high school senior really wants to go to a top college, tell them you’d rather take $100,000 and invest it in Amazon or Apple for four years. Let’s see how that would’ve worked out had we done that in April of 2015: AAPL is up 64% so that $100,000 would now be $164,000. AMZN is up roughly 400% so that $100,000 would now be $400,000. Tell your kid to enlist in the Marines or Army for four years. See the world. Meet Americans who are black, Hispanic, American Indian, and learn to work, eat and sleep among them. And yes, okay, perhaps get shot at occasionally. Come back a man (or woman) having seen the world (and/or Georgia) and with a far greater sense of purpose when you matriculate. And we’ve just eliminated years of crushing college debate. That’s what we’d advise.

Granted, that’s a creative solution to a sticky problem. Of course, top schools will still charge the tuitions they’re charging as long as their acceptance rates are at 10% or lower for applications (this may also give you an idea of how few teens are self-aware or realistic about their academic performance). But for the vast majority of American students, yes, state schools and non-elite schools should be far more affordable. It’s not only good for them, but it’s good for every American business that’s losing their dollars to Sallie Mae or whoever controls loans these days.

Deep Springs, Not Deep Pockets

When I was applying to college, we did not have the ability to research schools on line (we simply unrolled a few parchments and brought them to our toga-clad philosopher/mentor…). Anyway, you’d go to the guidance counselor’s office and peruse a book or two (or, again, like me, watch college football and see whose uniforms you liked best). This is all leading to a point, really: there was one school that truly intrigued my friends and me.

Deep Springs College.

This is an actual place. At the time what stood out about it for us is that its enrollment was between two and three dozen students (I seem to remember “Enrollment: 24”) and that it was free. But it was also a working ranch and students were required to do field chores. It also seemed to have an excellent academic rating (granted, if you read the school’s own description of itself, it sounds a lot like the deserted movie studio where the Manson family squatted for a year or two).

I think I wussed out from applying, but I sincerely don’t know how everyone does not know about this school. I also cannot believe that 60 Minutes or CBS Sunday Morning still has yet to do a feature on this, though I imagine some enterprising young producer will come across this blog and pitch it (Dear CBS: I’m really good at this sh*t; hire me).

Anyway, if you have a teenage student in the house and they’ve always wanted to attend college for free and ride a horse, this is your spot.

What Are You Doing!?!?

If it had been anyone besides Woj reporting late last night that the Phoenix Suns had fired first-year coach Igor Kokoskov, we would not have believed it. Igor (“that’s eye-god“) was a true breath of fresh air, a smart coach, and nobody cared what the Suns’ record was going to be this season. He actually did the right thing by putting the Black Hole Suns in position to draft Zion or Ja in June.

Earlier this month John McLeod, the Suns coach of my youth here in the Valley and the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, passed away at the age of 82. The mild-mannered McLeod coached for 14 seasons and 1,122 games at the Madhouse on McDowell. In the past 14 seasons Phoenix has had eight coaches and they’re about to hire their fifth in the past five seasons.

The coaching is, obviously, not the problem. Owner Robert Sarver is. From friends who know him: he’s a jackass who has no idea what he’s doing. Sarver’s legacy to me will always be that he forced out Mike D’Antoni, who is the best and most innovative coach this franchise ever had and simply for his influence on the game is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, even if he never takes a team to the NBA Finals.

Ray Ratto Is Why We Need Sportswriters Over Age 50*

We’re more than just a pretty face…

*The judges acknowledge that they may resemble this remark

We loved this piece by legendary Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto in Deadspin yesterday. Not only because it was written with some piss and vinegar (without the need to use profanity to express himself…what a novel idea) and was trenchant, but also because Ratto, who is in his mid-sixties, namedrops the defunct St. Louis Browns, a 1950s Bogart film (The Caine Mutiny) and a black-and-white classic from that era, 12 Angry Men.

When I was younger I learned a lot about pop culture and other stuff that had happened before I was born by reading literate sportswriters (Frank Deford, Roy Blount, Jr., Dan Jenkins, etc.) whose breadth of knowledge was so much more vast than my own. Now? I know how this sounds—to quote 60-something Wendell Barnhouse on this site yesterday, “I’m the old guy yelling at the wind”–but reading sports, mostly written by dudes under age 40, I’m constantly reminded (by them) that film comedy began with Anchorman and rock and roll started with Pearl Jam.

It’s not that modern classics don’t exist. It’s, far more than in my era, this adamant refusal to acknowledge anything that existed before their time (kind of the way ESPN believes sports began on September 7, 1979). I’m not making the “things were better back in my day” argument, but simply reaffirming, as I did in this space two weeks prior, that in order for a tribe to be healthy it needs to hear from all three factions: the young, the in-their-primes, and the older voices.

What a waste, and I don’t know another industry that does this, to have people build up 30-plus years of experience, knowledge and life wisdom and then just cast them aside when they are at their peak ability not only to contribute, but also mentor.* But hey, Bleacher Report would rather have a 23 year-old write for free and you can count on at least 3 “Endgame” references in that piece.

*And of course I’m referring to myself here, but I could easily provide a list of 10 writers who are marginally employed at the moment who’d instantly be better than 90% of the people you read every day.M

Moore Is Less

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Stephen Moore, who is a jackass, is being pilloried for comments he made about women in sports in general and Bonnie Bernstein specifically about 17 years ago. So this is not something he said yesterday or even this week. He may be more recently pilloried (if you are a fan of pillorying, as we are) for disavowing his love of the gold standard because suddenly, after years of advocating a gold standard, he realizes he’s got to do a 180 if he wants Donald Trump to appoint him to the Fed.

Is anyone surprised that an ardent Trump crony is a blatant chauvinist and misogynist? Really? Wouldn’t you be a lot more surprised if he weren’t?

7 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. Re the top 25 endowed schools: I don’t think those schools are really the problem — most if not all of those give great financial aid and do so in the form of grants and not loans. And their admissions policies, though no doubt still somewhat skewed to favor the well-off, are very inclusive. Princeton, for example, now admits more first-generation college students than alumni children, and that is probably true of the other Ivies.

    I think the crisis comes from public universities, which used to be accessible to in-state residents, but have tripled in price in the last 30 years (

    Saw these stats on Twitter yesterday (@aboutamoo):
    A freshman entering the University of Illinois in the fall of 1975 would have to work 215 hours of a minimum wage job to pay tuition (4.1 hours per week).
    In 1985, he would have to work 392 hours (7.5 per week).
    1995, 705 hours (13.5 per week).
    2005, 1,367 hours (26.3 per week).
    2015, 1,660 hours (31.9 per week).

    • Great stuff, Wally. Thank you. MH is organic. The more minds, the merrier. Even Susie B’s! Although, how much more joyful are these next two months going to be without near-daily discussion of Sweet Pea?

      • As I understand it, the primary cause of the steady increase in public higher education tuition is a steady decrease in state funding. In other words, the states have chosen to pass far more of the rising costs of higher education onto the students.

        Another cause is one that is far too reminiscent of what led to the housing bubble/2008 financial crash. Tuition has steadily risen at all colleges, and the market has not leveled itself off, because students (and parents) have been willing to pay whatever is being charged, i.e., applications and attendance have not abated even as college costs continue to rise. One reason for that is easy access to student loans at low rates. Students believe that if someone is willing to loan them the money, they will be able to pay it back, and that there is no limit to educational debt that won’t pay off for them in the end in the form of increased lifetime income. Sounds a lot like 2000s homeowners who assumed 1) that the mortgage lenders knew what they were doing in approving huge loans and 2) housing prices would only go up.

  2. From the age of 13 onwards, I grew up in a single parent household. My dad is a construction worker by trade and has four sons. Most he has ever made in a year, and this is with overtime included, is something like just north of 50k a year (before taxes).

    I had my own “issues” the fall of my sophomore year of HS and failed a class, but ended up managing a 3.8 GPA. Nothing spectacular. Graduated HS with 31 college credit hours (subsidized by high school). Got a 28 on my ACT (again, nothing spectacular).

    I enrolled into the honors program at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and never paid a dime for my college education. Through financial aid, a few academic scholarships and a low income/academic scholarship, my college was paid for. In fact, I received a $3500 refund check each semester, so I was paid to go to college.

    The system isn’t designed to screw the “me’s” of the world. If I did better extracurricular activities, scored a few points better on my ACT and was admitted into an IVY, my education would have been free. There’s no doubt about that. If I had two parents with a combined income of 150k a year, my education would not have been free. Same student, different financial circumstances.

    I don’t know if any of this means anything, other than I think low income families are not disadvantaged when it comes to receiving an education. The issue in those cases are more about where that individual was raised, their support group, mentors and so on.

    I always heard people complain about paying for college, yet they always seemed to make it to Florida for spring break or catch a ride back home with mom & dad in their new SUV. Money isn’t everything in life, but I don’t feel all that sorry for people that grow up in households with two college-educated parents, all the resources in the world and an overall solid environment. Probably not a nice thing of me to say, but just my opinion.

    • Jacob-Jason,

      You should try to get that “full-time college student” job back. Sounds like a good deal. Would you say that UNL would not agree with you on the “nothing spectacular” self-assessment as they accepted you into their Honors program? That’s great work by you, by the way. Well done!

  3. Ha ha. No one is mistaking the honors program at UNL for the Rhodes scholarship.

    It is funny, all in hindsight. People find it amazing when I tell them I dropped out of college. As a kid (hell, I’m still a kid), you always have the mindset that the grass is greener on the other side.

    While we are on the topic of college, I’m actually more in favor of us as a society getting away from the idea that college is something you go do from the ages of 18-22. A gap year is desirable, but why not work and travel for 2,3 or 4 years before going to college? At 24, I’d find more use in college because I at least know more about the world.

    Perhaps the issue isn’t the debt itself, but instead the fact that people get degrees in something they later don’t care for, thus renders them paying off an experience they can’t financially capitalize on? To think someone should know what they want to do at 22 is asinine. It is these societal “windows” that piss me off the most.

  4. in the age of information that is at our fingertips in hundreths of second – who needs a university, except for the outdated notion of needing a “degree” from a 4yr institution, that only symbolizes your ability to finish something

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