Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 2005

Student Angst

As reported in the Los Angeles Times March 18, 2005, William Sloane Coffin's new book scheduled for release this summer includes this advice to a fictional college student: "There are two ways, my friend, that you can be rich in life. One is to make a lot of money and the other is to have few needs."

Surely there must be a third choice.

The problem for the fictional college student revolves around the student loans racked up while defining the word angst. Assuming the student comes to the view that a few needs are the keys to richness in life, there remains the debt. So then the needs grow, don't they? To service serious debt, one needs more than a backpack and an appreciation of rose-smelling.

I received one of the first government student loans. I had to swear I wouldn't support foreign princes or something, and then they gave me $300 my junior year and $900 my senior year. I don't recall if any foreign princes wanted to match the offer. I do remember someone's eschewing the seriousness of my debt.

"Whoa!" I said, "that's 10 bucks a month for 10 years plus interest."

Someone was impressed I forget her name but she went to Wellesley College and had no debt. I'm not sure which sounded worse: the 10 bucks or the 10 years or the combination. What must it be like for this year's grads?

First, they're probably older. I went through college in four straight years, which is no longer the norm. Second, there was the draft real, expected, the way it was forever, I assumed. Third, now there's cable, iPods and no Elvis. Oh, my!

So what do these people do when graduating college with more debt than my biggest mortgage? Support a change to the Social Security system? Work two jobs? Try to make a lot of money? Become Republicans? Try to mitigate their needs? All of the above?

Hey, Reverend Coffin, is there a happy ending to your book?