College class resentment

When I came across this piece by this piece by Michelle Singletary, the Washington Post’s financial advice columnist, I thought, “Wow, people are so disappointing.”

Singletary writes about regular questions she gets from parents who have saved for their children’s education and feel that the children of those who didn’t are able to get financial aid like loans and work-study programs.

I was one of those fortunate kids whose parents saved money and made it possible for me to go to a relatively pricey private college without taking on any debt. (I did get a couple of non-need-based scholarships, which was a nice bonus, but they never counted on that.) I don’t ever remember them complaining about others who didn’t do that; in fact, I knew plenty of people whose families just didn’t have the means to do that. So I felt lucky then, and even luckier after college when I saw friends struggling with student loans. 

I think they thought that they were doing well, and college was important, so they wanted to give their kids options that were a whole lot harder for them to access.

This is timely because of the billionaire paying off loans for Morehouse students.

I wasn’t there, but given my experience, I can imagine what some parents at the recent Morehouse College commencement in Atlanta might have been thinking when billionaire Robert F. Smith said his family would create a grant to pay off all the student loans for the 2019 graduates of the all-male historically black college.

Those not on the receiving end of this amazing gift might have contemplated, even for just a second: What about us? What do we get for doing the right thing and saving for our kids to go to college debt-free?

Note that saving for college is not presented as an economic choice; it’s a moral choice. This is just the classic “blame the poor for their poverty because they are obviously deficient human beings.”

Singletary seems sympathetic to this point of view. I’m not. Fuck those people.

They have no idea what is going on in the financial lives of their neighbors. Lots of kids come from families that cannot provide $200,000 for them to go to college. Yeah, there are probably some people who could save more and don’t, but they’re certainly not doing their kids any favors.

So maybe if you are fortunate enough to be able to do that for your children, instead of being convinced that someone’s pulling something over on you, perhaps you should be glad – and proud – that you are able to help your kids get a solid, debt-free start in life.

Meanwhile, back at Morehouse – the tuition is $27,000 a year, and 80% of the students have loans. I don’t think the stands at graduations were exactly filled with bitter parents who paid their kids’ tuition on their own. In fact I suspect many had a much harder time paying for college (if they went) and were happy and proud at what they’d helped their new graduate accomplish.

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