Monday, February 26, 2007

The Government Should Not Pick Up The Tab For Slackers

My wife and I enjoy watching certain reality TV shows together. One of those I record weekly on one of our DVRs is Trading Spouses which airs every Friday evening on Fox. It is great to see the pairing of off-beat, mismatched and/or dysfunction families. The show is in a two part format. At end of part 2 the wives who traded places are given $50,000 which they then “disburse” to their surrogate family.

This past two weeks a wife from a working class family in Boston swapped roles with a wife from a middle aged punk rock household in Washington State. The punk rockers had a home schooled daughter who was studying ballet. That was offbeat without the mommy swap. The Boston family had 3 children, two adult (early 20s) daughters and a boy in high school. As is typical, the swapping mom will allocate some of the $50,000 toward education for the other family’s kids. That makes plenty of sense and is good for everyone involved.

The two Boston daughters were real slackers. They lived at home, worked part-time evening jobs and owed their mom plenty of money for things like cell phones and a lifestyle above their means. In addition they did not lift a finger to help their mom or dad around the house. The daughters were not in college though both were of college age. At least one the daughters dropped out of college (I can’t recall). The surrogate mother provided money for one of the daughters to go back to college, causing the young lady to throw a tantrum. Her reasoning was because she did not want to spend “her” money on college but wanted the government to pay for it.

This really got me upset. I worked hard to be able to afford college. It was not the government’s responsibility to send me to college; it was the responsibility of my family and me to do so. My father died before I went to college and left my mother in a new (3 month old) house and a big mortgage. He had no PMI (could not qualify). I received some loans and qualified for work study jobs but it was not until senior year did I get a $1,000 government grant. So I worked two jobs during the school year and all summer long to pay for college. The University of Pennsylvania cost me $40,000 in 1978-1982 dollars.

I see many kids at Seton Hall, where I am a Professor of Finance who are first generation college students or come from families that cannot afford a college education. Some get government aid, some do not. However, no matter how their tuition is paid, their attitude and those of their families (some of which I have met) is to work hard, get the most out of their education and then start a career or go to graduate school.

The young lady from Trading Spouses who has already dropped out once, lives high off the hog from her parents and expects the government to pick up her tab, in my opinion does not deserve to college. There are too many more deserving kids other there which the government can make a better investment in.

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