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If the cost of regular goods and services grows at a steady walking pace, higher education is galloping away like a Triple Crown winner whose ass just met a hornet.

How to Pay for College without Selling Your Soul to the Devil

Listen you lazy, entitled whiners: it’s easy to pay for college. Just get a summer job! Why, in my day I worked weekends as a fry cook down at the diner on Main, graduated without debt, and now I’m sixty-five years old and completely delusional about the inflated costs of higher education! Ask me more about the house I bought for $60,000 and how much I resent the respectful empathy of the children I raised!

Sorry, y’all. Probably should’ve started that with a trigger warning.

Whenever we write about student loans, we get at least one comment like this. Except with more caps lock. We delete them. We never silence interesting criticism, but come on, this ain’t a public square for every old man who wants to yell at a cloud! We pay good money for this web hosting!

At least where the cost of college is concerned, things aren’t what they used to be. Thirty years ago, it cost the modern equivalent of $8K per year to attend a public college and $18K per year to attend a private college.

Today, the same year of school would cost $21K and $48K. And you’re supposed to buy FOUR of them!

If the cost of regular goods and services grows at a steady walking pace, the cost of higher education is galloping away like a Triple Crown winner whose ass just met a hornet. I didn’t even mention the cost of textbooks, room and board, and other academic fees, which are all even worse. Can’t be giving you nightmares!

Meanwhile, average hourly wages have barely increased 11% (adjusted for inflation), making the wage-to-college-cost-ratio just fucking laughable. Yet college is still a barrier to entry into not only white collar jobs, but an ever-increasing number of blue collar jobs.

My purpose here is not to unpack the absurd inflation of higher education costs in recent years (I’d need another 2,500 words, and I can only hold your attention through so many gifs). Nor is it to debate the relative value of a college degree (another 3,000 words).

Instead, I want to focus on practical solutions for people who’ve already weighed their options and decided that college is right for them. Yes, a traditional four-year undergraduate degree is heckin’ expensive as fuck. Short of The Deep Magic, how do we mere mortals even attempt to pay for it?

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Podcast Episode 009: "I've Given Up On My Dream Career. Where Do I Go From Here?"

Episode 009: “I’ve Given up on My Dream Career. Where Do I Go From Here?”



Today we answer a letter from Patreon Donor Julia, who feels lost after making a big change of direction in her life.

Today’s question

“I’m twenty-one years old and I was in college majoring in biology, but I was just miserable and had to leave. But all I ever wanted to do was science, and now I’m really struggling with what to do next. I was paying for classes as I went (as much as I could, anyway) so I only have one loan to pay off. But I just really don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’ve worked in retail and foodservice and I hated it. I’ve been applying to daycare centers because I like kids, but I haven’t heard back from any of them. Any advice you could give me on finding a direction would be very much appreciated.”

This question made our hearts heavy. We hate to see a twenty-one-year-old sounding so lost and resigned. Because twenty-one is so young! You’re an adult when you’re twenty-one, but like, it’s the toddler stage of adulthood. The world won’t always feel so intimidating and impenetrable.

Our Boomer parents would certainly tell her to fOlLoW hEr DrEaM, dAmN tHe CoNsEqUeNcEs. But obviously we have to bring a more nuanced answer than that.

Allow us to remind all of our young listeners that…

  • Cs are passing grades. They are enough. Let yourself step down off the hamster wheel of your own demanding expectations.
  • College curricula can be more challenging than the “real world” career you’re preparing you for.
  • Piggy and I graduated from college ten years ago, and in the last decade, the number of employers who have expressed a desire to know our letter grades in college is absolute zero—a thermodynamic state once thought to be merely theoretical! SCIENCE!
  • Some careers are challenging to pursue because they’re vanishingly rare and impossibly glamorous: professional video game player, A-list film actor, high-end vibrator tester, etc. But other careers are challenging to pursue because they require a lot of intelligence, persistence, and education: biologist, surgeon, high-end vibrator engineer. Shake the former, push the latter.
  • STEM fields will remain overwhelmingly male so long as women and nonbinary folks lack mentors and programs to help them through the doubt.
  • Sometimes you wanna quit because you know yourself, and you’ve made a mature and informed decision about what’s best for you. Other times you wanna quit because you’re scared of failure, or scared of success, or unsure how to move forward. You will spend a lot of your young adulthood learning to spot the difference between the two.
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The catastrophic recklessness and base greed represented in these statistics transcends cartoonish supervillainy.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Student Loans

According to BGR lore, Kitty and I met as randomly assigned freshman year roommates at college. We came from different backgrounds, had different interests and goals. But we had two things in common:

  1. Clothing size.
  2. Student loans.

The former meant that our wardrobes essentially doubled in size while we lived together. It was a rude awakening when I moved halfway across the country from Kitty only to realize the only shoes I owned were hiking boots. Gone were the days when I would get drunk and traipse around our apartment in Kitty’s four-inch-high red heels! Now I would have to buy my own grownup shoes!

But I digress.

The latter was the seed that sprouted into this very blog.

We each graduated with student loan debts in the tens of thousands… a fact that lands us squarely in the average of our millennial age bracket. And the year was 2009… a year after the 2008 recession and subsequent dismal job market. Fun times!

It was our joint effort to pay off our considerable student debt ahead of schedule in an unwelcoming economy that taught us the importance of financial literacy. It was a painful process, and having that debt in the first place set our financial independence back by years.

But this is not simply the origin story of your humble Bitches. It is the story of thousands upon thousands of young Americans. The current reality of student loans is a source of controversy and curiosity. And it’s time we set the record straight.

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More and more employers are requiring entry level employees to have industry experience in order to get hired. Get that? You have to have a job to get a job, a requirement that necessitates ripping the fabric of the space time continuum in order to get hired.

The Ugly Truth About Unpaid Internships

Internships: a time-honored tradition in which young professionals gain valuable career experience and skills they can’t learn in the classroom. Internships are widely recognized as a great way to boost your resume and get a leg up over your peers in the job market. For many industries, they’re a rite of passage and an invaluable part of the workforce.

Yet there’s something horribly wrong with most internships as we operate them here in the bestest country on Earth.

Trigger warning: today’s lesson includes mentions of privilege and unfavorable descriptions of capitalism. Also law-breaking. Clutch your pearls and avert your eyes.

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Making it to thirty with a fat bank account and a well-ordered life makes you a certifiable badass.

Ask the Bitches: How Can I Make Myself Financially Secure Before Age 30?

Are you following us on Tumblr yet? No? Well then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?

No but seriously, our beloved darlings of Tumblr ask the best questions. And we love answering them because the Tumblr kids are simply inspiring in their determination to get good at adulting. Some of our answers spin out into novel-length screeds on finance, feminism, and figuring shit out.

So Kitty and I thought, why not share the best of those answers with the rest of the Bitchosphere?

Loyal follower of the Bitches pallid-etoiles asked: “Hey, BGR (sue me I acronymed it. Please don’t.), What are your wise ways of making yourself financial secure before you hit 30? What’s the best way to start financially at limited experienced 17-year-old who hasn’t any have the knowledge of what to do on her own?”

How indeed?

The fact that you’re even thinking about this at age seventeen means you win ALL THE AWARDS! Seriously, this is a great time to start prepping for your future, and you’re way ahead of the game by even reading finance blogs and trying to get your shit together.

Here’s our advice.

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My parents always treated the topic of investing the same way they did the topic of sex: knowledge to be imparted "when you're older."

Advice I Wish My Parents Gave Me When I Was 16

My parents meant so, so well. And they were so, so right about some things (the relative unworthiness of all teenage boys, for example). But there are a couple of things I’m kinda pissed they didn’t tell me about when I was 16 and on the cusp of making serious decisions about finances and the next several years of my life.

It’s not that they told me nothing, or even that they gave me horrible advice. But I feel like my time as a 16-year-old was the last year of my life before I was expected to make monumental decisions that would affect my financial future in really, really big ways. And that future could have been drastically different (and potentially better) if only they’d told me some key things that would have influenced my decisions about college, a career, and investing.

I brought receipts.

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