Posts Tagged ‘Chris Farrell’s advice’



June 23, 2013

This morning I give a big YES to Chris Farrell!

Over and over, we hear the “sad” story of student loans.  And over and over, to get buy-in or at least sympathy from the general public, we are told about the $100,000-$200,000 debt a student is carrying upon graduation.

“Hold on.” Farrell wrote this morning as he reminded us 98.7% of students do NOT fall into this category.  In fact, 0.5% owe $200,000; [ED:  I expect that includes advanced degrees above a BA- but that was not clarified.]  further, only 3.1% of all students incur $100,000 in total debt.

Yes indeed.  As of December, 2012, the AVERAGE debt for four years of school is $24,699; the MEDIAN debt for the same four years is $13,924.

And with that I feel exonerated as I say over and over again…..what is the difference from when I went to school?   When I graduated from the University in 1967, I owed $5500 in student loans. I started my third job in December, 1970, with a salary of $4,000.   – [ED: Sorry, I cannot remember what I made at the jobs immediately out of school employed as a travel agent, but I do remember starting at BI in 1970 was a definite STEP-UP.]

So why I am wrong when I say, what is the big deal/crisis in today’s world?  Does the AVERAGE first job today pay a comparable 20% less than debt owed or about $20,000?  Does the MEDIAN first job today pay a comparable 20% less than debt owed or about $11,000?  For the most part, I do not think so-but I am certainly open to being proven wrong!

Of course, there were some differences, I expect.  I worked my way through school.  I paid all my expenses for the first two years, but of course, I had the benefit of living at home.   In my Junior Year, I had a small scholarship from the City of Rochester, so with that exception, I paid all my school expenses including living expenses because I worked.  My senior year, I had a student loan, some help from my brother and $600 from my mom which allowed me a little flexibility so I did NOT work but was able to finish my BA with enough graduate course credits that I recall I had only 5 classroom credits left to earn for my Masters.  And since I graduated with a double major -History/City Planning- I had completed the “Senior Paper “ that provided the groundwork for the Masters.  No, I did not expand it as planned as part of the Masters program;  I went to work full time.

How was I able to accomplish that?

By doing exactly what Chris Farrell suggested: I went to colleges I could afford.  I worked so I only had one year of federal loans to pay back.

Yes, I know you are thinking as you read this that if “my kid” goes to a prestigious school, he will get not only a good education but a better start in life.

And really, I think that is a myth born in the ‘80s by other Boomers like me- Boomers who as concerned parents, wanted to make life EASIER for their children that it was for them- and that is understandable.

Unfortunately what is forgotten in that wish are lessons learned from “hard times” also contribute to one’s success….and so a myth was invented that soon became gospel.  We all recognize it:  “Prestigious schools yield relationships and connections that will make your entry in the real world easier.”

There is some truth to that, of course.  But really, is it worth the debt burden?

All these many years alter I will tell you I LEARNED the most right there at Rochester Junior College.  Because I worked, I had to set priorities and learn time management.  I was also a social person involved in “everything” so although time management skills helped, I had to learn another very important thing at one point in my sophomore year when I wanted to drop being Editor of the College Newspaper in order to stay involved in theatre.

The Dean of Students suggested that the roles I was playing as a Freshman Counselor, the Echo Editor, and Theater along with all those Delta Psi, Gamma Rho, and whatever social clubs I had joined  were teaching me something more important than academics – they were teaching me leadership skills. He also told me that business world out there that I was preparing for valued a degree, but could care less about my GPA and I would get a lot further in business with leadership skills than I would with a 4.0 GPA.  

(Of course, being the stubborn person I am, I escaped from the RJC Echo anyway but I have never forgotten his advice and frankly, he was right!)

So I went to school; I met a lot of people still friends today; I went to work; I played a lot and I learned. But was I successful?

  • I did well as a worker; I progressed from supervisor to manager to Director to Vice President in the corporate world; and for the last 20 years to Owner of a small business.
  • For most of my career, I have interacted with good results with CEOs and senior executives of most Fortune 500 companies.
  • I have traveled around the world from the Americas to Europe; from the Middle East to China, Tahiti, and the Phillipines; and from Australia to a little bit of Africa.
  • For many years, I have been able to add considerable volunteer work in areas of interest from Taste of the Nation to the first ever Taste of NFL at Superbowl ’92 to  the Central Riverfront  and urbanization efforts in Minneapolis.
  • And through it all, I have earned more than my fair share of awards and recognition.

Are those measurements of success? For a woman entering the business world in the late 1960s, when women were expected to be happy in the role of secretaries and clerks, I would say yes.

And along that long pathway, I have YET to be asked what school I graduated from, what my degree was or what grades I earned.

Yes, I know there are graduates today that are not gainfully employed using their degree [ED: nor have I ever been employed as a historian, or city planner]…partly the Great Recession is to blame; partly the expectations of what one will accept as a first job and a first salary are to blame. And I know connections open doors of course; but who you are as a person and life’s lessons learned along the way mold you and make the real difference.