Debt and higher education (part 2)

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
-Brigham Young

Yesterday I wrote a post about the financial aspects of my undergraduate and graduate school education. I was attempting to refute claims from my least favorite blogger that men find women less desirable as potential wives if they have debt incurred from higher education. To take it even further, this woman doesn’t approve of college at all for those of us of the female persuasion. To use her own words, “There’s nothing biblical about young women going away to college.” It’s easy to unravel this argument, though. First of all, college as we know it today did not exist millennia ago when the Bible was written. Of course there were institutes of higher learning, especially in the more wealthy and powerful nations, but I don’t think even those are addressed in the Bible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Second, women had almost no rights or autonomy at that time so I’m sure they received little to no education. They had so few options in their lives simply because of their gender and the male-dominated society they were born into. (This is slightly off topic, but as always, I am unbelievably grateful to all of the women who came before me and made the world a more equitable place for future generations.) Later in her post this blogger continues her rant:

“They [women] will be taught to be strong apart from the Lord and independent of Him and in no need of a man. In fact, they will be taught that there are no differences between men and women and be encouraged to be a man and take on his role. They will be taught about birth control, overpopulation, and the inconvenience of having children. They will be taught to pursue careers so they can make a name for themselves and have money of their own. They will be taught nothing about God’s ordained role for them but instead, spend a lot of money for their college education and gain a mountain of debt.”

To start with, what individual could possibly have the right to determine what God’s ordained role for any person other than themselves? That’s arrogance of the highest order. There are a number of reasons that women want to further their education, but most want to prepare for a career. I was in a sorority at UF and a majority of my sisters had lofty professional dreams that they were pursing, similar to my own. In this day and age a college degree is almost a requirement for any line of work. Of course, I understand that this isn’t universally true, and that college isn’t right for everyone. And that’s perfectly OK! I don’t judge folks for their educational choices, unlike some “Christian” bloggers I know. (I read another article by a different author recently that got me all fired up on this subject, but I’ll have to address that at a later time.) On the other hand, most of my sorority sisters were also eager to fall in love, get married, and start having children. So even though they had ambitions outside the home, they still wanted the traditional house with a white picket fence and a loving family to go with it. We are lucky that thanks to women’s rights advocates and feminists that there’s no reason we can’t have both! For example, where would we be without female-dominated professions like nursing, teaching, and social work? Let me use another quote straight from my least favorite blogger herself. In a recent Instagram post she asked, “Many women believe they are being ‘called’ to their careers but are they really?” For myself the answer is a resounding YES! And I’m sure most of the working women that I know, many with husbands and children too, would have a similar response.

The last point I want to address is single women such as myself. How would I be able to support myself if I didn’t have a good job thanks to my college education? Granted, my situation is unique since I made the choice to be single rather than having singleness thrust upon me. I divorced my ex-husband because he was abusive and cheated on me, but not all women have that luxury. What about women who are widowed or whose husbands leave them? Also, what about married women whose husbands become disabled or unable to work? How do they feed their children, keep a roof over their head, and satisfy their most basic needs? As I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to get a good job without a college degree now. This is the reason I believe that all women who are inclined to go to college should do so, even if they plan to be a stay-at home wife and mother, just in case they are required to be their family’s breadwinner for one reason or another. It seems prudent to plan for whatever the future could bring rather than relying on a man to fulfill the provider role for the rest of your life. Of course this is just my opinion and I would encourage all women, couples, and families to figure out what works best for them. God gave us free will for a reason and he wanted all of his children to be happy, including members of the fairer sex!

P.S. In case you were wondering, one of the reasons I continue reading posts from this particular blogger is because they inspire me to think critically about the subject at hand and write these responses/rebuttals. Blogging has always been good for my soul. So even if I get angry reading her posts about how ladies these days are apparently loud, improper, and far too independent, I won’t let it affect how I feel about myself as a woman. I will simply use my visceral reaction as an opportunity to explain how not everyone fits into the same rigid box. Use your God-given gifts and live your life in whatever way you wish, ladies!

Debt and higher education (part 1)

“Imagine being born and finding out that because of your gender you’re expected to do one thing. Boys can be anything, but you, you’re only expected to stay home and cook and clean and make babies. I refuse to believe that that is my only purpose in life and my reason for existing.”
-7/3/18 Facebook comment

I was fairly young when I decided that I wanted to be an engineer. Math and science were always my favorite subjects and my parents, as well as all of my teachers, encouraged me to pursue my dreams. For me, college was a given. I never had any doubt that I would head straight to a university after graduating high school. However, I knew that my family wasn’t rich so my higher education options weren’t unlimited. I think I only applied to two schools, and one of them (Georgia Tech) fell off the list quickly because I didn’t get any substantial financial aid. Fortunately I grew up in Florida and our state has an amazing scholarship program called Bright Futures. When I finished high school over twenty years ago all you had to do to get money for college from the state was graduate from a Florida public high school, earn above a certain grade point average, and receive over a certain score on the SAT or ACT. So I had 100% of my tuition covered, plus a stipend for books every semester. (Granted, it was never enough to cover all of the insanely expensive textbooks I had to buy, but it certainly helped.) This means that I went to the University of Florida basically for free. Since I wasn’t living at home (Gainesville is about two hours away from Tallahassee) I did have room and board expenses, but I was extremely fortunate to have a college fund that my grandparents had sent up for me when I was young. They provided invaluable help to all four of their grandchildren in this manner. I got my Bachelor of Science degree with minimal cost to my parents, and without incurring any debt whatsoever. For this reason I know I am one of the lucky ones.

My least favorite blogger insists that men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos. I already addressed the purity aspect in my 7/27 post, and now I’m going to tackle the debt portion of this hypothesis. After college I had no debt, but then I headed to graduate school at UCLA for two reasons. 1) I always planned to earn a Master’s Degree, and 2) the job market wasn’t great in 2002. I already had my foot in the door at Boeing due to my three internships, but the managers I knew there weren’t hiring when I graduated. So in the fall of 2002 I started my out-of-state, meaning not cheap, graduate school experience. Fortunately I was offered a position as a research assistant, and sometimes teaching assistant, which covered my tuition (four times more expensive than at UF) and earned me a paycheck every month. The drawback is that it was a very meager salary that didn’t cover the rent on my studio apartment close to campus. I lived for two years on the money I earned working at Boeing in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Usually an internship is an unpaid position, but Boeing is extremely generous to their temporary employees. I had saved a significant amount before starting graduate school, but I still needed additional financial aid to afford my continued education. So for the first time I got student loans. I still count myself as one of the lucky ones because in two years I only racked up about $17k worth of debt. In contrast, my ex-husband had attended MIT for undergrad and his student loans were much more substantial than mine. However, since our education had assisted both of us in finding fulfilling and lucrative jobs, neither of us considered the other’s student loan debt to be a point of contention when thinking about our future. Not that you’ll ever get rich as an engineer, but it comfortably pays the bills. I’ll reiterate the neither of us was religious so we weren’t viewing each other through the lens of Biblical suitability for marriage.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but this post is already pretty long. Come back later this week so I can use my personal life experiences to refute some of the claims made by this “Christian” blogger about women and college. Educated women need to push back on the antiquated, male-dominated conventions that would prefer to limit our options. To be continued!

Sixteen years ago

Over the weekend I was looking back at some of my posts from previous years and found a couple of gems from January 2001. The first presidential election after I was old enough to vote was in 2000 and what a doozy it was! Especially since I was still living in Florida. (For the record, Alachua County didn’t have any ballot irregularities. We colored in circles on a scantron with a Sharpie rather than punching holes in our ballots. No chance of hanging chads for us.) Some of the things I wrote about that election are eerily similar to the 2016 outcome. And as it turns out, neither case benefited my preferred candidate. History repeats itself, and much sooner than I ever expected!

“Speaking of the media, tonight we have a new president, George W. Bush. Don’t blame me, I voted for Gore!”
1/20/01 webpage post

“As I was waiting at a traffic light near I-75 I saw a billboard that caught my attention. It read ‘You Get the Government You Elect!’ My first thought was, ‘Not this year!’ At least we didn’t get the president that the majority of the population voted for.”
1/26/01 webpage post