One thing I’ve learned as I get older is that most people are incapable of learning from other people’s mistakes. It’s just not something humans are good at, I guess. If you see somebody jump off his roof and impale himself on a fence post, the human reaction seems to be “Wow, what a stupid place to put a fence post,” not, “I’M NEVER GOING TO JUMP OFF A ROOF.”

Everybody thinks that they can do it better. That impulse probably helped us go from stone tools to weapons of mass destruction, but it’s also what helps unaccredited law schools stay in business. Whatever, it all ends in radiation poisoning.

Which brings me to the story of a former student loan debt collector who heard countless stories from people drowning in debt with degrees that turned out to be useless. Armed with that information, she turned around and took out $40K to go to an unaccredited, online law school in California. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills…

Yahoo Finance — which I’ve just learned still exists — has this story about Alexis Moore. She’s 39 years old, and she’s always wanted to be a lawyer. But because of her job as debt collector, she knows the perils of heavy student debt:

In a previous career, she worked in student loan debt collection. She listened to borrowers talk about their regrets, wishing they hadn’t taken out so many loans or thinking they should have gotten a different degree. The biggest issue she heard when making collections calls was that when people took out loans, they didn’t think about what they were going to do with their education.

Career choice has a huge bearing on the affordability of student loans. A good rule of thumb is to graduate with a debt load less than your starting salary, which varies greatly between fields like social work and engineering. When Moore considered going back to school, she knew her choice needed to be worth the cost.

Moore took out a $12,000 personal loan, got a scholarship from a fund set up to help victims of domestic abuse, and took out $40,000 in student debt.

Now, taking out $40K – $50K to go to law school is really not that bad at today’s prices. Moore is also working full time, which should also help manage her costs. She’s not going into this like an idiot.

Managing costs to go to law school is really helpful when you are going to law school. Moore, however, is going to something called Northwestern California University School of Law. That’s an unaccredited, online institution.

While Moore has learned the lesson that she should think about what she is going to do with her education, she hasn’t fully thought through what her education is going to do for her. If her starting, post-graduate salary is likely to be $0, then how much debt should she be taking out?

Even assuming Moore passes the bar in California — the only state she’ll be allowed to take the bar in, provided she passes the “Baby Bar” — what next? How many $50,000-a-year jobs are there for a lawyer who graduated from Online Directional State Law Talkin’ School?

Thing is, I don’t want to blame Moore, a person who seems to have worked hard to put herself in this position. But I think that her story illustrates how a lack of transparent, reliable information about the true value of various law degrees can lead even a conscientious person into possible financial ruin. Everybody’s all pissed at GM because they knew their faulty ignition switch could cause their cars to fail and injure people. I bet the people selling the North Sub-Arctic California Mail Order Law Diploma App also know damn well that their degrees are going to blow up in people’s faces.

But they don’t have to disclose that to Moore. And now she’s standing on top of her roof, having moved the fence post, ready to fly. I hope she can.

My $40K in Student Loans Are Worth It [Yahoo Finance]

Earlier: In Defense Of My Sympathy For A Sad Ivy Law Grad


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