Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Very, Scary, Reality

I was looking through the NY Times Dining and Wine section this evening when I stumbled across an article that drew me in. A topic of hot debate for me with my fellow students and co-workers for years this article only works to comfirm the deepest fears of any culinary student.

The Article written by Kim Severson touches on the difficulty of Culinary Arts students securing a well enough paying job to balance the loan cost at the end of school.

The article itself does an excellent job of pinpointing one of the biggest myths about culinary school in general, especially at this day in age, that every graduate will be the next Julia Child or Emeril.

"They want to cook. They just did not realize how deep in debt they would end up.".. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

So what happens when you leave culinary school 48,000$ in debt and can only land a job making 10.50$ an hour?

"As a result, as many as 11 percent of graduates at some culinary schools are defaulting on federal student loans. The national average for all students last year was roughly half that, at 5.1 percent."

So why? Why after paying 48 thousand (and often more) cant culinary graduates secure a higher paying job?

Its not for a lack of work, the culinary field as a whole has always had a gapping hole for a hard working well trained work force. But with the rise of culinary schools in the last ten years ( as per ShawsGuide to Culinary Schools a rise of 322 since 1989) there has been an influx of "trained" foodservice workers. The Department of Labor claiming the average wage earned by these workers, a whopping 9.86$ an hour.

So lets do the math.
Average loan of 48,000 divided by a standard 10 year loan plan= 4,800 a year divided by 12 months= 400 a month.
9.86 x 40 hours a week= 393$ (pre tax).. so well say 260$ a week x 4 weeks= 1040$
1040$- 400$=

640$ a month on which to live.

Thats with going by the book, which we all should well know by now isnt how it works. That 400$ a month is more like 600$ after interest rates. That 40 hours a week is lucky if you can secure a job that has the hours to give.

The numbers alone are enough to scare anyone. More so those paying for the schooling out of their own pocket (Myself included). So why? why do it?

I cant speak for anyone else but myself. For me, its never been about the money, or the fame. I never wanted to be Julia Child (Though she did know how to have fun with a chicken!) or even the next Bobby Flay (I think my skin just crawled).

Dont get me wrong, I want to do great things with food and in the industry. But I need no spotlights or tv shows to do that. The respect of my fellow foodies, the brutial honesty of critics, and an open communication with the seasoned chefs is all I want.

Ive said for years, If I can pay my monthly bills and have enough left over to feel at ease I will be content, but a big part of that, a HUGE part of that is having a job I can wake up to everyday that challanges me, that pushes me to better myself, that teaches me and forces me to think and act.

Without that, hell I could go be a doctor with the money I shell out for culinary school. But I wouldnt be happy with the work I do.

So with the looming debt, and uncertainty of income ahead Im probably crazy for what Im doing.. but you know the saying..

Theres a fine line between Genius and Insanity.

But Kudos to Kim Severson for touching on the dark and dirty side of the Culinary Youth.


Jezebel said...

unfortunately this is not just the case with the food effects many actually
as an early childhood educator salaries are very sad. It is only now because I am working via a government granted program am I making closer to what I should be. But that is after about 9 years of struggle making peanuts and scrapping by...

one thing I have to suggest for any student is to consolidate their loans via a federal consolidation program and choose the income contingent plan.
with the IC plan you pay no more than 10% of your current income and after 25 years your loan amount is forgiven and you only pay the taxes left on the money borrowed.

they actually have I believe 4 pay off options...all and all the bottom line is total moneys paid in the end vs smaller more affordable payments now...
It's a catch 22 but the IC plan seems to be your best bet.

Hope this was slighly insightful. Loan debt is a scary thing coming out of school I know...and its easy to fall into that percentage that choose to avoid it thinking they can't pay or do the right thing. And they make their lives so much worse off for defaulting. The government will get you either way.
You might as well consolidate those puppies and shit even if your paying $50 bucks a month at these your keeping things in good standing till maybe you can afford more.

But over all the cost of education does not equal the possible earning potiental unfortunately that is a major factor for so many people in various fields of employment. We need a major overhaul in the national minimum wage to match the current cost of living...
haha I don't see the minimum wage going up to $20 bucks an hour anytime so soon. So all in all, We are all screwed three ways to sunday.

The important thing is we are doing what makes us the happiest...whether it be in our careers or personal lives.
We just keep moving on and hope for the best-J

Tyrone B. said...

To the Foodist Article, and his work ethic, and what makes him happy...


The O said...

I'm right there with you. I'll be coming out of school with a $125,000 debt, but I just do my best not to think about it. However, I would like to point out how many of the lenders offer a graduated payment plan where the payments start off much lower, but gradually increase over the years. I know I'll be going that route.

Jezebel said...

yah I started out income contingent and changed to graduated...bc even though the IC plan is only 10% of your salary sometimes you can have way too many bills to even manage that much...with the cost of living these days :S
myself I'm about 43,000 in the whole for just my bachelors and I still have my Masters to go :S