Wednesday, March 15, 2006


A special report earlier this month from the Chronicle of Higher Ed on the transition from school to college. Lots of good stuff in there from both sides. I particularly liked the debate on whether cost or preparation is more important in determining who goes to college.

1 comment:

d blake said...


I read your book and "Strapped" by Tamara Draut in about 4 days. They made me think a lot about Gen X'ers (my generation) and Millenials. I think I qualify as a Gen-X success story.

My story: I was reared in Lexington, KY, as the son of blue-collar dad and homemaker Mom. Starting around third grade, we endured intermittent lay-offs from the factory for Dad, and Mom started working as a substitute teacher.

I graduated from a public high school with a 4.0 gpa (and worked my butt off to get it). I got accepted to Duke, Wake Forest, and other privates, but I attended the U. of Kentucky because the school offered a full-ride. I had to swallow a little pride as all my friends were going to private colleges, but my parents told me they couldn't help with college expenses (my Dad was laid-off semi-permanently from his job a few days after graduation and one day after his plant manager took me and my family to lunch to congratulate me for being a National Merit Scholar and winning a company-sponsored scholarship).

I worked hard in undergrad while holding down 1-2 jobs during the school year and 2-3 jobs during the summer to save for medical school.

After undergrad, I went to medical school at the U. of Kentucky ('97-2000), and then did my residency there (2000-2003). I finished residency with about $65,000 in debt ($45,000 student loan; $15,000 car; $5,000 credit card) despite living in an older, somewhat stinky apartment complex where most people got Section 8 help (I did NOT get Section 8 help; rent for my 1 BR apt was only $284/month!)

Since then, I've worked as a pediatrician. First year income $130K; second year $152K; this year, around $200K. All my debt is gone; I have a $10K emergency fund; and I've knocked $35K off my 20-mo old mortgage. I'm driving the same car I bought in residency. I still don't have cable/satellite, a computer, or internet access (I have computer access at the office; tv is a waste of time). I don't consider those things a loss; I'm happy with a simple life.

Now that the debts are gone, my next goal is to pursue a career in global public health. Not as lucrative a job as a US pediatrician, but more rewarding.

In the end, I don't regret anything or begrudge anyone. I don't consider anything I have encountered in my life to have been undue hardship. I learned a public college education is what you make of it, and you can certainly be succesful without an ivy league degree (and I'm very thankful that I didn't end up with the student loan debt I would have racked up by going to a private college). I'm a better person for having worked as much as 60-70 hours per week during college breaks. I never had the money to play the consumption game, so I've learned to live without stuff that others think are crucial (one of my boomer partners tells me I'm "existing," not "living"). It's been kind of fun to be a pediatrician for a few years before moving on to what I "really want to do" (global public health).

Honestly, there have been times when I've viewed my generation and millenials as "slackers" because I haven't met a whole lot of people who were as driven as I was or who were willing to work as long and as hard as I worked. Your book helped me think about external factors affecting financial outcomes for 20/30-somethings. I'm still not convinced the work-ethic for my generation is the same as that for my grandparents' generation, but I'm at least turning it over in my head. :)