After two full weeks in Oregon, I finally had my first home-cooked meal here.
My friend and former work colleague Nancy invited me to her house where her daughter Molly whipped up a great meal of stuffed pork chops, roasted potatoes, and salad. And an amazing home-made cherry pie.
I caught up on what was happening locally. And, because we are attorneys, the topic turned to the cost of higher education. Law schools, in particular.
Several young attorneys have told me their tales of financial woe involving they debts they incurred in law school. One friend has a student loan of $160,000. Amortized to pay off when he is in his 70s.
Those obligations make me feel like a space alien. I knew that I had student loan debt when I left law school, but I was not certain how big the debt was. Certainly less than $160,000.
As a result of my donation project to Salem's land fill, I now know. When I graduated in May 1979, I owed $2,500. The first monthly payment of $90 was due a year later. The interest rate was ridiculously low at 3% during the height of the Carter-Ford-Nixon inflation years.
Even though the last payment was not due until 1988, I paid it off in three years just before I bought my first house.
Why the big difference? Between living at home, financial support from my parents, a part-time job, and short-term loans, I graduated college without any student loan debt.
My financial support in law school was similar. Two years of GI Bill benefits, a part-time job, and summer work kept my debt under control.
So, what happened between 1979 and 2012? Why doesn't the "putting yourself through college" formula work any more?
The big difference is tuition increases. I have seen the statistics, but I do not recall the details. But education costs have increased almost as much as medical costs.
There are lots of reasons for the medical cost increase. But the prime cause of tuition increases is linked directly to the increase of education loan availability. The more loans families are willing to undertake has freed educational institutions to increase their costs. Student loan debt is now targeted to be the next housing and .com bubble to burst.
During the past year, I have read several policy proposals to reverse the education cost spiral. But most of them seem to have about as much hope of being implemented as do reforms to Social Security and Medicare.
I am just glad I am a consumer of home-cooked meals, and not education, these days.