Soap Box Diaries
A lot of things in the news have upset me lately—this article is one of them. In summation, this article exposes the measures that many recent college graduates have resorted to in order to pay off college loans. Specifically, these graduates are becoming members of a web site that matches rich clientele with attractive, young graduates. The wealthy members take the graduates out on “dates” and end up giving them a lot of money after they engage in prostitution-like services. Legally speaking, I know that this is not considered prostitution per se, but technically speaking, I think it sort of is prostitution. This is because the girls on this site usually engage in prostitution-like services at the end of a date. However, there is not necessarily a “quid pro quo” exchange present where someone says, “I will give you money, if you give me….” As such, there are not enough grounds to determine that the site is a portal for prostitution. Thus, the site and the sugar-daddy practice is legal.
Before I get more into this, I want to make something clear; this article is not about shunning prostitutes nor is it meant to indicate that I accept prostitution either. I am just not going to judge prostitution. I understand that extremely difficult times can lead to extremely difficult measures, but I also don’t necessarily want to make an excuse for anything and everything. Morally speaking, I cannot condone it, but if I were to put myself in some other person’s position, and if I could for a second understand their rationale, I don’t have a place to judge. So there’s my PC disclaimer for this post.
What is disturbing about this “Sugar Baby/Daddy” life style is that people are feeling pressured to employ this practice to pay off debts incurred from receiving an education. To me, this is a grave, unfortunate paradox. Why should education debt put this kind of burden on anyone? Isn’t the point of an education geared to make someone better off, to present more opportunities and choices? Society has made a college degree essential and second nature—we are told in school to reach for something higher, to get a degree; it is enshrined in us throughout all of our years in school. It is a philosophy that this country embraced and adopted and spoon fed to the youth in America. Our parents, our neighbors, everyone and anyone someone will meet will ask that young person what her or she plans on doing after graduation, and by that they mean to ask about what college does he or she plan to study at and what degree does he or she plan to maintain. Thus, it is evident that society has made education paramount. However, the economy seems to have made education worthless. This is not right.
If we tell our kids in schools to “get an education” (that used to be a theme song during commercials when afternoon cartoon shows would air), which is now depicted in commercials like these, don’t we expect them to go get an education? Are we not telling them, teaching them, advising them to get a degree? And when they listen, why should they be punished? Why should they bear the burden of a debt we bore upon them? Because you see, education is expensive. We make it seem like a necessity, but actually, it is a privilege. How do I know it is a privilege? Because it is not guaranteed after the age of eighteen. Also, it is expensive. Currently, the price and cost of attending a public school is approximately $24,000 a year. This is envinced from the current “Cost of Attending” page on the University of Texas at Austin web site, which is a public school. That is roughly $96,000 just for an undergraduate degree. That is serious cash. If the availability of jobs for new graduates is receding, is that even fair? Are those graduates not being set up for failure when they have a large debt, and no job?
My point is that we place so much emphasis on education and obtaining a degree so that we can have educated citizens who will make good, responsible decisions because they will have opportunities with a degree. However, we cannot even give or create jobs for these graduates. Instead, graduates, who have been in school all of their lives, who do not have job experience are not marketable right now to employers looking for people with experience. Currently, graduates pale in comparison to these people. So what we are telling these graduates is a mixed message: you have a degree; society accepts you, unfortunately, we are all out of jobs right now, or you do not have any relevant experience so we cannot offer you one—anyway, congratulations!
It’s no wonder people are scrounging around for whatever they can find to pay off this debt. The professional workforce deems their degree as a worthless act of conspicuous consumption. Thus, many graduates are left deprived of self-esteem, self-confidence, and hope. They are panic-laden, depressed, and discouraged. As a result, these people find themselves in survival mode (thanks for this analogy, Sarah); they revert to animal instincts, and do what is necessary, and do what is not necessarily right.
So that is the problem. What is the solution? If we are pushing education, then we need to put our money where our mouth is. How can we afford to educate kids after high school? I am not saying education should be free, but this student-loan situation is out of control. There has got to be a way to either curtail the amount of student loan usage, or a better way to afford payments. I am not a financial analyst, so the buck stops here with my financial analysis.
I do think that a decent and realistic solution is to ensure that graduates have jobs. How do we do this? Colleges need to be proactive about getting students proactive about getting a job post-grad. Why does the college need to hold a student’s hand? Because the student is paying the college to prepare him/her for a career. Colleges need to take initiative. This laissez faire approach to getting a job is not working—obviously. Specifically, not all college students are equipped with the ability to be diligent job seekers. Meaning, they do not know how to seek jobs or put themselves out there. They need guidance.
A lot of people at that age are still battling self-esteem and self-confidence issues. They may be shy. College is supposed to help them break out of these molds. It is supposed to help them develop. As such, a college should actively participate in its students’ job affairs. I remember one of my advisor’s had an anecdote for our group. He said that a student’s father called the office and was upset because his daughter could not find a job after college. The father said that he believed his daughter’s degree proved worthless because she had no job prospects and no job hunting experience. The advisor told us that he believed it was the daughter’s fault. He told the father that the daughter did not make an effort to visit the advisor’s office to seek career advice. And he questioned the father, “What about job fairs? Did she go to any of those?”
I am not sure I agree with my advisor said, or what he was trying to get at. Yes, schools have job fairs. Yes students should attend them. However, I can see how a college student may get confused about what exactly to look for with their degree. They may not know their options. Or, they may get someone’s business card and not know how to follow-up or keep in contact. Essentially, they may have access to resources, but they may not know how to use them. This is when the college should step in and advise; they should advise not sporadically but often.
Why should it be the college’s responsibility? Because the student is paying the college to teach them. They are incurring mounds of debt to learn–through a chosen college–how to become useful in society, how to become responsible, and how to become an adult. If we want them to come out of school armed and ready to contribute to society, we need to start being proactive. Education is an investment not only for that person pursing it, but for the entire nation. It is a shame that we are not giving students and graduates an opportunity to use their knowledge to its fullest potential. It is a pity that our society cannot benefit from it either.