April 25, 2008

Boomer Retirement & Youth Education

Proposals to expand CalPERS' scope is opposed by stock market brokers, no surprise there. But is it a good idea to make a big player even bigger? Will that ensure elder security?

I think my economic security as a state pensioner will be enhanced if CalPERS invests some money in education. Reportedly, graduating seniors are facing a scarcity of tuition lenders. Perhaps there is an opportunity for farsighted investment in motivated students who propose to pursue useful studies such as ecology, entomology, machining, or biodynamic permaculture, the sort of knowledge that will ensure a healthy economy for my old age. (And no I don't mean psych or political science majors.)

At the same time, there is no reason for grads to panic. A year or 2 in the labor market is a great apprenticeship in the school of life, and existing schools are not going to die on the vine in the meantime. Everyone could benefit from a bit of cost-benefit analysis.

A little research reveals that Los Rios fees are $20/unit, Sac State's are $1200-$2100 for CA residents, and UC rates are around $4000, all for a semester. But the word on the street is that textbook totals are in the triple digits, and affordable student housing means living with mom and/or dad. 

There is an opportunity here for adults to contribute some 'sweat equity' by offering room & board to termed-out foster kids, and by reminding colleges of all kinds that almost all the information presented in expensive new texts with fancy graphics is also available in the old ones, some of which can be found for free at the Sacramento Surplus Bookroom (bookroom.org). Old editions are also available online for pennies on the dollar. So what if professors have to work up new problem sets or solutions?

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