Saturday, December 4, 2010

Would You Hire Such a Person?

There is an article regarding a student from a Boston College who somehow got $200,000 in the hock. I really do not know the details but as a generic tale of woe there are some worthwhile observations of a general nature, independent of the specifics. These following observations are thus worth note:

1. I remember selecting a college and a major based upon ads in the Sunday Times. The objective at 17 was to have a job at 21. Simple equation. I do not remember any sociology jobs and it was between accounting and engineering. Poverty helps you focus. There were scholarships and I did get a pass to the Naval Academy but dad made it clear that I was not a career guy. So engineering and MIT, since I saw no jobs for mathematicians.

2. There were a few liberal arts types but they had family money so debt was not an issue. When you got out as I did in 1971, we were all thankful for Nixon since there were no jobs, I did vote McGovern. The best paying option was working as an electrician for my father, pay was good, boss had his problems.

3. Judgment starts in college and if you get out with almost a quarter mil around your neck then your options go to zero. I never ask anyone what they want to do, rather I ask what are you going to do to survive. Helps the mind focus.

4. There is a true bubble behind all of this debt, Sallie Mae et al, and it may be the next to explode. Most likely will. Students must focus on practical skills to get a job and not whims of the wish to feel good. The colleges often are complicit in this in several ways. First they seek the socially conscious kid who will pay for the grand exploding overhead of today's colleges. My first faculty office was the old Rad Lab wooden building I shared with the mice, often racing them to my sandwich each day at lunch. Second students must convince these bloated overhead institutions that they are not focused on making money but on learning to give back to society. Well if they have no job they will not even be able to pay back to the taxpayers what they have taken!

Somehow I think we have gotten the equation backwards. What are you going to do to pay for yourself should be a focusing mantra. We really do not need any more sociologists. Yet with the new health care plan we may find them practicing medicine in twenty years, unionized along side the teachers and auto unions!

Bottom line, would you hire such a person, most likely not, I would hire the high school grad who worked their fingers to the bone or the returning Marine who served bravely. They can always be taught stuff, it is difficult to have judgment. It is the same lack of judgment that led many to buying homes that they could not afford and for GM spending more on unions that made their vehicles over priced and for Wall Street to bet on the un-winnable yet have their losses covered and their profits insured. Darwin had many great observations regarding nature. But Government subsidized survival was not one. Because ultimately is is those who create value who ultimately pay for those who destroy it.