Tag Archives: college

Flashback: What to take to College: Freshman Year-1977

It’s almost time for the kids to head off to college and this always makes me think of when I left for my Freshman year at Washington and Lee University in September of 1977.

I start this post with a sense of trepidation as I fear it may turn into one of those “I walked 5 miles each way to school in the snow and you children have it so easy” posts….

Still, thinking back over this, I’m amazed at how much things have changed since 1977.  So, at the risk of making myself seem ancient, I’m going to try to revisit the list of things that were essential to our college life at that time:

  1. Sheets from the Dan River Cloth Store- I lived in Danville, Virginia and the local textile mill had an outlet store that every single person in town used to go to for sheets, comforters, bedspreads and fabric.  That was one of the first stops to getting ready for college.  Now gone.  Both the Mill and the Outlet.  Long gone….
  2. Towels from the Downtown departments stores-  I remember hitting a sale at Thalhimers on Main Street for my college towels with several of  my friends.  Thalhimers and Main Street Departments stores- long gone….
  3. Clothes- Khaki pants, Lacoste alligator shirts, crew neck wool sweaters, button down oxford cloth shirts, bass wejeens loafers- well, the shirts are now Polo and the loafers Cole Haan, but this hasn’t changed that much!
  4. A fan for the Dorm room- we did not have air conditioning in the Dorms then….
  5. A small black and white TV with rabbit ears antennas-  no Cable TV in the dorms.
  6. A stereo with an 8 track player and a Peaches Records crate full of albums
  7. Bar ware…
  8. Hair dryers- hair was big for both boys and girls
  9. Smith Carona Electric Typewriter-there were no computers or “word processors”….
  10. Posters for the walls
  11. A 1972 Chevy Vega for transportation to and from other colleges for Parties and dances.

That’s about it….

Oh, and Washington and Lee was then an all-boys school.  It would not go co-ed until 1986 or so….

We shared a pay phone in the hall and all chipped in to share another direct dial phone in one guys room.  Cell phones had not yet been invented.  One of our major expenses each month was long distance phone calls to our friends at other schools and dates at the “Girls Schools” like Hollins, Sweet Briar, Mary Baldwin and Randolph Macon Woman’s College.  Most of us made our families track us down at the pay phone in the hall and didn’t give our parents the shared phone number.  We wrote letters and notes home via snail mail.  Mainly to ask for money….

To get said mail, we had to open Post Office Boxes at the Post Office and go by there daily- or sometimes twice daily- to check our mail for checks.  We also had to open checking accounts at the local bank as large state-wide- not national- banks were just starting up….

We shared a refrigerator in the hall.  Thanks to the Honor Code, it was no big deal and nothing was ever stolen.

Note what we did not have:

  1. No Cell Phones
  2. No Computers
  3. No E-Mail or texting
  4. Facebook was an actual book published by each college with pictures of each Freshman.  These were traded so you could shop by mail for your dates and have friends at other schools set you up…
  5. No iPods or iPads
  6. Microwave ovens were too new to think about having one in our rooms
  7. No air conditioning-it was the Virginia mountains before Global Warming, so no one thought much about this….
  8. No Personal refrigerators (but these were starting to catch on)
  9. No Private Bathrooms- our whole hall shared a communal  bathroom and shower on the hall.
  10. No Helicopter Parents- the best part!  We were free!

When we look at the rising cost of education, I can’t help wonder what the breakdown is and how much is driven by the increased amenities today’s students “need”…

We also did walk to class in the snow.  We didn’t cancel classes back then as schools did not have the liability issues they face today…..

It was a different time and place….

And, sometimes, I kind of miss the simplicity and slower pace of those days….

I don’t miss the lack of air conditioning…


Filed under Education, Scott's Commentary, Uncategorized

Work for No Pay? How White Collar Companies Exploit Desperate Young People’s Labor — and Perpetuate Our Class Divide


The concept of “internships” has disturbed me for many years.

Basically, this is a way to get people to work and not get paid.  Which means, only those who can afford to work without pay have the option of taking these internships.  Therefore, this closes a lot of doors to a lot of young people.

I don’t like anything that inhibits upward mobility and this is a big inhibition.

Now, it seems, this is becoming more and more the case…

From AlterNet.org:

There is a job opening! It seems perfect—full time, in the non-profit sector, based in New York City. It’s obviously a prestigious position—they’re looking to hire someone with at least a masters’ degree, though in certain cases this can be interchangeable with five years of related work experience. There’s only one small problem: it’s unpaid.

According to statistics from the National Association for Colleges and Employers, the number of students at four-year colleges who took internships increased from nine percent to more than 80 percent between 1992 and 2008. Once the economy crashed, and a paying job became a luxury rather than a fact of life, many  jobs were re-packaged as internships, promising experience and career connections in exchange for free labor.

Recent graduates, disturbed by the dearth of job opportunities, began to take internships as a last resort to stay competitive in the labor market. Although an internship used to be akin to an apprenticeship—a temporary stint of unpaid, hands-on labor resulting in an eventual job offer—the explosion of both college students and recent graduates taking internships no longer guarantees a paid position. Instead, as more and more young people demonstrated they were willing to supply an unpaid labor force so long as it was framed as an “internship,” internships have become a means for companies and non-profit organizations to re-package once paying jobs and cut corners in a tight economy.

Internships are the new entry-level job—the same duties and basic experience, only this time without compensation or benefits.

More:  http://www.alternet.org/story/152653/work_for_no_pay_how_white_collar_companies_exploit_desperate_young_people%27s_labor_–_and_perpetuate_our_class_divide?akid=7682.275643.3vhqC6&rd=1&t=2

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Chapter 59: All the Sad Young Men: Part 1 | My Southern Gothic Life

New post up on my other blog:


I think I’ve been away from this blog for a while because I’ve been trying not to write this entry….

I didn’t want to write this.  I didn’t mean to write this…but I need to write this before I can look either backwards or forward with any additional clarity.

It’s what’s on my mind and has to be exorcised…

I’m going to write about my college years.  I meant to stop before I got here.  I meant to save this for the book….

But I really can’t move on until I introduce this part of myself into the dialogue.  It’s too much a part of who I am.

This is hard for me to write.  I’m going to be as general and evasive, yet truthful,  as possible, but I have to write this….

See, I woke up one night recently, crying in my bed, silent tears running down my  face…..thinking about these boys and who we were and who we are…and I have to weave them into the narrative or I can’t honestly  go on with this experiment…

I guess it’s part of being “middle aged” and some sort of middle aged crisis….

They are too much of a part who I am not to recognize them….I value them too much.

More:  Chapter 59: All the Sad Young Men: Part 1 | My Southern Gothic Life.

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Student Loans Skyrocket, Grants Decline as College Tuition Spikes

This is  a problem that really disturbs me….

For generations, we have , as a nation, tried to encourage education and make it possible for any deserving Student.  An educated work force is the way to lead the world both economically and creatively.  Thought leadership leads to jobs and innovation….

But I really think the Republicans don’t want kids to get educations.  If you can think critically, odds are you see right through the GOP “smoke and mirrors.”  An educated electorate is the last thing they want….

I also partially blame today’s parents and students for driving up college costs.  All these new dorms going up so the kids can have private suites and private  bathrooms.  They seem to expect concierge level treatment from the schools.  How much of the increase in college costs is due to having to provide these luxuries to attract and keep today’s pampered students?

Still,  ultimately, we have to find a solution to make college affordable and for kids to be able to get jobs when they graduate.  Otherwise, the housing bubble bust is going to be nothing compared to the coming Student Loan explosion when these kids can’t pay off these outrageous loans.


From RawStory.com:

It’s no secret that college is an expensive endeavor, one that continues to hit the wallet well after the graduation caps are tossed. Recent data shows that the student loan situation is growing worse every year: students are accruing more debt and not always paying it off on time.

Mark Kantrowitz is the publisher of FinAid.org and has testified before Congress about the importance of financial aid programs. The bad news, according to Kantrowitz, is that not only is the burden of debt on students heavier than ever, it’s not going to get lighter any time soon.

“The total student loan outstanding debt exceeded outstanding debt for credit cards for the first time in 2010,” he said. “At the end of this year or early next year, outstanding student loan debt is expected to pass the trillion dollar mark for the first time.”

Between 1999 and the beginning of 2011, the federal student loan debt ballooned 511 percent. In the first quarter of 1999, the outstanding student loan debt was around $90 billion. By the first quarter of 2011, slightly over a decade later, the balance was around $550 billion in outstanding federal student loans.

Though the private sector doesn’t have the same stringent reporting requirements as the federal loan program, it’s easy to see that private loans have followed a similar steep upswing: The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study for the 1999-2000 school year reported $3,589,813,190 in debt through private student loans, which increased by 67.6 percent in the next year, and then by another 20 percent the next. Now, private educational debt is about $405 billion.

Combined, there is currently about $955 billion in outstanding student loans.

Moody’s reported this week that the default rate for private student loans is at 5.4 percent, up from 4.5 percent a year ago.

The rising rate of default can be linked directly to the poor state of the economy, Kantrowitz said.

“The main drivers of default rates are unemployment rates, interest rates and graduation rates,” he said. “It makes sense: if you don’t graduate, you’ll have more difficulty paying back your loans.”

The unemployment rate for those with bachelor’s degrees has also been on the rise, corresponding to the rising default rate for loans. Loans’ interest rates are also on the rise, an unfortunate conflation of sunsetting legislation that kept federal rates down and the national deficit, held at bay in part with the earnings from loans.

Unlike the financial crisis triggered by subprime mortgages, however, the student loan problem is not a bubble. It’s a balloon. As Kantrowitz explains it, a bubble is a disconnect between the value of a thing and its actual cost.

“It isn’t a student loan bubble so much as a long-term trend toward decreasing college affordability,” he said. “You can’t flip an education, turn around and sell it for more. You can only use it.”

Because student loans are a highly profitable, low-cost program for the government — they make about 15 cents back for every dollar they lend — there’s no danger of the loan program ending. Even on defaulted loans, the government still manages to recover about 85 cents per dollar loaned. As the deficit needs more feeding, however, interest rates on educational loans are one way to try and fill the gap, as are rising tuitions at state and public schools, which force students to take on more debt and make it harder for them to pay back that debt.

As education gets more expensive, students will look for less expensive options for their futures, thus decreasing the number of bachelor’s degrees earned per year and lowering the nation’s education rate.

“College affordability is going to get tougher and tougher with each passing year,” Kantrowitz said. “Every dollar of government grants is a dollar spent and every dollar of loan is actually profitable to the government. It’s going to be more difficult for families to pay for college over the next decade. Some students will shift their enrollment from more expensive college to less expensive college.

“Some will just not go to college.”

via Student loans skyrocket, grants decline as college tuition spikes | The Raw Story.

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Professor: Value Of College Extends Beyond Paychecks

As the product of and a firm believer in a Liberal Arts Education, this article really spoke to me.

My father and I fought constantly about my majors in College.  He wanted me to major in Business, which bored the hell out of me, and I wanted a Liberal Arts Degree in History.

I won.  And I’ve done just fine…

And I wouldn’t have given up the experience of being exposed to so many new and different things and learning to look at the world in through new lenses and filters.

I firmly believe the purpose of College is to learn new things, learn to be open to new thoughts and be exposed to different ways of seeing the world.  It’s about learning to question, learning to think critically and learning to make fact-based decisions.

It’s not about making money.  That will come if you know how to think, grow and plan…

From NPR:

Many American families are asking whether sending their children to college is worth it if they end up in jobs that pay less than the cost of tuition.

Mike Rose, a professor of education at UCLA, says it makes complete sense for people to be concerned about the economic benefits of college.

“We respond to the threat that’s most imminent, right?” Rose tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon.

But, he says, there are many other reasons to get a college education.

Rose, the author of Why School? and other books, cites the idea of intellectual growth — “not just learning things to make a living, but also learning things to enable you to do things with your life, to enable you to find interests and pursuits that may in some way or another expand the way we see things.”

There are also social benefits, he says: learning to think together, learning to attack problems together, learning how to disagree.

“One of the great things about bringing so many people together in this common space,” he says, “is that you’re almost forced to have to deal with and encounter people who see the world in a very different way from your own, ways that you maybe never even thought of.”

Rose points to the Jeffersonian ideal that having a functioning democracy requires having an educated citizenry. The concept may be difficult to appreciate when one is working as a barista, he says, but that might be exactly the time when a person should be thinking about it.

“You know, to be able to think about our economic situation in some kind of an analytical and sophisticated way is not something that comes easy,” he says, “and I think it does come with study.”

Rose says that if we preach only the economic payoff of education, we affect what and how we teach.

“It ends up affecting the way we define what it means to be educated,” he says. “That’s pretty important stuff to be thinking about in a free society.”

via Professor: Value Of College Extends Beyond Paycheck : NPR.

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The Next Bubble Is About to Burst: College Grads Face Dwindling Jobs and Mounting Loans

This has been a concern to me for some time….

So many kids are graduating college with so much debt- and no jobs.

And the Republicans want to cut education funding and Pell grants….

But then, the GOP has never valued education because educated people don’t vote Republican- unless they are rich and voting their pocketbook…

A scary little article from Alternet.com:

It’s the beginning of summer: warmer weather, longer days, the end of the school year. And that means graduation for thousands of young people across the U.S.; graduation with more student debt than ever before, and into a job market that is anything but promising.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 face an unemployment rate nearly twice that of the rest of the population, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute. 2010’s 18.4 percent rate for youth was the worst in the 60 years that economists have collected such data. ColorLines notes that in 2010, 8.4 percent of white college graduates were unemployed, 13.8 percent of Latino graduates, and a dismal 19 percent of black graduates.

Those bright, shiny new degrees simply aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on all too often. The cost of a college degree is up some 3,400 percent since 1972, but as we all know too well, household incomes haven’t increased by anything close to that number — not for the bottom 99 percent of us, anyway.

More:   The Next Bubble Is About to Burst: College Grads Face Dwindling Jobs and Mounting Loans | Economy | AlterNet.

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Ivy League Cleaning Lady Confessions: From Clogged Toilets to Feces in the Bathtub – The Daily Beast

But she’s making $140K a year!

I’m going to have to give this some serious thought as a second career….

I wonder if Students around here can pay as much…


And I bet I could whip them into shape in no time….

From the Daily Beast:

It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday in Philadelphia, and 51-year-old Kia Katrina Grasty, donning only her pajamas, is heading to a frat party.

Pulling up in her white GMC envoy truck to one of the University of Pennsylvania’s unofficial fraternity houses on Pine Street, Grasty marches confidently into the bash, shuts down the deejay and makes an urgent announcement: everyone needs to look for a package belonging to Penn junior Jack Cortese, one of the students living in the house.

Jack’s mother—actress Kim Delaney of NYPD Blue—was frantic that Jack hadn’t yet received the high-end suit and shoes she had overnighted for his upcoming internship interview. When Delaney couldn’t reach her son on the phone that night, she called Grasty. Unable to refuse the mother of a “privileged” client, Grasty darted out of bed immediately and took control of the situation.

“We need to look for a package!” she declares to the glassy-eyed college kids, who somewhat obediently stop carousing to search among strewn beer cups, cigarette stubs and other detritus. Moments later, Grasty emerges victorious from behind a bench on the front porch. “Got it!” she yells, and like clockwork the show goes on. Grasty can go home for the night, but she’ll be back soon enough to mop up the mess. That’s her job, after all.

Since 2005, Grasty has been cleaning up after Penn. While her partner at Diamond Cleaning, Candy Boyd, handles more conventional work—commercial buildings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—Kia has parlayed the effusive recommendation of one student, who found her on Google, into a customer base of dozens of Ivy League neat freaks and slobs—including high-profile scions like Delaney’s son, Vera Wang’s daughter, and the heir to the Beverly Hilton—many of whom pay her for the entire year in advance.

via Ivy League Cleaning Lady Confessions: From Clogged Toilets to Feces in the Bathtub – The Daily Beast.

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Democratic Professors vs Republican Professors: A Comparison

Interesting article from Inside Higher Education.  Especially in light of the recent information that the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires are trying to endow professorships to control what and how information is being taught in colleges…

Also, the Republicans don’t really think everyone should be able to go to College…That’s clear from their policies.

Hat Tip to Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire where I first saw this article mentioned…

Republican professors and Democratic professors presumably produce different outcomes when they enter the ballot box, but what about when they record grades?

A forthcoming study finds that there may be notable differences. Democratic professors appear to be “more egalitarian” than their Republican counterparts when it comes to grading, meaning that more of the Democratic grades are in the middle. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to award very high grades and very low grades.

Another key difference is that black students tend to fare better with Democrats than with Republicans.

More:   News: Red Grader, Blue Grader – Inside Higher Ed.

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Forever Prep in Virginia

This is for my fellow Virginia Preps…

By that, I mean those of us who went to Washington and Lee, Sweet Briar, Randolph Macon Woman’s College, Mary Baldwin, UVa, Hollins and a few other colleges in Virginia in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

We were the preppiest group of people you could ever hope to see…

Those of you who are my friends on FaceBook have seen the pictures…

I referenced the pictures to this “Virginia Living” magazine article last month.  Now the full article is on line.

Here is an excerpt and a link to the full article:

If you happened to attend college in the early 1980s, then you probably remember The Official Preppy Handbook. Izod shirts and pastel sweaters were experiencing a fashion moment at the time, and the book arrived as a wryly affectionate satire of a culture where the house wine was a gin and tonic, “summer” was a verb, and a man could appear in public dressed in wide-wale corduroys embroidered with a repeating motif of Irish setter’s heads, and no one would laugh.

Though the Handbook largely concerned itself with the northeastern preppy, the breed’s Virginia cousin was entirely recognizable in the book’s pages and even accorded the occasional nod. And in fact, though we were much more likely to summer at the River instead of Nantucket, and we considered Princeton about as far north as we’d be willing to go for an Ivy League education (or better yet not go north at all when we had better options right here at home), Virginians were confident that we could out-prep the preppiest Groton grad with one hand tied behind our Lily Pulitzer-clad backs.

For one thing, timelessness and tradition are cornerstones of the prep ethic, and it’s not for nothing we named ourselves the Old Dominion. There have been Virginians with a preference for things the way they used to be since the first Jamestown colonists stole a last fleeting glance backward to the receding shores of England—and in most matters your traditional Virginian has always considered it safe to trust in the principle, “What would Mr. Jefferson do?”

More:   Forever Prep – VirginiaLiving.com.

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Rutgers Parents Outraged by Snooki Speech – FoxNews.com

I knew there would be a backlash…

I still can’t believe they paid her $32K, which is 2$ more than they are paying Toni Morrison to give the graduation speech…

If I was paying Rutgers tuition, I would be furious…

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.–Angry parents of students attending Rutgers University blasted the decision to pay Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi $32,000 to give a campus talk last week — and said she should stay on the Jersey Shore, the New York Post reported Sunday.

“It’s disgusting,” said Nester Delgado, 43, whose daughter is a Rutgers freshman.

“Next year, is it going to be J-WOWW or The Situation?”

Parents fumed that Snooki was paid nearly $10,000 more than the $23,466 they have to fork over annually in tuition fees and housing to send their kids to the Garden State university.

“I don’t think she’s a good representation of a role model for my kids,” said Christine Getz, 47, a part-time preschool teacher who has a son and daughter at Rutgers.

The boardwalk bimbo drew 2,000 students to both of her Q&A sessions Thursday night at which she offered tales of her rise to “guidette” stardom, and offered such advice as “When you’re tan, you feel better about yourself,” and “Study hard, but party harder.”

The backlash comes after many students spoke out against the decision to host the reality TV star on campus.

“As an RU student, I’m really ashamed,” one student tweeted, according to FOXNews.com

“My tuition dollars wasted on Snooki,” another student wrote. “Rutgers probably could have paid her with a case of beer.”

Members of the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), which organized the event, defended the high speaking fee, saying the group had been looking for someone who could appeal to the student community.

“We’re trying to provide different kinds of experiences to students,” said the group’s president, Ana Castillo.

Snooki’s $32,000 fee caused a stir when it was revealed she got $2,000 more than Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison will get for this year’s commencement address.

via Rutgers Parents Outraged by Snooki Speech – FoxNews.com.

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