Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tough Being a Dad Sometimes

Most of the time I think it's the greatest job in the world, but sometimes being a dad stinks. Yesterday, for instance, me and Madeleina had a great time driving into town to pick up a paycheck. We blasted music on the radio, caught every traffic light and stopped into the grocery to pick up the ingredients for Uncle Clem's Chicken. Clem was my uncle and god father. And about 30 years ago he won a national cookoff for a cooking oil company that netted him a new car and $5 grand, as well as got his picture in all the major women's mags of the day. He did a basic chicken/asparagus/cheddar cheese thing with a tasty sauce under the cheddar. Clare years ago bastardized it into a chicken and broccoli dish with a great sauce baked under mozzerella.
So I was having fun being a dad and planning dinner. And Italo was going to be home and Chepa and Sierra were coming over--only Marco, whose girlfriend's birthday it was,and Sarah, who was working, weren't going to be there.
Anyway, dinner was great, but at the end of it Chepa pulled me aside to let me know she was leaving town for a couple of weeks to visit her boyfriend. She was leaving this morning. Which sort of stunk because it was then left to me to tell the kids mom left town,
And then Marco came in and said he wanted to go to an orientation at a school he applied to, a tech institute. Well, we'd been there several times. It's a national chain but I know nothing about it--like whether it's good or not-but I do know that it costs about $44,000 for a two year associates degree. Which is a lot of dough, something like $700 per credit hour.
I'm not sold on the school. They were upfront about the costs but said the were great at getting grants. I followed along. Then they gave Marco a test in private and came back and said he'd passed.Marco said it was a crazy test with questions like "Favorite color?" on it.
I didn't think much of that until I saw the same recruiter we had tell a dozen other kids they'd also passed, including one who admittedly couldn't read. So I was suspicious, right?
Then last week we had a meeting about finances. The financial aid officer shows us a video about a parent PLUS loan and in the video they discuss loans with interest rates of 6 Percent. When it's done I suggest that 6 percent seems high for a college loan and she mentions that the loan rate is actually 7.8 percent. I didn't care for that little bait and switch at all. (In fact when I checked the loan rate for the PLUS loan on the computer at home the rate is actually 7.9 percent.)
But the financial aid officer says that while we watched the film she's gotten Marco a Pell grant for $3,500 and another kind of loan for $3,500, leaving us just $9,800 or so to cover with the PLUS loan.
Now that's just for the first eight months. We'll borrow that $13 grand again in April (if there's another Pell grant) and then another $10 grand for the last 8 months.
So I ask when the loans kick in and they tell me the first day of class. But then they bring up the orientation today and I ask if that counts as a class and I don't get an answer. I ask again and they tell me not to worry about it.
I didn't wind up signing the application for the big loan, but had already signed off on the smaller loan and the Pell grant before they could even find out if we were eligible.
When we left, I told Marco that I wanted him to find me five companies that recruit grads from this tech school and I'd call their Human Resources departments and find out if they geneinely do recruit, and if they do how they rank this school's graduates and what sort of jobs they get.
I reminded him again three days later that I wouldn't consider signing for a loan that will cost more than my mortgage and will be backed by my house unless we knew more about the school.
Short form: he didn't. But funny enough, the school put in an application for the loan anyway-in Marco's name--and just yesterday morning I got a rejection on it because Marco has no credit history. I thought that odd, since I was holding off on applying for it, and Marco hadn't signed for it himself.
Then last night, just after Chepa told me she was leaving town for a couple of weeks, in walks Marco and says he needs my car to go to the orientation at school this morning. And I had to tell him that since he hadn't even bothered to stop by the school once in the week to get me the names of the companies they brag recruit from there, well, there wouldn't be a loan right now. He said they were insistent that he go to the orientation anyway and I had to tell him that I think that if he did the $3,500 loan would kick in and that they'd probably collect the Pell Grant, at the least, and perhaps even charge me the other $9,800. So he couldn't borrow the car to go to the orientation.
He was devastated. He looked at me with such anger, such hatred. He felt and feels I'm trying to ruin his life by keeping him from this school that he imagines will be his open door in life.
He hated me even more when I told him he ought to go to Community College for a semester, get a job and between now and January, when the tech school has another starting class, find out something about the school.
I know I'm right on this. The school's too much about the money and the money is too high-I'll bet you could go almost anywhere in the country for $700 a credit hour. But the slight deceptions, the filing for a loan in Marco's name that marco didn't sign off on, the video of a 6 percent loan that actually goes for 7.9 percent, the ambivalence to my question of whether orientation counted as the first day of class for the purposes of the loans kicking in....well, I just think they probably paint a true picture of the place.
But it sure wasn't fun being a dad and having to squash Marco's dream, even if it's not a realistic one.


mags said...

I totally understand. My beautiful son was swept away by an Army recruiter who promised him all-tuition-paid art school after his tour of duty. Although I protested, begged, and reasoned, off he went anyway, smack into the first Gulf War. I didn't have the leverage of refusing to pay for what I saw as a very bad deal indeed. (He never made it to that art school.)

Peter Gorman said...

Don't even get me started on military recruiters: I don't mind the guys who sit in recruiting centers waiting for wanna be tough guys, but I have nothing but contempt for the telemarketers, the guys visiting 16year-olds in high school, promising new cars and colleges. telling them they'll never amount to anything if they don't sign up and so forth. My son Marco almost signed up about a hear and a half ago, at 17, when a recruiter promised him that he would work on jet engines and jet computer systems if he'd only sign up with the Navy as a junior. Even better, he'd get to finish both junior and senior years before he had to show up for induction.

Dr. Grossman said...

You might try googling the school name in quote marks and scam. e.g. "school name" scam. See what pops up. Might be interesting.

Peter Gorman said...

Thank you. 44 very negative comments have been posted since 2005, and several have a dozen or more equally negative responses. As the school in question only has 43,000 students at its 87 campuses annually, that's quite a high number.
I appreciate the input and was glad to see that so far the people who hate my tours have not discovered this little site: No negatives on me as yet.

bamboo said...

Its funny, even the preschools are like that- they want your cash and can find a way for you to "afford" them before you ever agree to sending your kids to them. I swear the banks, schools and "grant givers" are all in cahoots....but then I'm paranoid...

Phoenix said...

Hi Peter,

When I took up guitar at 15 my Dad bought me a cheap ass guitar from the neighbor for $20 bucks to test my resolve. When I was still playing it a year later he got me a much nicer guitar for christmas. I still have it. My point being there are much less expensive ways to get started. Find out exactly what it is Marco wants to learn (video, internet, computer repair) and I can help you find the resources to get him started. If he's really motivated to learn then he can get quite a bit from books and multimedia training materials that won't break your bank.

I actually went to a graphic design vocational school in LA. I thought myself HTML and got a break at an internet start up. There is something to be said for going to school but a lot of these tech schools want way too much money.

let me know if I can help.