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Culinary School Cooks a Graduate: Massive Debt

Written by Gary North on July 2, 2012

The tragedy of people who take on huge debts for college or specialized training schools is spreading across he nation.

This has concerned me for many years. You can imagine the heartbreak of parents who see their children sucked into this quicksand.

There is a new movie, Default: The Student Loan Documentary. I hope parents and students see it.

Here is a man who, at age 28, dropped out of college and enrolled in a school for chefs.  His father refused to co-sign. His father was wise.

The man is now 36 and has $142,000 in college loans. He cannot declare bankruptcy. The law does not allow this for educational debt except in certain rare cases.

How did this happen? He saw commercials for the school on the Food Network. He decided that he needed a degree. He did not apprentice with a master chef. He signed up.

He took on $46,000 in private loans. Interest rate. He is paying 19%. Then he took on another $14,000 in federal government loans.

He got a degree. He got a job that paid $10 an hour.

He stopped paying. Interest rate costs took over.

He gets called every day by debt-collection agencies.

He has a bad credit rating.

He lives in his ancient minivan.

If you have a child or grandchild who is considering college, talk with him about lower-cost strategies. They exist. Don’t let this happen to anyone you care about.

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16 thoughts on “Culinary School Cooks a Graduate: Massive Debt

  1. Thp1963 says:

    This may be true, but this is not always the case for culinary graduates. What they did not tell you is that when you start a new profession, you sometimes have to start at the bottom and work your your way up. If you believe in yourself, then this guy should not be at $10 an hour very long. Within 2 years of graduating culinary school myself, I doubled my salary and was able to go from kitchen manager to executive chef with a large company. Eventually I became a corporate chef and reached a level that I did not think was possible. Believe in yourself!

  2. Texas Chris says:

    There is no reason that a person with a 2-year vocatinal degree shouldn't be making over $40k a year. I, for instance, got an associates in Computer Drafting. First job, $41k a year. I then busted my hump to build on that degree and completed an engineering BS. My income has doubled, by debt is zero.

    Students need to realize that they're not going tos tart out with a corner office and a secritary. They don't have the luxury of going to college to party. College is best explained like this: Sleep, good grades, social life; choose two. Trust me, drop the social life now, and enjoy it later.

  3. junkbin says:

    spend the first two plus years in community college getting through the gened stuff and what ever you can apply to your major. Live at home if possible. No party hardy crap. Grants are OK but no loans. A friends son managed to graduate from local law school with no student loans. Dad is a cook and mom is a waitress. Their darling boy was told at graduation to move out of their house and support himself, he did. He makes a pile which he keeps and puts a chunk awa each month to help support his parents when they retire in a few years. Mon and dad own everything so rthe aid from their son will not even be as high as he has planned on. Just love stories like this, it makes most Americans look like complete idiots. The mom and dad are legal immigrants and US Citizens now ( Mexican).

  4. Kitty Litter says:

    Well, here's my story. I borrowed about $5K to attend Berkeley in the 70s…and then worked my way through
    as a waitress..plus classes…then paid it off easily. I mean, why on earth would anyone take out
    a loan of anything over $5K???? It's ridiculous to even consider it. These people look like
    they are in a dreamland, a fantasy…just denial…. I cannot believe what hear these days..about
    the amount people took out..without the guarantee of a job following the training, or education.
    Perhaps people do not think…or do not get any good guidance????

  5. Charlie says:

    The problem with the proposed "apprenticeships" now is that most professions have been so programmed around post-secondary education, that apprenticeships/interning/journeyman work is no longer a practical option in the vast majority of cases.

    It's entirely possible to be self-taught, but for many professions, good luck convincing your potential employers or customers that you're competent, even if you can demonstrate appropriate levels of aptitude.

    Personally, I'd hire anyone who can do the job, or I believe could do the job with a little coaching. But, that means nothing to most employers. Speaking as someone with a usable, but slightly odd degree, I understand the misery of finding a decent job and trying to convince people you can do the job and have the skills- work portfolios with samples, and people still don't believe you can do it.

    For most people, the best, and most practical option now, I think, is to acquire an associates degree, with little or no borrowed money, and then work for a year or two to get real experience. I also believe that 18-19 is too young to start college, especially with the trend today I've seen of what I called "delayed maturity." After that, get a bachelor's degree if you want or need it.

    I also think all student loans should be banned. Watch the costs of education tumble and the bloated administrative structures, along with the palatial building sprees a lot of colleges have engaged on, come to an end very quickly, if all people could rely on was cash and grants/scholarships/fellowships.

    The simple fact of the matter now is you need at least a little post-secondary education in today's economy. Even a college writing class and something like economics and accounting taken as electives, will give you a big help in obtaining employment.

  6. You spell like a butt.

  7. You punctuate like a butt.

  8. I know a lady who graduated culinary school with honors. Promised "good job".. Ended up at a Safeway in bakery ?? Original loan was $26,000 but now stands at $61,000 because of no good paying job to meet normal expenses and pay off original debt. Will go to court to settle. Hope she comes out OK ??

  9. If you can’t add anything to the conversation, please save the rest of us your rudness. Is that the only sentence you know that you can spell and punctuate correctly?

  10. You sound like a conservative, how did you slip thru and get into Berkeley? Seriously, you missed out on all the "required" parts of today's college experience. I bet you didn't fly down to Cozumel every year for a couple of weeks of Spring break. Did you miss out on all the ski trips to Vail too? How about a sabbatical in Europe to "broaden your world view"? And of course Friday and Saturday nights drinking and partying all night. And really, working as a waitress to pay for college, how Neanderthal an idea is that.

  11. I know someone in the same position as that chef. He can't get out from under their debt, although he has managed the payments so far. He is seriously thinking of leaving the USA so he can start over in another country where the standard of living is lower but he will be able to start over with 0 debt. Ironically his parents came to the USA to have a better life, now he may leave to do the same.

  12. icetrout says:

    How come no one has talked about illegal labor having an effect on the culinary trade.Can’t believe how many illegal aliens are working in the food industry…

  13. icetrout says:

    Jim the Butt-Head :O

  14. yupikesk1 says:

    Better than law school. You could get a degree at NYU including a class taught by Irshad Manji where you learn that rather than getting 72 virgins through juhaud you only get 72 raisins. That would fall in the category of 'culinary' arts wouldn't it. Less fighting and more eating.

  15. Cliffystones says:

    I don't know about you Kim, but I've never seen a "butt" that could spell or punctuate. But now we've both seen an a$$ that can make smarmy one-line idiotic comments! Will wonders ever cease?

  16. David Pasztor says:

    Welcome to the NEW America. 🙁