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Letters to the Editor (2) - October 11 2006

The cost of being young and recently graduated

Letters to the editor

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Generation Generalization

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So, Michael Phillips says (cover story, "Their cost to bear," Oct. 5) he'll budget $250 per week for entertainment, food and gas. Hmmmmm, and he wonders how he got so far in debt. I would be living lavish at $250/week. I guess it wouldn't have anything to do with buying $100 Polo shirts. For that $100 I could probably get two pairs of pants and several shirts. If you're worried about how you look, you're hanging out with the wrong people. I've got a degree from a Georgia state college and while I don't make $100s, I don't owe anything either.

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So when you graduate you'll have a job that makes gobs of money, but you'll owe gobs of money and the job you have will require you to spend gobs of money. You'll have to have expensive worthless suits, membership to the club, wheels that will get you to the same place as mine, but cost three times what mine did. All for what? Are you going to cross the finish line faster than me?

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If you live simply and practically, you can live very comfortably without worry. I have never carried a balance on a credit card and don't plan to. I have a condo in the city and a house in the 'burbs. I don't have cable TV, DSL, the latest cell phone or any of that other worthless junk. It's all about where your priorities are.

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-- Brant, Atlanta

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Your article is still flooding me with past anger I have toward corporate America's hiring practices. You touched on it lightly but that is the real reason these kids are not able to sufficiently pay back their loans. Although I did not rack up any college debt, I have been a victim of their hiring tactics and different discriminations. I would have also argued, this is the biggest reason education ought to be free. Like with health care, other countries seem to be able to offer these services to their citizens at no charge, with a cheaper overall tax system than our country has. This is because these semi-socialist countries are not subsidizing and policing the world and going to war over those subsidizations and generally sticking our red, white and blue collective nose where it does not belong. I would also like to discuss how skewed the unemployment rate is and if college is even worth going to, especially if you're majoring in business.

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-- Steve, Smyrna

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I am a 21-year-old college student attending Georgia State University. I also work 50 hours a week and have held a job for as long as I have been able to. I was absolutely enraged to see the statement: "They are part of what has become known as 'Generation Me.' They've grown up with a sense of entitlement that's set them up for failure as adults... they've been indulged with a 'gotta have it now' consumer appetite..."

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How can you possibly make such a blanket statement? How dare you prescribe a label to an entire generation? The whole idea is absolutely ludicrous. I have worked so hard for what I have — a job with a salary, benefits, 401k, my own apartment and my own bills to pay — and I'm working my way through school with a degree in ancient history. I will also be attending graduate school in another year-and-a-half. Yes, maybe I will fall into debt, but it certainly won't be because of any sort of frivolous spending tendencies, or because I "gotta have it now." I wake up every single day at 6 a.m. and after work I go straight to school, and I'm not home again until 9:30. The thing you have to realize here, which you obviously don't, is that I'm not the only one in those classes — nor am I the only one on MARTA or in traffic on the way to work in the pre-dawn hours. There are hundreds of my peers or "Generation Me-ers" who bust their chops every single day as well. So please, do a little bit more research (and I'm not saying pulling up arbitrary sums from accounting ledgers, because that can never show the true character of a person) before you label an entire generation as slackers and losers who can't make it in the "real world." If finding the poorest qualities of a generation are its litmus test, why don't we call the generation who fought in World War II the "Alcoholic Generation"? because, as I'm sure you know, the '40s saw the highest rate of alcoholism in our nation's history. Please be respectful of me and my peers because I hold the utmost respect for you and yours.

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-- Lance Warner, Atlanta

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Though I found much of Alyssa Abkowitz's recent article, "Their cost to bear," informative and, indeed, troubling, I was equally struck by Ms. Abkowitz's physical description of one of her interview subjects, Juandalyn Coffen. To wit, Abkowitz has this to say about Coffen as she deals with her grueling daily routine: "She's a bit bleary-eyed, and adjusts the black glasses that rest on her smooth, dark nose." Now, maybe I'm missing something, but didn't Abkowitz already make it clear that Coffen is African-American? And if so, why did she feel compelled to introduce this little gem of a description? My search through the article did not reveal Abkowitz describing Michael Phillips, another story subject who happens to be white, by saying something like, "he pondered his financial situation by rubbing his smooth, white chin." Again, I just find it hard to believe that this little tidbit of racial coding managed to make it past the editors at Creative Loafing, who, I'm sure, pride themselves on unbiased, objective reporting. Right? Sadly, the inclusion of that telling detail about Juandalyn Coffen's facial features proved a distraction for me throughout the rest of Abkowitz's otherwise revealing article.

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-- David Houze, Decatur

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Your engaging article really hit the vein for me. I am a religion major and sophomore at Emory University. I project to be $20,000 in debt by the time my undergrad is over. I saw that you recommended going to a public school and only transfering into a private one if you really felt like spending the money. Since I am a religion major, it's hard to find good programs for religion at state schools and I really wanted to go to school out-of-state and experience another culture. I know that I am incurring debt and it is scary, but I'm trying to do my best to make sure it doesn't bury me. I don't have a car and rarely go off campus. For entertainment, I rent CDs and movies from Emory's library for free and if I feel like partying, that's free too because I just go to a close house party on frat row. I have some money saved up to study abroad but I also plan on using some of that savings to pay off an unsubsidized loan. My goal is to have that unsubsidized loan paid off before I graduate. I don't have any credit cards because I think they're dangerous, I budget myself to spend only $30 a week on average, and I wear the same clothes I've had for a few years. If I have only subsidized loans, I won't have to worry about interest when I go to grad school, and by going to a school like Emory, I hopefully increase my chance of a fellowship. I could have waited to go junior year and gone to a community college, but I would always have regretted not having the college experience that comes freshman year.

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-- Jonathan, Atlanta

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Department of corrections

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Last week's cover story, "Their cost to bear," should have stated that since the 1970s, student loans have been one of the few things that can't be erased when a person files for bankruptcy.