Getting Smart with Money: Education and Happiness

Here are three articles I found this week that you might enjoy or find useful.

1.  Not Only Are Americans Becoming Less Happy, We're Experiencing More Pain Too
This article has many interesting points to ponder without going too deeply into any one of them. Recent research indicates Americans are becoming less happy, experiencing more physical pain, and feeling greater financial anxiety than in decades past. Some of these factors improve with higher income and education, but the trend is troubling when viewed over time. I found this article interesting because it dances around some of the large-scale societal and political issues we’re grappling with as a country right now. Why are we, as citizens of the richest country in the world, and living in a time of unprecedented information and access to resources, so miserable? Whose job is it to provide a base level of social services to counteract these problems, or does it fall entirely on the individual? Clearly there is no simple answer to these chicken-and-egg questions.

2.  With $250 Million Gift, Columbia Medical School Looks to End Student Debt
Student debt has been called the “next financial crisis,” and at $1.3 trillion dollars and counting, there’s good reason. Medical (and dental) school students face an even greater predicament because there is almost no alternative to taking out massive student loans to pay for the MD. It’s not uncommon for future doctors to leave medical school saddled with six figures of student loan debt, believing (sometimes naively or falsely) that their future salary will be great enough to repay this debt easily. What if you want to practice family medicine, don’t pass your boards, or face an illness or disability where you can’t practice medicine? The student loan debt is still there and doesn’t care.

I liked this article because it shows how one generous couple and Columbia Medical School are working in earnest to find an alternative to crushing student debt. If more medical schools and universities follow suit, we could see the tide turning on outrageous educational costs and the myth that student loans are the only way to pay for higher education.

3.  Til Debt Do Us Part: UC Berkeley Students Are Getting Married to Save Thousands in Tuition
With its anonymous sources—and the fact that it was originally printed in a college newspaper—this article leaves some things to be desired, but the basic premise is interesting. Some students at UC Berkeley are choosing to marry in order to game the system either for state residency (and reduced tuition) or to qualify for higher financial aid because married students don’t need to report their parents’ income for financial aid purposes. It’s unclear from the story how many students are choosing to wed for the educational benefits (according to UC Berkeley, it’s “not that many,”) but even if it is true, the questionable ethics of doing this—and the future reality of a divorce once college is over—make this a very novel way to pay for college.

- Shay