Can young 'dream-seekers' avoid being strapped by debt?

We are writing to say how much the Jan. 11 article, "Young dream-seekers strapped by debt," resonated with us. Upon obtaining our doctorates in physical oceanography and mechanical engineering several years ago, we have found that our job prospects are not as attractive as we had hoped.

While frugality and sacrifices allowed us to emerge from undergraduate and graduate school without either consumer debt or student loans, we find that we are still unable to attain the American dream of homeownership, job security, and career advancement.

Healthcare and housing prices have inflated while wages and benefits have deflated because of outsourcing and immigration. The result is that our salaries are actually lower than they would have been had we not pursued advanced degrees. In terms of lifetime earnings, we would have been far better off as an autoworker and a plumber than as a scientist and an engineer.
Jason and Janelle Fleming
Morehead City, N.C.

Debt is precisely the problem, and the Jan. 11 article makes it sound unavoidable. It's not! It still doesn't cost too much to go to college. Expenses for four years will result in a large bill - larger if one never learns how to be frugal. Going to a state school while living at home will leave debt on the order of a car note. Part-time work could pare that to zero. Choices must be made, and their consequences, good or bad, lived with. In the end blame for debt belongs to us, whether we're young or old.

Moms and dads need to teach their kids to deal with money, debt, and consequences, but we're doing a poor job. The savings rate hovers in and out of negative numbers, while we borrow against our home equity to purchase more stuff. No wonder kids don't get it. The consumerism we all complained about as hippies was a pale shadow of what we see today, but a good life can certainly be led without crippling debt.
Bruce Smith
Folsom, Calif.

Books can become a lifelong passion

The Jan. 11. feature article, "Take 15 minutes a day to exercise your mind," hits home with me because I have been in the publishing industry for 30-plus years, and books still give me such pleasure - specifically children's books. I do believe that if we can instill a love of books in our children it will become a lifelong passion. And in this busy world, I think passion is what we all need.

Thank you for your interesting stories and the comforting way that you craft your words.
Linda Kranz
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Digitized books open doors

As one recently returned from a year's sabbatical in the Republic of Georgia (former USSR), I found Alex Wright's Jan. 13 Opinion piece, "Libraries as places to linger and mingle," terribly elitist.

Georgians have a highly literate, intellectually accomplished culture, but because of their recent history, libraries are almost nonexistent or difficult to access. Further, they have little money to extend the print collections of university or public libraries. Digitized books would open a whole new world of possibilities for them.

I love libraries, have been active in Friends of Libraries groups, and have spent (and do spend) many hours in libraries, but these are privileges that many, if not most, societies do not have.

My sympathies here are with the digitizers and the doors they will open in so many communities.
Virginia Davis Nordin
Lexington, Ky.

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