NYTimes Article: In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt


Article Link:

"The increase in market opportunities for the for-profit education industry comes as governments spend less on education. In states like California, community colleges have been forced to cut classes just when demand is greatest.

“This is creating a very ripe environment for the for-profit schools to pick off more students,” said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit research group based in California that seeks to make higher education more affordable. “The risks of exploitation are higher, and the potential rewards of those practices are higher.”’

This article relates to trade schools in general and not specifically to art schools, but I think anyone can see the relevance here.


I actually found the article more interesting from the perspective of other trades.

There always has been, and always will be, a proportion of people that find the idea of working in computer graphics more appealing than actually doing it, and this is nothing new - but it’s interesting to see schools offering programs in less glamorous (or at least, perceived as such) operating in a similar manner to some schools offering CG programs.

Maybe the wider issue is the United States’ educational system in general. When I first met my (American) wife through our university exchange program and she told me how much she was borrowing for tuition alone, I honestly thought she was kidding. I still find it nothing short of completely outrageous how much it costs to attain a degree in the US.

I’d still be interested to see how these accounts and statistics measure up when compared with student aptitude and their expectations, however - as regrettable as some of these business practices are, it cannot always be the fault of the educational institution.


Keep in mind that the cost of institutions also varies VERY widely. The cost of a four-year degree from a very competent state school can easily be equivalent to only a year at a high-priced private college.

And agreed…but we like things to be other people’s fault here, despite how much darn sense personal responsibility makes.


I totally agree - the sad intersection of student ignorance / stupidity & lack of fiscal responsibility or research / knowledge about what they’re getting into financially - and these private institutions’ eagerness and willingness to cash in on that - is what makes for exponential student debt.


I think it has more to do with the fact that college is basically shoved down every high school students throat as the next step. Every teacher, guidence conseuler, etc. tells you to go to college and “be something”. Granted the students could still look for the school that offers the best education for them, but most of them probably just want to go to college to go to college since that’s when they’ve been told all throughout highschool.


While not wanting to start an international contest here, I always got the impression that the quality of education in US secondary schools is rather poor compared to other developed nations, and as such, college education is actually necessary for people to get to a decent level of knowledge in America. When I was living in the States, I was quite appalled at the lack of knowledge about the rest of the world that even relatively intelligent, supposedly educated people had. When people asked me where I was from, and I said South Africa, they’d ask “where’s that?”. Hey mate, the clue is the name.

I could go on a long, long, long rant about some stuff they teach in schools that I find absolutely backwards, but this isn’t the place for it. Suffice to say, it’s always been due to this apparent (as I perceive it) lack of quality in secondary education that I felt there was an emphasis on tertiary education there. I also think it’s tragic that people have to go into such enormous debt in order to get an education - considering it’s in a country’s best interests to have intelligent, educated people, you’d think that education available to all would be a priority.


I sort of have to agree with you on that one Leigh. Though I find it varies greatly by state. Not to start another Civil War, but moving from the Northeast to South, I met some interesting characters (guess we had them in Boston too lol).

I had a manager a while back, pre-CG that asked what background was because of my name. I said I was Italian and Portugese. He said I should go back to Puerto Rico then hahaha.

Anyways, the CG schools definitely cost an arm and a leg for tuition. I went to a school with a very slick presentation for parents and such. Shiny labs full of the latest Macs with the giant cinema displays…honestly it looks very impressive. Then when we got there, we had almost no lab time, had to use “educational” versions of software and work at home. Or we’d be fired.

This is why I try to steer students towards a well rounded 4 year education at a more moderately priced University as opposed to “tech” school.


Hi Rebeccak,
I just wanted to thank you for posting articles like these that highlight the perilous cost of student debt. I was originally thinking of going back to school for a cg degree but have decided not to because I could not afford to.

 After doing loan repayment calculations on a calculator on [bankrate](http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/college-planning/loan-calculator.aspx) , it said that I would be paying about $1053 a month for 30 years on a $120,000 loan which has a 10% rate (even here I'm being conservative on the rate of payment that is a private loan).  That to me is an exorbitant and impractical amount to be paying back a month.  Couple that with the cost of living and the fact that cg is a very unstable industry and being out of work from time to time is normal, then I'm not sure how I could afford to save up an emergency fund to afford to live to temper the times when I am not working.  
 Crazy cases like the [guy that stayed abroad to escape student loan debt](http://money.cnn.com/2008/10/23/pf/college/student_loan_fugitives/index.htm) , although extreme, underscore a very real problem.
 I wanted to go back to school as a means to gain freedom, but I don't think you can be very free if you owe that much money. And thus, I am going to be pursuing the self taught route which is less stressful and less pressure.  I'm actually more relaxed and happier now that I have made this decision.  I would love to go to school but I think this is the best way to go about achieving my goals.
 Anyway, thanks again.


That’s a very interesting article - thanks for sharing.

Maybe the law differs greatly in the States, and from state to state, but certainly here, student loans are deferred until you’re earning above a threshold amount (it’s not much, but deferring doesn’t affect your credit score if you’re not working), and even if you default on payments, as far as I know it’s considered a civil matter and there’s only so much a debt collector can do legally.

If it’s a bank loan to attend a private institution, there’s almost nothing a debt collector can do if you genuinely can’t pay, and they prey on people’s fears and ignorance to achieve their reclamation targets.

So many people (my wife and I included, for some years) live in terror of legal consequence, simply because of a lack of awareness of our legal rights. I’d be interested to hear if this is the case Stateside, or if collection agencies have greater powers to pursue defaulted student loan debt than they do here.


From what I have heard, President Obama is about to reform student loan. The plan is to take it from the banks and private companies and let the gov handle it. On npr they were saying that many schools already started giving loans through the federal gov and are cutting out the middle men (the banks).

The case for fixing today’s backward student loan system is simple: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government is wasting $67 billion on subsidies to banks. President Obama and lawmakers, including some Republicans, believe these dollars could be better spent directly helping families pay for college.

Not surprisingly, banks are waging a ferocious battle to save their sweetheart deal by playing fast and loose with the truth. If they succeed, they will put at risk tens of billions of dollars that we would use to increase Pell Grants for students, boost college graduation rates and reduce borrowers’ monthly student loan payments.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/16/EDKM1CGOU3.DTL#ixzz0iOLI23m0


leptonish, you’re welcome. I try to stress to all of my students - those at community colleges, in private art schools, and in high school programs - that the decisions they make now will inform and shape the rest of their economic lives. I think the good feeling you have is indication that you made the right decision for yourself. It’s not to say that it’s the right decision for everyone, but I think that you are smart to make a self assessment and to take on board what you feel about your personal financial situation and feel comfortable with the decision you’ve made. The debt slavery that many in this country voluntarily subject themselves to is the norm but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I don’t want people think that I’m anti-education - I’m certainly all for it as I make my living as a teacher. But I’m far more pro-student than pro-institution, and the amount of debt that students are incurring these days scares the living daylights out of me.

For the record I strongly believe in education but wish that the US was more in line with Europe in terms of education costs - here the high cost of education is terrible for our country as a whole as it puts basic post secondary education far out of reach for your average citizen. It’s a great threat to us in every conceivable way.

Here in the US, even in bankruptcy, student loan debt is not forgiven. I am fairly sure that there is no long term loan deferment as there is in the UK, where you only pay back what you can afford - here, regardless of income, you start to repay your loans upon graduation. This is why many students who are unable to find jobs immediately following graduation take the ludicrous step of immediately taking out MORE loans for graduate school - incurring more debt is the only way to put off paying back one’s undergraduate student loans.

Unfortunately, your average 17 year old kid isn’t thinking about the long term consequences of all of this debt.

I don’t know what the status is now, but last I heard, private lenders such as Sallie Mae were pretty up in arms about Obama’s plans. I don’t know what the state of those plans are now, but it’s a safe bet that an industry as large as the private lending industry has a strong lobby in Washington, DC.


There is some loan deferment here in the States, it varies depending on the specific loan but I was able to defer my loan payments during a period when I was unemployed. You are correct though, student loans are the one type of debt that isn’t bankruptable (I may have just made up a word there) as they a federally insured loans that must be paid back.

And while it’s not necessarily ideal it’s certainly possible to pay/work your way though school, which is what I’m about to do with Animation Mentor. If you’re going after a 4 year degree something like community college is also a great way to take your basic courses (which are the same just about everywhere) while saving money.


Thanks for the info - yes, I highly recommend for those interested in graduate school in particular to work while going to school part time, if possible - most graduate programs assume that a person is a working adult and schedules the majority of courses in the latter part of the day and evening. As a result of earning a 2 year degree over 4 years of working full time, I earned my MFA from a local university and graduated debt free.

It’s not the path for everyone, and I’m the first to admit that it’s less than glamorous, but I wouldn’t be able to afford my current lifestyle were I saddled with school debt. My point isn’t to do what I did, but to be financially aware of the ramifications of massive debt.


Christ, that’s absolutely disgusting. How can people possibly justify these costs?


I earned my MFA from a local university and graduated debt free.

same here except I had to get a loan. I came out owing 24,000 after i went to grad school. All through college I got financial aid from the gov, so when i got my bfa i came out owing nothing.
having a student loan is like owning a house or a car, you have to pay it back with interest.


The faster the people start realizing education is spending money(resources) the better. Then we will have a competitive market with many options and pressure in providers instead of students.
Until then the whole thing will be unsustainable like it is today and probably in next 5 years.


A lot of it is really just common sense too. Don’t go get a degree that’s going to put you $100,000 into debt if you’re going to graduate and make $40k. It’s even worse when it comes to graduate school, I know of people that have gotten $60,000 Masters degrees to do social work and make $30k…it just isn’t logical.


That’s what’s held me back from going back to school. Through self-teaching, I’ve managed to make a decent career with a good salary in the web world. If I were to go back to school for the official design, fine arts, etc. degree…I’d most likely be doing the same thing I’m doing now…I’d just have a very expensive piece of paper to show off. If I wanted to go back to school for a total career change—let’s say I want to be a character animator—I’d expect my first gig out of school would be about half or less than what I’m making now. The current state of education is a scary scenario and I can see it definitely scaring some people off. I think Leigh really summed it up:


That’s actually exactly what I’m doing, making the jump from designer to character animator :slight_smile: I’m planning to go freelance so I can more conveniently manage school and work, it is going to be a bit tough but if I can manage my freelance design work well I can make as much or more than I do at my day job currently. We shall see…


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